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Lessons from Habakkuk

August 14, 2020 Leave a comment

I’m taking another look through the minor prophets, and particularly the book of Habakkuk.  Alistair Begg’s “No Simple Answers”, which I listened to last fall, provided great down-to-earth application.   Another good one is James Montgomery Boice’s 5 part series from a few decades ago.  Boice mentioned someone saying that he had never heard church sermons on Habakkuk; in our day sermons are more available, including more attention to this minor prophet.  A local-area PCA church is also currently doing a series on Habakkuk, a more detailed approach with 5 messages and still in progress. 

Boice’s series emphasized the overall theme of God’s Sovereignty, and God and History, and how we wrestle with problems and dealing with God’s answers.  Habakkuk was a deep thinker, and like us he remembered his nation’s better times — King Josiah’s brief revival, which turned out to be more from the top-down, an incomplete revival.  Habakkuk then saw the moral decline and wickedness of the nation, and wanted God to do something–very likely, he wanted God to send revival.  The answer was not what he wanted to hear; Boice likened it to God telling American Christians that His answer to American Christianity would be, “I’m not going to send revival, I’m going to send the communists.”  Ironically, a generation later, there is a lot of truth in that idea, as to the judgment that God has sent–though not in the obvious outward way that Boice, during the Cold War with the Soviets, probably thought of.

Referencing Martyn Lloyd Jones, who preached on Habakkuk in the years soon after WWII and later published a small book (which is unfortunately out of print, and used copies quite expensive), come these four points regarding history:

  1. God is in charge of history
  2. God causes history to follow His own plan, a divine plan
  3. History follows a divine timetable — “I am going to do something, in your day”; also Hab. 2:3.  God appointed the time.
  4. History is bound up with the divine kingdom.  The point here is that history was not about “the Babylonian problem.”  God is concerned with building His kingdom through His people.  Boice also referenced Matthew 24 and the general instruction to believers: watch out, do not be deceived; you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.

How did Habakkuk get to the point of Habakkuk 2:1, where he waits for God’s answer?  One view, from Martyn Lloyd Jones and shared by James Boice, demonstrates four steps in how we should approach all problems that we don’t understand:

  1. Stop, and think
  2. Restate the basic principles, the things you know; firm footing
  3. Apply the basic principles to your problem
  4. If, having done all this, you still don’t have answer to the problem: commit it to God and wait for Him to answer it in HIs own time. (Habakkuk 2:1)

The recent Habakkuk series (mentioned above) takes the view that Habakkuk in 2:1 is still in a hostile mindset, not really responding in faith.  Habakkuk uses a military term of watching, as though he is preparing himself to battle the Lord regarding this:  the judgment is so unfair.  When Boice gets to Habakkuk 3, he notes a similar thing (if perhaps less bluntly): Habakkuk at the end of chapter 1 had still been thinking in terms of himself, not yet seeing things from God’s viewpoint.  As brought out in the current series, Habakkuk 1 provides expanded lessons regarding the moral law of God and its three uses, the problem of self-righteousness, and judgment.  The wicked in Habakkuk 1:4 are a different group than the wicked in verse 13, showing Habakkuk’s comparative scale between his fellow countrymen and the pagan Chaldeans (Babylonians).  Habakkuk was among the righteous remnant, but it’s a small step to self-righteousness, when he complains (verse  ) “the law is paralyzed.”  Yet if the Law becomes the main thing, you’ll trip over it.

Both of these series are helpful, bringing in sound theology along with good illustrations and application to our time.  I look forward to the continuing lessons in the current Habakkuk series.  

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: The Book of Genesis

January 14, 2014 1 comment

Continuing in Hamilton’s “God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment”, a look at this theme as seen in the book of Genesis.  As noted in Hamilton’s introduction, this work is a look at the central theme, the “center of biblical theology,” throughout the Bible.  As such, the treatment of Genesis (and later books) is overview rather than a detailed expository look, and assumes familiarity with the actual Bible books.

Creation is first considered, and here Hamilton points out the similarity between Creation, especially Genesis 2 and the Garden of Eden, and the later tabernacle and temple.  Hamilton also briefly looks at the other creation accounts, with excerpts from the other ancient near-East religions, which indeed show how the God of the Bible is so unlike the gods of the ancient Babylonians and other early pagan religions.

