Repent: Some do; others don’t

How do you explain the widely differing responses of people to God’s judgment? Why do some repent and others do not? The answer is clear in Scripture.

Today’s Reading

Haggai 1-2; Revelation 16

Selected Verses

And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.  Haggai 1:14

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire.They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

Revelation 16:8-9

Reflections

During Haggai’s time, the people of Judah in captivity in Babylon had been allowed to return to Jerusalem. They settled down and began to build their comfortable and fashionable homes. Then God sent Haggai to tell them that He was not pleased with their wrong priorities. They had left the temple in ruins while they focused on their own houses. God sent them drought. The crops failed.

The message of Haggai and the failure of the crops got their attention. But in the case of the people living under the outpouring of God’s wrath by the seven angels of Revelation 15-16, there is a completely different reaction. No matter what bowl of wrath is poured out the people do not repent and give God glory. They do not recognize His power and their sin. Their response is completely irrational. The only exception is the voice coming from the altar which gives God the praise for His display of justice and power (Revelation 6:9-11).

Adversity, in and of itself, does not produce repentance. As the bowls are poured out and one judgment is piled upon another, the cursing of God continues without diminishing. How do we explain this insane attitude toward the Sovereign and Holy God? Why did the people in Haggai’s day repent after a crop failure while the people of John’s vision dig in and curse God? The difference is that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people.” This turned them to obedience and service to rebuild the temple.

Think about it

Do not expect repentance and praise to God to come from rebellious sinners unless the Lord stirs up their hearts. Pray that God may show mercy to those who are under His wrath by not only sending adversity and a messenger with the gospel, but by also stirring up their hearts. That is why some repent and others do not.

God: His wrath and His joy

How accurate is your view of God? Scripture reveals Him as having both wrath and joy.  He is angry with sin but also joyful with His redeemed people.

Today’s Reading

 Zephaniah 1-3; Revelation 15

Selected Verses

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:16-17

Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.  Revelation 15:1

Reflections

The prophet Zephaniah described the anger of the Lord against all the sin and corruption of, not only Judah but, all the nations of the world. He warns of the coming of the day of His wrath. That day would come and the judgment would be complete. Is there no escape? Yes, there is a hope for those who humble themselves before the Almighty.

Turning to Revelation, John’s vision confirms that the wrath of God does have an end point. Seven plagues come upon the earth administered by seven angels. After this we learn that these seven plagues, “are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.”

Finished.

What a good word to our ears! Zephaniah has given us a beautiful picture of the delight which the Lord has in His own. Several phrases show the completeness of His care and describe His presence (in your midst), His power (mighty one who will save), His joy (He will rejoice over you… exult over you with loud singing).

Think about it

If we are to be biblical in our understanding of God, we must grasp these realities of His being. He is absolutely holy and will not let the wicked go unpunished. He is also full of love and mercy and will save all who come to Him in faith through His Son, the Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world.

Be sure your understanding of God is accurate. Seek to know Him in truth as He has revealed Himself in His Word because His attributes include His wrath and His joy.

A Call for Endurance

God calls His people to endurance, by faith, even in the most severe of trials, because His promises are sure and His power is invincible.

Today’s Reading

Habakkuk 1-3; Revelation 14

Selected Verses

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:18-19

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” Revelation 14:12-13

Reflections

Down through the ages, the saints of God have been called to live by faith in His word. Often they have had to stand under intense opposition and persecution.

Habakkuk was perplexed about the spiritual state of Judah. Why did God seem to ignore the injustice and corruption in the nation? God responded that He would send the Chaldeans to discipline Judah. That answer drove Habakkuk to even greater confusion. How could God use such a wicked people to discipline His own people who while sinful were not nearly as evil as the Chaldeans? The Lord explained that when He was finished using the Chaldeans to discipline Judah, He would then turn His wrath on them, too.

Habakkuk gets it. He concludes with a psalm of praise and commitment to God. The prophet says he will trust God and rejoice in Him no matter what. Now that is an example of faith!

In Revelation, God gives John a picture of the things to come. There will be great trials. The saints must respond to the call to endure with obedience and steadfast faith in Jesus. Once that is over, they will be received into eternal rest where their deeds in this world will be remembered.

Think about it

Walk in faith and obedience, my brother and sister. The time will come soon when the stress and pressure of this world will be over. Our reward is certain, so endure.

Judgment: Does God Delay?

Beware of confusing God’s apparent slowness to anger with any weakness or ambivalence. He will bring judgment sure and final in His time. [1]

Today’s Reading

Nahum 1-3; Revelation 13

Selected Verses

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.  Nahum 1:2, 3

Also [the beast] was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Revelation 13:7-8

Reflections

The Bible from start to finish shows us that God is firmly in control of  human history.  Nothing escapes His knowledge, His presence, or His power.  That does not mean that He watches human history as a disinterested bystander.  He will act in His time to reward faithfulness and punish evil.

