John T. Willis

Monday, March 24, 2014

God Changes His Mind

The biblical teaching about God often becomes very complicated. Often people make assumptions which are just not true. One assumption is that God knows everything that will happen in the future. That assumption is contradictory to the teaching of the Bible. GOD HIMSELF declares this point clearly.

1. For example, in Jeremiah 18:7-10 God himself says:
         "At one moment [OR: If at any time] I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom
           that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it,
           BUT if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil,
           I WILL CHANGE MY MIND about the disaster that I INTENDED to bring on it.
           And at another moment [OR: If at any time] I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom
           that I will build and plant it,
           but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice,
           then I WILL CHANGE MY MIND about the good that I had INTENDED to do to it."

2. The story of Jonah illustrates this point clearly.
    a. God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and to tell the people of Nineveh that God will overthrow Nineveh. Jonah ran the other way, and God sent a whale to  devour Jonah and send him back toward Nineveh. God commanded Jonah a second time to go to Nineveh and tell the people of Nineveh that God will overthrow Nineveh. In reluctance Jonah went a second time, and when he arrived he declared: "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (Jonah 3:4).
    b. But the people of Nineveh paid attention to Jonah's message, and repented. The Bible says:
         "When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways,
           GOD CHANGED HIS MIND about the calamity that he HE HAD SAID HE WOULD
                          BRING UPON THEM, AND HE DID NOT DO IT." (Jonah 3:10).
    c. Jonah became VERY ANGRY because God changed his mind, but God told Jonah that God delivered Nineveh because he is a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Jonah 4.

3. a. Micah 3:12 contains this prediction of God:
      "Therefore because of you [referring to Micah 3:9-11]
        Zion shall be plowed as a field;
        Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
        and the mountain of the house a wooded height."
       This announcement dates from between 705 and 701 BCE. But it NEVER came to pass, as the Bible itself declares in Jeremiah 26:17-19.
    b. Jeremiah 26:17-19 says:
        "And some of the elders of the land arose and said to all the assembled people,
          'Micah of Moresheth, who prophesied during the days of King Hezekiah of Judah,
                    said to all the people of Judah, "Thus says the Lord of hosts,
                    Zion shall be plowed as a field,
                    Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
                    and the mountain of the house a wooded height."
         Did King Hezekiah of Judah and all Judah actually put him to death?
         Did he not fear the Lord, and DID NOT THE LORD CHANGE HIS MIND
             about the disaster HE HAD PRONOUNCED AGAINST THEM?
         But we are about to bring great disaster on ourselves."

God does not PLAY GAMES. God genuine and forthrightly commands people to repent. IF people genuinely repent, God changes his mind and graciously forgives them and delivers them from his prior plan to destroy them eternally. This is a consistent teaching throughout scripture.

Share YOUR fears and hesitations and proclamations and insights and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Thursday, March 20, 2014

God Answers our Prayers--Psalm 4

Psalm 4 is brief, but powerful. The psalmist expresses his assurance that God answers prayers. The psalm reads:
      "ANSWER me when I call, O God of my right!
            You gave me room when I was in distress.
             Be gracious to me, and HEAR MY PRAYER.
        How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
             How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?
        But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
             the Lord HEARS when I call to him.

        When you are disturbed, do not sin;
             ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
        Offer right sacrifices,
             and put your trust in the Lord.
        There are many who say,
             'O that we might see some good!
              Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!'
        You have put gladness in my heart
              more than when their grain and wine abound.
         I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
              for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety."

I. The superscription reads:
         "To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David."
    a. All superscriptions in the psalter are apparently later additions. It would be a mistake to force ideas into a psalm through means of the superscription. The composer or author of Psalm 4 is anonymous.
    b. For later audiences, Psalm 4 is led musically by a profession or competent musician. And Psalm 4 is to be intoned with the accompaniment of stringed instruments.

II. The Psalmist declares that Yahweh HEARS his prayers. Psalm 4:1-3.
     a. First the psalmist addresses Yahweh directly, asking him to answer his prayer. He reminds Yahweh that Yahweh has already responded when he was in distress. Now he beseeches Yahweh to be gracious now and hear the psalmist's prayer. 4:1.
     b. Suddenly the psalmist addresses his unnamed audience. These "people" he addresses seek to dishonor the speaker by uttering "vain words" and "lies" to other people, perhaps even in the court. 4:2.
     c. In response to his hostile audience, the psalmist declares that the Lord has set apart the faithful, of whom he is a part, for himself, and the Lord HEARS when he calls to him. 4:3.

