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John 9:22

“These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.”

Jesus had performed a mighty miracle when He gave sight to a man who had been blind from his birth. While attempting to establish the facts, the leaders called the blind man’s parents. They tried to avoid the issue by saying he could speak for himself. The verse above shows the reason for their hesitancy. They were afraid that they would be put out of the synagogue if they said that Jesus was the Christ. His miracle made it clear that He was.

Of what are we afraid? We may fear being ostracized from our group of friends on one hand, or death on the other. And any number of events imagined and real in between. Fear makes us do things that we know we shouldn’t. Our strongest convictions can melt in the face of fear. These days there seems to be more to fear than ever.

Daniel 3 tells the famous story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Nebuchadnezzar set up an idol, and commanded everyone to worship it. Anyone that didn’t worship the idol faced a death sentence; to be cast into a fiery furnace. Regardless, these three men refused to do it. In verses 16-18 we read, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Their bold and confident answer to the king was the opposite of fear. In spite of the brutal death promised by Nebuchadnezzar, they stood firm. In Luke 12:4,5 Jesus said, “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” This is in line with what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had said. They were more afraid of dishonoring God than to worship the king’s idol, even at the cost of their lives.

The worst that can happen to us at the hands of our fellow man is death. After that, they have no power or authority to do anything more. Jesus said that the One to fear is God, Who after death is able and right to judge, and to cast into hell.

Noah is mentioned in Hebrews 11:7, where we are told, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Here fear is mentioned, but it is fear of God that is meant. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Noah trusted God, and when God told him to build an ark, that is what he did. It took him one hundred years to do it. But he finished the job because he feared God. And he and his family were saved from the flood. Hebrews 11:27 tells of Moses, who, “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Moses did not fear Pharaoh but Him Who is invisible.

Someone once said, “I am not afraid to die. It’s just how fast.” The stories of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Noah, and Moses reveal their desire to trust God in their situation, even if it meant death. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, death reigns over mankind. It is inevitable. Who else can we trust with the weakest moment in our lives? And if we can trust our God with that, what else is there with which we cannot trust Him?

To the Romans, Paul put it this way, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

Jesus said in Luke 12:27-32, “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It is His good pleasure to care for us.

Of what are we afraid? Our God reigns, and we can trust Him, and not give in to our fears.

Sovereign Ruler of the skies!
Ever gracious, ever wise!
All my times are in Thy hand,
All events at Thy command.

He that formed me in the womb,
He shall guide me to the tomb;
All my times shall ever be
Ordered by His wise decree.

Times of sickness, times of health;
Times of poverty and wealth;
Times of trial and of grief;
Times of triumph and relief;

Times the tempter’s power to prove;
Times to taste a Savior’s love:
All must come, and last, and end,
As shall please my heavenly Friend.

Plagues and deaths around me fly,
Till He bids I cannot die:
Not a single shaft can hit
Till the God of love thinks fit.

O Thou gracious, wise and just,
In Thy hands my life I trust:
Thee, at all times, will I bless;
Having Thee, I all possess. (John Ryland)

Jeremiah 12:14-16

“Thus saith the LORD against all mine evil neighbours, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit; Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them. And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land. And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.”

One of the great wonders of God’s personality is His love for mankind. This is seen in the death of Jesus Christ, Who died in the place of mankind, satisfying God’s justice by enduring His wrath against sin. It is seen at its brightest against the black rebellion of mankind against Him. God is good, righteous, kind, loving, merciful, forgiving, gracious, and so much more. He has written His law in the hearts of mankind. But they turn away from it, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Romans 1:32)

The verses above discuss two groups, Israel, and the rest of the world. At the start, the Lord speaks of the inheritance that He has caused His people, Israel, to inherit, and those who had touched it. God calls those who have touched the inheritance of Israel evil neighbors. There is no doubt that Israel was in need of judgment for their rebellion against God. That is why they were among their evil neighbors. As noted above, God had written His law in Israel’s hearts, and they rebelled against Him. So, He used their neighbors to bring His judgment. But those that the Lord used overdid what the Lord intended. This is why He calls them evil neighbors. Their heavy handedness against Israel was not in keeping with God’s ways.