In Nahum’s day, the nation of Assyria was imposing her power on the surrounding nations.  Israel had already fallen to her and Judah, under King Manasseh, was a vassal state. Nahum proclaimed the power of God in the midst of this difficult situation.   Assyria would fall, he assured them.  God is slow to anger but not weak in power.  He would pour out His wrath.  Meanwhile, Nahum, whose name means comfort, reminded Judah that “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him” (1:7).

John sees two beasts, one from the sea and one from the earth.  These united with the dragon wreak havoc on God’s people, who do not take the mark of the beast which gives access to commerce.  It seems like a hopeless situation, yet God limits the time allotted to these beasts.  God reassures all who refuse to worship the beast–their names were recorded before time in the Lamb’s book of life.

Think about it

Let this bring comfort to us who believe but warning to all who confuse God’s patience with any kind of weakness.  His judgment will come in His time, not ours.

[1] The Reformation Study Bible, introductory notes to Nahum, p. 1587

 

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

Selected Verses

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

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

Reflections

Every human being is born into a war. In that war we are 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 that goes out to make war on the offspring of the woman. He rages and will not stop until he finishes or a greater power overcomes him.

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.

Think about it

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.

Three Verbs for Life

Three verbs capture much of what the life in Christ is about for His people of all the earth–walking, serving, fearing. Do they describe you?

Today’s Reading

Micah 4-5; Revelation 11

Selected Verses

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

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

Reflections

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 the “latter days” occur between the first and second advents of Jesus Christ (which I believe), then this is being fulfilled even today as the nations turn to Christ in faith. 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.  They trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world and Lord of lords.

John heard the twenty four 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 and those who fear His name have a sure reward. The judgment is a time in which God will winnow out the wheat from the chaff and apply rewards and punishment as required.

Think about it

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 faithful and be sure that those verbs describe you..

Foolish Presumption

No sin is more heinous than the abuse of power stemming from the presumption that God is always on our side. Heed the warning.

Today’s Reading

Micah 1-3; Revelation 10

Selected Verses

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.”
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

And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven  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, 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

Reflections

Through Micah, the Lord indicts the leaders of Israel and Judah for their abuses. Officials take bribes and corruption rules. Priests and prophets disregard God’s word but seek easy money. How do they commit these evils so glibly? Are they oblivious to the presence of the Lord? No! 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.

Think about it

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

Sin: the lethal weapon

Many learn the hard way that without God’s grace to repent, we will hold onto unbelief until it kills us. Sin is truly a lethal weapon.

Today’s Reading

Jonah 1-4; Revelation 9

Selected Verses

And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 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 4:8-9

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, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. Revelation 9:20-21

Reflections

Jonah was sent to 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, conditions following God’s judgment 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.

Think about it

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 difference 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.

Silence in Heaven

Those who boast proudly before God now will someday learn to keep silence before Him. What should be our attitude toward God?

Today’s Reading

Obadiah; Revelation 8

Selected Verses

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 1:3-4

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  Revelation 8:1

Reflections

In John’s Revelation, the Lamb opens six of the seven seals.  When He comes to the seventh seal, something unprecedented occurs.  There is silence in heaven.  The saints were lifting up worship and loud praises to God, but now it stops.  The guilty cry out in grief that the mountains should fall upon them to hide them.  Then they all grow silent.  It is as if they wait to see what the Lamb will do next.  Then the judgment falls everywhere.

There was a time when the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, had grown so proud that they thought no one could bring them down.  They vented their arrogance on suffering Israel.  God sent Obadiah to warn them that He would judge them.  That judgment would be more thorough and complete than anything they could imagine.

Think about it

The proud and foolish think that God, if He exists at all, has no interest or knowledge of people on earth.  They see believers dying for their faith and do not know that the Lord receives them and keeps them safe. He reassures them that they will be avenged.  The day of wrath comes.

What should be our attitude toward God?  Prayerful humility behooves us.  Silence before Him is befitting.  Let all boastful pride be eliminated and replaced with prayerful humility and silence.

Restoration after Tribulation

Tribulation is real, but it is not the end for God’s people. He promises a final and ultimate restoration for all His elect.

Today’s Reading

Amos 7-9; Revelation 7

Selected Verses

 I will plant them on their land,
and they shall never again be uprooted
out of the land that I have given them,”
says the Lord your God. Amos 9:15

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Revelation 7:13-14

Reflections

The prophet Amos had a gloomy message for Israel. God’s words through him moved the prophet himself. “O Lord God, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” he cries out again and again (7:2). But God relents and promises that all these dire warnings will not be final. There is a day of restoration and joy ahead. It will be permanent. There will be lasting prosperity and security.

Given the depth of sin and failure on the part of Israel, how is this blessing possible?

The gospel of Jesus Christ holds the answer. He is the Lamb of God whose blood atones for the sin of God’s elect. They wash their robes in it. Those filthy robes are made white. They endure the pain and suffering of the great tribulation and though, as Amos admitted, they are small, yet they stand.

Think about it

Do not wonder if you suffer for a time. Some of it, we bring on ourselves by our sin and stupidity and some of it is the sufferings of Christ that His people must bear because of their identity with Him. In the end, there is restoration. Be strong in the Lord, because tribulation is real but it is not the end.