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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

“What Will You Give In Exchange?”

Friday, December 18, 2020

            Our Lord Jesus asked His apostles, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk. 8:36-37). These questions of Christ get my attention. In an age when we are told that possessing material goods is the purpose of life, we need to go back and listen to the Lord’s words here.

            Please understand that one’s soul is his greatest possession. The eternal soul of man is of such value that Jesus died so that men’s souls might be saved (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 5:8-9). The eternal soul of man is just that -- eternal. It will last after this world is on fire (II Pet. 3:10)! It is the immortal soul that continues. “Then shall the dust (our bodies) return to the earth as it was,” but the spirit of man will return to God’s care  (Ecc. 12:7). Do we appreciate the true value of the soul?

            I am not sure we always appreciate the value of the soul. As I observe men, I see them exchange their eternal souls for doctrinal error (Gal. 1:6-9, 3:1; Rom. 16:17; II Pet. 2:1-3). I see others exchanging their souls for drinking and drugs (I Pet. 4:3-4; Prov. 20:1; Gal. 5:19-21). Still, others will exchange their souls for ungodly acts like stealing, fornication, homosexuality, and lying (I Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 21:8; Eph. 4:25-32). In other words, folks are saying that practicing these things are more important and are of a higher value than their souls’ salvation. Please reread Mark 8:36. What is actually gained when folks spend their lives in such sins?

            We are very short-sighted, aren’t we? We think satisfying the flesh will result in a satisfied soul. Nothing could be farther from the truth! The fact is that if someone were able to acquire all of the gold in the world, the silver, the diamonds, the precious gems, the money, etc., none of this would equal the value of his soul.

Some, though, don’t even need this much to exchange their souls! Some will jeopardize their souls and even deny plain Scriptures to avoid contradicting family members or some respected person (Jn. 1:11; Mk. 7:6, 8-9, 13). Some do it by yielding to others’ ungodly pressure rather than listening to God (Lk. 8:13; Jn. 12:42-43). Yet, others exchange their souls by going back into the world after learning the truth (Lk. 8:14; II Tim. 4:10)! (Notice that I added Scripture references to show that the problems that plague us are the same problems that plagued people in the first century!)

            Is it any wonder the words of Christ, not only in Mark 8 but throughout Scripture, are applicable today? Our needs and concerns are the same now as they were then. Our need to stand firm and hold tightly to our soul’s salvation is just as needed now as it ever was (I Thess. 5:21; II Tim. 1:13; Heb. 10:23)!

            Friend, what will you give in exchange for your soul? Could it be you have already done this? Some folks are exchanging their souls for personal pursuits, personal sins, and pleasing self, and they are being short-changed! Don’t allow this to happen to you!

            We can avoid this happening to us when we deny ourselves and follow the Lord (Mk. 8:34)! We can prevent this by determining to live by faith (Jn. 8:24; Heb. 11:6) and being baptized for the remission of sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). Then, we need to live a faithful life to the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). Let us present our bodies as “a living sacrifice” to God (Rom. 12:1-2). We can make sure that our souls are not exchanged for the wrong things, but these kinds of actions and decisions must be made today! Now (II Cor. 6:2)! Some wait until it is too late. Don’t be like them!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Twelve Baskets, Seven Baskets”

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

            On two occasions, Jesus fed a multitude of people. We estimate 10,000 or more were fed based on Mark 6:44 and Mark 8:8. I’m sure we’ve heard and read about these miracles in the past. In Mark 6, we learn that Jesus fed 5000 men (not counting women and children, Matt. 14:21), and in Mark 8, he said Jesus fed 4000. This was done with a tiny amount of food in comparison to those who needed to be fed. In Mark 5, Jesus fed the multitude with five barley loves and two small fish, while in Mark 8, we read that Jesus had seven loaves and a few fish.

            The miracle of feeding great numbers with a small amount of food is a wonderful event worthy of our awe and respect. Feeding 5000+ (Matt. 14:21) motivated some people to want to force Christ to be a king (Jn. 6:15). Yet, this wasn’t the point of the miracle(s). In fact, feeding these great numbers should have brought the people’s minds back to events that happened in Old Testament days. One such example is what Elisha did in II Kings 4:42-44.

            Of course, Christ’s compassion motivated Him to feed the people (Mk. 6:34, 8:2), and at the same time, this miracle would show people again that He is the Son of God, not merely a good teacher or a good leader. However, what gets my attention is that both times the miracle was performed, there were leftovers! Can you imagine this? Just having enough food to feed more than one person was something. Then to think of His ability to feed the people until they were full (Mk. 6:42, 8:8) is a miracle! Now, we read in Scripture that there was not only food, but enough to fill the people, and so much food that there were leftovers?? Amazing! Praise be to God!

            Could there be any significance to the fact that one miracle produced leftovers that filled twelve baskets while another filled seven baskets? That number hasn’t escaped my notice. Jesus didn’t say much about the result of those miracles except the time He chastised the apostles for not understanding what He meant by “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6-12, Mk. 8:14-21). However, could there be something worth considering when we think of the numbers 12 and 7? I am willing to discuss this, but could it be that twelve baskets were left so that the twelve apostles had something they could touch and remember? John 6:5-7 gives us some insight into the apostles’ attitude, and it seems they doubted how the people would get fed anyway. “Two hundred pennyworth” (nearly a year’s wages) wasn’t enough to feed everyone, Philip estimated. Thus, at the end of the miracle, each apostle had gathered a basket of food.

            The feeding of the 4000 resulted in seven baskets of leftovers (Mk. 8:8). To the Jews, “7” represented perfection. The perfect number of baskets leftover certainly would be the “perfect” end to a miracle where so many were fed.

            Even if you disagree with the application I made, I know we can all agree that Jesus is the One who can supply our needs (Matt. 6:25-33). He made this abundantly clear that He could feed the people so that they would be well-supplied for the journey to their homes. Jesus lived on this earth for 33 years, and He knows man’s physical and spiritual needs (Heb. 4:15). Beginning with a small amount and producing leftovers reminds me of God’s promise in Malachi 3:10 to His people.

            Jesus came to this world that men might “have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Isn’t the feeding of 5000 and 4000 object lessons of this truth? If Christ can provide abundant physical food, can we not also have abundant spiritual blessings? I believe so! Jesus has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3). Are we appreciative? Have we noticed what He has provided? Indeed, we have access to so much in the Lord that even the “leftovers” are more than anyone could fathom!

            Are you a Christian? If not, why not? The chasm and blackness that fills your soul can be filled and enlightened when you come to the Lord for salvation (Acts 2:38; Mk. 16:16)! Living the life of a Christian is a beautiful blessing wherein we have “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17). Do you believe the miracles occurred concerning the feeding of the masses? If so, what is stopping you from partaking of the spiritual food and spiritual water that can sustain you for eternity? Indeed, this is available in unlimited supply!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Thy Faith Hath Made thee Whole.”

Friday, December 11, 2020

            Interruptions are frustrating, aren’t they? Interruptions might slow us down or even stop us from doing what we’d planned to do. Someone has said that we ought not to be so frustrated by interruptions. Perhaps it is that this is the time God wants us to slow down and reconsider our plans.  I’m not sure we could say that’s true for every interruption, but perhaps this observation has some merit on occasions when God’s providence is at work.

            Have we ever noticed that Jesus was interrupted a lot in His work? One such interruption came in Mark 5:21-43. After Jesus returned from Gadara, on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, He was met by a great crowd. Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, fought the people to ask Christ to heal his daughter, who was very sick (v. 23). As Jesus traveled to Jairus’ house, a lady who’d been stricken with illness for 12 years came to Him and touched the hem of his garment for healing (v. 28-29).

Her act stopped Jesus. It interrupted the trip to Jairus’ house in that moment. Her action wasn’t unknown to Jesus. He is God and knows all (Jn. 2:25, 6:64; Acts 15:18;  Heb. 4:13). His question to her wasn’t unlike the question God asked in the Garden (Gen. 3:9). His question caused her to stop and she confessed to what she had done when she interrupted Him (Mk. 5:33).

            Notice Christ’s response to this lady. “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace and be whole of thy plague” (Mk. 5:34). This interruption did more than just stop Jesus. It allowed Him to do some vital teaching. In this account, He taught the apostles, and teaches us!

What does Christ teach us in Mark 5? He teaches us that the faith that saves isn’t merely a mental assent. If this woman had stood out of the way and merely stated her belief to others that Jesus could heal her, it would’ve done nothing for her. She had to act! James teaches us the same truth when he declares, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24) and “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:26)!