By way of judgment upon them, God promised the evil neighbors that He would pluck them out of their land. At the same time, God promised that He would pluck Israel out from among the evil neighbors. Israel was and is God’s chosen people for His purposes, the most important of which was the birth of Jesus from that race. In language similar to Jeremiah, Zechariah 2:7,8 says, “Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”

This did not mean, though, that He had no thought or care for the rest of the nations of the world. Galatians 3:8 and 14 state, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. …That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Paul told the Galatians that God had the Gentiles, the heathen, in His plan all along, and His pronouncement to Abraham showed that.

Perhaps the most astounding thought in the verses above comes next, “And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.” The rest of the passage above reveals that this was said about the evil neighbors from which the Lord had plucked Israel. He promised to have compassion on them! He judged them, plucked them out of their land, because of how they treated Israel. But then He spoke of having compassion on them. God is good and gracious and merciful and compassionate and forgiving.

But this was not an offer by the Lord made wholesale to all of the people of the nations. In the verses above He said, “And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.” The requirement for the blessing that He promised was that they turn to Him. One thing that the evil neighbors did was to teach Israel idolatry. God stated that as the nations had taught Israel to swear by Baal, so the nations must learn to swear by the Lord’s name. Turning to Him would bring the Lord’s blessing. In fact, turning to God is a blessing to every nation, as Psalm 33:12 puts it, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”

While Israel is indeed God’s chosen people, God’s plans involve all of mankind, for whom the offer of salvation stands open. But, as noted, this is not a general offer to every human, only to those who turn to Him. Without accepting the stupendous gift of salvation that God offers, individuals stand under His wrath against their sin. But God’s love for mankind leaves open the possibility of being reconciled to Him, and forgiven for our sin. How gracious, kind, loving, merciful, and loving He is!

Wonderful love that rescued me,
Sunk deep in sin,
Guilty and vile as I could be—
No hope within;
When every ray of light had fled,
O glorious day!
Raising my soul from out the dead,
Love found a way.

Refrain

Love found a way, to redeem my soul,
Love found a way, that could make me whole.
Love sent my Lord to the cross of shame,
Love found a way, O praise His holy name!

Love brought my Savior here to die
On Calvary,
For such a sinful wretch as I,
How can it be?
Love bridged the gulf ’twixt me and Heav’n,
Taught me to pray,
I am redeemed, set free, forgiv’n,
Love found a way.

Refrain

Love opened wide the gates of light
To Heav’n’s domain,
Where in eternal power and might
Jesus shall reign.
Love lifted me from depths of woe
To endless day,
There was no help in earth below;
Love found a way.

Refrain (Avis M. Christiansen)

1 Corinthians 6:11

“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

Paul is making a comparison. By the end of the verse a glorious situation is revealed. To understand the comparison, “And such were some of you,” consider the verses before. In 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 we read, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

The topic is who inherits the kingdom of God. Verses 9 and 10 list a number of behaviors that characterize the world to this very day. Paul says that those who do those things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. The beginning of 1 Corinthians 6:11 points out, “And such were some of you.” While nobody is guilty of all of these things, all were guilty of something. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” Quoting from Ecclesiastes 7 and Psalm 14, Romans 3:10-12 says, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Taken together, according to Romans and 1 Corinthians 6:9,10, nobody will inherit the kingdom of God.

We see in 1 Corinthians and Romans that all of mankind is guilty. As we read through the list we can see where we ourselves are guilty in thought or word or deed, even perhaps on more than one count. What an awful position to be in because the end, the affect, of these behaviors is that we will not inherit the kingdom of God. But Paul told the Corinthians that they “were” like that. This implies that they were no longer like that. How does someone move from being disqualified from inheriting the kingdom of God to being an inheritor of the kingdom of God? The answer to that question lies in the rest of verse 11.

