Well, it ran a little long, but I trust it was an encouragement to others to read ALL of their Bibles – especially the Old Testament with Jesus in mind. The 4 passages I cite at the beginning are the justification for a Christ-centered hermeneutic in our study of the Word.
Disclaimer: No congregants were hearmed in the preaching of this sermon.
Christ in All The Bible
John 5:39–40 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
Luke 24:25–27 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Colossians 2:16–19 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
Hebrews 10:1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.
Where we came from.
Why we’re here.
Gen. 3:15 He is the Seed of the Woman who will crush the Serpent’s head.
We are reminded in Colossians 1:15–18 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Jesus then is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. There is no other.
Sin brings bondage.
We are slaves to it – until the deliverance which only God can give.
He brings us out of the world – but not merely to wander – but to bring us in to the Land of His fulfilled promises.
National Israel typifies: A. our salvation,
- God’s patient provision in our wanderings,
- His presence and provision even as we suffer the results of our rebellion and
- His intention to give us an inheritance.
And the figure of Moses becomes a picture of Christ – who alone can deliver us from bondage to sin.
Colossians 1:13–14 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Here we see what the foundations of a human society built around the worship OF, and service TO God looks like.
It begins as a pure Theocracy – God alone as ruler, with each man taking complete responsibility to serve God as he ought. Thus, no human king is needed.
However, as each man neglects to take full responsibility to serve God as He proscribes in His Word, human government inevitably follows.
In the establishment of the Priesthood and sacrifices, we have Jesus foreshadowed as both the Great High Priest to end the priesthood in Himself,
And as the Sacrifice for sin which ends all sacrifices.
Our English Bibles use the title of “Numbers” because there are two, very important censuses taken during the period of Israel’s history it covers.
The traditional Hebrew title is “In The Wilderness”.
Thematically, we see how God culls out those who fail to believe His promises.
How unbelief and disobedience are so linked as to be virtual synonyms.
Indeed, the first transgression in Eden – the root of all disobedience – is failure to believe God above Satan, the World, and even (perhaps especially) ourselves.
Numbers depicts this issue over and over again.
And as we saw already in John 5: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
The word “deuteronomy” means 2nd law. This Deuteronomy reminds us that due to sin, God’s truth needs to be reiterated over and over to us – and also that in Exodus, the Law was given twice.
The first time, it was carved in stone, and shattered almost as soon as given.
But the second time – written with God’s finger once again – but now accompanied with a revelation of God. Ex 34:6-7 “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast flove and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
This second giving of the Law attended with this revelation of God’s glory is the vision God wants us left with.
And as Acts 10:43 reminds us – this ability to forgive iniquity is totally dependent upon Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on Calvary: “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
JOSHUA: CONQUEST. The book is a history of God’s work in bringing Israel fully into its Promised Land, and in type, portrays the Believer’s conquest of the remnants of indwelling sin.
We fight, but God gives the victory.
Mastering sin’s influence is not an overnight lark – it will take decades of violent battle.
But it is worth the fight.
And in Joshua again we get yet another picture of Christ – as Jesus was typified in Moses delivering us from the bondage of sin,
Jesus is typified in Joshua as the one who brings us into our inheritance.
JUDGES: REVEALING. In this series of accounts of the Judges God raised up to deliver Israel time after time – is the revealing of their unstable and unconverted hearts.
Left to themselves, without a man to lead them in right ways, they stubbornly refused to follow God individually.
This sets the stage for God to give them an earthly King,
And shows us that we come more and more under the bonds of human government, the more we fail to serve God individually.
Out of the 12 Judges listed – none is without a fatal flaw.
None could so deliver God’s people as to keep them from falling into the same condition again.
Only Christ when He appears can deliver His people in such a way that we never fall to ruin again.
Only Christ, can preserve us NOW from falling back into total ruin.
Jude 24–25 “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Ruth, is not a Hebrew, but a Moabite. A Gentile.
She represents God’s in-grafting of the Gentiles into the promises of Abraham by faith.
This theme will become central to the theology and letters of Paul in the centuries to come.
Ephesians 2:13–16 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
1 SAMUEL: TRANSITION.
In this first book of Samuel, Israel transitions from the days of the Judges, to Saul its first King.
The face of the nation begins to change drastically.
