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“God’s Hall Of Shame, Or A Dubious Honor.”

Saturday, June 05, 2021

            Reading the first chapter of Micah is enlightening as well as challenging. This is one of those occasions where some might become intimidated when they see some city names that are hard to pronounce. Yet, when we compare those towns to a map of Old Testament times, we find these cities scattered in the northern and southern areas. That is significant. What purpose then does it serve to read those names, and how am I helped in the 21st century when I read Micah chapter one?

            Let me suggest a few applications to our reading. First, it is interesting to note that it is actually a play on words in the chapter’s context when we read those city names. For example, the city name of Gath means “Tell Town.” Therefore, to “tell it not in Gath” (Mic. 1:10) is like saying, “Don’t tell it in Tell Town!” It is a subtle thing, but one that the people would have understood. God inspires Micah to write to those in Aphrah and say they should roll themselves in the dust. This carries a deeper meaning when we learn that “Aphrah” means “house of dust”! Therefore, those who lived in the “house of dust” needed to roll themselves in the dust (an act of lament and sorrow)! As we continue reading Micah 1:10-15, we see this play on words continue with the rest of the cities.

            I call this God’s “Hall of Shame” because Micah speaks to the inhabitants of those cities, as well as those in Samaria and Jerusalem (Mic. 1:5, 9), and condemns them for their sin. No inhabitant of these cities could read the first chapter of Micah and feel good about themselves or their history before God! In fact, the promise made before this was that God was coming in judgment against these people because of their sin (v. 3-9). Let this then be a reminder that God has a standard for right and wrong, and He follows it! Unfortunately, we live in a society that has removed itself from such standards, and we are suffering for it. It is past time to be reminded that there are things that are right and wrong in this world, and we need to stand for what is right! This is because we will suffer if we do the wrong things. Over a dozen cities in Judah and Israel were made to understand this, and we need to understand it as well!

            Another application I make from this reading is the very pointed and powerful preaching done by Micah. In the spirit of Acts 2, when Peter condemned “all the house of Israel” for killing Jesus (Acts 2:36), so also Micah, 700 years before Christ, condemns folks for sins. I appreciate Micah because after he wrote, the people knew what they had done and why God cursed them. In my mind’s eye, I imagine the people reading Micah’s words for the first time, and when he started mentioning their hometowns, they might have smiled. Their smile didn’t last long, though! In a moment, they were made to face their sins and see themselves as God saw them! God was coming in judgment against people who had wasted their lives on vain things, on the lusts of the flesh and eyes, and the pride of life (I Jn. 2:15-17)!

            In light of these truths, let us hear and fear! We need to listen to what God says now while we still have the opportunity to repent (II Cor. 6:2). The people in Micah’s day were told essentially to “brace themselves” because God was about to bring judgment against them (Mic. 1:3-4). In like manner, we are told that the Lord is coming “in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and those who obey not the gospel” (II Thess. 1:7-9)! This is not an empty threat. God’s longsuffering grants us time to repent (Rom. 2:4), but the longsuffering will not continue indefinitely!

            One final application I see is the bravery of Micah! I am impressed that when given the responsibility to bring a very unpopular message to both the northern and southern kingdoms, Micah accepted the challenge! This same bravery characterized preachers of the first century, and it needs to describe God’s people today (I Cor. 16:13-14; Prov. 28:1; I Thess. 2:2; Eph. 3:12; I Jn. 4:17)! Paul encouraged Timothy (and us by inference) to preach the word “in season and out of season” (II Tim. 4:2). This means when people like it and when they don’t like it! It means preaching the word without compromise or changing the message because of who is listening. Notice how brave Micah was in chapter one. He will have more to say later, but think about how Micah was taking his life into his hands. Yet, he would write what God wanted to be written, and he was willing to face the consequences. Are we ready to say the same (Rom. 15:4)?

            What a dubious honor it was to be listed in such a place as Micah one. If we had been living in that time, what decisions might we have made after hearing this read? Would we repent? Would we get mad at Micah? Would we be angry at ourselves? God’s blessing is seen in the fact that we can change! We can repent and do things His way (Acts 2:38, 17:30). Are you willing to leave the shame of sin behind (Rom. 6:21)? Don’t get mad at the messenger for saying you are in sin (Rom. 3:23). Be thankful someone cares enough and loves you enough to tell you (Eph. 4:15). Now, let’s do something about it (Heb. 5:9; II Cor. 6:2)! 

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Ones Sent”

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

            In the three “synoptic gospels,” we read where Jesus chose His twelve apostles. What comes to mind when we think about “apostles”? Often, we think of these men who had the ability to “heal sicknesses and cast out devils” (Mk. 3:15). Maybe we think about the men receiving the Holy Spirit’s power in Acts 2:1-5? I hope that when we think of the apostles, we think of them as teachers of the Word. This was their primary work (Mk. 3:14)!