Such were some of you, but ye are washed. Elsewhere, that word is translated washed away. Paul was telling a crowd in Jerusalem about the details of his own salvation. A man named Ananias was sent by the Lord to Paul, and spoke of his sins being washed away (Acts 22:16). In 1 Corinthians, Paul told his readers that they were washed. That is, he was telling them that their sins were washed away. Speaking of Jesus in his greeting to the seven churches in Asia Minor, in Revelation 1:5,6, John wrote, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Such were some of you, but ye are sanctified. This means to make holy. In words that are similar to 1 Corinthians 6:9,10, Hebrews 12:14 tells us, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord…” Without holiness, that is without sanctification, no man will see the Lord; no man shall inherit the kingdom of God. How does someone become sanctified? Hebrews 13:12 says, “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.” Sanctification is God’s work through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Concerning His followers, in John 17:17 Jesus prayed to His Father, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” And, in Acts 20:32 Paul told the leaders from the church in Ephesus, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Like washing, this, too, is available through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Such were some of you, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and ye are justified by the Spirit of our God. To be justified is to be declared righteous. The verse above declares a two-fold effort by God on our behalf. We are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For (God) hath made (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” It is God’s work, and not in any way of ourselves. Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Righteousness does not come by following the law, but through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the enabling of His Holy Spirit, Who guides us into all truth. (John 16:13)

All people desire eternal joys. We know that this life is only the beginning of things. Death is not the end. This verse speaks of inheriting the kingdom of God. And, it points out who will not inherit it. In so saying, it infers that there will be some who will inherit His kingdom. And who will that be? Those that are washed, justified, and sanctified by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Praise God for His great salvation plan!

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain (Robert Lowry)

Deuteronomy 32:4

“He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”

This was part of what Moses told the people about the Lord. He put before the Israelites Who God is. They had seen His might displayed in so many ways. Joshua and Caleb could tell first-hand what God had done for the Israelites as He freed them from Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. God had defeated the Egyptian Army at the Red Sea.

Many more of the Israelites could testify about how God maintained their clothing for the 40 years that they wandered in the desert. He supplied food and water throughout the whole trip. He supplied them with bread from heaven that sustained all of them for the whole time. One time He even brought so many quails that the whole crowd of 600,000 was able to eat. At the least, some gathered 10 bushels of quail! Though this was a judgment for their disobedience, God was well able to do such a thing.

He is the Rock. This term is used a number of times in reference to deity. Even idolators referred to their idols as a rock. In 1 Samuel 2:1-3, when Hannah praised the Lord about the birth of Samuel, she said, “…My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” There is no Rock like our God. The idols of the world are dead. Our God is living.

His work is perfect. His deeds are without blemish, complete, and full. Israel witnessed or had heard the stories about God’s workings on their behalf. He lead them through the desert with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. They were about to enter the Promised Land, which He said that He would give to them. As noted, even their clothing did not age. While bringing them to the Promised Land, God met all of their needs for food, shelter, and clothing. In Matthew 6:8 Jesus reminds us, “…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” His work is perfect.

All His ways are judgment or lawful. Isaiah 30:18 tells us, “And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” In Revelation 15:3,4 we read this worship to the Lord, “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” His judgments bring glory to His name. He does only what is lawful.

He is a God of truth. There is something that the Bible says it is impossible for God to do. Hebrews 6:18 says, “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us…” Other scriptures tell us that He cannot lie, such as Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began…” In John 17:17, Jesus told His Father, “Thy Word is truth.” He is a God of truth.

He is without iniquity. In Genesis 18:25, Moses said to the Lord, “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Consider the last phrase here. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? He surely will. He will do only right. He is without iniquity.