They have rejected God’s direct rule over each individual in true, personal responsibility – in favor of having an earthly king like all of the surrounding nations.
And Saul becomes the first of all the Kings who can only foreshadow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords Jesus Christ.
This rounds out the fullness of Christ’s offices – who is to His people PROPHET, PRIEST and KING.
He is God’s Word to us.
He is our Great High Priest.
He is our Lord and King.
2 SAMUEL: DAVID.
2nd Samuel is primarily occupied with the reign of David over God’s people.
As such, David becomes the first real type and shadow of the Messiah/King – Jesus.
He is a prophet, a divine worship leader, and a king.
While he typifies Christ this way – he also typifies the saint.
For while David is God’s man, he is still so very flawed.
Even as we are appointed to one day rule and reign with Christ in the age to come – yet even now, we remain so marred by our sin.
No less than 16 of David’s Psalms can be directly related to the life of Jesus, and some as even quoted by Christ as applying to Himself: Not the least of them Ps. 22 as Jesus cries out on the Cross, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
1 KINGS: SOLOMON.
1st Kings continues the chronological account of Israel under the reign of David’s son – Solomon, the main subject of this book.
Solomon is another picture of the Christ to come – as his name means “peace” or “peaceable.”
Under his rule, Israel enjoyed unprecedented peace and prosperity.
But this is a type still – for the Prince of Peace has not yet come to assume His rightful throne.
And we recall that as Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, yet that is only a shadow of Jesus Christ:
Colossians 2:3 “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
2 KINGS: DIVISION.
After Solomon’s death, his own son takes the throne and in wickedness ends up bringing civil war and division in Israel that is never fully cured.
Where once there was one, now there are two.
Israel is the kingdom to the north, and Judah (with the tribe of Benjamin) in the south.
Sin always divides in the most wicked and painful ways – that which God made originally as one.
The Savior’s work will be to bring together again the Heaven and Earth, the Creator and the Creature, divided by sin.
Ephesians 1:10 “as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
1 CHRONICLES: TRANSITION / DAVID.
Recapitulating the history of 1st and 2nd Samuel in survey form, we have many gaps filled in – and a broader view and reminder of how God’s rule can never be replaced by fallen man, no matter how good, noble and upright the man may be.
Man’s rebellion against God’s rule is always at the root of the violence which plagues mankind.
And yet, in every place, the types and shadows of the coming King Jesus, promise the fulfillment of God’s perfect plan in Christ.
Philippians 2:9–11 “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
2 CHRONICLES: SOLOMON / SOUTH.
Taking the same recapitulatory form as 1 Chron., 2 Chron. focuses on the events occurring in the southern kingdom of Judah and what precipitates its eventual fall.
It begins with more detail than we had previously on Solomon’s reign.
Then, unlike the previous books bouncing back and forth between Israel and Judah and their respective kings, the focus remains primarily on Judah, where Jerusalem and the Temple are, and a more faithful attachment to the one true God.
Over and over Judah sins, and then repents.
God is astoundingly patient and forgiving.
Only when they will not repent of idolatry do they end up broken and bound in the Babylonian captivity.
Still, He loves them.
Still, he loves us.
And Christ is teased out for us once again:
2 Timothy 2:11–13 “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”
After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, God’s promise of a restoration begins to come to pass.
Ezra records the two major waves of returning refugees.
Humbled by their captivity, Israel will never fall into idolatry again throughout history.
And God demonstrates how He will preserve and deliver again, even after the most devastating and severe chastisement.
No matter what – He MUST be true to His promises.
He doesn’t act faithfully, He IS faithful – faithfulness itself.
There is still much sin to be dealt with – and the progress is hard and slow.
But if God is our God – He will work no matter what.
What sweeter picture of Christ’s restorative glory can be seen then when Peter denies Jesus 3 times publicly, and yet is restored?
Under Nehemiah’s leadership, the City of Jerusalem begins its climb toward true restoration.
It is often taught as a metaphor for the labor of rebuilding a life destroyed by sin.
While we dare not remove its historical reality and significance, such a parallel is a worthy one.
The events recorded here are some 12 or 13 years after those in Ezra.
Whenever we rebuild after sin, there is as much rubble to clear out as there is new building to do.
But if God is with us – the work will be done.
Philip. 1:6 – “He who began a good work in us WILL complete it until the day of Christ.”
