September 15, 2015

Not bribed to obey . . .

Micah 1:1–3:12, Acts 13:13–14:7, Job 22:14–30, 2 Timothy 3:12

I once thought that if I did everything God wanted, my life would be blessed and trouble-free. Now I realize this is not true. Job is the biblical example of a righteous man who suffered. So is Jesus Christ. He was perfect yet crucified. I also realize that giving people a false message will incur God’s wrath, but that does not mean that those who speak the truth will live in peace and without trouble.

Some OT ‘prophets’ gave a false message and faced God’s condemnation. Micah wrote, “Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths . . . . Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who detest justice and make crooked all that is straight, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the Lord and say, ‘Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.’ Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.” (Micah 3:5, 9–12)

God’s anger shows how important truth is to Him. However, God’s mercy and patience mean that His judgments may not appear right away. Some have described it this way: You can go through the supermarket of life and pick up whatever you want, but eventually you have to go through the checkout.

On the other hand, not all troubles are a result of personal sin. Job’s trials were to test his faith, but his ‘friends’ thought he was one of those wicked ones who had done something to deserve wrath. Eliphaz said to Job, “Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents, if you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed, then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways. For when they are humbled you say, ‘It is because of pride’; but he saves the lowly. He delivers even the one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.” (Job 22:21–30)

God later says that what these ‘friends’ spoke was not right. The gospel is not about us pulling up our bootstraps and living perfect lives. It is about being saved by grace, forgiven, given new life with Christ so we can walk with Him.

Jesus is the only one who lived a perfect life, yet even He did not live trouble-free. The jealous Jews found in Him no guilt worthy of death, yet they still asked Pilate to have him executed. (Acts 13:28)

When Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, His followers joyfully told everyone the good news. When whole cities gathered to hear, the Jews “saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles,’ . . . . And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.” (Acts 13:44-46, 49–50)

They went to another city and many Jews and Greeks believed. “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.” Still, they stayed for a long time, speaking boldly! And “the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.” Both Gentiles and Jews were determined to mistreat them, even to stone them to death. (Acts 14:1–5)

God blesses obedience, but He does not bribe His people to obey Him with promises of a carefree life. As His Word says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12). I am learning to obey God because I love and trust Him, not because He rewards my efforts.

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