God presents a conditional. Lately, I have been praying for God to keep me loving Him, that He return to me, yet here in Zechariah we see that the process clearly begins with me. God warns that this is no trivial thing either, for fathers did not heed what was said.
You see, I feel this is one of those, "Just do it" solutions. That is, there is no step-by-step process to "returning" to God; it is just something you do. What does that look like? Praying earnestly, reading the Bible, loving others, and so forth. These are just things we do to show God that we are devoted to Him; we give our precious, limited time to God, and in return He will transform us.
The process starts with us, but ultimately this would not be possible if it weren't for Jesus's sacrifice.
This chapter in Amos, and these verses in particular had a profound impact on me, as they helped me to realize a critical flaw in my thoughts whenever I am going to church or praising God and am mindlessly muttering the words of some hymn, or find myself being disgusted rather than uplifted when those around me are in a spirit of praise.
These verses are a beautiful reminder that if we are to gather together in the name of the Lord, we should do so wholeheartedly, we should not give him part of ourselves, but give him all. In the future I know that I will be making a much greater effort to always praise God for the mighty things he has done, instead of focusing on the negative feelings I may have towards what I perceive as empty songs or methodical repetition.
Often I have been told, "Pray and the Lord will listen." However, this verse, along with a slew of others (like Isaiah 59:2, Jeremiah 14:10-12) seem to suggest that His attention is conditional. This happens to be extremely relevant to me in particular since I've been praying on a particular issue for several years without a hint of an answer. And yet, here in Psalms it says that sin could be the barrier between myself and Him.
These verses lend themselves to the importance of having sincerity in prayer.
Many may recognize this as the Armor of God passage. However, I also wanted to add in verse 18; though this verse mentions no particular armor piece, I think it to be perhaps the most important verse in the passage. It tops off the entire armor with prayer and supplication. Why? Because we are nothing without God. We can have the whole armor upon us, but without perseverance in the Spirit, we can still fall. We need His guidance, His wisdom, His instruction, and His love.
Secondly, it calls me to interpret the armor of God as a prayer. Consider its elements:
These are things we must be daily reminded of, and things we daily need. We need truth to hold us up, righteousness to guard our hearts and souls, peace to keep us going, faith to keep us strong in the Enemy's attacks, salvation to protect our minds, and the Spirit to fight back. We know we need these, but do we pray for them? I believe Paul intends that we explicitly pray for these things to be made manifest in our lives, for if we lose any one of them, our spirit is placed in grave danger, and if our spirit falls, then so does our relationship with God. I would know.
The Samaritans say something rather interesting here. It seems that it would have been enough for them to have said, "Now we believe." Rather, they interject a small but rather significant appositive, stating simply, "…not because of what you said…".
If you remove that appositive entirely, the sentence still makes complete sense. Why then is it there? Jesus claims that every word and letter in the Bible is deliberate, and so I happen to believe that this small clause has a purpose. Specifically, it reminds me of 1 Corinthians 3:7, where it says that while we may minister and plant seeds, God is the one that gives the increase. So here, although the woman originally informed the other Samaritans of Jesus, it was Jesus Himself that caused them to believe.
Applying this, we need to keep in mind that we are powerless except for our ability to inform others about the message of salvation. I note that it was Jesus Himself that convicted the Samaritans, and so it seems to me that, when evangelizing, we must ensure that those we speak to are aware of the power of prayer. Prayer is how we speak to God and one way how He speaks to us. If new believers are to truly take root in the faith, then they need prayer in order to begin establishing a relationship with the Father.
This has been a long-time favorite verse of mine, mainly because of verse 25. The passage itself speaks of the message of the cross being "foolishness", not because it is a foolish thing in general, but because in light of our human understanding, it is indeed foolishness. Humans being ensnared within a bottomless well of sin are to be saved by a Man on a cross, born to a virgin? God dies? Why on Earth would God do things this way?
