13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. 14 And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel. 15 Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal (Joshua 10:13–15, NKJV).
I am writing this on the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice. This natural event reminds us of a day that was not natural but miraculous when the sun stood still. That day of battle between Israel and the Amorites dramatically displayed the presence, power, and purpose of Jehovah. God fought for Israel that day against five kings and “routed them before Israel” (Josh. 10:10). The Lord also “cast down large hailstones from heaven” against the enemies of His people (Josh. 10:11). As Israel fought, God assured the victory. We look to God for the “power of His might” to overwhelm the strength of Satan, sin, and death (Eph. 6:10; 1 John 3:8; 1 Cor. 15:56-57). He will “never leave you nor forsake you” in your trials and spiritual conflicts against the enemies of righteousness (Heb. 13:5; Rom. 8:35-39). But we must fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12; Eph. 6:11-17). God, who controls the seasons also fights for His people. He does so, not by miraculously stopping the sun again, but by the daily brilliance of His love, providence, and truth. So, let us put our faith in Him and be victorious (1 John 5:4).
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:1–3, NKJV).
Israel was lost. Only the gospel of Christ, not the Law of Moses, would save them (Rom. 1:16; Acts 4:12). Therefore Paul, himself a Jew who previously persecuted Christians, earnestly desired and prayed for their salvation. He was convinced their zeal for God did not save them. Misguided by their allegiance to the Law, they refused to submit to God’s plan of salvation. Even now, many religious people who are zealous for God contradict the gospel in their zeal (Matt. 7:21-23). We should not confuse passion for God with God’s approval. Scripture says God wants sinners to be saved and “to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). God will not save us from our sins when we are ignorant of the truth of Christ (John 8:24). The example of Israel warns us not to establish our own way of salvation like they did (“their own righteousness,” Rom. 10:3). They believed their salvation was through the Law of Moses and rejected “the righteousness of faith” revealed in the gospel (Rom. 10:4-8). We must be careful not to make a similar error. We must submit to God’s righteousness by faith in Christ and obedience to His gospel (Rom. 10:3, 9-13; 6:17-18). Then we can be confident of our salvation, regardless of whether we are a Jew or a Gentile (Rom. 8:1-2; Gal. 3:26-29).
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36, NKJV).
Why did the house of Israel crucify Jesus? The Messiah they longed for came to them, and Israel rejected Him (John 1:11). The fundamental reason the rulers and the mob crucified the Lord of glory was their unbelief (1 Cor. 2:7-9; Matt. 27:23-25). They did not believe Christ’s report (message) even after seeing His works (Isa. 53:1; John 12:37-40; 5:31-47). Neither did they believe the prophets who foretold of the Messiah (John 5:39-40; Luke 4:16-29). Notably, Peter said, “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). They were without knowledge (ignorant), not because the truth was unavailable to them, but because they chose to ignore it. The house of Israel ignored the truth of God and crucified the Savior in their unbelief. (1) They ignored the prophets (Acts 3:18). They ignored the words of Jesus (John 8:37-47). (3) They ignored the works of Jesus (John 10:31-39). Even many rulers who believed refused to confess Jesus to avoid being rejected by men (John 12:42-43). We point out Israel’s unbelief to warn the Israel of God (the church, Gal. 6:16; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:4-5). Christians can develop evil hearts of unbelief and fall from the living God (Heb. 3:12). When we sin willfully “after we have received the knowledge of the truth,” a “certain fearful expectation of judgment” and “fiery indignation” awaits (Heb. 10:26-27, 31). Ignorance is not a justifiable defense. Do not ignore the Messiah and His gospel. “Repent and be converted,” and live faithfully to Christ each day (Acts 3:19; 2:37-42).
