Sunday, November 24 2019
HE WHO OFFERS A SACRIFICE OF THANKSGIVING HONORS ME...
Now consider this, you who forget God,
Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.
He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;
And to him who orders his way aright
I shall show the salvation of God.
In this Psalm written over 3000 years ago, God is livid because although His people were going through the motions of pleasing Him through ritual sacrifices, what they really wanted was to please themselves.
To be fair, the Old Testament does seem to list more required sacrifices than one can count. It seems those ancient folks were constantly commanded to give something back to God in a specific manner that pleased Him. And they did want to please God and worship Him. But they just wanted to be free to do it when they felt like it, and in the manner that moved them.
And it wasn’t like God discouraged that mindset, either. One of those sacrifices, called the Peace Offering, was also known as the Thanksgiving Offering and could be offered at any time. But there was an important stipulation attached to this sacrifice: “And when you will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the Lord, offer it at your own will.” Leviticus 22:29.
Thank about it. If God COMMANDED His people to give thanks, who would ever know if it was genuine or sincere- except God Himself. The admonition was that it must be offered out of individual freewill, from a willing and grateful heart. But that still that does not mean that it can be offered OUTSIDE of God’s will.
Indeed, fallen mankind has tripped over this truth for many a millennium. Our lesson today unfolds from the annals of the history of the ancient nation of Israel, who stumbled majorly on this one.
In 1 Kings 11-12, we read about a King who was given the blessing of God to lead part of the nation of Israel, split into 2 kingdoms following King Solomon’s death. Jeroboam was the newly appointed king of the northern kingdom of Israel. Because it’s new capital had been moved from Jerusalem to Shechem, he was fearful that the people wouldn’t return after attending special times of worship in Jerusalem as God had commanded. Jeroboam still wanted to honor God’s commandments and appointments. He just amended them a little to suit the needs of his nation, changing the venue and times. He set up his own version of worship unto God in the cities of Dan and Bethel. He used the same time of the month that God had given to celebrate His Holy Day of Tabernacles, but moved it to a month later.
Maybe Jeroboam figured it would be okay with God if he followed the order of religion, but gave it his own political and national twist. He also added a personal spin by recreating worship from the Exodus days of Aaron and the Israelites by setting up a version of the golden calves, altars of sacrifice, and priesthood. Of course, Jeroboam stood at the altar as high priest.
This so-called religious system of worship was followed by all the seceding Kings of northern Israel. Because of this, Jeroboam is referred to in scripture as "The man who made Israel to sin." Notice the phrasing. He didn’t do it alone. Israel sinned. The people were only too eager to worship a religion that promoted convenience and prosperity. The shrines “built on high places” were “new and improved” and “grand and glorious”! It was a great time to be called an Israelite! Sound familiar?
It didn’t last long. The priests of the high places were killed on the very altar in which Jeroboam had once stood as THE high priest. 2 Kings 23:15-20. “the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.” 2 Kings 17:21-23)
This first festival appointed by King Jeroboam to replace one of God’s appointed Holy Days, also known as Feast Days, was indeed the first “holiday” (a contraction of holy and day) conceived by mankind. Timely for this Thanksgiving season, Jeroboam appointed the holiday on the 15th day of God’s 8th month, November 12 on our 2019 Gregorian calendar.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like such a terrible thing to add our own feast day into the worship of the Almighty, as our traditions have appointed. After all, the date IS recognized nationally as a time to give thanks. But today's lesson would have us learn from another nation who did the same thing, and remember they were judged mightily for their transgression.
And rightly so.These 3500 year-old Holy Days were appointed to be fulfilled by the Almighty's Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. God's anointed spring Holy Days include PASSOVER, when Jesus went to the Cross; UNLEAVENED BREAD, when Jesus' sinless body was placed in the tomb; and FIRSTFRUITS, when Jesus rose from the dead, the first of mankind to do so, guaranteeing our bodily resurrection. On God's summer Holy Day, PENTECOST, Jesus sent back the Holy Spirit as He promised. During God's appointed Fall Holy Days, the trumpet will sound on the DAY OF TRUMPETS to announce His second coming; Jesus will stand on the DAY OF ATONEMENT as Messiah; and during TABERNACLES Jesus will again tabernacle with mankind, climaxing in one great and glorious LAST DAY that will never end!
Now consider this, you who forget God,
Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.
He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;
And to him who orders his way aright
I shall show the salvation of God.