It is often noted the name of God is completely absent from this book.
But His fingerprints are all over it.
It bears this unusual characteristic so that we might know that whether God is overtly recognized or named, or not – He is still God.
He is still ruling and reigning over all.
He is still upon His throne.
We can trust Him even when we do not see Him.
The events occur about 50-60 years after the first exiles returned to Judah from Babylon.
So what goes on in this book happens during the same time that Ezra and Nehemiah are engaged in rebuilding Jerusalem.
It reminds us as Peter’s 1st letter will remind his readers:
1 Peter 1:8–9 “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Job asks throughout this chronicle – WHY?
Why am I suffering so?
This question, the perennial one we all ask in trial, is in fact never answered.
What Job does come to accept as enough of an answer is – WHO.
He finds WHO is behind it all – His God.
And in a final vision of His God in all of His glory, Job finds this God is worthy to be trusted.
Knowing who this Who is…all is well – even though Satan and his machinations are at work too.
Now the purpose of giving us the background regarding Job, that he was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” – seems precisely given to prevent our assuming his trials are related to personal sin.
This is the base assumption of His comforters.
It is a vile assumption which must be crushed.
When we live in a tit-for-tat universe, soon, every man is beyond mercy, and our prayers for them are nothing but foolishness.
So Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount can say that those who are “poor in spirit”, who “mourn” who are persecuted for the cause of Christ – can still be “blessed” in God – because of Christ.
The Divine hymnal.
Soaring in glory, agonizing in conflict, heartache and failure.
Truthful, honest, uplifting, penetrating and Christ centered.
The human soul was made for worship – to drink in God’s goodness and in thrilled response – to sing the pleasure of it to the world.
The faint find strength.
The weary – rest.
The joyful – right expressions of thankfulness and praise.
The lonely – identification with another in their shoes.
The grieving – solace.
The wounded, medicine.
As much as sin can and has done to us – Christ’s salvation far more than reverses it.
And we prayerfully sing.
Psalm 2:1–12 “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
The Bible has a lot to say about how we think, as well as what we think.
But we are often too preoccupied with the mere academics, and not enough with HOW TO THINK – How to think according to God’s understanding of the universe.
We need to develop a “Gospel gut” – A faculty or mechanism for taking things in, and then breaking them down properly – some to be digested and used, some to be cast off into the draught.
Proverbs is a handbook on critical Christian thinking.
Colossians 2:1–3 “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Here is the question: Is life just this endless cycle of – stuff?
Is there any real meaning to it?
Or do we come and go, and that’s it?
Considered in and of itself – yes.
Such thinking leads ultimately and inevitably to despair.
But when a person knows God – when they come to understand His purposes and that He HAS a purpose in all things – life is redeemed from existential despair and turned into eternal hope and glory.
Purpose can only be found in Christ Jesus, for…
Romans 11:36 “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
SONG OF SOLOMON: PASSION.
This rich and unusual love song was penned by King Solomon.
It’s refrains contain the un-blushing heights of sweetness, desire, devotion and intimacy that God’s gift of marriage is meant to bring.
Since marriage itself is but a Divinely appointed analog of the true nature of Christ’s desired intimacy with His bride the Church – so we marvel at His love for us, and respond in kind.
As a woman in love longs to be “drawn after” the one she loves – to be led, but led out of love, so the Church.
When her heart is truly after Christ, delights to be drawn away and led by Him.
It is always a sign that the Church (or individual Christians) are no longer love oriented, when we rebel and seek not to be led, but to lead.
Ephesians 5:31–32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Isaiah saw disaster coming to Judah.
But it was the holiness of God that impacted him above everything else.
His vision in chapter 6 of the thrice-holy God undoes him.
He writes to his contemporaries, then to those who will outlive him in the Babylonian captivity – then at last prophetically to the generation yet to be born who will return after the 70 years is completed.
The decline of God’s people can always be traced to this beginning – a loss of closeness and intimacy with God.
A loss of familiarity which leads to a general lack of understanding, and invites all kinds of sin.
When we lose the sound of His voice,
the vision of His glory,
it will not be long before we too are bowing down and praying to every impostor.
Yet, He will save us.
Though unalterably holy – grace will be found in the One wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.
Unimaginably, it will be the will of the Father to crush Him, and put Him to grief – for us.
