Tag Archives: obedience

Zechariah 1:12-7:14

Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”

Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”

Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.

The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.

“‘Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.

Zechariah 3:3-9, NIV

Lord, the more I read your word, the more I learn about you, see your work in all its pages, grasp your great love. As I read this passage about the removal of the dirty clothes and the replacement with fine garments, I feel a relief and a gratitude. You don’t leave us as we are, but change us.

Courtney (66books365)

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Amos 5-9; Obadiah 1:1-9

“Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:14-15)(NIV)

“Getting down to business.”

On the day I was sworn into the bar of Maryland, my father (also a lawyer) gave me a card inscribed with this passage from Amos.  That pursuit of justice – the yearning for good to triumph over evil – is what spurned me toward three years and ten weeks of seemingly interminable preparation for the bar exam.  I suppose there are lots of law school newbies who, at some point, have felt the same way.  The concept of doing good is vitalizing – it’s noble, magnanimous, high-minded.  But it’s easy to say you love justice.  It’s another thing entirely to be just.  Just ask the Israelites.  

The entire book of Amos focuses on the hypocrisy of the Israelites, who, though they loved their religious feasts and burnt offerings (Amos 5:21-22), were utterly loveless, uncharitable “cows” (Amos 4:1).  Their religious rituals were nothing but “clanging cymbals” (1 Cor. 13:1).  In an era of new-found prosperity under Jeroboam II, the Israelites weren’t sharing the wealth.  Rather, their poor were oppressed, officials were bribed, privileges were secured through payoffs, and there was nary an honest businessman to be found (in Amos’ day, for example, ruthless bankers requiring collateral sometimes stripped their poor clients of the clothes on their backs).   Amos, Hosea and Jonah were all contemporaries, prophets of the day, and they had their hands full.  They predicted destruction for those who had turned their backs on God, and pleaded for a return to God’s justice and decency.  Their messages were ultimately the same: “it’s time to get down to business.”   

I have since left the practice to be home with three small children, and hadn’t read Amos 5:14-15 in years.  That’s why coming across it again was like finding an old friend.  I was reminded that it isn’t just for “officers of the court” to love justice and seek good.  It is for all of us.  Particularly now.  Because it takes only about five minutes of the national news on any given day to discover exactly how cruel and inhumane we all still are, three thousand years later.  That’s why it’s time to stop “saying” the Lord is with us, just as the Israelites did, and actually have Him be.  God’s promise is just that if we seek good, not evil; if we put an end to namby-pamby Christianity; if we are bold in loving and living the Truth – no matter how hard.  As for me and my house, it’s time to get down to business.      

Heavenly Father, you reminded us, centuries after your servant Amos, that you would spit those who were lukewarm in their affection for You “out of your mouth” (Revelation 3:16).  I do not, dare not offend You with my mediocre brand of Christianity.  Kill every hypocritical proclivity in my heart.  Make me love justice not only because of its inherent nobility, but because its originator is the only, truly Just being in the whole of the universe.  Help me to love, live and impart Your justice and Your truth. Amen.

– Sarah

From the archives. Originally published September 22, 2009.

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Ezekiel 48; Daniel 1:1-2:30

This is what I know when I meet Daniel–he was physically fit, attractive, teachable and capable, educated, and qualified. He was going to be treated (somewhat) like a king–at least with a measure of respect and dignity–eating food and drinking wine from the king’s table. And he was going to be taught the language and literature of the Babylonians.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

Daniel 1:3-8, NIV

And though he was enlisted to be part of the king’s service and immersed in the culture of the Babylonians, he drew a line he wouldn’t cross: he would not defile himself with the royal food and wine. I take special note of this.

I learn a lot about Daniel and his friends in these opening scriptures. And I see how God works in their lives.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

Daniel 1:17, NIV, emphasis mine

I also take special notice of what happens when Daniel is under extreme pressure. He’s on the cusp of execution because all the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers are unable to tell the king the content of his dream or its meaning.

14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact.

Daniel 2:14, NIV

Daniel speaks with wisdom and tact.

He also takes the issue to the Lord in prayer and expectation.

17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
    You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel 2:17-23, NIV

I think again on the quote, “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.” Finding himself a captive of sorts, enlisted, and facing great stresses, I see the level of Daniel’s training–a foundation of solid boundaries, discipline, faith, and humility.

Lord, these days I find myself leaning more and more into you. I’m thankful for a reading today that highlights your presence and provision. And I’m also grateful for a reminder of my own personal responsibility to stick to boundaries and maintain a focus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 51:11-52:34

Salvation is a term that has many layers of meaning. For instance, salvation means rescue or help when in danger or the danger of defeat. Other examples include being released from prison, saved from mistreatment, protected from threats, or even deserved suffering. The Greek verb sozo used in the New Testament, elevates the meaning of salvation to the spiritual realm, as well. The term refers to God’s power to deliver us from the bondage of sin, the future deliverance from the presence of sin (Romans 13:11), and the deliverance of Israel at the second advent of Christ (Luke 1:71). God does not forsake His chosen. Jeremiah 51:5 says, “For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah, by his God, the Lord of Hosts, though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.” And we who have become the children of God because Jesus Christ freely gave Himself on the Cross are also His chosen.