Sunday, November 17 2019
THE TEMPLE WAS... For over 400 years, the Shekinah Glory of Almighty God was physically the center and spiritual foundation of Israel's national life. The people brought daily offerings to Him in Solomon’s Temple and gathered as a nation to worship Him during the 3 High Holy Days of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. But over the years, the faithful worshipers became prideful of their image as God's people, placing their faith in their abilities as a nation. All that remains of the magnificent temple is part of the physical foundation, known today as the "Wailing Wall".
Our lesson timeline in God's appointed 8th month, starting October 29 on our 2019 Gregorian calendar, begins with an historical accounting of the completion of Solomon's Temple on Mount Moriah. “In the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He (King Solomon) had spent seven years building it.” 1 Kings 6:38.
Yet, nothing remains today of this glorious temple. What happened? God Himself withdrew His presence, and Solomon’s Temple fell. Back in Deuteronomy 31:17-18 when God’s presence inhabited the Ark of the Covenant, God had warned of that very day. "Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, 'Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?'"
Not only had God protected and preserved Israel, Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple over and over, but He had been the foundation for its very existence. When the nation moved from their humble stance under the watch care of the Lord to the humanistic, proud notion that they could deliver themselves from their enemies on their own, they effectively separated themselves from their very foundation.
They were already literally teetering as a nation when Israel stood in national pride and arrogance following an attack from their enemy and vowed before the Almighty they world rebuild and replace what God had founded them upon with idols of their own making. Isaiah 9:8-10 delivers the context of Israel’s defiant stance and God's resounding judgment 2750 years ago. "The Lord sent a word against Jacob, and it has fallen on Israel. All the people will know—Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria—who say in pride and arrogance of heart: ‘The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will replace them with cedars’”
In response, God’s presence and nurture left them, and the whole nation fell to their enemies, not once, but twice. Following the second siege in 70 AD, the Roman army literally plowed Jerusalem with salt to make the ground sterile and fallow, directly fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 3:11-12. "Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say, Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.' Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.”
You’d think us folks who claim to base our lives on God’s Word would have learned our Bible lessons by now. God sends plenty of them every month, perfectly appointed on His calendar to remind us year after year. Last week, He told us that any leader He handpicks, must “walk in my ways and do what is right”, otherwise the leader’s reign will be cut short, and he, and those who followed in his footsteps, will be remembered in the most negative way possible. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2559287490818091
The lesson before that, beginning God's 8th month, announced in no uncertain terms that if we want Him to return to us, we must return to Him. Simple enough, but completely overlooked when we’re constantly pointing the blame at someone else instead of removing the log out of our own eye. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2519786238101550
But it seems we are always looking for the intrinsic “Wow” factor. Legend/history has the secret society of the Knight Templar springing up mere centuries after the Temple's destruction, claiming to have "found" vast spiritual "secrets" there, which literally launched a "holy" war. The truth is, even in his legendary wisdom, Solomon was humbled by the absurdity that God would even consider dwelling on earth. “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” 1 Kings 8:27
"But will God really dwell on earth?" We can answer Solomon today with a resounding "Yes, indeed He will." But not in the way any mere mortal could ever totally understand or possibly predict. "...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." John 1:14. It was in the rebuilt Second Temple, that this Word of God, Jesus the Christ, was dedicated as a babe by his parents in Luke 2:22-38. And in the same earthly Temple, during Passover, Jesus amazed the sages at the young age of 12 with his teachings, saying “I must be about my Father’s business…” Luke 2:49.
Many years later at the beginning of his three-year ministry, Jesus again caught the attention of the Jews near another Passover feast when He drove the money changers with their sacrifices from the Temple, in John 2:12-25. He announced to one and all, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up again in three days.”
Clearly, Jesus is announcing across the chasm of time to anyone who will listen the true identity of the Temple of the Almighty. But we Christians today would probably reply just like the religious folks in Jesus' day. “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”
We should keep reading in verse 21 for the eternal punchline. "But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken."
Several years later, Jesus expressed His great love and profound grief for His people. He also predicted the demise of the very Temple and city they all stood in and clearly stated the reason it would all happen “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ Matthew 23:37-39.
When we pause now and take into account the fact that in response to the 9-11 attack on our nation, our leaders stood, not once, but numerous times and repeated, word for word, Israel's vow of defiance and pride as recorded in Isaiah 9:8-10, we begin to see the undeniable similarities between the mindset of America and the historic nation of Israel. We may be further convinced by the admonition of the prophet Micah: "Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say, 'Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.'"
Is it possible that just like Israel, we in America have become focused on the things of this world to identify our "Christianity"? Have we become convinced that God wants us to build a grand and glorious national "temple" here on this earth, instead of receiving the wisdom of the Holy Spirit that all this will soon pass away, and WE as Christians are the only REAL temple that is destined to survive?
