Nuggets – Lessons from Amos: Don't Enter Gilgal

“But [do not] . . . enter into Gilgal . . . for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity.” (Amos 5:5)

Gilgal was the place of new beginnings. Twelve memorial stones from the Jordan were set up at Gilgal after the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 4:3). The nation was circumcised there in preparation for their possession of the land (Joshua 5:5). The Passover was celebrated (Joshua 5:10), and the miraculous manna ceased (Joshua 5:12). The victorious campaign in the hill country of Judea extending to Kadesh-barnea and Gaza was conducted from Gilgal (Joshua 10:15). The great battle at the waters of Merom was conducted from Gilgal (Joshua 10:43; 11:5). Saul was crowned Israel’s first king at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:15).

Yet, the activity at Gilgal began to obscure the Word of God. Saul compromised and sacrificed at Gilgal to try to gain God’s blessing. His desire for political favor resulted in direct disobedience to God.

A zeal for “righteous action” without obedience can result in evil. Jephthah’s foolish vow and subsequent bad leadership led to a horrible slaughter (Judges 11–12). Micah’s selfish desire for a personal priest led to terrible apostasy (Judges 17–18). A Levite’s false zeal for revenge led Israel into civil war (Judges 19–21).

When activity substitutes for holiness, the cause starts to justify the activity. Activity then becomes necessary to preserve the cause, and dedication to the activity is equated with loyalty and holiness. In many cases, preservation of a memorable event overrides biblical truth. We don’t need “activity” at Gilgal as much as we need “abiding” in Christ. The “branches” need the “vine” (John 15). HMM III

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Knowing Him That Is from the Beginning–The First and the Last

Immortality Road

[I could tell you that the following is food taken from the peak of God’s mountain, high above the clamoring of earthlings. I could plead with you to partake of this secret bread, that it will propel God’s growth in you to lustrous lakes of living water. But only the hungry and thirsty will eat and drink. This we know, and in this we will rest.]

As Christians we believe that we know God. We have been touched by the love of Christ, and we have experienced the love, joy, and peace that His Spirit has given us. But do we “know Him that is from the beginning”?

The apostle John is writing a letter addressed to followers of Christ. They fall into three levels of maturity. He writes unto “little children, young men, and fathers” (I John 2: 12-14).

He ministers differently to each spiritual growth group. “I write…

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Nuggets – Lessons from Amos: Seek the Lord

“But seek not Bethel. . . . Seek the LORD, and ye shall live.” (Amos 5:5-6)

Bethel had a long history with Israel. Abraham camped near Bethel when he first entered the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:8) and “called on the name of the LORD” at Bethel when he returned from Egypt (Genesis 13:3-4). Jacob’s dream of the ladder took place at Bethel (Genesis 28:10-12, 19), and later it was there his name was changed to Israel (Genesis 35:9-15).

Later, however, Bethel became Bethaven, the “House of Idols” (Hosea 4:15), after Jeroboam I established a temple to the golden calf (1 Kings 12:28-33). And much later, Assyria, after the destruction of Israel, left false priests at Bethel to corrupt the land (2 Kings 17:27-34). The place became a substitute for the person of God.

The danger comes when God becomes fixed to a place or an event where there is more concern for property than people. The kind of place (one’s denomination) substitutes theology for truth, or the experience gives more credence to intuition than inspiration. Worship of place or event supersedes the worship of God. Both substitutes will produce error.

The admonition of Amos is to “seek the LORD” (Amos 5:6). The promise is that if we seek the Lord, we “shall live.” We will not find God in a place but in a person (Acts 4:12). We cannot find God in a campaign but in a commitment (Matthew 6:33). We surely will not find God in promises from men but in power from God (2 Peter 1:4). HMM

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Nuggets – Lessons from Amos: Walking with God

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3)

Amos was a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II (son of Joash), who ruled the northern 10 tribes of Israel from 825 to 784 BC (2 Kings 14:23). Some 100 years earlier, Jeroboam I (son of Nebat) had led a rebellion against the son of Solomon and started the northern nation of Israel (1 Kings 12). In order to keep his people from returning to Jerusalem, Jeroboam I “made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 12:30; 16:26; etc.) by developing a “new” religion centered on an image of a golden calf, with idol temples in Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:28-29).

Those northern tribes never returned to the worship of Jehovah but “sinned against the LORD,” and Israel “feared other gods” (2 Kings 17:7). The list of their sins is long and grievous in God’s sight.

  • They “did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD” (2 Kings 17:9).
  • Israel set up “images and groves in every high hill” (2 Kings 17:10).
  • They “wrought wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger” (2 Kings 17:11).
  • They “worshipped all the host of heaven” (2 Kings 17:16).
  • They “used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger” (2 Kings 17:17).
  • They “feared the LORD, and served their own gods” (2 Kings 17:33).

Amos was commissioned in those dark years to openly confront the nation to “walk” in “agreement” with the God they professed to worship. Hypocrisy is at the core of the judgment and warnings that God recorded for us in the little book of Amos. We must learn the lessons or suffer the same judgment. HMM III

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Nuggets – We Will Serve the Lord

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

As Joshua’s death approached, he gathered the people around him for a final address and challenge. “Fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served” (v. 14), he exhorted as he reviewed the history of God’s provision for Israel. Indeed, God was worthy of their service in light of all He had done for them. Speaking on behalf of the Lord, Joshua used the divine pronoun “I” no less than 17 times in the previous 11 verses, in a majestic listing of His work on their behalf.