God’s directive to Adam and Eve has similarities to the later worship, and indeed, the later promised land of Canaan  appears as something like Eden:

the Promised Land almost becomes a new Eden. The Lord will walk among his people in the land, just as he walked in the garden (Gen. 3:8; Lev. 26:11–12; Deut. 23:15). Like the fertile garden of Eden, the Promised Land will flow with milk and honey. On the way to the Promised Land, the camp of Israel is even described in Edenic terms.

The main idea presented is the contrast between the curses in Genesis 3:14-19 and the blessings to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3, and the outworking of the curses in people’s lives along with the “seed of the woman” bringing deliverance (salvation) out of the judgment.

Curses Blessings
Seed conflict (Genesis 3:15) All the families of the earth will be blessed in you (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 26:4)
Gender conflict (Genesis 3:16) I will make you a great nation (barren Sarah shall have a seed) (Genesis 11:30; 12:2; 17:16)
Land conflict (Genesis 3:17-19) To your offspring, a great nation, I will give this land (Genesis 12:1–2, 7)

The seed conflict (the seed of the serpent versus the seed of the woman) is seen at the individual level:  Cain versus Abel, Ishmael — Isaac, Esau – Jacob, and even the sons of Israel with Joseph. Collectively, the theme is seen several times also:  Pharaoh and Egypt to Abraham and Sarai (Genesis 12:10-20); the Kings of the World (Sodom) versus Abraham and his men, Lot, and Melchizedek in Genesis 14; Abimelech and the Philistines versus Abraham and later Isaac (Genesis 21 and 26); and the men of Shechem versus Simeon, Levi and Dinah in Genesis 34.

Again, this approach is of basic, surface-level correspondences of these events, rather than a detailed expository treatment of each of these events.  Hamilton does recognize the role of Joseph’s brothers against Joseph as a temporary role. I also recall S. Lewis Johnson’s teaching, as well as the information from sources regarding the tablet theory of Genesis, to consider more of Ishmael’s overall life – whereas Hamilton restricts his comments about Ishmael to the specific incident in Genesis 21: the son of Hagar mocking Sarah’s son Isaac.

Gender conflict, brought out after the fall:

  • Usurping women (Genesis 3:16) – Sarah’s attempt to have the seed come through Hagar (Genesis 16); Lot’s daughters with Lot (Gen. 19:30-38); Rachel’s magic mandrakes and Leah’s purchase of them (Gen. 30:14-16); Tamar’s trap for Judah (Gen. 38:14)
  • Marital disharmony:  Sarah’s dispute with Abraham (after the incident in Genesis 16 with Hagar), and Rachel’s dispute with Jacob (Genesis 30:1-2)
  • Husbands abusing their wives (“He will rule over you”): Abraham’s use (twice) of Sarah for his own protection; Isaac repeating that with Rebekah; Jacob’s hatred of Leah
  • Death in childbearing (“I will multiply your pain in childbirth”):  Rachel dies in childbirth (Benjamin’s birth)
  • Barrenness:  Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel
  • Non-marital relations:  Abraham and Hagar; the men of Sodom; Lot and his daughters; Dinah violated; Reuben and his father’s concubines; Onan and Tamar, then Judah and Tamar; and Potiphar’s wife

The Curse on the Land, followed by Blessing:  Genesis 5:29 gives the first hint of restoration, when Lamech names his son Noah, saying “Out of the groundthat the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”  The land promise in Genesis 12 further develops that hope. In spite of the curse on the land, and the fact that men do have to toil on it, “God blesses the fields and flocks of Abraham (Gen. 12:16; 13:6; 21:22; 24:35), Isaac (26:12–14), and Jacob (31:5–9; 33:11). And then, through unexpected turns of events, the whole earth is blessed in the seed of Abraham, as Joseph provides food in the famine.”

Hamilton concludes his presentation of “God’s glory in salvation through judgment” in Genesis:

 God confirmed his promised mercy when he declared to Abraham that his seed would overcome the curses, and then the promises to Abraham were passed to Isaac, then to Jacob. Genesis closes with promises of a king from the line of Judah, in the splendor of Joseph reigning over Egypt, pattern of the coming seed of the woman, seed of Abraham, in whom all the nations of the earth have been blessed. Salvation comes through judgment, setting forth the grandeur of the glory of God.