It is in Isaiah’s 53rd chapter that we have the fullest OT picture of Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the Cross graphically put before us.
Jeremiah is called “the weeping prophet.”
So it may seem odd then that he would serve much of his office during Josiah’s reign.
Under Josiah the nation enjoyed a season of restoration and revival unequaled in Judah’s history before or after.
Yet, it is in the midst of this glorious restoration that Jeremiah tells of the coming destruction.
This is such a necessary lesson: We would tend to think because God was gracious in His outpouring during this time, that the prophesied destruction would not come.
We are not to read into events more than Scripture allows.
The revival was no sign all is well.
It was of untold blessing to those who enjoyed it but it was not meant as a portent somehow unconnected from God’s expressed coming judgment.
Do not “read the signs”.
Listen to His Word!
So we are reminded how on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus was found with Moses and Elijah – the two representatives of the Law and the Prophets – but when all is done, we hear the Father say: Matthew 17:5 “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
These 6 chapters written in acrostic form truly are – LAMENTS.
Penned again by Jeremiah, in the lowest depths of Judah’s destruction and captivity come the words of chap. 3 and verse 23 –
Though God’s hand may be very very heavy on His sons and daughters at times because of their sin – nevertheless – His mercies are new every morning.
Great indeed is His faithfulness.
He does not abandon His own.
And we cannot help but think of the testimony of the writer to the Hebrews when he says: Hebrews 3:1–6 “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”
Revival not in the sense which it has come to mean in popular American Christianity.
We think of revival as a series of special meetings, or simply a time of unique blessing from God.
Those are not totally wrong in and of themselves, but the word itself connotes much more.
Re-vival, re-vivification – restoring from the dead, bringing back to life that which either was, or seemed to be, beyond hope.
That which had lost the essence of its life, being brought back to vibrant vitality.
The picture of Judah now in the grave of its exile, being breathed on again like Adam was when he was made “a living soul” instead of just a clay form.
God coming back to indwell and raise up His people.
The idea will culminate in the valley of dead bones in Chap. 37.
And how the Church has needed such times of revival, when she seems to have been given over to lifelessness.
We can need such revival personally, in our local assembly, regionally, nationally or globally.
America needs it desperately right now.
The soul of the Church needs to be so revitalized, so revived, that once again her zeal for God, His House and His glory – the fame of His name – that the earth would tremble under the revelation of His glorious mercy and grace through His Bride.
It always begins with a fresh vision of God.
It is the call of Jesus in Revelation 3:20–22 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
The startling events and revelations of Daniel paint a picture of a God who truly rules over the affairs of men.
He is the God of historical, Geo-political upheaval and movement.
He deals not only with His “people” the Jews, but with the rulers and peoples of all nations.
No one assumes power,
no one nation conquers,
enslaves or interacts with another as though in a vacuum untouched by His hand or apart from His ultimate purposes – even though they act according to their own volition.
He is God even over the free acts of man.
It is a mystery.
It is divinely deep beyond our grasp.
He does not explain how it is so either – He simply reveals that it is.
And when He directly intervenes in these massive affairs, the greatest among mankind are finally humbled (as Nebuchadnezzar, the brutal king of the Babylonians is in Ch. 4) to acknowledge God’s rightful authority.
And so we see once again in Philippians 2:9–11 “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Everything we have, everything we have ever gained or enjoyed – has always been by the gracious hand of God.
We’ve gained one thing by virtue of sin, disobedience, or our rebellion against Him.
Sin can only offer us cancerous replicas of God’s true gifts of love.
And every time we seek our pleasure, satisfaction, meaning, identity or joy in anyone or anything but He who made us for Himself – we are committing spiritual adultery.
We have, every one us, embraced the bosom of sin instead of His to whom we belong.
We have sold our souls into the spiritual version of sex-slavery – forsaking our intimacy with Him – for filth.
And how He loves us still.
Enough to publicly buy us back – no matter how it looks to anyone.
Christ, our betrayed husband – will have us back at any cost.
The cost of redemption is not cheap – it is Heaven’s highest Treasure.
This is the Gospel portrayed for us in the life and ministry of Hosea.
This is how God keeps steadfast love for His people.
1 Peter 1:18–19 “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
Joel is probably the earliest of the minor prophets.
