God’s Faithfulness

I took this picture in Glacier National Park while driving the Going to the Sun Road. I added a purple filter for the fun of it. 🙂 The scenery here is spectacular. I saw two mountain goats on the side of the hill right before my family drove through a tunnel. Of course, this would be the one time I didn’t have my camera ready. Maybe next time! Wishing you a wonderful week!

Second Chances (Jonah 3)

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’” –Jonah 3:1-2

Jonah 3 is a glorious reminder of God’s grace and mercy. You may read Jonah 3 here: Bible Gateway.

Although God’s deliverance of Jonah involved a fish vomiting him out (Jonah 2:10), he was given another chance to fulfill His purpose. And though Jonah’s heart remained callous in going to Nineveh, he must have been filled with awe that God would still choose him to be the first missionary to a pagan people.

The Bible contains many second chance stories. Here are a couple of examples of God gracing individuals with His mercy.

Aaron

Aaron—Moses’ brother—may have seemed to spend more time on the sidelines compared to Moses. But God still had a high calling on his life. He not only served as Moses’ mouthpiece before Pharaoh, but also served as a pillar of support. When Moses became weary, Aaron helped hold up his hands in prayer as the Israelites waged war against the Amalekites.

While Moses received God’s instructions on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 28) of Aaron’s garment design and his consecration, things began to sour back at camp. Exodus 32:1-5 tells of the Israelites’ rebellion. Moses must have been shocked, but God knew of their rebellious theatrics all along. However, God still gave Aaron a second chance by allowing him to serve as Israel’s first high priest. He would be mediator between God and His chosen people. (The Great Discipline highlights the consequences of those who chose to remain in rebellion, along with the fate of those who returned to God.)

Sarah

God gave Abraham’s wife, Sarah, a promise: She would become a mother of an entire nation of people through her own son. Although Abraham and Sarah displayed extraordinary faith in God by leaving Ur to go to an unknown place, the news that she would birth a son in her old age—after years of infertility—resulted in laughter. After waiting 10 years, Sarah decided to help God out by offering Abraham her maidservant Hagar. The result? An illegitimate son, Ishmael, was born. Although God would still bless Ishmael, the chosen seed belonged to another. Heartache and stress resulted from their decision to forge ahead of God’s time table. But God still blessed Sarah by enabling her to give birth to the promised son (Gen. 17:17-21).

Hopefully you are on track with God’s plan and not slipping down the slide of rebellion as Jonah did, (or dodge God’s directive(s) like I’ve done before). Although there are consequences for our disobedience, I’m so glad God is a second-chance-giver. Yes, He is the Great Judge, but He is also the Master Mender, Beauty-for-ashes Exchanger, and Hope Healer. Restoration is ours when we return to Him. Do you recall a time when God gave you another chance to fulfill something He asked of you?

Exodus

Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden.” – Eric Hoffer (The True Believer)

“You’re free to go!” For some prisoners who have been enslaved for years, freedom must feel like a breath of fresh air. But for others, the loss of familiar surroundings and embarking on a new journey is an unsettling and overwhelming experience.

Leading up to God’s salvation story, Exodus describes a series of God’s call to freedom and how his people respond.

Four hundred years have passed since Joseph’s family moved and thrived in Egypt. After multiplying to over two million strong and being enslaved to cruel bondage under a new Pharaoh, God responds to the Israelites’ cries. The time is ripe to send His leader, Moses, to set His people free from their oppression and bring them into their inheritance (Duet. 4:37-38).

God’s people, however, fail in their newfound freedom. They repeatedly falter after short bursts of confidence in God, their fear chipping away their trust. What was a consequence of their disobedience and lack of faith? Wandering in the desert for 40 years.

God, however, continues to faithfully provide and extends His gracious hand of deliverance.

Warren W. Wiersbe in his Bible Study, Be Delivered writes: “Exodus teaches us that freedom is not license and discipline is not bondage. God tells us how to enjoy mature freedom in His will, a quality that is desperately needed in our churches and in our world today. The privilege of freedom is precious, the responsibilities of freedom are serious, and we can’t have one without the other.”

Exodus was written about the same time as Genesis, around 1450-1410 B.C. Scholars believe that Moses wrote these accounts in the desert—somewhere in the Sinai peninsula—during Israel’s desert wanderings. This book contains the Ten Commandments and relays more miracles than any other Old Testament book, including the famous account of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.

Reflect

Freedom is the theme of Exodus.