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NKJV)
God had a complaint against Israel (Micah 6:1-2). Despite His righteous acts of deliverance from Egypt, the nation had turned away from Him (Micah 6:3-5; 1 Sam. 12:7-8). They would not appease God by multiplying burnt offerings. Even offering one’s firstborn to Him would be insufficient (Micah 6:6-7). God wanted Israel’s faithful devotion in heart and conduct. He still does (Mark 12:30-31; Acts 10:34-35). Micah 6:8 is a template for God-approved character brought to fullness in the new covenant of Christ. (1) He has shown you. God’s word reveals His will, and we must give attention to it (Heb. 1:2; 2:3-4). We must do His will, not our own (Matt. 7:21-23). (2) What is good. God is good and shows us what is good (Ps. 73:1). Israel’s rulers had perverted justice by hating good and loving evil (Micah 3:1-2). We are to hear and do what God says is good (Heb. 13:20-21; Eph. 2:10). (3) What does the Lord require of you? Yes, the Lord has requirements (commands) we must keep (John 14:15, 21-23). (4) Do justly. With fairness and integrity, justice must guide our treatment of others (Matt. 5:33-37; 7:12). (5) Love mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). (6) Walk humbly with your God. The lowly in heart walk with God, but pride brings destruction (Col. 3:12; James 4:6, 10; Prov. 16:18). Let us live in Christ, so God has no complaint against us (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:5).
29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29–32, NKJV).
Simeon confidently waited with hope for the Messiah, the “Consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25). By revelation, the Holy Spirit told him he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:26). Simeon took the child in his arms in the temple and praised God with stirring words that still fill our hearts with joy and hope. Simeon saw God’s promised salvation in the Child Jesus (v. 30; Isa. 51:1-6). The salvation he saw was not national victory over the Roman occupation of their land. God’s salvation for Israel was deliverance from their sins (Matt. 1:21). This salvation was not only for Israel but also for the Gentiles (v. 32). Jesus, the light of the world, would shine His truth brightly upon Israel and the nations (Isa. 9:1-2; Matt. 4:13-17; John 1:4; 8:12). God prepared salvation from the clutches of sin and death (1 Cor. 2:9). The birth of Jesus was an integral part of God’s preparations to redeem us from sin (Heb. 10:5, 10). Our hope in Christ is sure and steadfast because salvation is sure in Him (Heb. 6:19-20; Acts 4:12). Like Simeon, may we never grow weary but “eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20; Heb. 9:28).
32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness (Numbers 14:32–33, NKJV).
The children of Israel rebelled against the Lord by refusing to trust Him and enter Canaan (Num. 13-14). Because of Israel’s sin, none of that generation, except Caleb and Joshua, would see the land God promised their fathers (Num. 14:23-24, 29-30). They would die in the wilderness, and their children would enter the land of promise (Num. 14:31-32). A couple of principles of truth rise to the surface for our attention. (1) The sinner is accountable for his sins. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). Children do not bear the guilt of their father’s sin. The doctrine of inherited depravity is itself depraved, corrupt, and false (Rom. 5:12). (2) The innocent often suffer due to the sins of others. The offspring of the wilderness rebels bore the brunt of their parents’ infidelity during forty years of wilderness wandering (Num. 14:33). Untold numbers of innocent souls continue to suffer the consequences of foolish, faithless people. For example, all humanity suffers physical pain, toil, and death as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin (Gen. 3:16-19). Do not confuse guilt and accountability for sin with the consequences and effects sin has on others. All have sinned, and Christ is our salvation from sin’s guilt and eternal death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). And, the fact that our sin affects others is a reason to resist evil and not rebel against God.
1 You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. 2 You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. 3 You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute (Exodus 23:1–3, NKJV).
We are not under the Law of Moses since God took it “out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14). Still, our hope is strengthened by learning patience and comfort from what was written to Israel (Rom. 15:4). So it is with today’s passage. God said to Israel, “You shall be holy men to Me” (Exod. 22:31). Therefore, God commanded Israel to (1) Be honest (Exod. 23:1). Do not circulate a false report against your neighbor. Do not join the wicked in bearing unrighteous testimony against others. Spreading falsehoods by gossip, backbiting, or other forms of slander is not holy conduct (Eph. 4:24-25). (2) Be just (Exod. 23:2). Stand firmly against the peer pressure of the mob that twists justice and calls evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20). Treat everyone with fairness. Holiness leads us to treat others as we wish to be treated (Matt. 7:12). (3) Be impartial (Exod. 23:3). Settling disputes requires impartiality. Like Israel, we should not let circumstances (poor, rich, etc.) sway our decisions about right and wrong or how we treat others (James 2:1-4). Impartiality is a mark of holiness made possible by being honest and just. This triplet, honesty, justice, and impartiality would serve Israel well in loving their neighbors as themselves. Even so, may we be honest, just, and impartial, patiently securing our hope by being holy in all our conduct (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:16–19, NKJV).
