There are some questions that trouble non-Christians that really don’t trouble Christians.
- “Is there such a thing is as truth?” seems so self-evident.
- “Is the crucifixion cosmic child abuse?” is easy to answer if you’ve read the Bible yourself.
- “Is Christianity anti-Semitic?” seems ridiculous when you know the church was founded by 12 Jewish guys who followed another Jewish guy who was fulfilled the great Jewish hope.
Although we are happy to answer the questions of our friends and family, these things rarely ever make us struggle.
But there are some questions that do.
One such question is about God killing people in the Old Testament. God seems utterly brutal to do such a thing. How can we reconcile this with the loving God of the New Testament?
Dave Bish has put up an excellent blog post entitled “What about God killing people in the Old Testament?” where he discusses these issues. I would urge you to read the post for yourself. Let me summarise the main arguments here and then add some thoughts of my own.
John Dyer has set up BestCommentaries.com site where you can read and give reviews for some of the best English language commentaries.
I hope many will join this community and offer their reviews so that Christians can find commentaries that will help them understand the Bible better and point them more to Christ.
However, it’s not easy to write a good review. How can you write a review that will best serve the kingdom of God? Remember to answer the following questions:
What does rejection from God look like? We are told it is hell, that it is the worst thing ever but what is that like? Is there any way we can picture God’s rejection.
In Amos 5:1-3, Amos gives us a haunting account of Israel’s fate under God’s wrath. In it we get a clearer picture of the wrath of God and what rejection from him truly means.
What are you suffering?
In Amos 4:6-13 we see the many disasters Israel went through. Famine, drought, plagues and wars tore the land apart.
The same is true today. From hurricanes to divorces, wars to unemployment. Individually, nationally and even globally suffering is an ever-present evil.
Suffering for Israel
Israel had no right to ask that question. They had been told clearly in Deuteronomy 28 disasters would come as punishment for their sin.
The presence of these disasters should have had them running back to God. Yet in spite of all these trials, they did not repent.
Suffering for Us
Suffering reminds us of the effects of sin. Every stillbirth, drought and family feud reminds us there is something not quite right. They show us we are far away from God’s intended plan for our world.
They show us we need to repent.
Israel didn’t listen to the warnings. Will you? Will you let suffering pass you? Or will you cling to Christ and be freed from the world of sin we are in?
There is suffering so that you will repent. Don’t waste this opportunity for salvation.
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(Picture by kaschmirkaschmir under the Creative Commons Licence)
An elder, Sunday School leader and generous giver; Dave is the model Christian. Except for one thing.
He isn’t one.
Despite all these good deeds, Dave doesn’t know Jesus at all. Could this be you?
In Amos 4:4-5, God attacks sin at Bethel and Gilgal (the religious centres). In this, we see common sins of hypocrites to test ourselves against. Do these sins describe you?
Hypocrites go over the top
They bring tithes every three days, well beyond the requirement. Are you one of those people who has to say the longest prayers and know the most theology?
Though it should be unleavened (Lev 7:12), the Samaritans offered a leavened offering. This small failing ruined the sacrifice.
For Christians, thanksgiving offerings are living God’s way (Heb 13:15-16). Paul told the Corinthians, their leaven was malice and evil (1 Cor 5:6-8). Think of some “good deeds” you did. Were they tainted by evil motivation?
Hypocrites are proud
They proclaimed their freewill offering, wanting everyone to know of their good deed.
When you do good in private, do you instantly feel the need to tell someone?
Unfortunately there’s a little hypocrite in every Christian. What can we do?
- Confess sin: Come to Jesus the sacrifice whose death erases our sin (1 John 2:1-2).
- Look to Christ: Self-made rules are no help. If we fix our eyes on Jesus, we’ll want to put sin to death (Col 2:20-3:5).
What hypocrisy is evident in your life? How are you dealing with it?
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(Picture “worship” by Vicki Wolkins under the Creative Commons Licence)
Are you worshipping a god other than the God of the Bible? So did the Israelites. In Amos 3:11-15 God tells them what the result of that decision is:
God will destroy
God constantly says “I will” (v13-14). He will punish you. You can’t run from him, you can’t withstand his power, you can’t defeat him. Choose to go against him and your destined to defeat.
God will destroy your strongholds
The Israelites felt strong in their land and defences, and God destroyed these things (v11). Modern people rest in the security of their home, wealth and job. Yet we all know these can disappear far too easily and they will definitely disappear on the day of judgement.
God will destroy all you love
Yahweh destroyed what the Israelites loved. He destroyed their places of worship (v14) and he destroyed their material possessions (v13, 15). All you enjoy on Earth is destined for destruction, your false gods and all your possessions.
God will accept Jesus in your place
How can you escape this fate? Trust in Jesus.