The Old Testament establishes the universal significance of Israel in God’s purposes by showing that the nation of Israel has inherited God’s charge to Adam to be fruitful and multiply. The wickedness of Adam’s descendants resulted in the flood, and God charged Noah with the same task he had given Adam. The wickedness of Noah’s descendants resulted in the confusion of language at Babel, and the task given to Adam and Noah passed to Abraham and his seed. Thus, the statement that “the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them” (Ex. 1:7) connects Israel to Adam and foregrounds the cosmic significance of what God is doing in Israel.

The First Mention of Caves in the Bible

October 27, 2012 5 comments

Earlier this month on vacation, I visited Mammoth Cave National Park, and so the topic of caves was near to mind in my daily Bible reading this week when I came upon this first mention of a cave, Genesis 19:30 (speaking of Lot): “So he lived in a cave with his two daughters.”

One thing clearly brought out by the rangers doing the cave tours, concerning the history of man and caves, is the fact that – despite the common joke about men who “could live in a cave” — people don’t live in caves.  Men have explored caves for their treasures, and they have at times lived in the shelter overhangs of rocks, near the caves – but never in the caves, for several obvious reasons including lack of light and food.

From a quick look at all the references to caves in the Bible, the main idea associated with caves is as a place of hiding, when in great fear and distress.  Caves also are the place of the dead, the burial sites as described later in Genesis as well as John 11, Lazarus’ tomb.  In Gideon’s time the people built the caves and strongholds, meaning of course not actual caves themselves but places near the surface and among the rocks and caves.  David and his men often hid in the caves, as did Elijah in his flight from Jezebel.  Caves are also sometimes associated with judgment, as the place where the wicked go to in their attempts to evade capture and judgment: for instance, the Canaanite kings defeated by Joshua (Joshua 10:16-27); but especially during the future Great Tribulation (Revelation 6:15; Isaiah 2:19-21).

The first mention account of caves, near the end of Lot’s recorded life, adds this sad if seemingly trivial fact, that he lived in a cave.  After trying to have both the world and a godly life, and ending up with no influence in Sodom or even in his own family, the sad picture of Lot includes hiding and actually “living in” a cave: a fear so great, one difficult even to comprehend, that one should willingly dwell in a place of darkness, and a tragic testimony to what the fear of man can do.

J.C. Ryle’s observations concerning Lot, from Holiness, are well for us to remember:

Lot left no evidences behind him when he died. We know but little about Lot after his flight from Sodom, and all that we do know is unsatisfactory. His pleading for Zoar because it was “a little one,” his departure from Zoar afterwards, and his conduct with his daughters in the cave — all, all tell the same story. All show the weakness of the grace which was in him, and the low state of soul into which he had fallen.

We don’t know how long he lived after his escape. We don’t know where he died, or when he died, whether he saw Abraham again, what was the manner of his death, what he said or what he thought. All these are hidden things. We are told of the last days of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David — but not one word about Lot. Oh, what a gloomy deathbed — the deathbed of Lot must have been!

The Scripture appears to draw a veil around him on purpose. There is a painful silence about his latter end. He seems to go out like an expiring lamp, and to leave an ill odor behind him. And had we not been specially told in the New Testament that Lot was “just” and “righteous” — I truly believe we would have doubted whether Lot was a saved soul at all!

Christians, Government, and the 2012 U.S. Election

October 3, 2012 2 comments

The current situation in the U.S. — a presidential election year in which both choices, Republican and Democrat party, are clearly not Christian — has brought out some rather interesting discussion, and several good sermons and articles (continue reading, a list of good resources follows).  It has also revealed the overall theological confusion of many Christians, including how they misapply Bible verses and blur the distinctions set forth in scripture concerning God, the nations, and secular government.

I find it alarming (though I really shouldn’t be surprised) that apparently some believers are so appalled at the idea of voting for a Mormon for a secular government office, even to the point that they will quote New Testament passages (which are about the church and its members, including qualifications for leadership in the church and how to handle false teachers) as their biblical reasons for not voting for a Mormon for U.S. President.