And, He is just and right. Concerning God, Romans 3:26 tells us, “…to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” God is the justifier of them that believe in Jesus, and He is just in doing so, because Jesus endured God’s wrath against our sin. Psalm 71:19 tells us, “Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!”

This is our God, our Creator. To Him be all glory!

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His holy will abideth;
I will be still whate’er He doth;
And follow where He guideth;
He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall:
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He never will deceive me;
He leads me by the proper path:
I know He will not leave me.
I take, content, what He hath sent;
His hand can turn my griefs away,
And patiently I wait His day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His loving thought attends me;
No poison can be in the cup
That my physician sends me.
My God is true; each morn anew
I’ll trust His grace unending,
My life to Him commending.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He is my friend and Father;
He suffers naught to do me harm,
Though many storms may gather,
Now I may know both joy and woe,
Some day I shall see clearly
That He hath loved me dearly.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all. (Samuel Rodigast, translated by Catherine Winkworth)

Luke 22:33

“And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.”

The Lord, Peter, and the other disciples were in the comfort of a quiet Passover time. They had enjoyed a meal, and were enjoying each other’s company. All was warm and comfortable. They were amongst friends. Yet there was a dark shadow over the time. Jesus had said that He would not eat of the Passover again with them until it would be fulfilled in the kingdom. He also spoke of His betrayal and death. Yet, He also spoke of the role the disciples would have in His coming kingdom.

Then, Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:31,32, “…Simon, Simon, behold, satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Luke 22:33, above, is what Peter said to Jesus after He had told him this. Peter’s confidence was strong in the comfortable surroundings. But in verse 34 Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times. And, by the end of the chapter, that is exactly what happened.

Night came and one of their number betrayed Jesus in the garden. Jesus was arrested and taken away by a mob. Peter followed to the place where Jesus was interrogated by the leaders, and was among the waiting crowd. They huddled around a fire because of the cold. A young woman looked at Peter, and told those around them that he was one of Jesus’ followers. Peter denied it, and so it went. The confidence of the upper room melted away through of a series of difficult events. Everything that Peter thought was secure seemed to fall apart. It was such that a young woman was able to get Peter to forget all of that, and deny Jesus.

Aren’t we the same way? In the comfort of the church meeting, or among fellow believers, we have great confidence and are greatly encouraged in God and His things. But, when the meeting is over and we head back to our homes and we come in contact with the world, our bravado wanes. Someone may question our thinking if we claim to follow Jesus. The looks and sarcastic words may even cause us to wonder if we are thinking rightly. Our courage fades.

Jesus warned His followers that they would be hated by the world, because the world hated Him. In John 15:18,19 Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” They didn’t treat Jesus very well, and neither will they treat us well.

But, notice what Jesus said to Peter. “…I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…” Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” The most important thing in life is faith, or trust, in God. It is the way to please Him. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. So, consider what Jesus said He had prayed for Peter. His prayer for Peter was that the thing in his life that pleased God would not fail!

Concerning Jesus, Hebrews 7:25 promises, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Just like Jesus prayed for Peter, He ever lives to make intercession for His people. And what is He praying? Could it be that our faith will not fail? Does He see the trials and traps that lie before us, and pray to His Father that our faith will not fail at those times? In our darkest moments He is praying for us.

Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Peter was not abandoned by the Lord when he denied Him. It certainly was a difficult time for him, and he may never have gotten over it. But Jesus said that He would never leave us nor forsake us. As Betsy Ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.” Though all of Peter’s boldness, stated in the above verse, melted with the words of a young woman, Jesus told him, “…when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Peter’s faith did not fail.

Mindful of our human frailty
Is the God in whom we trust;
He whose years are everlasting,
He remembers we are dust.

Man is like the tender flower,
And his days are like the grass,
Withered where it lately flourished
By the blighting winds that pass.

Changeless is Jehovah’s mercy
Unto those who fear His name,
From eternity abiding
To eternity the same.

