And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
My soul clings to
the dust; Revive me according to Your word.
The Bible addresses the problem of being overwhelmed by grief, sorrow, and depression. Psalm 119:25-32 is a passage that helps when our heart is “in the dust,” and when it “melts from heaviness” (Psa. 119:28).
When grief seems unbearable, when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, when anxieties immobilize us, God can revive (renew) our souls through His word. How is this possible?
First, God’s word helps us trust in God’s way instead of in ourselves (Psa. 119:26). It produces faith and reveals priorities and goals upon which to focus, that help us maneuver life’s moments of doubt (Matt. 6:33-34).
Second, as we mediate on it, God’s word helps us perceive His ways for our lives (Psa. 119:27). It teaches us what to concentrate our thinking upon so we can clear our minds of worldly clutter and concentrate on eternal things (Phil. 4:8).
Third, rely on the strength of God’s word (Psa. 119:28). It is true, regardless of what others tell you. Its redemptive power can raise you out of sin’s despair to heavenly places (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 2:4-7).
Fourth, instead of continuing to “cling to the dust,” deliberately choose “the way of truth” and cling to God’s testimonies (Psa. 119:30-31).
Finally, stay the course (Psa. 119:32). Continue following God’s commands by faith, and your heart will be enlarged with His gracious blessings of salvation, hope, and eternal life (Psa. 119:32).
Injustice was rampant in the northern kingdom (Israel) during the 8th century B.C. When God sent His prophet Amos to warn of His approaching judgment, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel (where the golden calf sanctuary stood) charged Amos with conspiracy against the land (Amos 4:12; 5:27; 6:1-8; 7:10-11). But, the sins of the nation had reached the boiling point. God’s prophet told them to “prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” (Amos 5:10-12).
In chapter 5, Amos identified two misconceptions in Israel that hastened the day of God’s judgment. First, Israel lived as if they could worship God apart from (in violation of) His revelation without fault (Amos 5:4-9). Second, Israel lived as if they had God’s approval despite the unjust and oppressive treatment of their neighbors (Amos 5:10-15). Let us consider each of these since both errors continue to raise their ugly, sinful heads today.
1) How God’s people worship God matters to God. Israel had set up a corrupt system to worship Jehovah using golden calves in Bethel and Dan as their gods and places of adoration (1 Kgs. 12:26-33). In defiance of God’s revelation (the Law of Moses), the northern tribes accepted Jeroboam’s wholesale changes of worship (which appeased his faithless political lust). They tried to worship the true God with golden calves, in new places of worship, with a new priesthood, new feast days, and a new altar for offerings and burning incense – all in violation of God’s law (Exo. 20:3-6; Deut. 12:4-5; 1 Kgs. 8:1-13; Num. 3:10; Lev. 23). God sent His prophet to Bethel to pronounce His judgment against their corrupt worship (1 Kgs. 13:1-3). Her kings continued to perpetuate idolatrous worship as Israel fell deeper and deeper into sinful, false worship.
Jehovah commanded Israel through Amos, “Seek Me, and live; But do not seek Bethel” (Amos 5:4-5). Two imperatives (seek and live) commanded a duty upon them to obtain a reward. As one commentator noted, “Seek me in the appointed way, and ye shall be saved from destruction” (Spence-Jones, Pulpit Commentary: Amos, 83). However, Israel chose to seek idols and was punished (Amos 5:6-9, 27; 7:11, 17). Their religious corruption set them on a course of destruction.
God rejected their feast days, their solemn assemblies, their offerings, and their songs of praise (Amos 5:21-23). Instead, God said, “let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24). Their false worship set God’s just and righteous judgment against them.
What does this have to do with us? People today who profess faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior tell us it does not matter how you worship God, as long as your heart lifts praise to the Almighty. Without a doubt, the heart must be right for God to receive our worship (Jno. 4:24). But, we ask sincerely, how is a person’s heart right when it willfully disregards God’s word (the gospel of Christ) about what is acceptable worship (Jno. 4:23-24)? The spirit (the heart) and truth must combine for true worship to occur. God punished Israel when she offered Him corrupt worship. (Worship not commanded by God does not please Him, as Nadab and Abihu learned, Lev. 10:1-3.) What gospel teaching frees us from carefully worshiping God in truth as well as in spirit? No such allowance exists.