There seems to be a twist of irony in Joshua’s words. Even though the people adamantly maintained, “Therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God” (v. 18), Joshua evidently knew they had already decided not to follow God. He did not offer them a choice between the true God and false gods, he offered them a choice between sets of false gods—those “on the other side of the flood” (i.e., the Euphrates River), or those “in Egypt” (v. 14), or “the gods of the Amorites.” None can compare, obviously, to the Lord.

Joshua’s point is still applicable today. Man must worship; he must have a god. One may recognize his god as an actual “god”—an idol to be openly worshipped. Many times today, however, the god is that of human reason, science, evolution, or humanism, and worship is performed unwittingly. Our duty in witnessing includes helping the unsaved to make a knowledgeable choice, pointing out the consequences of their choice of gods. Such a comparison should drive one to the same decision as Joshua’s: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” JDM

From Days of Praise

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Nuggets – World Without End

“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” (Isaiah 64:4)

This beautiful Old Testament promise has been appropriated by Paul (1 Corinthians 2:9) and applied to the New Testament believer guided by the indwelling Spirit of God. It looks forward to the ages to come when all those “things which God hath prepared for them that love him” will be given in their fullness.

It is noteworthy that both “the beginning of the world” in our text (Isaiah 64:4) and “world without end” (45:17) are translations of the same Hebrew word, olam, which means essentially “indefinitely long ago” or even “eternity.” Thus, the wonderful plan God has prepared for His people, to be implemented and enjoyed in eternity future, was formulated by Him in eternity past.

We were then chosen “in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4). He had even planned our redemption from sin through His Son, “with the precious blood of Christ, . . . Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:19-20).

We may not, in this life, really comprehend with our minds such marvelous things, but we who “wait for him” can believe them with rejoicing in our hearts, for “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). Thus, we can unite with thankful and understanding hearts in Paul’s great doxology: “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21). HMM

From Days of Praise

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Nuggets – The Ways and Works of God

“He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.” (Psalm 103:7)

We have a distinct privilege, as believers, to know something of the “acts” of God. Scripture records many instances where He performed even miraculous deeds on behalf of His children.

There is perhaps a greater privilege—that of reflecting on His “ways,” as well. “Ways,” in this context, may be understood as God’s actions and behaviors that reflect His underlying character, resulting in His “acts.” Understanding His “ways” may not always be possible, “for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9), but nevertheless we are admonished to try and even pattern our own ways after His.

The people of Israel who had special knowledge of the “acts” of God were told to “walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you” (Deuteronomy 5:33). But, “oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!” (Psalm 81:13). “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

The New Testament echoes this same teaching: “Your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest” (Hebrews 3:9-11).

Moses, an eyewitness to the many magnificent works of God on behalf of Israel, went beyond and discerned the “ways” of God, as our text teaches. Surely, he chose the better way. JDM

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Afraid of The Dark

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

If you are like virtually every other person on this earth you are sleeping with a sense of unease, waking to the same and spend most of the day pushing a palpable sense of worry down into your gullet. I get this. I do. I have lived through lots of scary stuff myself.

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Nuggets – The Rough Places Plain

“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” (Isaiah 40:4)

This is an amazing promise. In the primeval “very good” creation (Genesis 1:31), there was nothing “crooked” or “rough.” Even the hills and mountains were apparently gentle in slope and relatively low; the rugged mountain ranges and volcanic peaks of the present world date from the upheavals and residual catastrophism of the great Flood (see especially Psalm 104:5-9). God had instructed men and women to literally “fill” the earth (Genesis 1:28), which would indicate that no part of the lands was uninhabitable.

That is not the way it is now. Vast inaccessible mountain ranges, deserts, glaciers, swamplands, etc., abound, all basically as a result of sin and God’s curse on the ground (Genesis 3:17).

But in the coming period of God’s judgments on the rebellious world of mankind, there also will be extensive renovational physical changes accompanying them. For example, there will be such “a great earthquake” that “every mountain and island were moved out of their places” (Revelation 6:12, 14). Then a few years later will follow an even greater global earthquake—“so mighty an earthquake, and so great” that “every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (Revelation 16:18, 20).

“For thus saith the LORD of hosts; . . . I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come” (Haggai 2:6-7). Finally, indeed, “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:4-5). HMM

From the Days of Praise

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Nuggets – The Title "Christian"

“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (1 Peter 4:16)

The word “Christian” occurs only three times in Scripture and seems to have changed in its meaning from first to last. In the first instance, “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). The name merely identified them as followers of Christ with no reproach intended.

The second usage was some years later, by which time the term was evidently well known, even among unbelievers. After Paul had witnessed to him, “Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28). A more literal translation that renders the sentence “Do you try in such a short time to make a Christian of me?” indicates an air of superiority or incredulity in Agrippa’s voice. It would take more than a short testimony to make a Christian of him.

As the years went by, the church began to be plagued by persecution. Our text indicates that even the name “Christian” was by then regarded with contempt and reproach. But Peter tells us that there is no shame involved in the name “Christian” or in following Christ. Peter, no doubt, recalled the shame he felt for denying the name of Christ, but he also recalled with thankfulness how that even though the Jewish council had “beaten them” and “commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:40), he and the other apostles departed “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (v. 41).

Furthermore, we can “glorify God on this behalf” or “in this name.” This implies more than just praising the name. We can glorify God in what we do—in how we live in that name. We can certainly also bring dishonor to the title “Christian” by our actions. A solemn responsibility is then ours to bring honor and glory to God through our lives. JDM

From Days of Praise

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