All the faithful to His covenant
Shall behold His righteousness;
He will be their strength and refuge
And their children’s children bless. (Isaac B. Woodbury)

Zechariah 8:6

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts.”

Zechariah’s prophecy came during the reign of King Darius, as noted in Zechariah 1. Darius was a Persian king, and he reigned during the time when Israel returned to their land, after they were carried away by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah prophesied that the captivity would last 70 years. Zechariah prophesied at the end of that time. He was the second to last prophet that God had sent, Malachi being the last, and his writings date to around 520 BC.

Zechariah 8 is a wonderful prophecy of the restoration of Israel to their land. From the start of the chapter the LORD of hosts speaks, telling of His coming blessing on them. Zechariah 8:1-5 says, “Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury. Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.”

Before they went into exile the LORD had told Israel that there would be neither old people nor children in the city, such as Jeremiah 9:21, “For death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces, to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets.” Because they had ignored God and His ways, He sent judgment on them. But in Zechariah 8 God promised that He would restore the city, and it would be teeming with old and young.

As noted above, the things that He promised concerning Jerusalem would be marvelous, or wonderful, in the eyes of the remnant of the people. When the things described in Zechariah 8:1-5 come to pass, it will be a day of great rejoicing for the people of Israel. It will be wonderful. Imagine the marvel, the wonder, the joy of the people of Israel when they were restored to Jerusalem.

This verse also gives a view of God’s heart. God’s heart is for His people, even though His justice required that judgment must fall. Notice in Zechariah 8:6 that that promised day will also be wonderful in the eyes of the LORD of hosts! He will rejoice in that day! Because of the LORD Jesus Christ and His sacrifice that reconciles mankind to the Father, God is free to deal mercifully and kindly with His people. After all, that is His nature, as shown in Exodus 34:6,7, “And the LORD passed by before (Moses), and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”

For the church, one wonderful truth is God’s faithfulness to His people. What He promises He will surely bring to pass. It is impossible for Him to lie. If He failed to keep His promises to Israel, what hope would the church have? But, He will keep His promises to Israel. And, He will keep His promises to His church.

In Zechariah 8:22,23 we read, “Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” Israel will not only be back in their land, but the nations of the world will come to Jerusalem to worship the LORD! How marvelous, how wonderful, in the eyes of the LORD!

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

Refrain

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

For me it was in the garden
He prayed: Not My will, but Thine.
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

Refrain

He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.

Refrain

When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.

Refrain (Charles H. Gabriel)

Zephaniah 3:2

“She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.”

Verse 1 of Zephaniah 3 reveals that this was said about Jerusalem. Like many of the prophets, Zephaniah was sent by the LORD to warn Israel against their idolatry, appealing to them to turn back to Him. While giving these warnings, God often pointed out the futility of turning away from Him. And in so doing, He revealed a heart for His people. He was not pointing these things out to harass them, but to get them to see that their best option really was to look to Him instead of their idols. Here were the things that showed the error of their ways.

First, they obeyed not the voice. In Exodus 19 and 20 the Lord told about Israel coming before Him at Mount Sinai. In chapter 20 is given what we know as the Ten Commandments. The people heard the voice of the LORD pronouncing His commandments. In chapter 19, they came near to Mount Sinai in preparation for meeting God. Verses 7 and 8 tell us, “And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.” The first commandment recorded in Exodus 20 was, “you shall have no other gods before thee.” They heard the voice of the LORD announce this commandment. But before long they were worshipping the golden calf. As Zephaniah put it, they obeyed not the voice.

Next, they received not correction. As noted, most of the prophets were sent to warn the people away from their idolatry. The LORD spoke in Amos 4:6,8,10, and 11 of the numerous trials He had brought their way, and in each of those verses He ended with, “… yet have ye not returned unto me.” Quoting from Proverbs 3:11, Hebrews 12:5-7 and 9 brings before us a principle, “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? …Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” God’s people should realize that their lives are always not in keeping with God’s ways. He desires to have His people live lives that please Him, which is the best possible outcome for them. His desire is that they turn to Him. So there are times when He sends trials into their lives to provide correction. According to Zephaniah, they didn’t accept His correction.