III. The Psalmist encourages his fellow-worshippers to trust in Yahweh. Psalm 4:4-8.
      a. The psalmist admonishes his companions not to sin when they are disturbed, but rather to ponder on their beds and be silent or calm or at peace. 4:4.
      b. The psalmist encourages his faithful companions to "offer right sacrifices," that is, sacrifices which come from a true heart and right living--see Psalm 51:15-19, and to trust in Yahweh. 4:5.
      c. To further encourage his faithful companions, he reminds them that MANY others turn to the priestly blessing, "The Lord make his face to shine upon you [and be gracious to you]" in Numbers 6:25 [see the entire blessing in Numbers 6:24-26] so that Yahweh will work good in their lives. 4:6.
      d. To further encourage his faithful companions, the psalmist turns to Yahweh with the assurance: "YOU [Yahweh] have put gladness in my heart." Yahweh's gifts of food and drink are wonderful, but Yahweh's answer to his prayers are even more wonderful and meaningful. 4:7.
      e. Finally, the psalmist resolves in the presence of his faithful companions: "I lie down and sleep in peace" BECAUSE YAHWEH ALONE makes him lie down in safety when his enemies threaten him. 4:8.

Share you insights and fears and reversals and concepts and dreams with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Wrath of God

Another aspect of God's feeling is his wrath. It is sad that in our society many people refuse to accept the reality that God in his heart of hearts contains wrath or anger. The Bible consistently STRONGLY, CONSISTENTLY and THROUGHOUT (Old and New Testament) teaches clearly that God manifests his anger or wrath in various circumstances. It would be very helpful to get a good concordance and study all the texts in the Bible which teach and explain and expound on the wrath of God. Garnered from such texts, several important truths emerge.

1. God's wrath is a natural manifestation of his love.
    a. True love shows genuine concern for the well-being of all people.
        Proverbs 3:11-12 says: "My child, do not despise the Lord's DISCIPLINE
                                                    of be weary of HIS REPROOF,
                                               for the Lord REPROVES the one he LOVES,
                                                    as a father the son in whom he delights."
    b. The author of Hebrews quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 and elaborates on the significance of the wrath of God in Hebrews 12:4-11:
          "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
           And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses your as children--
                      'My child, do not regard lightly the DISCIPLINE of the Lord,
                       or lose heart when you are PUNISHED by him;
                       for the Lord DISCIPLINES those whom he LOVES,
                       and CHASTISES every child whom he accepts.'
           Endure trials for the sake of DISCIPLINE. God is treating you as children;
           for what child is there whom a parent does not DISCIPLINE?
           If you do not have that DISCIPLINE in which all children share, then you are illegitimate
                                       and not his children.
           Moreover, we had human parents to DISCIPLINE us, and we respected them
           Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
           For they DISCIPLINED us for a short time as seemed best to them,
           but he DISCIPLINES us for our good, in order that we have share his holiness.
           Now DISCIPLINE always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time,
           but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those have been TRAINED by it."

2. The wrath of God demonstrates the seriousness of sin.
     a. Human beings establish habits. When we establish evil habits, God loves us so much that he manifests his wrath against us because sin is serious and destroys our hearts and lives.
     b. The author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 10:26-31:
          "For if we WILFULLY PERSISTS IN SIN after having received the knowledge of the truth,
            there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a FEARFUL PROSPECT OF JUDGMENT,
            and a FURY OF FIRE that will consume the adversaries.
            Anyone who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two
                                                or three witnesses.
            How much worse PUNISHMENT do you think will be deserved by those who have
                   spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant which you were sanctified
                   and outraged the Spirit of grace?
            For we know the one who said, 'VENGEANCE is mine. I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord
                    will JUDGE his people.'

3. God's intention in manifesting his wrath is to bring sinners to repentance and to serve God.
    Paul emphasizes that no one can escape the judgment of God. He writes in Romans 2:4-10:
      "Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience?
        Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
        By your HARD AND IMPENITENT HEART you are storing up WRATH for yourself
                       on the DAY OF WRATH, when God's RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT will be revealed.
        For he will repay according to each one's deeds:
             to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality,
                                    he will give eternal life;
             while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness,
                                    there will be WRATH AND FURY.
             the Jew first and also the Greek,
        but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek."