            Are you familiar with the word “apostle”? It has a simple meaning. It means “one sent” (Thayer, Vine’s). Someone sent to do a specific work is, in the strict definition, an apostle. For this reason, Jesus was called an apostle (Heb. 3:1)! This is because He was sent from Heaven to the earth with work to do (Jn. 3:16, 17:4). Of course, we know these men had a special work to do. They had been called explicitly by the Lord to take the gospel first to the Jews and later to the world (Matt. 10:6; Mk. 16:15). They also had to meet certain qualifications to be the Lord’s apostle (Acts 1:21-22).

            What impresses me is the fact that these men were not what the “elite” or the “powerful” would have chosen to be apostles. Almost all of them were from Galilee, not from Jerusalem or Judea. They were from an area not known for their literacy (Acts 2:7). Four or 1/3 of the apostles were fishermen! Jesus also chose a tax collector (publican), a zealot, and others from nearby places in Galilee. These men who had not traveled much except within the borders of Israel were chosen to take the gospel to the world! Once taught and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they preached the gospel “in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). These men who were sent by Jesus accepted the work, the hardship, the persecution, and finally, death in order to spread the gospel.

            What brave souls! What true workmen! They lived through sad times, and they also saw many victories. To their number was added two more apostles, Matthias and Paul (Acts 1:26, 26:16-18). Though they came later, they still had the same mission -- to teach and preach to people and bring lost souls to Christ! This these men did until they met their deaths -- all except John died at someone else’s hands.

            I know there are no living apostles today in the sense that Jesus had them (Acts 1:21-22). Yet, we still have their testimony with us in the epistles and gospel records. These men wrote the words of the New Testament. Therefore, we can take the words of the apostles of Christ to the world as we teach others and preach the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” Paul told Timothy, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:2). The point being that as Timothy told “others” what he had been taught, then they would tell “others,” and those “others” would tell “others,” etc., until we come to this present day! Friend, you and I are supposed to be in that “chain”! We are supposed to accept the Lord’s will, believe it (Heb. 11:6; Jn. 8:24), obey it (Heb. 5:9; Mk. 16:16), and then teach others (Matt. 28:20) what we have done so that they can do it, too!

We are not the ones Christ chose, but we still must take up the mantle and go to others to tell them about the Lord and salvation. Are you going to do what God wants you to do?

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“They Watched Him”

Monday, December 07, 2020

            Mark 3:1-6 records a time when Jesus was in the synagogue and healed a man with a withered hand. This event happened on the sabbath day when God had said no work was to be done (Ex. 20:10-11, 31:15, 3l; Lev. 23:3; Deut. 5:14). Thus, the Pharisees and scribes (Lk. 6:7) watched Jesus on this day, scrutinizing His every move. Other versions besides the KJV say “they watched him closely” in this text (NKJ, NET, etc.).

            Why were the scribes and Pharisees watching Jesus (closely)? Did they want to make sure and witness a miracle? No! Were they enamored with the Lord and His power? No! The reason they watched Him so closely was to determine whether or not He would “heal” the man (i.e., work) on the Sabbath (Mk. 3:2). If they could catch Him in such an error, they could accuse Him of a capital offense (Ex. 35:2; Num. 15:32-36; Jer. 17:21-26)!

            As I read this text (and parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke), what stands out to me is that these people weren’t watching Jesus so they could show how He was a fake! They didn’t watch to show folks where the “wires” were or how He did tricks with “smoke and mirrors.” Jesus wasn’t a fraud as Simon was (Acts 8:9-11)! These people knew Jesus was the real thing when it came to miracles. They just didn’t accept what that meant for them, and so they looked for ways to accuse Him of sin!

            When Jesus merely said, “Stretch out thine hand,” and the man was healed (Mk. 3:5), what “work” did He do? Is speaking now to be classified as a “work” to those people? Jesus had outwitted them, and they were “filled with madness” at what He’d done (Lk. 6:11).

            As my old friend used to say, these people accepted the evidence (Christ’s miracles are real), but they rejected the conclusion (Jesus is the Christ)! Their dishonesty would lead them down a road of sorrow, unbelief, and ultimately an eternity in Hell if they didn’t repent (Jn. 8:32)!

            There are people like this today, sadly. For example, think about those who say Jesus is a “good guy” or a “good prophet.” Some might say He was a good philosopher, but they deny He’s the Son of God. Here are people today who accept the evidence but reject the conclusion. They won’t accept Jesus as the Son of God! For this choice, they jeopardize their souls!