The Apostle Paul sums it all up perfectly. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” 1 Corinthians 3:16.
THE TEMPLE WAS...
Saturday, November 09 2019
“WALK IN MY WAYS AND DO WHAT IS RIGHT…” Fear and the desire to be delivered from laws they didn’t like, prompted a nation who had worshiped God for almost 1000 years to mistakenly pledge their allegiance to a king who didn’t take God seriously. Unwittingly, they allowed him to bring other gods into their midst, leading them to break the very first commandment God had given them.
The great irony is King Jeroboam actually came to the throne with the promise of God's blessing. "...I will take you, (Jeroboam) and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you.” 1 King 11:37-38.
Near the end of King Solomon’s life, a prophet came to Jeroboam, who was then one of the king’s officials. 1 Kings 11 tells us the prophet tore his robe into 12 pieces, and told Jeroboam to take 10 pieces for himself, explaining that one day soon God was going to give him 10 of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam to keep it from happening, but he fled to Egypt where he stayed until the king died.
After King Solomon’s death, the scene was set for the struggle between Jeroboam and Solomon’s first born, Rehoboam, who stood first in line to inherit the throne of Israel. As usual, they used politics to sway public opinion. Rehoboam was asked by the people to “lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you." 1 Kings 12:4.
When Rehoboam refused, and instead promised heavier taxation, the frustrated people chose Jeroboam to be their leader because he appeared to be God’s choice. Which brings us to the scripture appointment of today's lesson: the 15th date of the 8th month, the 12th of November on our 2019 Gregorian calendar.
“Jeroboam thought to himself, 'The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam'… Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings." 1 Kings 12:26-27, 31-33
Instead of desiring God to unite His original chosen kingdom of Israel through national worship on His divinely appointed Holy Days in Jerusalem, King Jeroboam wanted to maintain the division he had accomplished when He became the now succeeded Israel’s leader. Realizing that the worship of the Almighty was an absolute necessity to maintain his status with the people, he set up his own version of worship in the cities of Dan and Bethel. He brought about his own Aaronic revival reminiscent of the Exodus days by setting up altars of sacrifice, priesthood and special days of worship, while he stood at the altar as High Priest.
Incredibly, the Holy Day that King Jeroboam blasphemed by appointing it to showcase himself as King is the Festival of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Ingathering, the very day King Jesus will reveal Himself and gather His chosen people together to live with Him. This counterfeit religious system of worshiping God was followed for over 200 years by all the Kings of northern Israel. Because of this, Jeroboam is referred to in scripture as "the man who made Israel to sin." Notice the phrasing. He didn’t sin alone.
When a man known only as "the man of God from Judah" came to the King and predicted Jeroboam's demise along his kingdom, Jeroboam stretched out his hand, pointed his finger and said "Seize him." He would regret that, as his finger instantly shriveled. Then he called on the man from Judah to pray to God to restore his hand, which the prophet did.
Thus began a relationship between the man of God from Judah and the prideful, swaggering King Jeroboam. The man of God was soon worn down by Jeroboam's manipulations, and left the instruction of the Lord's Word, to befriend the King who seemed to need him so much. Though the man of God from Judah delivered the Lord's Word chastising Jeroboam, he allowed himself to be greatly influenced by him, ending with the prophet's untimely death.
As for King Jeroboam, this accounting in 1 Kings 14:7-11 says it all. "...the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I raised you up from among the people and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me. Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone. Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country. The Lord has spoken!’"
As for Israel, who walked in King Jeroboam’s ways, "For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.” (2 Kings 17:21-23)
Today, archaeologists have uncovered Jeroboam’s high place of idol worship at Tel Dan. Nothing remains except a few of the 3000 year-old-stones and artifacts, and the lesson to be learned about the futility and danger of adding to or manipulating God’s Word. It also points to the judgment of God on any leader and nation that would attempt to do so.
WALK IN MY WAYS AND DO WHAT IS RIGHT…
Wednesday, November 06 2019
Saturday, November 02 2019
RETURN TO ME AND I WILL RETURN TO YOU... In the 6th century BC, Zechariah proclaimed God's Word to the religious folks of his day. 2700 years later, the same Word is being declared to 21st century Christians. We still don’t want to hear it any more than the people of ancient Judah did. But thank God, here it is, still just as applicable as ever... still the word of the Lord for His people!
Zechariah 1:1: “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah.”