Then Zephaniah said that they trusted not in the LORD. Many examples could be mentioned. One of the first ones was after the LORD had defeated Egypt at the Red Sea. God lead them to a place called Marah where there was no water. They learned there that He would supply their needs. He provided water out of a rock for all of them to drink, as well as their animals. Then, in Exodus 16:1-3 we read, “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” After what they had learned about water at Marah, they didn’t trust the LORD with their supply of food. In spite of His care for them in supplying water, and His provision of a pillar of a cloud and fire to direct them in the way they should go, they didn’t trust Him for their food.

Finally, “…she drew not near to her God.” As noted before in the book of Amos, the LORD appealed to Israel to turn to Him. God’s desire is for His people. He wants them to look to Him and lean on Him in the events of life. The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah as well as other prophets all include appeals to Israel to turn to Him, and thus away from their idolatry. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” He also said in Matthew 6:31-33, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? …for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” These appeals from Jesus to turn to God are in keeping with His heart for His people.

As believers in Jesus Christ, do we obey His voice? Do we accept His correction? Do we trust Him? Do we draw near to our God? This is what He desires.

Out on the mountain, sad and forsaken,
Lost in its mazes, no light canst thou see;
Yet in His mercy, full of compassion,
Lo! the Good Shepherd is calling to thee.

Refrain

Calling to thee, calling to thee;
Jesus is calling, Come unto Me;
Calling to thee, calling to thee,
Hear the Good Shepherd calling to thee.

Far on the mountain, why wilt thou wander?
Deeper in darkness thy pathway will be;
Turn from thy roaming, fly from its dangers,
While the Good Shepherd is calling to thee.

Refrain

Flee from thy bondage, Jesus will help thee,
Only believe Him, and thou shalt be free;
Wonderful mercy, boundless compassion,
Still the Good Shepherd is calling to thee.

Refrain (Fanny Crosby)

Hosea 13:9

“O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.”

Like most of the prophets, Hosea’s job was to warn Israel against their idolatry. Many verses in Hosea reveal God’s heart about it. For example, consider these verses from Hosea 13:2,3, “And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves. Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.” Fog, the dew, chaff before a tornado, and smoke are nothing. The fog soon vanishes, the dew evaporates, the chaff can never be found, and smoke is blown away. This was the result they endured for ignoring God.

From the time that Israel left Egypt, God warned them about idolatry. He told them to get rid of the idols of Egypt, which they had brought with them. This is told in Ezekiel 20: 6-8, “…in the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands: then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.  But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt…” They did not obey, and Ezekiel, too, was sent to warn them.

Before God, Israel’s situation was dire. And, as Hosea said, they had destroyed themselves: it was of their own making. In spite of God’s frequent warnings, Israel continued rejecting Him. Hebrews 10:31 states, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.” This is where Israel stood before Him. They had ruined themselves. They knew what God expected of them and they turned their back on His ways. When He gave them the 10 commandments, as recorded in Exodus 20, They said, “All that the LORD has said will we do.” But they did not keep that promise. And by the time of Hosea, even long before that, they had destroyed themselves.

To this very day, the Ten Commandments are the standard of behavior which was given by God Himself. While they are actually so much more than that, we know that this is how we ought to behave ourselves. Yet many refuse to obey God’s commands, or acknowledge Him. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Matthew 22:37) But this command is disobeyed, along with all the others. And what is the result? Mankind is destroying itself. The daily news reveals that this is true. Murder, drug addiction, alcoholism, kidnapping, suicide, and multiple other problems, which are beyond mankind’s ability to repair, are evidence of this fact.