Beyond dealing with the obvious misuses of scripture texts, Fred Butler’s observations here are very helpful:

Indeed, it is true God is absolutely sovereign. He sets up and He tears down.  The Bible fully affirms God’s divine sovereignty over human governmental authorities throughout its pages.  However, it is equally true God uses means to establish those authorities as well as relinquish them. …

American Christians have been granted a special privilege within God’s sovereign decree.  We live in a nation that allows us to participate in the political process of electing our officials. How dare we squander that blessing by dismissively waving that responsibility away with a trite, theological platitude that says, “God doesn’t need me, He’s in control” just because the best candidate who reflects our American values makes us uncomfortable. Governmental rulers are supposed to be a terror to evil-doers (Romans 13:3).  Romney may be a Mormon, but at least he has the general idea of what is evil and what is good.

Jeremiah exhorted the Jews in Babylon to seek the peace of that nation where they had been carried captive (Jeremiah 29:7).  We are not in captivity, but I would think the exhortation would be the same to us none the less: seek the peace of that nation.  We seek that peace as American Christians by voting responsibly and righteously.  We are not voting for Romney to be our pastor, nor are we voting him in as director of a para-church ministry or a president of a Christian college.  He’s being elected as an official to a secular office.

Further Resources:

The Campaign for Immorality

John MacArthur’s recent messages concerning Romans 1 and the current political situation:

Al Mohler: The Great American Worldview Test — The 2012 Election

Specifically Concerning the Idea of Voting for Romney, a Mormon

Concerning America’s True Historic Roots

 The David Barton Controversy:

Fred Butler discusses the issue, and references the following two messages, from Gregg Frazer, at Grace Community Church this summer:

Also from Fred Butler:  Is Kirk Cameron Jumping the Shark?

Bad Hermeneutics:  Applying the Old Testament Prophecies to Modern-Day America

Can The Bible Ever Mean What It Never Meant? / Case Study: The Harbinger:  audio lesson and PowerPoint notes, from Pastor Eric Douma at Twin City Fellowship — concerning Cahn’s popular book The Harbinger

Observations Concerning the Titanic Disaster

April 16, 2012 2 comments

I’ve been following the special Titanic shows with renewed interest, after my original interest in the late ’90s.  I enjoyed the ’97 Wonders Titanic Exhibition in Memphis, complete with the Exhibit book (available here from Amazon), and then read a few other books about the Titanic and its discovery.

The Titanic story is of course one of those  that still fascinates so many.  From a biblical perspective, the story is one of man’s high confidence and pride brought down by God in His providence.  Man put so much faith in his technology, in this case the watertight compartments, a clear case of “pride goeth before a fall.” God responded (as so many times throughout history) in such a clear, unmistakeable way.  How easy it was, too (from the divine perspective).  What seemed practically impossible from the human perspective came about by a few simple acts of providence:  a patch of icebergs and calm waters, but also the “little” things of man’s folly — forget to bring binoculars, and telegraph operators overwhelmed with the commercial business of passenger-issued telegrams (the way for the upper class to keep in touch with friends and family in those days before cell phones and wireless Internet aboard cruise ships).

From the judgment aspect, Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-5 come to mind:  do not think that those who perished when a tower fell on them, or the ones Pilate executed, were worse sinners than everyone else, for unless you repent you will all likewise perish.   As one church pastor observed in his email devotion shortly after September 11, 2001: all the people who died in that sudden event were going to die at some point.  We notice it when a large number perish in a catastrophic event, but the end fate of those individuals was the same regardless of whether they perished in the towers or through other natural causes of death: the saved went to be with the Lord, the rest to their eternal punishment.

Some good recent blog posts about the Titanic:

The Rise and Fall of Nations: General Christian Morality versus a Biblical Perspective

April 2, 2012 8 comments

As I come across various statements from Christians I know, I often tend to evaluate their words from the biblical point of view, as part of the continual process of the renewal of our minds, that we may grow in discernment (Romans 12:2).

Consider the following example, casual words from a church pastor.  Upset about the ever increasing wickedness of our society, he mentioned a particular news story that especially shocked him, and then declared that we surely deserve the same judgment as Sodom; and if we don’t get that (judgment, what happened to Sodom) we’ll have to do some apologizing to Sodom.

From the biblical perspective, however, two thoughts come to mind.  First, God promised Abraham (Genesis 18) that if even ten righteous persons were found in Sodom, he would spare the place for their sake.  Obviously, as bad as things now appear in our society, through God’s great mercy and gracious provision our society has far more than just ten righteous people.