Jesus was punished on a cross in place of all who trust in him. If you trust him your punishment will fall on him. He offers freedom from punishment for nothing. Not only that, he gives you eternal perfect life with him. What a deal!
Trust in your gods and everything you love will be destroyed.
Trust in Jesus and everything you need will be yours.
It’s got to be the easiest decision you’ve ever made.
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A few days ago we considered God’s Passion for His Glory. Now lets consider some applications of this passage.
Seek God’s Glory
If you aren’t a Christian you should be extremely interested in the Glory of God. God saw it worthy to send his own people into exile so that everyone may see him clearly. Mustn’t he be worth seeing?
Join us on this blog as we look at Christ’s glories. Get a Bible. Talk to a Christian friend. See the God whose very nature is worth that price.
Live for God’s Glory
If you’re a Christian God sees good conduct as essential to his people’s witness. We must live lives that proclaim him faithfully.
Consider your actions around unbelievers. When you laugh at that joke, talk about that friend, tell that little lie are you really showing the people around you what a great God you have?
Repent for God’s Glory
It is essential that non-Christians not only know when you get it right but also when you get it wrong.
God felt it necessary to proclaim widely the sins of his people we should too. When we get it wrong we must confess. Our sins could be doing God a great injustice.
Revelation of God’s Glory
However, we also must remember this: Christ is the true Israel. He shows the glory of the Father better than any other. He never had to repent of sin. Let’s thank God he gave us such clariy in Christ.
(Picture by prakhar under the Creative Commons Licence)
A Terrible Irony
Israel should’ve revealed God to the nations. Unfortunately, they became ones to look down on:
Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod
and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt,
and say, “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria,
and see the great tumults within her,
and the oppressed in her midst.”
“They do not know how to do right,” declares the Lord,
“those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.”
God’s Passion for His Glory
Why does God hold up his special people for derision. Doesn’t he love them?
God is passionate that people know who he is. These people acting sinfully does not show who he is so he must proclaim their evil clearly that all may understand.
A Vain God?
Isn’t this vainity? No. God is the only one who actually deserves praise. Any good we have is from him. The conscience, commands, hands, air and existence we need to do good all come back from him, so he alone deserves praise.
If someone is bad-mouthing someone who deserves honour it is our instant reaction to butt in “That’s not fair. Jan is an excellent member of the team, it’s her department that let her down”.
In the same way God deserves praise and if he is being bad-mouthed he must be vindicated. So God vindicates himself here, so the nations know truly how great he is.
I’ll give some applications for non-Christians and Christians in a future post. For now just remember the God alone is worthy of praise and consider how that affects your relationship with him.
(Picture by Daniel Y. Go under the Creative Commons Licence)
I finish the desert island bible books with that hilariously misinterpreted book (see the picture above!) Revelation.
What’s the book about?
Forget everything you heard from Left Behind and the crazy billboard man. Revelation was written to 7 churches to encourage them to persevere in the faith.
It begins with letters written individually to them. It also addresses the period in Scripture called the last days (from Jesus’ ascension till his returns) in highly symbolic language, picturing what goes on in the Spiritual realms.
It also gives a beautiful picture of the end of times. Jesus wins (conclusively and in style) and the new creation rocks.
Why did I choose this book?
I haven’t fully got my head around Revelation. I lean heavily towards the amillenial interpretation (to those who understand such things), but I’m still very open.
Nevertheless what I love about Revelation is the picture of Jesus in power and victory. I have used Revelation 21-22 so much in my preaching I don’t know how I could do without it. The islanders would greatly benefit from seeing Jesus overcome the world.
And I’m sure interpreting Revelation without having someone in the congregation convinced the Antichrist is Prince Charles will be much easier.
(Picture by Joe Crawford under the Creative Commons Licence)
My penultimate book to evangelise a desert island is Hebrews.
What’s the book about?
Hebrews splits into two. In the first half the author explains how Christ betters angels, Moses and the Old Covenant’s sacrificial system. The second part shows how we should respond to his greatness.
Why did I choose this book?
Hebrews plumbs the depths of Christ’s atoning work. It is the essential partner to Leviticus and the entire Old Testament, showing how Christ kicks every Old Testament ritual into touch.
If you ever start to doubt why Jesus is worthwhile read Leviticus and then read Hebrews. See how beautiful it is that we can approach God’s throne with confidence because we have a mediator who loves us deeply.
If I were to take one book it would be this one. John Owen wrote 7 volumes on Hebrews. Oh that I were wise enough to be able to meditate for such a length on this book. It is a beautiful book that makes Jesus and his work look great to my sinful eyes.
How amazing it is that he should love me a terrible sinner enough to come to Earth and die for me! And more that he would call me his brother, though he is higher than the highest of all things.
If you vow to read one Bible book this year make it Hebrews. You won’t regret it.
(Picture by Franchise under the Creative Commons Licence)