These texts only barely touch the surface. PLEASE consult a concordance and study carefully what the Bible teaches about the wrath of God.

God's anger or wrath is not malicious or immediate response. Again and again, the Bible reminds us that God is SLOW TO ANGER--see for example Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8; Joel 2:13. But it is a huge mistake to conclude that God contains no anger or wrath in his heart when human beings establish evil and rebellious hard-hearted hearts and lives.

Share YOUR insights and beliefs and reservations and thoughts and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Lord is My Shield--Psalm 3

Some unknown thinker added the superscription to Psalm 3, attempting to connect this psalm with the event in 2 Samuel 15:13-23 which says David fled from Absalom as David's son Absalom and his army advanced from Hebron to Jerusalem coming north. It would be a major mistake to try to connect this event with Psalm 3. This brief psalm reads in the New Revised Standard Version:

      O Lord, how many are my foes!
           Many are rising against me;
      many are saying to me,
           'There is no help for you in God.'
      But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
           my glory, and the lifter of my head.
      I cry aloud to the Lord,
           and he answers me from his holy hill.
      I lie down and sleep;
           I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
      I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
           who have set themselves against me all around.

      Rise up, O Lord!
            Deliver me, O my God!
      For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
            you break the teeth of the wicked.
      Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
            may your blessing be on your people."

Thus, Psalm 3 falls into two parts.

I. The psalmist trusts in Yahweh and is not afraid of his enemies. Psalm 3:1-6.
    a. Throughout the psalm, the poet addresses Yahweh. He addresses him "O Lord" three times (verses 1, 3, 7) and "my God" once (verse 7). Three times, the psalmist emphasizes that his enemies are "many." And his enemies rail against him, saying, "There is no help for you in God." 3:1-2.
    b. In response to the taunt of his enemies, the poet turns to Yahweh and honors him with three positive terms. 3:3.
        1. Yahweh is "a shield around me." When enemies attack a person or a people, a major protection is necessary. Yahweh himself is a shield. This is a common term throughout scripture to emphasize that Yahweh is our protection and defense. See, for example, Genesis 15:1; Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalms 7:10; 18:2, 30, 35; 28:7; 33:20; 59:11; 84:11; 144:2.
        2. Yahweh is "my glory," a common term for Yahweh because of his splendor and majesty. See for example, Psalms 8:1; 24:7-19; 29:1-3, 9.
        3. Yahweh is "the one who lifts up my head." When Yahweh lifts up a person's head, he places him in an important, advantageous situation or position or office. A good example of this is the account of the cupbearer who Pharaoh put into prison and later Pharaoh replaced him in his office. Genesis 40:13.
   c. The psalmist, surrounded and threatened by his enemies, "cries aloud" to Yahweh, and Yahweh answers him "from his holy hill." This same term appears in Psalm 2:6; 15:1, which means Zion or Jerusalem. Yahweh chose Jerusalem as his dwelling place, and thus Jerusalem is "the city of God"--Psalms 46:4; 48:1-2; 76:2, which sits on several hills, one prominent of which is Zion. 3:4.
   d. Confident that Yahweh surrounds him as a shield, the psalmist can lie down and sleep and after several hours of sound sleep wakes again, "for the Lord sustains me." 3:5.
   e. Against the threats of his enemies, the psalmist serenely declares, "I am not afraid" of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around, returning to verses 1-2. 3:6.

II. The composer beseeches Yahweh to defeat his threatening enemies. Psalm 3:7-8.
     a. "Rise up, O Lord" is a very common term throughout scripture to cry out to God to "swing into action" and demonstrate his power. See for example, Psalm 7:6; 9:19; 10:12; 17:13; 74:22; 82:12; 132:8. The prayer "Deliver me" is also very common in critical situations--see Psalms 20:9; 22:21; 28:9; 31:16; 54:1; 69:1; 106:47. Yahweh faithfully and consistently strikes all his enemies on the cheek, and breaks the teeth of the wicked. 3:7.
    b. Deliverance does not come from horses and chariots, from large armies, from powerful nations, but belongs to the Lord. Thus, the psalmist prays that Yahweh's blessing will be on his people. In this general context, the poet may be a king or a commander in chief of the army of Israel. 3:8.