On our 2019 Gregorian calendar, today is the 6th day of the 8th month on God's Calendar. Ancient Rabbis believed this was the month appointed for Messiah to come and begin rebuilding His temple on earth. However, 1 Corinthians 3:16 gives us an accurate picture of the spiritual temple building already in progress. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you?” Perhaps this is the month anointed by the Holy Spirit to come in with a wrecking ball into our spiritual lives, leveling our religious pride and hypocrisy through the power of His Living Word.
Zechariah 1: 2-6: “The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty. Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the LORD. Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors?”
The introduction in verse 2 commands our attention: “The LORD was very angry with your ancestors.”
Around 2000 BC, God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham to bless all the nations of the earth through him, and to give him the land of Canaan forever. (Gen 12-15) Abraham’s descendants were later sealed with the national namesake of “Israel”, the God-given name for Jacob, grandson of Abraham.
After spending generations in Egyptian bondage, the Israelites were freed by God Almighty through the Passover Lamb, whose sacrificial blood guaranteed their deliverance and survival. The twelve tribes of the nation of Israel, with the namesakes of the sons of Jacob, traversed the desert regions for 40 years in search of the Promised Land designated by God for His chosen people.
Led by God’s appointed judges for 350 years, the nation began its decline by placing their faith in the mindset of the world for leadership. "Make us a king to judge us like all the nations." 1 Samuel 8:5. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2519553821458125
By 920 BC, Israel had split into 2 kingdoms: the North and the South. (Sound familiar?) The 10 northern tribes, continuing with the namesake Israel, set up their own worship in Samaria. A remnant from the 10 northern tribes joined the 2 southern tribes, and they become known as Judah, worshipping the Lord from Jerusalem.
Soon both kingdoms were “doing their own thing”, even as they claimed to worship God. Around 720 BC, the 10 northern tribes were taken into captivity by Assyria, and scattered across the isles, never mentioned again as a nation. 150 years later, the southern kingdom of Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonians.
Eventually, Judah was allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the destroyed city and Solomon’s Temple. Today, descendants of Israel bear the name “Jew”, because they descend from the southern tribe of Judah. Amazingly, Israel is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, has the same name, speaks the same language, and worships one God just as it did 3,000 years ago.
It was during the time of the exiles return to Jerusalem that Zechariah arrived on the scene. Zechariah, whose name means “God has remembered”, was not just a prophet for the people of Israel in the Old Testament. Zechariah’s prophecies are repeated in the New Testament 41 times. Indeed, Zechariah even foretells Christ’s coming with great accuracy. He speaks of Jesus coming in lowliness (6:12); the humanity of Christ (6:12, 13:7); His betrayal for 30 pieces of silver (11:12-13); the crucifixion of Jesus (by the "sword" of the Lord) (13:7); His priesthood (6:13) and kingship (6:13, 9:9, 14:9,16); the future return of Jesus Christ (14:4); His building the Lord's temple (6:12-13); the reign of King Jesus (9:10) the establishment of enduring peace and prosperity by Jesus Christ (3:10, 9:9-10).
When we read “The LORD was very angry with your ancestors” it should be received as warning to all Christians across all centuries. God has sent prophets down through millennia to warn His people that He will deal harshly with those who call on His name, but also bow to the ways of the world.
Yes, prophets like Zechariah have warned us. Even the disciples have appealed to us to “be holy as God is holy”. And most importantly, Jesus, the Son of God, gave this stern warning: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mark 1:14 & Matthew 4:17.
The phrase “Lord Almighty” appears three times in this focal passage of Zechariah 1:1-6. If you look at other translations like the KJV “Lord of the hosts” and the NLT “Lord of Heavens’ Armies”, we get an idea that we are talking about a great and mighty Lord Warrior speaking here. In fact, “Lord Almighty” is used 50 more times in the book of Zechariah.
Zechariah definitely speaks of a great world war in the last day. He also prophesies many events on the earth bringing it to the brink of destruction. Many Christians today see prophetic descriptions of nuclear bombs detonating and Israel again being brought to her knees. In the end, the Lord Almighty says this. “Not by might, but by my power.” Zechariah 4:6.
Today, Zechariah's words are not received any better than they were 2700 years ago. Not only was he politically incorrect with the governing nation of Babylon, his words also had all of Judah up-in-arms. Some historical accounts say He stirred up so much trouble with the religious folks that they eventually killed him by bashing his head in with a rock. But it wasn’t too long before they were reminded that a true prophet had been sent by God to warn them.
“Then they repented and said, ‘The LORD Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.’” Zechariah 1:6.
RETURN TO ME...AND I WILL RETURN TO YOU.