            When we study this short but powerful interruption, we see a woman who definitely believed that Jesus is the Son of God. This is why she decided to go and meet Jesus. She fought the crowd (Mk. 5:27). She reached for Christ’s garment (Mk. 5:28), trusting that even to touch His garment meant healing. Later, she’d confess what she did (Mk. 5:33). Therefore, after she’d believed and acted on this faith by going to where Jesus was, fighting the crowds, and touching His garment, she then confessed her faith to Christ. In response, Jesus commended her saying, “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mk. 5:34).

            Yes, friends, the faith that saves is the faith that obeys! It motivates us to act when we might not have acted otherwise. This is Bible faith! Do you have Bible faith? If not, why not? Without this, we can’t please God (Heb. 11:6). How do we get such faith? Faith comes by hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17), and then this faith grows by being exercised (Heb. 11; Rom. 16:1-15)! What kind of faith do you have? Is it living or dead (Jas. 2:26)? Are we acting on our faith as the woman did in Mark 5, or are we too afraid?

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Let’s Pass To The Other Side.”

Thursday, December 10, 2020

            The words of Christ to His apostles before they started across Galilee (Mk. 4:35) didn’t hit me in my younger days like they do today. Experience has taught me a few things, as well as deeper Bible studies! Those words mean something because the word of God is powerful (Heb. 4:12). It’s these words in Mark 4:35 that bring meaning to the words in Mark 4:40. You see, it wasn’t merely the fact that Jesus was getting after the apostles for their lack of faith in a general sense. Jesus was chastising them for not believing the words He’d spoken before they’d ever left shore! We know that “faith cometh by hearing” (Rom. 10:17). The apostles had heard the words of Christ but hadn’t believed Him! This is why He said they had no faith.

            Please understand, “Let us pass over to the other side” was just as powerful a statement as any other Christ uttered. Why do I say this? It is because Christ’s words have power. The power that can call the world into existence (Gen. 1-2) told the apostles, “Let’s go!” Regardless of the outward circumstances (Mk. 4:37), if Jesus says this boat is going to the other side, then it’s going! There is no storm, wave, wind, famine, fire, or flood that’ll stop it from happening! Did those in the “other little ships” hear those words from the mouth of Christ (Mk. 4:36)? The text doesn’t say, but either way, following Christ meant safe passage to the other side (Mk. 5:1)!

            My question is a simple one: “Do you believe the words Christ has spoken or are you like the apostles on this day?” For example, Jesus has said:
 

  • “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). How do you respond to these words? Do you accept or reject them?
  • “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9). How do you respond? Have you found two, three, or many other exceptions to God’s rule of one man and one woman for life (Matt. 19:4-6)?
  • “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). How do you respond? Are you too busy getting vengeance against others to listen to the Lord’s words here? Have you convinced yourself that this way wouldn’t work “in the real world”?

Of course, He had many more things to say that demand our attention, faith, and obedience. Yet, these examples above make a crucial point. Christ’s word is just as powerful and just as authoritative as it ever was (Col. 3:17)! Do we believe this? If we say we believe, then why do we fight against His words?

            Let’s remember that the One who cast demons out with a word is the same One who said “Let’s go to the other side.” The One who healed people of their physical illnesses is the same One who wants to save you from spiritual illness and has made salvation possible through the instructions in the gospel (Rom. 1:16)!

            These apostles faced a hard situation on the sea of Galilee. Yet, they needed to trust in the Lord, who said they were going to the other side. Have you read Psalm 23:4 lately? Might there be some applications of this verse to the events in Mark 4:35-41? Now let’s get personal -- might there be some applications of Psalm 23:4 to your life? Do we say the “right thing” but not live it? The Lord has promised His church (Acts  2:47) that we’ll be in Heaven one day if we remain faithful (Rom. 2:7; Rev. 2:10; I Cor. 15:58). Will we trust these words and be patient in this world, enduring our problems (Mk. 13:13; Heb. 3:14)? Or will we be like the apostles in Mark 4 and falter for a lack of faith?

            Just as it was 2000 years ago, and as it has been since Genesis 3, so also it is today, the choice is ours! What will we choose? Hebrews 10:39 says, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” May this be our cry today! Christ has told us to “go,” so let’s go!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

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