Share YOUR thoughts and anxieties and insights and beliefs and failures with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, March 02, 2014

God's Compassion

Numerous biblical speakers and composers declare that Yahweh is a God of compassion. Compassion is not an abstract word or concept or act, but rather a deep feeling that comes from the heart. Our God is a PERSON who contains deep feelings. Compassion is feeling with and for others. Different English Biblical Versions translate the Hebrew and Greek words for compassion use terms like "mercy," "tender mercy," "bowels of mercy," "pity," "tender affection," "compassion," "full of compassion," "cords of compassion," etc. God's compassion extends to all people and all nations, to individuals, to his chosen people, to foreigners, to enemies, etc. Here one may focus on the following texts to emphasize the meaning and importance of God's compassion.

I. Jonah and Nineveh. Jonah 4:2, 10-11.
   a. The story of Jonah is well-known, but often people miss the spiritual point of this story. Jonah was an Israelite. Yahweh called him to preach to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, a non-Israelite, foreign, enemy nation and people. Jonah attempted to refuse to obey Yahweh and thus fled to go to Tarshish--going west, when Yahweh commanded him to go east to Nineveh. Yahweh stopped him by sending a storm and a fish to turn Jonah back eastward. Then a second time, Yahweh commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah obeyed Yahweh and preached at Nineveh, and the Assyrian repented, and Yahweh "changed his mind" and delivered Nineveh.
   b. When this happened, Jonah became very angry. He PRAYED to God:
        "O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country?
          That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning;
          for I knew that you are a GRACIOUS God and MERCIFUL,
          slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing." Jonah 4:2.
   c. Yahweh responded by APPOINTING three things for Jonah: a bush, a worm, and a sultry east wind. Jonah was VERY HAPPY about the bush, because this bush protected him from the burning sun, showing God's grace and mercy. But Jonah became VERY ANGRY when God sent the worm to destroy the bush and send a sultry east wind which made Jonah very uncomfortable.
   d. The book of Jonah concludes with these words of Yahweh:
       "YOU [Jonah] are CONCERNED about the bush, for which you did not labor
                            and which you did not grow;
         it came into being in a night and perished in a night.
         And should I not be CONCERNED about Nineveh, that great city,
                    in which there are more than and hundred and twenty five thousand PERSONS
                    who do not know their right hand from their left,
                    and also many animals?" 4:10-11.
   e. Unlike Jonah [and most Israelites] Yahweh had a DEEP CONCERN for PEOPLE. He is a God of compassion, and we need to develop that same heart attitude.

II. Psalm 103.
     a. Psalm 103 is a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving. Verses 6-13 emphasize Yahweh's great compassion for sinful people. We human beings sin against God, and YET God responds by having compassion on sinful people and forgiving all of us. Here is the text:
        "The Lord is MERCIFUL and GRACIOUS,
                slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
          He will not always accuse,
                nor will he keep his anger forever.
          He does not deal with us according to our sins,
                nor repay us according to our iniquities.
          For as the heavens are high above the earth,
               so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
          as far as the east is from the west,
               so far he removes our transgressions from us.
          As a father has COMPASSION for his children,
               so the Lord has COMPASSION for those who fear him."
   b. God's mercy, grace, and compassion are very similar feelings. God's compassion is his deep feeling for people much like the feeling of a father or mother for their children. Psalm 78:37-38 communicates the same idea in these words:
       "Their [Sinful Israelites'] heart was not steadfast toward him;
              they were not true to his covenant.
         YET he, being COMPASSIONATE, forgave their iniquity,
              and did not destroy them;
          OFTEN he restrained his anger,
              and did not stir up all his wrath."

III. Hosea 11:1-11.
      a. Hosea 11:1-11 paints the beautiful picture of the loving father receiving the prodigal son back into his family after the prodigal son left his father, went into a distant country, and wasted his substance in riotous living.
      b. Yahweh explains:
           "I led them with CORDS OF HUMAN KINDNESS,
                 with bands of love.
             I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks.
             I bent down to them and fed them."
This is the picture of a parent teaching the crawling child to learn to take his or her very first step. The Israelites used a rope or cord or little saddle to encourage the child to take a step; and if and when the child started to fall, the parent would hold him or her up so he or she would not be hurt. Then the parents BENDS DOWN and picks up the child in his or her arms and holds the child close for reassurance and love. This is a powerful demonstration of God's compassion. 11:4.
     c. When the mature child left the parent and went into a far country, at first Yahweh sent his people into the land of Egypt, a symbol of the Assyrian captivity in 721 BCE. 11:5.
     d. But even in spite of the rebellious nature of his child, Yahweh suddenly declares he cannot bring himself to abandoned him or her. Thus, he cries out:
          "How can I give you up, Ephraim?
            How can I hand you over, O Israel?
            How can I make you like Admah?
            How can I treat you like Zeboiim? [Two of the cities of the Plain: Genesis 14:8]
            MY HEART recoils within me;
            I will not execute my fierce anger;
            I will not again destroy Ephraim;
            for I am God and no mortal,
            the Holy One in your midst,
            and I will not come in wrath." 11:8-9.