Then, too, I thought about the nature of divine judgment, and an important point that S. Lewis Johnson made at least a few times, including in his Genesis and Romans series.  (I previously blogged the quote here.)  People today look at increasing wickedness in our society, including homosexuality and other sins mentioned in Romans 1, and think: surely we will experience God’s judgment upon our nation.  However, the biblical way to understand it, as Paul described in Romans 1, is that the increasing wickedness IS ITSELF the judgment of God.  It is not that the country is likely to experience judgment, but that we as a society already ARE under God’s judgment.

The weaker person — focused on this world and morality, and lacking strong biblical knowledge (and a generally low view of scripture) — sees the obvious moral breakdown in society, and talks of how nice life was 50 years ago and how society has completely turned itself upside down since then.  Again, though, the Bible and actual world history give us a much clearer picture:  the world is getting worse, not better; yet our society’s immorality is nothing new.  Ancient and medieval civilizations flourished and then fell into serious moral decline, yet for the most part (with rare exceptions such as Pompey in A.D. 79) they did not experience the particular judgment of Sodom: this is the age of grace, after all, in which God is calling out His people (the church) from among the nations (and each of these societies presumably had at least ten righteous people).

A right understanding of the kingdom theme, especially as taught in Daniel 2, helps us understand the normal rise and fall of the Gentile nations, in this the age of the Gentiles.  From my overall experience, the people I’ve interacted with, I would further argue that the premillennialist has the best understanding of this very issue.  After all, since non-premillennialists think that Daniel 2 is referring to what happened at Christ’s First Coming — a spiritual kingdom in the midst of those ancient human kingdoms — along with a simple concept of this life, then death and heaven, then the resurrection and Eternal state, the Bible (in this mindset) has no connection to real world history.  Since the New Testament has prime importance, and the Bible is deemed to be primarily about soteriology, the non-premillennialist has less reason to even consider and study the Bible beyond such limited scope – and why bother, since God’s word really doesn’t have anything to say beyond the message of salvation.

The Different Judgments In Scripture

June 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Just as our legal system has many courts, so in God’s word we see many different courts, or judgments.  We have our federal courts, state courts, and even local county or city courts.  Not all cases and not all people face justice in each court.  So when it comes to understanding the Bible, we are not to jump to conclusions and assume that all the mentions of judgment are referring to one single future judgment.

In looking at Matthew 25:31-46, S. Lewis Johnson points this out, and briefly lists the different judgments set forth in scripture:

1.  The Judgment that Christ bore, paying for our sins at Calvary
2.  The Believer’s Self-Judgment, spoken of by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11  (see also 1 John 5:16-17)
3.  The “Bema Seat” judgment of all believers, for our rewards — reference 1 Cor. 3:12-15
Good resources concerning this topic:  John MacArthur’s Believer’s Rewards and S. Lewis Johnson’s The Believer’s Judgment

4.  Judgment of Living Israelites, for going into the Messianic Kingdom (Isaiah 65:8-16, Zephaniah 1, Zechariah 13)
5.  Judgment of Living Gentiles, for going into the Kingdom (Matt. 25:31-46)
6.  Judgment of the Fallen Angels  (Rev. 20)
7.  Judgment of the Unbelieving Dead — The “Great White Throne” of Revelation 20:11-15

I was aware of some of these, but had never heard them listed out.  From some googling, though, I found additional information including a Walvoord book, “Major Bible Prophecies: 37 Crucial Prophecies That Affect You Today” which also describes the many different judgments found in the Bible.

Many believers (especially amillennialists and postmillennialists) have concluded that the Sheep and Goats judgment is the same event as the Great White Throne, a single general judgment of all believers.  A recent blog from Michael Vlach especially compares these two judgments, noting nine important differences between these accounts.

S. Lewis Johnson likewise noted that the historical church position was to view the account in Matthew 25 as describing a single general judgment, a parallel to the Great White Throne judgment in Revelation 20.  But as with many things in this overall category of doctrine, more thorough study shows the differences.  Just as the resurrection will take place in phases, first the resurrection of the just followed by a time gap of 1000 years before the resurrection of the wicked, so too God’s word reveals many phases in God’s judgments upon His creation: the great judgment put upon His son, and the many judgments to the living and the dead, of both the just and the wicked.

