Nick Poindexter

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Tag: Israelites (page 1 of 2)

I Will Always Love You

Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.”
-Hosea 3:1 (NLT)

In one of the more bizarre stories of the Bible, the prophet Hosea is told by God to marry a prostitute. Yes, you read that correctly — a prostitute. And her name? Gomer. You can’t make this stuff up! True to her form, this adulterous woman eventually leaves Hosea for another man. You would think that the stress and embarrassment Hosea had suffered would be enough. But no, God tells him to go get Gomer back and love her again anyway. Wow.

As crazy as it sounds, there was a method to God’s madness here. The relationship between Hosea and Gomer was serving as an illustration of the relationship between God and the Israelites. You see, they had become wrapped up in idolatry. Like Hosea, God had been loyal. Unfortunately, like Gomer, the Isrealites had not reciprocated that faithfulness back. But astonishingly, after all they’ve done, God still loves them.

Take a moment and ask yourself this… If you you knew beforehand that your spouse was going to cheat on you, would you still want to marry them? No way! You wouldn’t want to see them, meet them, talk to them, or probably even know their name. You wouldn’t want anything to do with them!

Hosea knew ahead of time that Gomer was going to be unfaithful to him. And in the same way, God knew that we, his people, were going to be unfaithful as well. He knew we were going to put other things ahead of him. He knew that we were going to worship other idols. But God still chose to love us and want to be in a relationship with us anyway. God’s love for us is beyond comprehension!

Just like he did for the Israelites through Hosea, God continues to send us a message of his incredible love. Day after day, he is whispering to us…

I have always loved you, I still love you, and I will always love you. Yes, even you and your sin-filled past. I don’t care what you’ve done or where you’ve been… Nothing can make me stop loving you.

I will always love you.

Always.

Professional Christians

Then Amaziah sent orders to Amos: “Get out of here, you prophet! Go on back to the land of Judah, and earn your living by prophesying there! Don’t bother us with your prophecies here in Bethel. This is the king’s sanctuary and the national place of worship!” But Amos replied, “I’m not a professional prophet, and I was never trained to be one. I’m just a shepherd, and I take care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord called me away from my flock and told me, ‘Go and prophesy to my people in Israel.’
-Amos 7:12-15 (NLT)

Amos was a shepherd and grower of figs from Tekoa, a town in the southern kingdom of Judah. His neighbors to the north in Israel had become complacent with God, which lead to their abuse of the poor. So God gave Amos a vision and instructed him to pass the message on to the Israelites. This pronouncement of judgment didn’t make Amos a popular guy, so much so that a priest named Amaziah tried to shut him up.

Notice how Amos responds to the priest’s attack… He simply says that he isn’t a professional prophet by any means. He’s just a shepherd.

I find it fascinating that Amos explained his reasoning for obeying God with the same excuses many people today give for disobeying God.

Have you ever heard yourself say, “I’d like to fully surrender my life to the Lord and truly follow his calling on my life… But I’m not a minister/pastor/evangelist/missionary. I’m just a student/waiter/nurse/accountant. I’ll just leave the big, scary stuff like that to the pros!”

And that’s why Amos’ story is so relevant. He didn’t have a “spiritual” job at all. He was a normal, everyday worker — a layperson. Amos wasn’t qualified to speak for God because of who he was or what he’d done. In fact, the opposite was true. Without any special training or unique preparation, Amos was qualified to be used by the Lord merely because he was willing to obey.

No matter who you are or what you are currently doing, God is speaking to you about something. It may not have the magnitude of confronting an entire nation with their sinful ways like Amos, but that doesn’t matter… Will you be obedient? Right now? Right as you are? Even if you run into some Amaziahs along the way?

Obedience to God, no matter what the calling, is the true sign of an unwavering servant. And it’s not just for the professional Christians.

It’s for us all.

What God Requires

With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
-Micah 6:6-8 (NIV)

Oftentimes the people of Israel had a distorted understanding of sacrifices and rituals. Instead of viewing them as a way to receive grace, they viewed them as a way to get God off their backs. And in these verses from Micah, the list of things that they try to buy God off with gets increasingly preposterous… Year-old calves, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil, and firstborn children!

Can you sense the sarcasm? It’s as if God himself is saying, “Seriously? Do you really think those things are what I want?”