God's deep compassion is incomprehensive and amazing. God is a PERSON consisting of deep feelings of all kinds. One of these is his compassion.

Share YOUR experiences and thoughts and shortcomings and wishes and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Yahweh Warns His Subject Nations Not To Rebel Against Him--Psalm 2

Psalm 2 is a very important poem. It is closely connected with 2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17; Psalms 89; 132; and several prophetic texts. The New Testament quotes various lines and verses in Psalm 2, for example: Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5 in Psalm 2:7; Acts 4:25-26 in Psalm 2:1-2. Psalm 2 naturally falls into FOUR parts of three verses each and thus presenting a well thought out and structured poem.

I. The Subject Nations contemplate Rebellion. Psalm 2:1-3.
    a. The psalmist begins by asking in a startled tone: "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot?" Synonymous parallelism shows that the "nations" are the "peoples." These peoples are TALKING in anticipation about the future: they CONSPIRE and PLOT. Their "kings" and "rulers" take counsel about what they should do. At his point, nothing has happened. At the same time, the nations and their leaders are not happy about their present circumstances. 2:1-2b.
    b.  The conspiracy or plot of these kings and nations is against Yahweh and his anointed one, that is, the ruler of Israel in Jerusalem. The composer does not identify this anointed one, but he is clearly some king of Israel or Judah from Solomon to the fall of Judah under King Zedekiah in 587 BCE. Their decision is to burst their bonds asunder and cast their cords from them. This language shows that right now these nations are subject to Yahweh and his anointed one. 2:2c-3.

II. Yahweh Responds to the Plot of his Subject Peoples. Psalm 2:4-6.
     a. As king, Yahweh "sits" in the heavens. The words "sit," "sat," "set," "seated," and "sitting" often denote the idea of a king "reigning" over his people. Thus, here Yahweh is "king." Since he is securely and confidently in control, when people oppose or rebel against him, he LAUGHS. There are many different kinds of laughter. One kind of laughter is joy. Another kind of laughter is doubt. In Psalm 2:4; 59:8, the laughter is that of holding in derision, as the synonymous parallelism in Psalms 2:4; 59:8 shows. This kind of laughter means something like: "You must be kidding," "the very idea," "you cannot be serious," "What are you thinking of?" etc. 2:4.
    b. Since his subjects are planning to rebel against him, Yahweh's "wrath" or "fury" is his response. Many people reject the biblical testimony that Yahweh is a God of wrath and anger and fury and punishment. But throughout history, Yahweh has demonstrated that when human beings and nations develop hardened hearts, in time Yahweh responds in wrath and punishes the wicked. 2:5.
    c. Yahweh emphatically declares: "I have SET my king on Zion, my holy hill." Here, again, the verb "set" is a royal term meaning "reign." or "rule." When Yahweh makes a decision, no human being or nation can deflect his powerful word. Since Zion=Jerusalem was Yahweh's chosen city, the earthly king under the heavenly king Yahweh rules in Jerusalem. Yahweh is a holy God, and thus his city sits on a holy hill. The same term appears in Psalms 3:4; 15:1. 2:6.