            Another lesson we learn from this text is that the Pharisees and scribes, though supposed to be living in a close relationship with God, didn’t express that which God embodies -- love (I Jn. 4:8)! Love doesn’t think ill of another. Love doesn’t envy, and love thinks the best of others (I Cor. 13:4-8). We see none of those attributes in the Pharisees in this text. They were looking for a way to accuse Jesus. They were watching in the hope of finding fault. That’s not love!

            Mark 3:5 declares Jesus looked upon the Pharisees and scribes “with anger.” He was angry at the people and that their hardened hearts would stand by in condemnation as He healed a man who needed it. It was lawful “to do well” on the sabbath (Matt. 12:11-12; Lk/ 6:9). Yes, menial work was prohibited and jobs wherein people might’ve been engaged all week long were to be stopped on this day, but showing compassion and mercy to another wasn’t prohibited any day of the week! Their lousy attitude had so clouded the truth that they thought being compassionate was somehow sinful. Read Galatians 5:22-23 and learn there’s no law that is somehow against one practicing the “fruit of the Spirit.”

            Jesus had a lot of work to do, but He was up to the challenge! Read the book of Mark and see what facts come to life for you! There is much to learn, and perhaps it is I that’ll get an “attitude adjustment” by reading about the works and listening to the words of Christ!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Jesus' Attitude Toward Sinners.”

Saturday, December 05, 2020

            The book of Mark is the shortest book of those comprising the “gospel records.” It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that Mark doesn’t wait long before showing us the opposition Jesus faced in His preaching. In Mark 2, we see scribes and Pharisees opposing Him and His work. Among their common complaints was that Jesus associated with sinners. Mark 2:15-17 says, “And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his (Matthew’s, JMJ) house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

            Seeing as Jesus just invited a publican (Matthew) to follow Him (Mk. 2:14), it shouldn’t be a surprise that when Jesus went to Matthew’s house, publican friends would be invited to listen to Jesus! Jesus treated this man just as He had earlier treated four fishermen (Mk. 1:16-20). He simply requested that they “follow Him.” This would change their lives far beyond anything we could describe on this page.

            The point being that Jesus looked at five sinners (Rom. 3:23) and saw not what they were, but what they could become! He saw people who’d do much good for the Lord’s cause and kingdom, but they had to be taught! Jesus was willing to teach. In fact, Jesus was willing to teach all that would listen to Him. This is why we see multitudes coming to Him and listening (Mk. 1:28, 33, 37, 45, 2:1-2, 13, etc.).

            In contrast, the scribes and Pharisees had no time, no compassion, and gave no thought to the lives and concerns of the sinners around them. I’m reminded of Christ’s parable in Luke 18:11-12. Therefore, when they saw Jesus spending time with publicans, sinners, and the like, this was scandalous to them! If He claims to be God’s prophet, and people claim He is the Messiah, surely even He would know the kind of people He is around! (For more study, please read Luke 7:36-50 and see the attitude of Simon toward Christ.)

            In Mark’s short book, we see Christ’s attitude toward sinners as one of respect, one of compassion, and one of love. He never berated them for their bad decisions or sins. He never acted as if they were beneath Him (though they were  -- all of us are!). He did, however, tell the truth and told it unapologetically. He told the truth in a manner that they (and all) could understand. Please read Mark 2:15-17 and see that when Jesus was criticized for even associating with publicans, sinners, and others, His answer was not a defense of their sin. He didn’t say, “At least they’re not hypocrites!” as some might’ve been tempted to say. His answer was straight-forward: “they need Me!”.

            Notice Jesus called them sick. He called them sinners and said they needed to repent (Mk. 2:17)! Can you imagine such language coming from the lips of the Lord? Yet, there it is. What impresses me is that these people seemed to follow Him in greater numbers the longer He was on earth. What had Jesus done? As we observe Jesus in Mark 2 and the rest of the book, we see Someone who showed compassion (Mk. 1:41, 5:19, 6:34, 8:2). He saw people who needed direction (Mk. 6:34) and saw sinners who needed salvation. The people responded to this genuine action and listened intently. What Jesus said in Mark 2:17 was not “new news” to them. They knew they were in sin, and now they knew that they had come to the right Person who could bring them salvation!

            What can I learn from this short reading? I can learn first to not be like the scribes and Pharisees. No one is “beneath” you. All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23). If you’ve been saved from your sins, then thank God for the salvation (Lk. 19:10; Mk. 16:16)! When you see people who aren’t saved, realize that you were in their shoes not that long ago. Someone loved you enough to tell you the truth. Now, love them enough to do the same (II Tim. 2:2; Eph. 4:15)!