Then, God’s true interest is identified: our character. God wants changed lives. In particular, he wants us to:

  • Act justly. Whatever you do, be fair and true. Do what is right.
  • Love mercy. Be compassionate toward others. And love doing it. Why? Because God gave it to us first.
  • Walk humbly. Have a faithful relationship with God. Swallow your pride and understand that’s he’s greater than you.

So allow me to ask the question: What sacrifices do you make to please God?

You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute… Don’t go lumping me together with those zany Israelites. Killing calves or rams or babies? Giving away oil? Hardly! I don’t do sacrifices!

While that may be true, but we all do things with the ultimate intent of trying to please God. We think we are a “good” Christian because we pray before meals, or go to church almost every Sunday, or throw a little cash in the offering plate. That’s our modern-day “sacrifice”, but the problem is those things are definitely not what God thinks is good… They are certainly not what God requires… They are absolutely not what God wants.

God is more concerned with the the one making the offering than the offering itself. First and foremost, he wants our hearts. We try to make it so difficult, but in reality, it’s so simple, isn’t it?

Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. That’s what God requires.

Accidental Idols

“Don’t get so upset, my lord,” Aaron replied. “You yourself know how evil these people are. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has gold jewelry, take it off.’ When they brought it to me, I simply threw it into the fire—and out came this calf!”
-Exodus 32:22-24 (NLT)

Picture the scene: Moses is on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments directly from God. What a moment! But when he returned from the mountain, he finds his brother Aaron leading the Israelites in worship of a golden calf statue! Can you imagine the disappointment and anger that must have instantly swept over Moses? Talk about a buzzkill.

And to make matters worse, Aaron tries to defend himself by saying that it was the Israelites’ fault. They are the evil ones… They were complaining… They brought their gold jewelry to me.

Then, he blurts out one of the most unintentionally hilarious lines in the Bible: “I simply threw it into the fire—and out came this calf!” Are you serious, Aaron?! Is that really the best you can do? C’mon… That’s simply pathetic. I can see Moses rolling his eyes and hanging his head in shame right now.

It’s extremely easy for us to point the finger and laugh at Aaron’s expense as we read this story. But unfortunately, it really hits home… Well, I wouldn’t have done THAT if so-and-so hadn’t done THIS! Ever heard that one before? Or how ’bout, Oh, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal… One thing lead to another and it kinda just happened! Oopsie!

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve used the Aaron cop-out, I’d be a very rich man.

Our rebellion against God is serious business. Whether you’re a leader or not, when sin occurs you’ve got to step up, take responsibility, learn from the mistake, and immediately change.

There’s no such thing as accidental idols.

Smash Your Nehushtans

[Hezekiah] did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan.
-2 Kings 18:3-4 (NLT)

Rewind a bit to the book of Numbers… The Israelites are becoming antsy with God and start complaining. God sends poisonous snakes their way, many of which bite and kill the people. They realize their mistake and beg Moses to do something. God then tells him to make a bronze snake, mount it on a pole, and anyone who looks at it will be healed. And it works.

I’m sure this bronze snake on a pole quickly became an important memento, if you will. To the Israelites, it was a constant remembrance of God’s provision, safety and presence.

The problem is, when it makes an appearance again in 2 Kings, the snake means something more to them. Now they are offering sacrifices to it. They even glorify it with a name — Nehushtan. This object that was originally used by God and was a reminder of God, was being worshiped as God. The bronze snake is now an idol.

It’s easy to read this story and mock the Israelites for their silly worship practices, but in reality, we’re just as guilty. Unfortunately there are still “Nehushtans” in the church today. Maybe you’ve heard these impassioned arguments before…

KJV or NIV? Traditional or contemporary? Sunday best or casual? Pews or chairs?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a certain version of the Bible or certain types of music. In fact, they’re good, wonderful things that steer us toward God. Just like the bronze snake on a pole.

Sadly, people will still fight tooth and nail over these idols. Why? Because like the Israelites, instead of utilizing them to point us to God, they become more important than God himself. Simply, these things were not intended to be worshiped, but rather to guide our worship. The problem is misdirected devotion.

Hezekiah was on to something. For the greater good of God, we all have to do a little housecleaning every now and then. And that may mean destroying some idols in our lives, even those whose beginnings were entirely holy.

It’s always best to smash your Nehushtans.

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