Jesus warned against “vain worship” that clings to the traditions of men at the expense of the commands of God (Matt. 15:3-9). Like Jeroboam’s corruption, many traditions of men have been adopted and received over time as acceptable worship. These include burning incense, rituals and liturgies, instrumental music, and even various forms of entertainment. When we change the worship revealed in the New Testament, we are no longer true worshipers (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19). Like Israel, when we give God false worship, we must repent and seek God to live. Otherwise, we, too, must prepare to meet our God.
2) How we treat our neighbors matters to God. Oppression of the weak, the poor, and the righteous occurred in Israel every day (Amos 5:10-13). Unjust judgments in the city gates were the order of the day. Those who spoke truth to power were despised (Amos 5:10). The government was corrupt. Oppressive taxes took food out of the mouths of the poor to profit the rich and powerful (Amos 5:11). Businesses were corrupt. Bribery was the currency that got things done. The judicial system was corrupt. The innocent and the poor were being denied justice (Amos 5:12). The lust for money and power reaped oppression and injustice throughout the land.
It was “an evil time,” and Amos implored Israel to “seek good and not evil, that you may live; So the Lord God of hosts will be with you” (Amos 5:13-14). God commanded Israel: “Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate” (Amos 5:15). Only by repentance would the people be saved from God’s wrath (Amos 5:15). Yet, Israel refused to hear and heed the word of God. Therefore, God said, “let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24). Their moral corruption and injustices set them on a course of destruction.
What does this have to do with us? Christ expects us to treat others fairly, kindly, honestly, truthfully, and mercifully – as we want others to treat us (Matt. 7:12). We are to love our neighbors and our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). We are not to repay anyone evil for evil; but do them good (Rom. 12:17-21). We are to rise above worldly, godless values.
The remedy for corruption in a society demands changes of heart. Trying to improve communities without heart improvement is an exercise in futility. The moral decay of injustice in government, in the justice system, in business, education (and in the church) occurs when people are corrupt in heart, word, and deed. When people ignore God and refuse His will, all manner of unrighteousness results (Rom. 1:28-32). Like Israel, when we treat our fellow man unjustly, we must repent and seek God to live. Otherwise, we, too, must prepare to meet our God.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
When Everyone Does What is Right in Their Own Eyes
God’s word is clear: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). And, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). Yet, people are bent on doing whatever is right in their own eyes (Jgs. 21:25). Failure to respect God and His authority is the heart of the problem (“there was no king in Israel”).
The fruit of self-defined truth is seen everywhere, from murder to riots to looting to stealing, to the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ). CHAZ is a six-block area in Seattle that has been turned into a protest commune, a “no cop co-op.” (Of course, CHAZ is not entirely autonomous, even though the police voluntarily left their precinct located there. Seattle is still providing water and electricity, and the fire chief has arranged sanitation services.) (“Free Food, Free Speech and Free of Police: Inside Seattle’s ‘Autonomous Zone,’” nytimes.com)
Vilifying police does not honor the memory of George Floyd or advance racial equality and justice. Destroying property, communities, and nations is not the answer. It is reprehensible for a police officer to murder a defenseless man. It is also shameful to charge all police officers with being corrupt. A “no-cop co-op” is not the answer.
We are witnessing the results of the postmodern philosophy that rejects absolute truth and says truth is determined by each person. This scourge has redefined truth, morality, marriage, gender, and authority in our nation and the world. It is destroying our country and countless souls. Without absolute truth (and respect for it), the rule of law breaks down, and moral and civil chaos follows. You only have to read Judges 17-21 to see history repeating itself. “Sin is a reproach to any people,” including America (Prov. 14:34). Christians must use God’s word to identify and reject sin in all its forms while holding fast to what is good (1 Thess. 5:21-22).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 06/11/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA