A Xenophobia-free Kingdom

Today’s reading:

Micah 1:1-7:7

My Selection:

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
     and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.    Micah 4:1-2

Xenophobia is defined as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” [1]  Those strange and foreign things may include language, dress, food, and customs.  At the heart of this attitude is the idea that one’s own way of doing things is the best or only right way.

A Worldwide Kingdom

The Church of Jesus Christ has spread to every nation of the world as foretold in Scripture.  Jesus sent His followers to make disciples of all nations and so they did.  The gospel unites us across national and cultural lines but it does not obliterate cultural differences, at least, not entirely. So there is no place among God’s people for xenophobia.  We ought to welcome those of other cultures and be careful about imposing our culture on them unless a violation of God’s word is at stake.

No culture is without sin, but there are vast areas of culture which are left to our discretion.  For example, from the Bible we understand that polygamy is sin.  Some cultures allow or even promote it.  As the gospel enters those cultures it impacts practices like polygamy and those who come to believe will seek to conform to Scripture, despite their culture.  There is no reason to expect that every area of every culture will be changed by the Bible.  Modest dress is a principle but western dress is not.

Enjoy the beauty

The kingdom of God is global, encompassing many nations and cultures.  Enjoy the beauty of this diversity that has already begun and let there not be found xenophobia among us.

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

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/xenophobia

Choosing Sides in the War

Satan is at war with the children of the woman. We are faced with the choice: whose side will we serve? God’s or the dragon’s?

Today’s reading: Micah 6-7; Revelation 12

8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?                               Micah 6:8

17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.        Revelation 12:17

Every human being is born into a war. Every human being is naturally born on the side of Satan. By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we are transferred to His kingdom, and with that transfer we become enemy combatants to the dragon. [John 8:39-47;Colossians 1:12-14].

Revelation 12 gives us a graphic picture of the fury of the dragon who goes out to make war on the offspring of the woman. He is enraged and will not stop until he is finished or forced by a greater power to surrender.

How does he recognize these children of the woman? Easy. They “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” In the midst of battle, it takes true faith to keep obeying and trusting the Lord. Some, in recent days as well as over the centuries, have been so severely tested that they had to choose between faith and death. I can only imagine the unleashed wrath of Satan as God’s people defy him in favor of death with peace. I can only imagine the rejoicing in heaven as the saints and angels welcome the homeward procession of victorious martyrs.

What does it mean to keep the commandments? Micah gave a simple three-point summary in Micah 6:8. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God. In other words, live out your faith in the midst of the war, but remember the dragon is after you and your faith will light you up on his screen. Be ready to incur his wrath as you bring glory to God.

Walking, Serving, Fearing

Three verbs capture much of what the life in Christ is about for His people of all the earth.

Today’s reading: Micah 4-5; Revelation 11

    and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.” Micah 4:2

18 The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” Revelation 11:18

Over and over the battle between good and evil, the war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world, is played out over the course of Biblical history. Both Micah and John show us a glimpse of how it ends.

The term “nation” in English shows up in both of the passages selected above, but they refer to quite different responses to God’s revelation of Himself and His commands upon mankind.

Micah speaks of a day when the mountain of the Lord and God’s house will be an attraction to all the nations of the world. People will stream there seeking to know God’s ways so as to walk in His paths. If you understand (as I do) this to be the “latter days” between the first and second advents of Jesus Christ, then we will see that this is being fulfilled even today in a figurative way. If we take the Church of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to bless all the families of the earth in him (Genesis 12:3), it is easy to see how these promises in Micah are already being kept. There is a great host of people in every nation of the world who trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world and Lord of lords.

John heard the 24 elders worshiping and saying that the time had come for God’s wrath in response to the raging of the nations. While Micah is talking about people from every nation coming to faith, the elders are speaking of the nations, perhaps on an official level, as they have rebelled against the Lord (Psalm 2). Even so, the elders have not forgotten that God’s servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear His name will be rewarded. The judgment is a time in which God will winnow out the wheat from the chaff and apply rewards and punishment as required.

What will God look for on that day? He will look for those who have walked in His ways, served Him, and feared His name. This is the way of life of the believer in Jesus Christ. Be sure you are found among them.