But, continuing in the verse above, God made an appeal to Israel concerning their situation. In the last half of the verse He said, “but in me is thine help.” How astounding! God was the One they had offended. His commandments were what they had broken. He was the one that was replaced when they took up their idolatry. Imagine, changing the living God for a chunk of metal or wood or stone. But His appeal was that they turn to Him: to look to Him for help.

In Amos 4:6-11, the LORD listed a number of trials that He had brought upon Israel. But He ended verses 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11 with, “…yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.” This shows His purpose in sending the trials. His intent was to get them to look to Him. He was seeking to have them turn to Him and away from their idolatry.

This is God’s character. He stands ready to help His people. All He wants is for them to look to Him. The same appeal that ends Hosea 13:9 holds to this day. God is appealing to mankind in the same way He did to Israel. “but in me is thine help.” 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Even to this day He wants people to turn to Him and His ways. And, since He made us, He does know what is best for us.

But, 2 Peter 3:10 brings a warning: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” God has a timetable and a plan for this world. By His plan, events will unfold and this world will come to an end. He will make a new heavens and a new earth. He won’t put off Hs plans forever. Opportunity to turn to Him is limited.

Echoing Hosea 13:9, Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” God is gracious and kind and good. He yearns for us all to turn to Him no matter what we have done, just as He did in the days of Hosea.

Just as I am—without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am—and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am—though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am—poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am—Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am—Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. (Charlotte Elliott)

James 3:8-11

“But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”

The teaching in James 3:1-12 concludes with these four verses. In this passage James discusses the tongue. Here he calls it an unruly evil full of deadly poison. With the same tongue we bless God and curse men who are made in God’s likeness. This shouldn’t be so.

Our Lord Jesus Christ referred to the tongue in Matthew 15:17–20 where He spoke about what defiles a person. The apostles had been accused by the Pharisees of not following the law because they had not washed their hands before they ate. To the Pharisees, this would make them unclean. The Lord Jesus Christ rebuked the accusers pointing out that it is what comes out of a man that defiles him, not what goes in. Later, while explaining it to His disciples, he told them, “Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”

The problem with our tongue is our heart. According to Jesus’ words, what is in our heart will spill out of our tongue. We don’t want to be known as guilty of any of those things that Jesus listed. But Jesus said it is what fills our hearts. We have a sin nature that is untamed before God and refuses to have anything to do with Him or His ways. So, the tongue is untamable.

Jesus’ comments regarding this are nothing new. In Genesis 6:5 we read, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This was said before the flood. After the flood, God said, in Genesis 8:21, “…for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” This is what our hearts look like to God.

In Exodus 15:22-24 we read, “So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?”

God had mightily led the Israelites out of Egypt. He defeated the army of Egypt in the Red Sea. He led them in their journey day and night by a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud. In leading them He brought them to the place called Marah. And what did they do? They complained about the lack of water. God provided them so much and in so many ways that they should have realized that He was also well able to provide them drinkable water. But their tongues wagged and complained about God and His care for them.

This shows what was in their hearts. It wasn’t God’s provision that was at the top of their mind. It was their need of water. Yet Jesus revealed (it should be obvious) that God knows what we need (Matthew 6:8). He made us, and He is good. He certainly didn’t lead Israel into the desert to let them all die. His goal was to teach them to look to and trust in Him.

Our tongue often gets us into trouble. The evidence James gives is how we treat our fellow man with our tongue. So long as they are agreeable to us, we speak nicely. But if they cross us, the things we think to say are embarrassing when we reconsider them. Sometimes we say what we think, and afterwards we wish we had not. By then the damage is done, and, perhaps, a sincere apology will begin to make things right. Sometimes, there is no repairing the damage.

To fix our tongue, our heart needs to be fixed. Romans 10:9,10 tells us, “…that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” And 2 Corinthians 4:6 says, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

When God makes a change in our lives, He starts with the heart. When we accept His great gift of salvation through Jesus, our heart is changed, and our tongues will reveal that change. It is a life-long process, but through the change in our heart, God tames the tongue.