His ministry was to the southern kingdom of Judah, and it seems during relatively good times spiritually in the nation’s history.
He makes no mention of idolatry in Judah for instance.
What he does do is see a connection regarding a dreadful locust invasion he was witness to.
This plague, was a tremendous natural disaster, and Joel is motivated by the idea that such disasters serve to point out God’s coming judgment.
Judgment not only on the heathen nations he mentions, but on Israel too.
Hence, it is a call to repentance.
Hidden sin will not be overlooked in the day of the Lord, either among the nations, nor His own people.
The seeds of the idolatry which will erupt openly soon, are already sprouting below the surface.
He is calling us to examine our hearts – and not rely on a mere external appearance of fidelity toward our God.
Acts 17:30–31 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Amos is from the southern kingdom of Judah, but prophesies mainly against the northern kingdom of Israel.
He is an unwanted trespasser in their eyes.
His ministry thus is unusually hard and destined to be dismissed by many he was sent to – out of hand.
Prophesying in days of great stability and prosperity, he warns God’s people of the seduction of their prosperity, and how that will be followed by days of great famine.
It is not a famine of food, but of God’s Word.
And not a lack of the availability of God’s Word, nor of its being preached – but of its being HEARD.
This is a self-imposed famine brought on by the neglect of holy things, compromise and spiritual apathy.
When we neglect God’s provision for our souls, we will seek to make up the deficit with other things – career, family, wealth, ease, pleasure, fame, intoxicants, diversions, involvements, etc.
It is like trying to sustain life by a diet of nothing but refined sugar.
It may taste sweet, and fill us with certain feelings – but in the end, it will bring about our death.
So Jesus tells the Pharisees in John 7:34, that the day will come when they will seek Him – the bread of life, but they will not find Him.
Why? Because “Where I am you cannot come.”
Why can’t they? Because: John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother.
When Babylon came to conquer Jerusalem, the Edomites helped the Babylonians, betrayed their brothers, and took advantage by moving into the devastated areas after the Jews were carried into exile.
They were opportunists capitalizing on God’s discipline against the Jews.
They had no loyalty toward their brothers.
These are very great sins.
So when Paul was persecuting the Church in Acts 9 – When Jesus confronts him in vs 4 He says” …“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
One cannot persecute Christ’s own, without touching Him.
And none who do so will go unaddressed.
United Israel never fulfilled its call to make God’s Temple a house of prayer for all nations.
Though God had chosen them out of all the nations of the earth to be peculiarly His – nevertheless, God desires to show His compassion on the lost outside of Israel.
Jonah, part of the now separate northern kingdom of Israel is an unwilling servant in reaching one such pagan city.
Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, who was eventually to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel for its sin.
Jonah would have nothing but hatred and disdain for these people.
His dilemma however, was rooted in just how merciful God could be.
He didn’t want them to have God’s mercy.
But Christ Jesus makes His desire for mercy on the worst of men when He commands the Disciples: Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
At a time of high prosperity in Judah, Micah exposes both their wickedness and that of Israel to the north.
The underlying sins of self-idolatry (living in greed, lust, self-advancement, oppression of those less fortunate etc.) will eventually manifest themselves as full-blown idolatry in both nations.
A contemporary of Isaiah, he saw the siege and destruction of Israel during his lifetime.
His sense of how sin ends is personal, and sharp.
However severe his warnings, as in his fellow prophets, there are amazing words of hope in the God who is full of mercy and grace – the One who will send His Redeemer.
Micah 5:2–5 “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days…And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.”
Around 100 years after Jonah, Nahum confronts Nineveh’s sin again.
This time they do not repent.
God ultimately destroys them.
The book seems out of place in the midst of all these prophecies focused upon God’s people.
But it serves a good reminder that God is at work in the world around us.
He is not unmindful of others.
His Church is His bride-to-be, the object of His special love, but this does not mean He has no regard for others at all.
Israel seems to have often forgotten this.
The Church can too.
We can cultivate such a dismissive attitude toward the lost as to virtually relegate them to the realm of the incidental.
But none made in the image of God are to be regarded as such.
Hence the Apostle’s words in 2 Cor. 5:16 “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.”
We dare not see any as mere “flesh”, but as living souls.
Souls which must stand before the judgment bar of God.