The Earthquake in Japan: How Short is Our Interim of Grace

March 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Amos 3, in verses 4 – 6, puts forth three sets of “before” and “after” events.  The first one shows the “before” — when it is time to avert disaster.  The second phrase shows the “after” when the event has passed and the opportunity missed:

Before:  ​​​​​​​​Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey?    — No, the lion keeps quiet until he finds his prey.
After:   Does a young lion cry out from his den, if he has taken nothing? — By now the lion has caught the prey

Before:  ​​​​​​​​​Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth, when there is no trap for it?
After:  Does a snare spring up from the ground, when it has taken nothing?

And more clearly in verse 6,
Before:  Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid?
After: Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?

The personal application is clear.  As S. Lewis Johnson observed in this Amos message, sometimes in our lives we have opportunities to do certain things.  Then come seasons in our lives of lost opportunities, for the things we wish we had done.  In between, we live in this interim of grace, before judgment has fallen.

Early Sunday morning as I began my Bible reading time, the sun was shining so brightly, and what it represented came to me so clearly: this is still the day of grace, the time to seek the Lord.  As the song goes, “His mercies are new every morning,” and “great is Thy faithfulness.”

It was hard to believe, looking at the sun shining so brightly and calmly here, that calamity had struck another part of the world — so remote, and surely things here continue the same as always (the common thought that such things can never happen here).

But that terrible earthquake is surely just as much a reminder of our sovereign God and His mighty power, so terrible to behold.  For many thousands of people in Japan, their day of grace has ended, their time of opportunity gone.  This earthquake also is a reminder of the dreadful judgment certain to come to the whole world, that this interim of grace has an end — when the grace of God finally ends and wrath comes to the lost instead.  We presume on God’s grace if we continue to think things will just go on as always.

It seems also that we are getting a preview of things to come, as described in Luke 21:25-26:  the nations distressed, in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves.

Highlights From Recent Bible Readings

June 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Some highlights from recent readings through my modified Horner Bible Reading plan:

Joshua 24:32 closes the book of Joshua with a note about Joseph’s bones, brought up from Egypt and buried at Shechem.  The same day’s reading included the well-known chapter Hebrews 11 — which includes an interesting comment about Joseph’s bones in Hebrews 11:22:  “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.” Both of these verses recall the original incident; Hebrews 11 tells us that Joseph spoke of this by faith; Joshua 24:32 tells us that Joseph’s burial wish was carried out, as a way of confirming the truth of all that Joseph had spoken of:  the exodus, that his descendants would one day return to the land promised to Abraham and his family.  Joseph looked forward to the future day of resurrection, too, in his desire to be buried in that land, to be in that land when his body would one day be resurrected.

Genesis 18 (List 2) gives one example of that which is described in Hebrews 13:2 (List 3, same day’s readings):  “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Lists 7 and 8 now feature Jeremiah and Revelation, and here I note that both men were prophets to the nations.  Jeremiah 1:10 gives Jeremiah’s commissioning:  “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”  Revelation 10:11, at the end of the vision of the mighty angel and the little scroll, tells John that he “must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”  Both Jeremiah and John had a strong message of judgment to all who will not repent.

Mercy and Judgment:   Several recent readings deal with these contrasting attributes of God.  James 2, the chapter on faith with deeds, emphasizes the importance of showing mercy to one another, tells us that mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13), with the stern warning that judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.

Several of my other readings for the day — Genesis 19, Judges 3 and 4, and Jeremiah 7 and 8 — show various aspects of God’s judgment and mercy.  Lest we focus solely on God’s judgment and forget His mercy, Genesis 19 tells the story of the deliverance of Lot from Sodom. Genesis 19:16 expresses that the Lord was merciful to Lot; the end of the chapter also tells us that the Lord rescued Lot from Sodom, for Abraham’s sake (v. 29): “So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.”

Judges 3 and 4 show the common pattern throughout this book, of the people disobeying the Lord, then judgment, followed by deliverance from the judgment.  Jeremiah 7 and 8 are in a section full of judgment, to remind us of the seriousness of sin — sin similar to the time of the Judges but now even worse, such that in Jeremiah 7 the Lord even tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people:  “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you.”

Psalm 104 is a wonderful psalm of praise to the creator God, expressing thanks to God for His wonders, for His care and concern for His creatures.