Jonah and Micah

Jonah: My take-aways…

  1. God’s plan cannot be ignored.
  2. God’s compassion is something we should love. Jonah loves God’s compassion on him, when he praises God for allowing him to live after being swallowed by the big fish. But Jonah isn’t so happy when God shows compassion on Ninevah. Are we okay with God loving our enemies? One commentator said that Jonah likely viewed the Ninevites the way we view the Nazis. Again I say–are we okay with God showing compassion on our enemies? This makes me think of the death penalty. We want justice, but can we forgive our enemies? Can we be okay with giving life to those who have taken lives and done atrocities? I think that we MUST be okay with giving life, because God can show compassion on the worst of the worst, so I must do so, too.

Micah: My take-aways…

  1. God desperately wants his people, his family (Israel) to remember his good deeds and live a righteous life. Like a parent desiring goodness for their child, God desires good for his people. (see Micah 6 below)

“My people, what have I done to you?
    How have I burdened you? Answer me.
I brought you up out of Egypt
    and redeemed you from the land of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you,
    also Aaron and Miriam.
My people, remember
    what Balak king of Moab plotted
    and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal,
    that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”

2. God’s people (us!) really do want to please the Lord. (see Micah 6 below)

With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[a] with your God.

3. So what’s the problem? It seems like God and man want the same things, but our sinful human nature gets in the way. We take our wealth for granted and oppress the poor, we ignore those who need our help, we establish unjust societies/governments, and we just plain mess up…because of our iniquity, and because God is so holy, there is a gap. Justice must be served. Praise the LORD that he has a plan of salvation that involves a man, God’s son, being born of a woman in Bethlehem and taking on the sin of man for us, so that we can be restored to right relationship with God through Him.

4. God is good! He demands justice, but he also forgives and delights to show mercy.  (see Micah 7 below)

Who is a God like you,
    who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
    of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
    but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
    you will tread our sins underfoot
    and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,
    and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
    in days long ago.

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Joel and Amos

Joel: I feel like this book can be best summarized in Chapter 2, verse 12-13:

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

“Even now”—when you have turned away from God

“Rend your heart and not your garments”–don’t just tear your sackcloth and cry big, fake tears. Change your heart attitude. Return to the LORD.

“He is gracious and compassionate”–If you will return to him, he will show compassion on you. There is hope.

Amos: I can’t remember ever reading this book, except the 1 time in middle school when I read through the whole bible cover to cover over the course of a few years. It’s another picture of God’s disappointment and anger at Israel for their wickedness, for their disregard for God’s law, and for their idolatry. However, it doesn’t end with God’s anger. It ends with a beautiful picture of how, despite Israel’s wickedness, God would again restore his kingdom, through the line of David (hint: Jesus), and there will be rebuilding and everlasting stability “I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them” (Amos 9:15).

A friend posted a commentary on how Hosea and Amos both approach the same topic a little differently. Both men are sharing God’s’s messages to the people of the Northern Kingdom after Israel was divided in 2 but before the Assyrian conquest in 722 BC. Hosea focuses on how Israel broke their covenant (like a marriage vow) with God, and Amos focuses on how Israel has turned away from righteousness and as a result there is no justice in society, particularly for the poor.  Here’s a piece of the commentary that I couldn’t get enough of:

God’s disdain of Israel’s injustice and hypocrisy is seen in chapter 5. Amos 5:4 says, “Seek me and live; but do not seek me at Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal.” He’s telling them to renounce their idolatry. Don’t go to Bethel, don’t go to those idolatrous temples. Then, in verses 10-13, he explains the sorts of things that happen in society when you do worship false gods: people who stick up for the poor are ignored or hated. The poor have heavy rent imposed on them. The wealthy keep getting wealthier, but they’re annexing the land of the poor. The poor are turned aside at the city gate. Society gets really bad when you don’t live faithfully for the one true God.
But in Amos 5:14, God gives the better way, “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live.” This is a cool pairing with the beginning command in 5:4. Initially, God said “seek me” as a means of rejecting idolatry. But in 5:14 it’s “seek good and not evil” as a means of rejecting idolatry. The play on words is meant to show you that right worship of the God of the covenant will result in justice being done in the city gate, while idolatry will result in neglect of the poor. So, for Amos, to seek God is to seek the good of others and to turn your back on God (in idolatry) is to live at the expense of others. Your worship of God, or lack thereof, will necessarily reflect itself in how you treat the poor, the oppressed, and the needy.

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Hosea

A short book, but a beautiful one in the portrait it paints of God.

Hosea 3:1 “Love her (your wife) as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods”

Hosea 11 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim (Jacob/Israel) to walk, taking them by the arms, but they did not realize it was I who healed them…I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them…”

Next to this passage in Hosea 11, I had written from years ago the word “Abba,” which I was always told best translated to “Daddy,” an affectionate term for a father. It’s true–this passage is showing us our daddy and his loving care for us. Most of Hosea talks about Israel’s sin and the way they’ve strayed from the LORD, but that makes these short passages about God’s love for a sinful people even more powerful! I’m not trying to ignore God’s disappointment with the unfaithfulness of Israel, because without that disappointment the love would mean so much less. But the love is what stands out as significant, the love is what stands out as the key to who the Lord is.