Savior, lead me, lest I stray,
Gently lead me all the way;
I am safe when by Thy side,
I would in Thy love abide.

Refrain

Lead me, lead me, Savior, lead me lest I stray;
Gently down the stream of time,
Lead me, Savior, all the way.

Thou the refuge of my soul
When life’s stormy billows roll;
I am safe when Thou art nigh,
All my hopes on Thee rely.

Refrain

Savior, lead me, then at last,
When the storm of life is past,
To the land of endless day,
Where all tears are wiped away.

Refrain (Frank M. Davis)

Ezekiel 33:11

“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

This is a view of God’s heart. But it is not how most people think about God. He is viewed as the opposite, as One Who supposedly delights in judgment, awaiting each and every opportunity to hand it out. He is seen as One Who watches each person carefully, looking for the slightest slip. And then applies judgment. But He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Since every sin is against God, every disobedience of His commandments is an afront to Him. He made us and He has given us His commands to follow. He surely knows what is best for us. The idea that God judges sin is not mistaken. He surely will. He promises. Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death. But that is not what He desires; He doesn’t take pleasure in that.

We might view a movie, for example, in which is an unsavory character. As time passes through the movie, we may even become anxious to see this character get what is coming to him or her. And when it comes, we have a sense of relief. But this verse shows us how the LORD views it. No matter how vile a man or woman may be, in this verse stands a clear statement: God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

But, here also is stated what does please God. Many scriptures speak of things that please God. Jesus said, “I do always the things that please Him.” (John 8:29) On at least two occasions, God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, 17:5) And, Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” The verse above tells us that God is pleased when the wicked turn from their way. And He promises that having turned, they would live.

God went beyond what we can imagine to reconcile mankind to Himself. Romans 5:8-10 tells is, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” In 2 Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The death of Jesus is how and why the wicked can turn and live. And, He rose again! And God is pleased!

In Ezekiel 33:11, God goes on to warn Israel about their idolatry. At the time Ezekiel wrote, Jerusalem was still standing. Years later, Jeremiah wrote about God’s judgment on Jerusalem by siege by the Chaldeans. In the above verse, God warns Israel, “Why will ye die?” It was not what He wanted, but His justice required that judgment should fall for their idolatry, ignoring Him. Their death would not be pleasing to God. What He wanted was for them to turn from their wicked ways, and live. This is the reason for the warning He gave them. “Why will you die?” And the promise He gave was that they would live if they would turn.

“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live…” Does our heart beat like this? How does the death of the wicked affect us? God desires that they turn from their wickedness, and live, through Jesus Christ.

Sinner, hear the Savior’s call,
He now is passing by;
He has seen thy grievous thrall,
And heard thy mournful cry.
He has pardons to impart,
Grace to save thee from thy fears;
See the love that fills His heart,
And wipe away thy tears.

Why art thou afraid to come
And tell Him all thy case?
He will not pronounce thy doom,
Nor frown thee from His face:
Wilt thou fear Emmanuel?
Wilt thou dread the Lamb of God,
Who, to save thy soul from hell,
Has shed His precious blood?

Think, how on the cross He hung
Pierced with a thousand wounds!
Hark, from each as with a tongue
The voice of pardon sounds!
See, from all His bursting veins,
Blood, of wondrous virtue, flow!
Shed to wash away thy stains,
And ransom thee from woe.

Though His majesty be great,
His mercy is no less;
Though He thy transgressions hate,
He feels for thy distress:
By Himself the Lord has sworn,
He delights not in thy death;
But invites thee to return,
That thou mayst live by faith.

Raise thy downcast eyes, and see
What throngs His throne surround!
These, though sinners once like thee,
Have full salvation found:
Yield not then to unbelief!
While He says, There yet is room;
Though of sinners thou art chief,
Since Jesus calls thee, come. (John Newton)