Foolish Presumption

Those who disregard the light of God’s word will find themselves overtaken by their foolish presumption.

Today’s reading: Micah 1-3; Revelation 10

11 Its heads give judgment for a bribe;
its priests teach for a price;
its prophets practice divination for money;
yet they lean on the Lord and say,
“Is not the Lord in the midst of us?
No disaster shall come upon us.”
12 Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height. Micah 3:11-12

5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, 7 but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets. Revelation 10:5-7

Of all the varieties of sin which man commits, none is more heinous than the abuse of  political and, especially, ecclesiastical power stemming from the presumptuous attitude that God is always on our side.

Through Micah, the Lord indicts the leaders of Israel and Judah for corruption. Bribes are taken so that justice is not carried out. Priests and prophets are not faithful to God’s word, but seek easy money. How do they commit these evils so glibly? It’s not that they are oblivious to the presence of the Lord. On the contrary, they actually presume on God’s presence, that He is with them and will not touch them no matter what they do. “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us,” they say in their foolish presumption.

In John’s vision, he sees an angel straddling land and sea. This angel announces that “there would be no more delay” but what God had foretold by the prophets would come to pass. This is a message which is bittersweet. It proclaims the judgment upon all who have lived as if there were no God, or presuming that He is always on our side, but it also brings the end of the long delay that has extended down through human history since the serpent deceived Eve in the Garden.

There is still time to flee to Jesus Christ and away from foolish presumption. Do not delay for the time is coming when the bittersweet message will be fulfilled. Seek the Light of the world who illumines our dark and foolish presumption (John 8:12).

Who else?

Today’s reading: Micah 7:8-Habakkuk 2:1

My selection: Micah 7:18-20

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity

and passing over transgression

for the remnant of his inheritance?

He does not retain his anger forever,

because he delights in steadfast love.

19 He will again have compassion on us;

he will tread our iniquities under foot.

You will cast all our sins

into the depths of the sea.

20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob

and steadfast love to Abraham,

as you have sworn to our fathers

from the days of old.

My reflections: I echo Micah’s cry, “who is a God like You?” This God is holy so He would be completely just to bring to judgment all mankind for its sin. But He has a remnant to whom He shows forgiveness. He does not remain angry because He delights to show steadfast love. He is the one who will take our sins from us and cast them into the depths of the sea.

When men conceive of god they tend to think either of a god who has failures and sin much like their own and so cannot rightly judge man, or one who is morally perfect but wrathful and unrelenting in judgment. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is neither of these. He is holy but also compassionate. He judges justly but shows forgiveness to those who turn to Him in faith and repentance. This is not a god conceived by man but rather One who reveals Himself to man through His Son, born in the obscure town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

My challenge: Praise God for His infinite wisdom in saving the believing remnant of His people. Praise God for His compassion, for casting your sins into the depths of the sea because of His steadfast love. Who else? No one else. There is no god like Him!

Tomorrow’s reading: Habakkuk 2:2-Zephaniah 3:20

Thy Kingdom Come

Today’s reading: Micah 1:1-7:7

My selection: Micah 4:1-2

It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the Lord

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and it shall be lifted up above the hills;

and peoples shall flow to it,

2 and many nations shall come, and say:

“ Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

My reflections: Once again we see the worldwide scope of God’s covenant with Israel. Although the times of Micah are bleak, a better day is coming, a day in which many nations will be drawn to worship the true God in sincerity. They will come to Jerusalem seeking to know the Lord’s ways so that they may walk in them.

Some of us who love the Lord and believe the Bible will disagree as to when this will take place, whether in a literal millennial kingdom or in a figurative sense in the present age but we will not disagree that this is a glorious description of the victory of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

My challenge: Whatever is going on in the world today, God rules and will ultimately be vindicated in His truth. God will have a people of His own from every tribe, tongue, and nation, a people zealous for good works. Do not despair as you await that moment of revelation. That glory to come far outweighs this present momentary affliction. Meanwhile, keep praying “Thy kingdom come.”

Tomorrow’s reading: Micah 7:8-Habakkuk 2:1