I’ve always known Hosea to be a book about a prophet who marries a prostitute and sticks by her side despite her unfaithfulness, showing how God stays by his people despite their unfaithfulness. It is about this, but it’s also about God’s role as parent to a disobedient child. Hmm. Maybe more meaningful now as a wife and (almost) mother than it was years ago when I last read the book.

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Isaiah

This was the toughest book for me to get through so far. I just had so much trouble following/understanding it! BUT, God is faithful and rewards our faithfulness. I just finished this book last night. This is definitely one that I’d like to revisit after the year of reading is over and try to dig into more deeply, slowly, and with the help of a commentary or some other explanatory text.

Despite my confusion, there were moments of clarify while reading Isaiah. One chapter, in particular, stuck out to me. Isaiah 58–what a picture of what God desires of us, of what God expects of us. TRUE fasting is acting justly and generously. This is something I must continue working towards daily.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

I also found it interesting how God emphasizes for so many chapters how he has destroyed these numerous unworthy kingdoms. God’s wrath is a huge theme and focus for a large part of Isaiah. Francis Chan, in a podcast about part of the first half of Isaiah, challenges us to meditate on God’s wrath and think about what it means for his character, his power, our position in comparison to him. Meditating on God’s wrath isn’t my idea of a fun day’s devotional time, but I do think that God wants us to understand him. And just like we seek to know everything about those we love here on earth, we should seek to know as much as we can about our beloved Lord and Savior, even if there are parts we’d rather not hear about.

I wish I could say more about Isaiah, but for now these are a few of my takeaways. I hope to dive into this prophetic text more deeply in the future.

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1 & 2 Kings

Reading Kings is done! What a list of rulers of Israel and Judah. I don’t have a lot to say about these books, except that I love learning about the history of God’s people and about his plan.

The end of Kings was beautiful as one of the rulers discovers (through someone else) the law and is so burdened by his people’s lack of adherence to this law that he calls them together to hear it and makes radical changes to the kingdom to try to be obedient to God.

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1 & 2 Samuel

It’s April now, and baby will likely be here in 2 short months. I am proud of myself for sticking with the bible reading plan for the first 1/4 of the year of 2017, and I hope to be able to continue even after this little one joins the outside world.  I’ve just finished the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, and re-reading this story of Samuel, Saul, and David was a great reminder of our humanity. These characters each sin, sometimes in ways that seem almost unintentional. Like when Saul doesn’t slaughter all the people and animals he is supposed to but saves some of the animals to offer as sacrifices to the Lord. This seems like a good thing to do, but it wasn’t what God commanded. This disobedience was not acceptable to the LORD, even if he had what I might call good intentions.

Take away: My good intentions are not the point. God demands obedience.

The other important character in the story is the people of Israel. They desire a king, not trusting that God is enough for them, not trusting that they could be different than other nations. As a result of this lack of trust, they end up with kings that are far from perfect. Even the great King David makes some terrible mistakes. But through it all, the story is pointing to Jesus–the coming PERFECT king, the king that will come from David’s line.

Take away: When we don’t trust God or when we lack belief in who He is, we end up relying on earthly things that cannot fulfill the true desires of our hearts. We trust in our family, our bank account, our abilities, our political leaders…but these things are all not enough. And these things can all fade away. The KING, Jesus, is the real hero of our story, of our lives. And he is the hero of this great story that I’m reading called the Bible.

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Joshua/Judges/Ruth

I want to keep writing about each book of the bible that I finish reading this year so that I have these writings to looks back on and reflect on in the future. So here are my thoughts on the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. These thoughts are a bit scattered, and I’m sure that they aren’t explained in the best way, but I wanted to try to write something before moving on to the next books.

Joshua–God fulfills, in many ways, his promise to Abraham and his promise to Moses to give the people of God a promised land. Getting there requires obedience, and they stumble along the way, but eventually they fight off many tribes currently in the land and take possession, each tribe a portion, of this promised land of Canaan. God ordains a specific portion for each tribe, and I love how specific God gets even though it makes for a few boring chapters about property lines.

Judges–what a cycle these Israelites get into with sin, separation/punishment, repentance, and redemption…God gives them so many chances to do the right thing but they continue to each do “whatever is right in their own eyes.” I suppose this is exactly what our lives look like as we continue to make many of the same mistakes again and again, and we continue to need God to rescue us. The beautiful thing is that God doesn’t give up on us, and he didn’t give up on Israel.

Ruth–I have always loved this story of loyalty, but I was fascinated to learn about how perfectly the structure of the chapters is organized…for example, the story begins with the loss of a husband and son, then ends with gaining a husband and child. Also, each chapter has a part where Naomi and Ruth make a plan or discuss a plan for what comes next. This is also a nice little family story to break up the larger story of God’s people that continues from Judges into 1 Samuel (the next book of Scripture). Sometimes it’s hard to apply the stories of Israel with our own lives, but I find it much easier to learn from the story of one family, or from a small number of characters.

 

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