Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Deceptive Pride

"The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, 'Who can bring me down to the ground?'"
     -- Obadiah 3

In his book, Obadiah warns the Edomites that the pride of their hearts has deceived them. In the recent past, they had boasted at their might and at Israel's recent defeat by an enemy nation. Edom prided itself in being hidden and well-fortified in the mountains around Judah. But here, the LORD says through Obadiah that the pride of their hearts has deceived them. They trusted in themselves instead of in God. Because of this, they had a false sense of security. This resulted in the destruction of Edom in the years following Obadiah's vision.
How often do we trust in our own abilities instead of in Jesus? When we do, we deceive ourselves with the pride of our hearts. We fool ourselves! Just like the Edomites relied on their rocky fortifications, we rely on our emotions, our good deeds, our reason, you name it! Our pride deceives us. But Jesus delivers us from our pride. "Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the LORD's" (Obadiah 21). Jesus is our deliverer, and heaven is his kingdom. And because he has delivered us from our deceitful sin, we will dwell in this kingdom as well.

-- Jonathan

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Minor Prophet Pushing Major Repentance and Mercy

"The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel."
     -- Joel 3:16

The book of Joel, like so many other prophetic books, is incredibly rich with language of repentance followed by restoration. Joel begins his book by assuring us that this is indeed the word of God that came to him (1:1). He continues by speaking of the sins of Judah, and their immediate result: an army of locusts that has devastated the nation. Joel speaks gently to his people, speaking the truth with loving respect, but not skimping out on the penetrating Law Judah needed. He called them to repent, pleading with them to rend their hearts to God instead of to sin (2:12-13). The reader almost gets the impression that the tender-hearted Joel is begging them to turn to their LORD. Following Judah's repentance, God answers them with abounding grace and blessings, for which one can tell Joel is eternally thankful.
Joel has a lot to say to us. It's a shame his book rarely gets cracked open. St. Peter found it worthy to base his first sermon on, leading the way for Christian preaching that came in the millenia following the first Pentecost. The message of repentance and restoration has its roots in Genesis 3, and continues to be preached by faithful pastors today. And while we don't experience earthly punishments such as locusts for our sin today, sin is equally destructive to our lives now as it was then. Joel does well to lead us to repentance. And in this Christmas season, we find our joy in the grace Jesus won for us on his cross, and the restoration that will come on, as Joel says, "the Day of the LORD." The LORD dwells in our hearts as surely as he dwells in Zion (3:21).

-- Jonathan