See, verse 25 answers it all: the foolishness of God is wiser than men. In other words, where man would solve a problem one way, God would use another. Where man reasons another thing, God reasons another. This, to me, is one way to word just how transcendent God is over our own understanding. We might ask, "God, why? Why not <some alternative>? Why couldn't you just <easy method>?" But by this verse I have the faith that such questions are petty; I instead accept and have faith in the fact that God's ways are higher than mine no matter how things may be turning out. And, while I still seek to understand, I know that to have faith in this is sufficient for the peace He promises.
This is one of my favorite verses because it confronts us with the reality that hardship and adversity are just as much from god as blessing. It also provokes us to realize that we should be thankful and praise God for everything he does in our lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the end, adversity that we experience is always according to his perfect plan for us, is that not something to be thankful for?
"Naked I came from my mother's womb," says Job a chapter earlier in verse 21, "and naked I will depart, the Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."
Again, Job demonstrates to us the way we should react to adversity.
"Great is the lord and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable." -Psalm 145:3. The lord IS worthy of all of our praise, his ways our higher than ours and when strife comes into our life, the best thing we can do is also the simplest. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Today, our pastor gave a sermon based around the message in James 4:13-17 about not boasting about the future. The general message of the verse is that long-term planning can be futile, for the future cannot be so simply predicted. Jesus of course advocates that we plan, but to proclaim our plans as set in stone would be foolish.
Pastor brought up an interesting point, though, regarding the passage. It isn't that planning can be futile, but that planning without God is certainly futile. If we observe the first verse, we find that the individuals speaking do not take into account God's will, and that is their actual mistake. When we plan, it ought to be in prayer, asking God regarding the future He has planned for us.
This intrigues me since I've recently been planning many things regarding my future five years from now, but I have not been praying enough for God's permission and His vision. Perhaps it's time I take some of these plans in fasting and prayer to see where God truly wants me. I do not expect full clarity, but I do expect a sense of peace.
This verse is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it opens up with a commandment to listen, and the sense of hearing is generally the sense that God seems to favor. Second, though, it introduces the following phrase:
Forget your own people also, and your father’s house
This reminds me of someone else in the Old Testament: Ruth. She was a Moabitess, yet she left both her people and her family for the sake of Naomi. Classically, Ruth is considered to be a type of the Church, and Boaz of Jesus. If we apply this verse to the Church, it seems to have an interesting implication.
It seems to me that a part of following Jesus is surrendering our nationality and our culture. When we choose to follow Him, those things cease to ultimately matter. The Scripture still says to obey the law of the land of course, but it would be as a testimony to others, not because we are American or Asian or African.
When we choose to follow God, we become Christians. We become the Way, as Acts puts it.
Considering the changing role of women in today's time, this is an especially interesting verse. In general, the Bible does exemplify gender equality, especially in the household, but this passage appears to have a different take on women in the church. However, I'm not as concerned with what that as I am with the justification presented in verse 14. What does it mean when it says Adam was not deceived as Eve was?
This is not saying that Adam did not sin. He definitely sinned. What it seems to be saying is that Adam sinned intentionally. He was not deceived into sinning; rather, he in full consciousness disobeyed God for some other sake. What sake is that? It is not clear here nor in the original passage of Genesis 3.
But, we can ask ourselves this: Who else willingly became sin in full consciousness when He did not need to? Who is the Last Adam? Jesus, Born sinless, He chose to become sin for the sake of us, the Church. He did so out of love.
Perhaps the first Adam did as well. It gives us a slightly different perspective on how the fall of man really turned out, serving not as the lowest point of mankind but yet another model of God's ultimate redemptive plan.
This is somewhat following a theme that I have started following. At some point I became interested in the possibility that someone might think they love God, but in reality they don’t. Such people are deceived into thinking they are followers of God when in reality God does not know them. This verse expands on that and indicates that even those who seek wisdom but are scoffers by heart will fall. These ideas embody the idea that God looks at the condition of the heart; what our minds do is completely irrelevant.