“Help me, Lord!” is probably my most spoken prayer. I seem to need saving on a regular basis. Maybe that is just my natural inclination toward chaos and crisis or perhaps my need is because of hypersensitivity to sin. I see potential danger around every corner – whether in my life, my family, co-workers, government, etcetera, etcetera. I want to call out like Jeremiah 51:9, 10 “Forsake [Babylon], and let us go everyone to his own country; for her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies. The Lord has revealed our righteousness. Come and let us declare in Zion the work of the Lord our God.” Can we run away and hide together until God’s judgment destroys His enemies? Better yet, I want being saved to mean smooth sailing; no more drama; no worries; nothing to fear. In these moments, I recognize the child inside who wishes for the lazy days of summer, sitting on the porch swing, delicious smells of homemade bread baking and a whistling pressure cooker tenderizing a roast and vegetables, the soft humming of Jesus Loves Me on my aunt’s lips as she gently rocks the swing. Such a simple, peaceful time. I can also relate to the nod of restoration in Jeremiah 51:32-34. After Nebuchadnezzar died, his son Evil-Merodach became king and ruled two years. In his first year, he pardoned Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison. “He spoke kindly to him and gave him a more prominent seat than those of the kings who were with him in Babylon… [Jehoiachin] ate bread regularly before the king all the days of his life.”

Yet I am reminded of another’s prayer. Refusing to be saved from impending death, Jesus Christ as Savior declared this: “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (John 12:27) We who are saved and being saved have reaped the benefit of Christ’s obedience to death. In all the chaos and suffering we are allowed to experience; we might look for the unseen benefit. Even the dark fall of Babylon had a silver lining; that is, a remnant of God’s chosen people survived Babylon’s destruction. We see later that Jehoiachin’s restoration was symbolic of the future restoration of Israel and Judah to their homeland.

Trials and difficulties force us to depend even more on the One and only God who can prevent, intervene, and/or restore what the enemy is intent on taking from us. Praying with faith storms the heavens and brings down salvation. And Christ Jesus promised saving grace that insures we will never be separated from Him. “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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

So, yes Lord. Conform us to Your image as we walk out our salvation. Intervene on our behalf. Grant us courage and determination to stand and testify to Your faithfulness. You are a present help. I will always cry out to You!

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Job 32:11-35:16 

Pride exposed.

After the failed attempts from Job’s three, so-called friends, to cause Job to repent, another rises to the task. Elihu, younger than the others, but filled with wrath toward Job and his companions goes straight to the heart of Job’s complaints. About himself, Elihu says, “My words come from my upright heart; My lips utter pure knowledge. The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Next, Elihu prepares Job to meet his God.

Elihu’s arguments: 1) God speaks to man in dreams, visions, in deep sleep, to turn him away from sin and pride; 2) God chastens with pain when ma n is sickly and bedridden; 3) Job is scornful and befriends the wicked who believe that delighting in God does not profit a man; 4) Job should confess that he has sinned and perverted what was right if he wants God to redeem his soul from the Pit; 5) God sees man’s iniquity, even if others do not or even if the sinner disavows wrong doing; 6) God repays man according to his work; 7) Job’s complaint is tantamount to calling the king worthless and nobles wicked; 8) Job does not have a legal right to question God’s righteousness and to imply that his ethical standards are highter than God’s.

Does God have to reward a person who is obedient? (That is, what we consider to be our good works?) Does God owe Job something for being righteous? (Salvation is by grace apart from our good works.) And how are these assumptions related to pride? C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, devoted a chapter about pride, titled “The Great Sin.” Lewis stated that Pride is essentially competitive – one is not content to have something, only satisfied from having more of it than the next man. Also, that a proud man is always looking down on things and other people, and therefore cannot be looking up to his God. Job’s religious life made him feel good, even better than others (his friends?); yet he could not see this. The real test of humility, as Lewis put it, is that in the presence of God, “… you forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object.” Job thought he was good and so could not see the vanity in his estimation of himself. He could not recognize pride motivated him in performing religious duties. Job’s complaint to God was even to throw up his own dignity and good works, as if God would delight in these. Job had yet to meet his God and to, as Lewis said, “get rid of the false self, with all its ‘Look at me’ and ‘Aren’t I a good boy?’ and all its posing and posturing.”

I find that Job’s distress is too close to my own striving to do well and to receive praise for my good works. Honestly, I cannot count the number of times that God has used humbling situations to get my attention. There is relief in letting go of what I assume is important to hold onto; that is, when walking toward humility. Lewis writes, “To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.”

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, even in our worst moments of arrogance and pride, you are nearer than is comfortable – ready to give correction, guidance, forgiveness. Once we drop the pretense, stop holding onto what we have accomplished or gained in this life, and reach for You with empty hands; then we will rest in Your peace and rejoice in Your presence. Nothing else can compare with knowing and being known by You!

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