Read today’s passage again, carefully. The writer has urged Christians to “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” Israel’s sins and failure to enter the rest of the promised land warns us (Heb. 3:6-15). Now, he summarizes for emphasis; Christians can fall and fail to enter God’s rest like Israel. (1) Israel rebelled after hearing God’s word (v. 16). We must hear God’s word, but that alone does not bring our souls into God’s rest. (2) God’s people do not escape wrath and punishment when they sin and rebel against God (v. 17). Israel’s sin stirred God’s wrath against them, and they died in the wilderness. Even so, Christians who “depart from the living God” will face His wrath (Heb. 3:12-13). (3) Without obedience, God’s people do not enter God’s rest (v. 18). Disobedient, rebellious Israel stands as a stark warning that Christians cannot live in disobedience without forfeiting eternal rest (Heb. 2:1-3; Matt. 10:28). (4) Unbelief is identified by disobedience (v. 19). Far from separating unbelief and disobedience, the Holy Spirit joined the two here. Unbelief produced Israel’s disobedience and God’s punishment (the forfeiture of Canaan’s rest). Even so, belief produces obedience leading to God’s eternal rest in heaven. Let us learn and live the lesson of Israel in the wilderness, lest we fall short of God’s rest like they did (Heb. 4:1, 11).
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. 7 For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: 8 Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness (Psalm 95:6–8, NKJV).
Today’s passage depicts prostrate worshipers bent in obeisance, giving the Almighty reverential deference and honor. Worship is not a performance for God or people. Turning worship into entertainment dilutes and profanes the holiness of God (see Lev. 10:1-3). True worship is offered to God as the worshiper humbly and thankfully acknowledges His hand of guidance, provisions, and protection. Worshipers recall God is our Maker, both of flesh and spirit (Isa. 42:15; Zech. 12:1). We are God’s sheep in Christ, saved by the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14). Therefore, God’s people listen to and follow His voice (v. 7; John 10:27). The example of Israel worshiping the golden calf and murmuring against the Lord reminds us how quickly the hearts of worshipers can become hardened against God (Exod. 32:1-8). Mindful of this warning, God’s true worshipers assess their hearts, listen to His word, and offer Him the worship He designed, worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24; Acts 2:42). The psalmist’s call to worship still rings true, “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods” (Ps. 95:2-3).
1 Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. 2 After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. 3 Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth” (Hosea 6:1–3, NKJV).
The prophet Hosea set out God’s case against Israel and her sins against Him (Hosea 4:1). His people had betrayed His love and turned to her lovers (Hosea 2:2, 4-5; 4:11-12). What could Israel do to avoid punishment for her adulterous idolatry (Hosea 2:12-13)? “Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts (Hosea 2:2).” Only by returning to the Lord could the nation escape the outcome of her sins. But there was “no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land” (Hosea 4:1). Israel had “ceased obeying the Lord” and joined herself to the idols (Hosea 4:10, 17-19). Judgment was certain (Hosea 8:7-13). God continues to seek His lost sheep, calling His people to come back to Him when they fall into sin (Matt. 18:10-14). The Lord will revive the heart of the fallen when they “return to the Lord” with repentant, prayerful confession of their sins to Him (Acts 8:22-24; 1 John 1:9). The Lord’s hand can reach and restore the fallen who return to Him and forsake their sin (Isa. 59:1-2; Luke 15:11-24). He will revive and receive every soul that comes to Him (Matt. 11:28-30).