Deliverance is the theme in Exodus.

Just as God heard the Israelites’ cries, we can also be confident He hears our prayers. God led Moses and the Israelite nation. He also wants to lead us. Just as He delivered the Israelites, He wants to deliver us from evil, sin, and eternal death (separation from Him).

As you read Exodus, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I believe God’s promise, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness?” (2 Cor. 12:9).
  • Do I trust God in this situation?
  • Whether it be through deliverance or given strength to endure, do I believe God really loves me and will work all things together for my good?” (Rom. 8:28).

We can rest in the fact that our powerful God loves us and He will never leave us. For faithfulness is the cornerstone of who He is.

God’s Faithfulness, Romans 3:1-8

There’s no camouflage here. The apostle Paul paints a bleak portrait of our sin against the canvas of God’s brilliant holiness. In the previous two chapters, Paul chisels away at the common excuses people use to justify they’re not sinners: 1) “There is no God” (1:18-32), 2) “I’m better than others” (2:1-16), 3) “I’m religious, or a church member” (2:17-29).

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this "Deadly Sins" t-shirt.  Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this “Deadly Sins” t-shirt. Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Paul Defends With Four Questions

This chapter begins with Paul strengthening his defensive stance: All stand guilty before God.

It’s as though he’s tackling an imaginary opponent who is blitzing him with objections on his previous points of Jewish “lostness”. In classic Paul style, he fires back with four questions:

  1. What advantage has the Jew? (vs. 1-12) Paul’s statement about real circumcision and true Jewish identity undoubtedly sent shock waves throughout the congregation (2:25-29). They would naturally have questions. Paul answers this question: “Much in every way!” The Jews were chosen first to model and share God’s words in the Old Testament. (Paul later lists other advantages in Rom. 9:1-5.)
  2. Does Jewish unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? (vs. 3-4) Paul answers: “Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar.” (“Not at all!” has been translated as “Far from it!”) In chapter 2, Paul described the hardened Jews who talked the Law talk, but failed to walk the Law walk (2:21-24). They were faithless to the covenant God made with them. Paul cites part of Psalm 51:4 to prove God’s vindication in judgment.
  3. Is not God unjust to impose His wrath upon us? The imaginary objector proposed that his sin provided a contrast to God’s righteousness, thus highlighting God’s holiness. Paul answers: “Certainly not!” Shepherd’s Notes says it well: “If that were so, how could God judge the world? The moral governorship of the universe was at stake with such an absurd charge.”
  4. Does not my falsehood cause God’s truth to abound? This question is similar to #3. This reasoning feeds the lie: “Let us do evil so good may shine forth.” (vs. 8) What is Paul’s response to this twisted concept? “Their condemnation is deserved.”
So What?

God doesn’t need our sin to highlight His holiness. Instead, He wants us to reflect His love and goodness.

The Mosaic Law, which God gave to show us how to live, convicts us of our sin. The Law, however, is not our source of hope—God is.

We can’t earn God’s love; He freely offers us forgiveness and eternal life through faith in His son, Jesus Christ—not through observance of the Law.

The “Israel” beyond Israel, Romans 9:19-29

Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” – Romans 9:1, NIV

This passage—like last week’s—is difficult to understand.

After Paul attributes God’s dealings of mercy and judgment by using Moses and Pharaoh as examples, he continues his defense as if he is sparring with an imaginary opponent.

Paul writes (of his imaginary opponent): “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists His will?” (vs. 19).

Paul answers: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?

“Then I went to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:3-6, NASB

“Then I went to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:3-6, NASB

“Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (vs. 20-21).

In this context Paul asks the hypothetical question in verses 22-24: What if God makes His power known to those He bestows mercy through His judgment on those destined for His wrath?

Paul refers to Old Testament passages in verses 25-29 to show: 1) God will redeem some Gentiles (Hosea 2:23; 1:10), and 2) only a remnant of believing Jews will be saved (Isaiah 10:22-23; 1:9).

So What?
  • Paul isn’t implying that some people are more valuable than others. But his tone does suggest: “God is God. Who is eligible to measure His actions and decisions?” Like the sculpted pottery, our very existence and function depend upon God.
  • God chose Israel to serve His sovereign purposes. Everything in God’s redemptive history can be attributed to His faithfulness to the promise He gave Abraham and his descendants.
  • God has graciously extended an invitation to all people, (Jews and Gentiles), to become part of His family through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.