Souls who need to hear the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
These two short dialogues and a prayer find Habakkuk talking with God over his difficulty WITH God.
First, he wonders how God can let the sin of His people go on without addressing it.
God replies He will address it, and will do so by sending Babylon to take Judah captive.
Habakkuk’s second question is about how God can send a pagan nation against His own nation?
Aren’t the Jews more righteous than the Babylonians?
God says He will use Babylon, and that they will be punished for their own sins too – in due time.
Then Habakkuk prays to see arm of God move once again, like when they were taken out of Egypt.
He believes God will hear.
And it is in the latter part that we read what Paul will make so very important in His understanding and preaching of the Gospel: Habakkuk 2:4 “Behold, his soul (That of the Babylonian) is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”
The Gospel! The Just shall live by faith!
ZEPHANIAH: TOO LATE.
Though he prophesies during the reign of Josiah when there is pervasive, national revival, yet he reminds Judah that God has still pronounced a judgment which is yet to come to pass.
A judgment which is typological of the final “Day of the Lord” – when He will judge all the earth.
Yet God’s people will still be blessed.
God’s judgment will still come upon all the earth, no matter how many alternating seasons of revival and failure occur in the intervening years.
He is patient and ever seeking those who will forsake their sins and seek His face.
Nevertheless, since the Fall of Adam, the Day of The Lord has been fast approaching.
Paul will remind his listeners on Mars Hill it is nearer now since the One to judge has been slain, and risen from the dead.
The day of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
Now is not a time for complacency or compromise – now is the time to cast off every weight, and the sin that so easily knocks us off course – and run so as to obtain the prize.
How little urgency in light of the coming Day of The Lord characterizes God’s people in our own day.
And so Jesus warns us: Matthew 16:27 “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
Zephaniah’s warning finds its fulfillment in the coming of Christ.
Prophesying after Judah’s return from the Babylonian captivity, Haggai confronts the people over the fact they have returned by God’s mercy and grace, and have taken time to build their own nice houses, while the Temple remains un-restored.
It makes us all ask – what are our priorities?
Are we more concerned with our own physical houses, with our own self-interests than the condition of God’s people – His Temple now?
Given our place in human and redemptive history, what are we focused upon?
What claims our best gifts and energy?
Are we a people, blessed by God with a Church to be a part of?
Or are we God’s people, set for His glory and the fame of His name and the advancement of His kingdom, in which, we find our dwelling place?
So Jesus in Matthew 6:33 calls us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Who’s righteousness? Not our own – God’s righteousness, in Christ.
Like Haggai his contemporary, Zechariah’s ministry too was to Judah after the exile.
He encourages them to keep to the work of rebuilding.
And not to stop at just rebuilding the Temple and the city, but to engage in all forms of social reform too.
To beware that they don’t fall into the same sins as their forefathers.
If they return to Him, He will certainly return to them.
The work of rebuilding was begun amidst much opposition, massive obstacles of clearing out the rubble, with little wealth, many half-hearted workers and even corruption still in the leadership.
There was disarray all around.
But it was God’s work, it would enjoy His blessing and came with His promise of completion.
So the Church.
Since the Fall, the work of rebuilding has been beset with every problem imaginable.
But His promise remains true – and the glory of what is yet to come in the Church made fully into the image of Christ, will be even more glorious than the Eden from which we fell.
Zechariah 14:9 “And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.”
To be fulfilled in Christ: Revelation 11:15 “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
How often we want to question God.
In Malachi, God makes a series of statements to which Israel responds with incredulity.
God then responds to Israel – and exposes their sinful hearts by means of their questions and His answers.
Then, He asks a few questions of His own.
We are reminded that God is not the one who needs to give an answer for the way things are – we are!
We started it.
We brought the destruction by our sin.
But the glorious reality is – He finishes it.
He brings the salvation we brought on the need for ourselves.
Malachi, and with it, the whole OT ends with this word: Malachi 4:5–6 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
This (Matt. 11:14) – Jesus applies directly to John the Baptizer as His own forerunner – fulfilling this prophecy.
Ending the OT with a marker so that they will anticipate the Christ – who is to fulfill all.
Beloved – read your entire Bible with an eye to see Christ foreshadowed, prophesied about, typified, hinted at and as the fulfillment of all of God’s promises to humankind – both in salvation and judgement.