A Warning about Piling On

Today’s reading:

Obadiah 1- Jonah 4:11

My Selection:

The pride of your heart has deceived you,
    you who live in the clefts of the rock,
    in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
    “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
    though your nest is set among the stars,
    from there I will bring you down,
declares the Lord.    Obadiah 3-4

The prophet Obadiah issued a warning to the Edomites.  Judgment loomed for their merciless treatment of the refugees from Judah who fled from the invading Babylonian army.  Instead of protecting them, the Edomites captured those refugees and turned them over to the invaders.  They used the Jews as hostages to be traded to Nebuchadnezzar’s forces.

God’s Ways

God’s ways are complex.  Think about it. He sent the invading army to carry out His discipline against Judah.  But He did not condone Edom’s piling on His people who were under His discipline.  Instead, He sent a prophet to confront them for their pride and heartlessness.

James also warned against the failure to show mercy. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment”  James 2:13.

Pride can blind a person to the suffering of others. That kind of blindness can lead to hardness of heart and failure to show love and compassion to those who are in trouble.  Beware of piling on those who are suffering, even when they suffer for their own failures.  A day of judgment is coming.  God will bring down the proud and those who failed to show mercy.  How can you show mercy today?

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Lethal Sin

Without God’s grace to repent, we are prone to hold on to sin till it kills us.

Today’s reading: Jonah 1-4; Revelation 9

And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”                                                         Jonah 4:8b-9

20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.             Revelation 9:20-21

Unbelief, like all kinds of other sin, is hard to let go. Many learn this the hard way.

Jonah was sent the city of Nineveh, a city so evil that God decided to bring judgment on it. But first, He decreed that they should have one last chance to repent. So he chose Jonah to go. We all know the story. Jonah went in another direction, was intercepted by the big fish, and learned that God could stop him anywhere. Then Jonah, like Nineveh, got a second chance to obey God. This time he obeyed, sort of. Jonah proclaimed God’s message to the city. Lo and behold, they repented, God relented and spared them.

Jonah was so angry he wanted to die. He appreciated what God had done for him, sparing him from a watery grave inside a fish. But now, he hated God’s mercy toward Nineveh, that wicked city. He wanted to die, but God mercifully discussed the matter with him. Jonah got yet a third chance to get it right. We are left to wonder if he did.

In Revelation 9, we find God’s judgment upon the earth after the fifth angel’s trumpet. Conditions were such that people were seeking death but for a different reason than Jonah. They sought death because they could not see any escape from the wrath of God. They had no hope. But they could not die, at least, not all of them. Did the survivors repent and call out for mercy, like the Ninevites before them? No! They persisted in their unbelief, their idolatry and demon worship.

Why do some, under severe judgment, repent while others grow more hardened in rebellion against God? The answer is that God grants repentance to some and not to others. It is not a function of the severity of the trial or the eloquence of the preacher (Jonah was a reluctant preacher, at best). The different is the sovereign work of God in the hearts of the hearers or sufferers. Here the Ninevites were wiser and more receptive than the fifth trumpet generation. Observe and learn from these examples: negative and positive. Without grace to repent, sin is lethal.

The Deceitfulness of Pride

Today’s reading: Obadiah 1-Jonah 4:11

My selection: Obadiah 3-4

3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,

you who live in the clefts of the rock,

in your lofty dwelling,

who say in your heart,

“ Who will bring me down to the ground?”

4 Though you soar aloft like the eagle,

though your nest is set among the stars,

from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord.

My reflections: Edom took advantage of Judah’s invasion by Babylon. They mercilessly captured those fleeing from Nebuchadnezzar and turned them over to him. How could they be so heartless? Easy. They were deceived by their own pride. Like Amaziah in yesterday’s reading, they felt secure in their kingdom and willing to use their position to win favor with the Babylonians.

My challenge: Nothing is more deceptive than pride. Beware of false security which leads to pride and can make you hard-hearted toward the suffering of others Keep humble before a holy, sovereign God. You are not invincible.

Tomorrow’s reading: Micah 1:1-7:7

The Undaunted Prophet

Today’s reading: Amos 5:1-9:15

My selection: Amos 7:12-15

12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

14 Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. 15 But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

My reflections: King Amaziah of Israel felt secure in his own kingdom, secure enough to send the prophet of God out of the land. He foolishly believed his own press reports, that he ruled a land that was his forever. He called it his sanctuary. So he attempted to deport Amos to Judah.

Amos, though admittedly a farmer and herdsman, not a member of the professional prophets’ guild, did not back down. He had been commissioned by God, and he did not flinch in the face of royal opposition.

My challenge: Like Amaziah, we are not sovereign over the property we think we own or the people we think we manage. Our positions are precarious at best. Although the land I live on has been in our family for 70 years, one day I will leave it behind. God is eternal. Only He controls completely all there is. Walk before Him in humility. Know His commands and calling, as Amos did, and be undaunted to do God’s will.

Tomorrow’s reading: Obadiah 1-Jonah 4:11