            The second lesson I learn in Mark 2:15-17 is to be like Jesus in my speech! Folks who are in sin need to know it! Friend, “no greater injustice can be done to a person than to leave them with the impression they are saved, when in fact, they aren’t!” Jesus called the people sick, sinners, and in need of salvation. This is precisely what they needed to hear. If they hadn’t been told this, they might’ve left the presence of Jesus thinking that they were just fine. Dear one, when you talk to someone about their soul, remember that this part needs to be said. You can talk about the weather, crops, children, the government, and 1000 other things, but if you miss the chance to talk to someone about his soul, you’ve missed it! There’s nothing more important than the condition of one’s soul (Matt. 16:26)! Pleasant smiles, hugs, and being neighborly will mean little when on Judgment, they look at you and say in so many words, “You met me day by day and knew I was astray, yet you never mentioned Him to me!” I would much rather thousands of people on Judgment Day cry that I told them about Jesus and warned them about sin but hurt their feelings than to have one person say, “You never mentioned Him to me!” What about you?

A third thing I learn from Jesus was even when He spoke of people being sick and sinners, He didn’t seem happy about it! May we never take a condescending view of others in sin (Matt. 7:12, 22:39; Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:19-20; etc.). As we noted earlier, it wasn’t that long ago that we were in their position as well.

Lastly, I have to note that the message of Christ was a message for all. While it would’ve been easy for the Pharisees, scribes, and others to listen to Mark 2:17 and then think, “OK, this is why Jesus is with them.” If we listen closely to the response, it was actually a rebuke to those people as well. Think about it! Jesus said He came to call the sinners to repentance. Amen. Was He not also preaching to the Pharisees, scribes, and others when He was preaching those three years? Was there ever a time from Matthew-John where Jesus stopped His preaching to say, “Scribes and Pharisees, what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to you”? Jesus’ attitude was that those self-righteous people were as guilty of sin as the rest (Mk. 7:6-9)! They needed the same message because they needed the same Savior! Jesus suffered as a sacrifice for all men, not just for the ones on the “wrong side of the tracks”! They would’ve understood Jesus’ message here if they’d cared to listen, instead of wasting time pointing their fingers at others!

Much more could be said, but take what we’ve learned here and think seriously about our attitude. What kind of attitude are we displaying? Who’ve we told about Jesus this week? What efforts do we make to bring others to the Lord, beginning with those under our own roof (Eph. 6:4; Titus 2:3-5)? Think seriously about this, my friend, because the souls of those we love as well as our own souls hang in the balance (Ezek. 33:7-9)!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

"Earnestly Contend For The Faith."

Thursday, August 27, 2020

            Jude wrote to the Christians to tell them that though he intended to write a letter focusing on the common salvation that they have, he saw it necessary to write a letter that exhorts them to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (v. 3). In the letter, Jude lists several who refused the truth and disobeyed the faith delivered by faithful preachers and prophets (v. 4-19). In other words, these folks had no regard for the faith. Jude’s letter is an attempt to keep the brethren on the right track!

            Mr. Strong says that “earnestly contend” has to do with struggling. Thus, Jude’s point (through the Holy Spirit) is that it is the Christian’s responsibility to struggle for the faith. It was inspired by God (II Pet. 1:20-21), but we do not keep it with us by mere will. We must work to read and apply, as a “workman” (Eph. 3:4; II Tim. 2:15). Furthermore, we must be active in spreading this truth (II Tim. 2:2, 4:2). The seed (Lk. 8:11) will not sow itself! This word is twisted by many (Gal. 1:6-9; II Pet. 3:16), and denied by a majority (Jn. 18:38). Yet, it has outlived kingdoms for millennia (Matt. 24:35; I Pet. 1:25)! 

When Jude spoke of “the faith,” this is contrasted with one’s personal faith. “The faith” is God’s objective truth (“one faith,” Eph. 4:5) that was “once” or “once and for all” (ASV, CEV, ESV, ISV, NET) delivered to the saints. Since God’s word was given “once and for all,” it is unique. This word is complete or “perfect” (I Cor. 13:8-10). This “complete” word makes us complete (II Tim. 3:17; II Pet. 1:3). It feeds us (Heb. 5:12-14; I Pet. 2:2). It is our armor (Eph. 6:14-18). It is our guide (Ps. 119:105). It saves (Rom. 1:16; I Cor. 15:1-2). How can we not struggle to spread and defend this truth when it does so much for us? 

            Let us take heed to Jude’s exhortation and make sure we are contending earnestly for the faith. This is all the revelation we have! We’re not getting any more! Therefore, let us believe the word, obey the commands, trust the promises, and look forward to Heaven when this life is over! 

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

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