III. The Earthly King Responds to Yahweh's Proclamation. Psalm 2:7-9.
      a.  When Yahweh declares, "I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill," the king declares to his people: "I will tell of the decree of the Lord" (in verse 6), he [Yahweh] said to me [the present speaker, the earthly king of Israel], "You [the earthly king] are my SON; TODAY I have BEGOTTEN YOU." Every king of Israel is "the son of God" (the same testimony appears in 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 89:26-27; Isaiah 9:6), and Yahweh is his "Father." Thus, the earthly king is subservient to Yahweh his Father, and whenever the earthly king disobeys Yahweh, Yahweh will punish him, as 2 Samuel 7:14-15 proclaims. In this context, then, "TODAY" is the day on which a new king steps up on the throne of Israel for the first time, THE DAY OF ACCESSION. The term "begotten" is a royal term meaning that Yahweh CHOSE this person and is responsible for putting him on the throne. 2:7.
     b. Then Yahweh promises the earthly king that Yahweh will give him a "heritage," which in this case is the nations. As son of God, the earthly king naturally becomes the HEIR of God's estate, and his heritage is "the ends of the earth." The earthly king of Israel is the highest of the kings of the earth--Psalm 89:27. Yahweh rules the nations emanating from Jerusalem, his chosen and holy city. See Psalm 48:1-2. At Yahweh's own time and in his own way, the time will come when Yahweh will actually carry out this vision which he declares--Isaiah 2:2-5; Micah 4:1-5. 2:8.
    c. Yahweh continues to promise his earthly king, his "son," that Yahweh will break his enemies with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Powerful nations often assume they are in control, and can overcome Yahweh's power and will. But Yahweh always prevails. 2:9.

IV. The Composer admonishes the nations to continue to be subject to Yahweh or else Yahweh will destroy them. Psalm 2:10-12.
       a. Returning to Psalm 2:1-2, the psalmist addresses the kings and rulers of earth to "be wise," "be warned," not to be foolish and rebel against Yahweh, but rather continue to be subservient to him, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 2:10.
       b. He continues to admonish the nations to "serve" Yahweh with fear, and with trembling "kiss his feet" (this is the reading of the New Revised Standard Version) or "kiss the son" [that is, the earthly king, which is the reading of the Hebrew Massoretic text]. 2:11.
       c. If the subject nations refuse to be subservient to Yahweh, Yahweh's "anger" or "wrath" will be kindled, Yahweh will overthrow his enemies, and they will perish, alluding to the warning in verse 5. 2:12.

Share YOUR understandings and fears and insights and reversals and beliefs with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Yahweh's Inner Struggles of Compassion

Various biblical texts emphasize that Yahweh deeply struggles with compassion with regard to his sinful people. Yahweh initially chose his people and loves them deeply. But when his sinful people establish a long-standing HABIT of rebellion against God, the time comes when God reluctantly "gives his people up" to punishment and destruction. Paul makes this point clearly and unmistakably in Romans 1:24-28: "GOD GAVE THEM UP."

But even at that, God still struggles powerfully in his heart of hearts about what he might do to redeem his people. Hosea and Jeremiah emphasize this struggle.

I. Hosea 11:8-9.
   a. Hosea 11:1-11 paints a graphic picture of God adopting Israel when he brought Israel out of Egyptian bondage--11:1. But when Israel entered into the land of Canaan and came into contacts with the Baals, the gods of the Canaanites, the Israelites forsook or forgot Yahweh and went after other lovers. 11:2. Yahweh had done everything he could to support his sinful people. 11:3-4. But since they hardened their hearts, Yahweh finally declared: "They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king." 11:5. This is a clear announcement that God will send the Assyrians to overthrow Israel, and carry Israel into bondage. And this actually happened. BUT Yahweh still loves his sinful people.
   b. Out of this struggle, Yahweh erupts suddenly, saying:
          "How can I give you up, Ephraim?
              How can I hand you over, O Israel?
            How can I make you like Admah?
              How can I treat you like Zeboiim?  [Admah and Zeboiim were two of the five cities of the Plain that Yahweh destroyed in the days of Abraham and Lot--see Genesis 14:8--listed along with Sodom, Gomorrah, and Zoar].
            I will not execute my fierce anger;
                I will not again destroy Ephraim;
            for I am God and no mortal,
                the Holy One in your midst,
                and I will not come in wrath."

II. Jeremiah 31:15-20.
     a. Yahweh through Jeremiah compares God's sinful people with Rachel weeping for her children to depict the Babylonian exile of Judah. 31:15.
     b. But Yahweh declares that his people must stop weeping, because there is hope for the future.
     c. Yahweh responds in this way because he heard the pleading of God's people: Yahweh, you disciplined us, and we are ashamed of our sins, we repent, and seek your forgiveness. 31:18-19.
     d. Yahweh responds by declaring:
            "Is Ephraim my dear son?
                  Is he the child I delight in?
              As often as I speak against him,
                  I still remember him.
                  I WILL SURELY HAVE MERCY ON HIM, says the Lord."

Our God is a very emotional being. This is clearly demonstrated in his struggling about his compassion in behalf of his sinful people.

Share YOUR feelings and experiences and beliefs and reversals and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis