2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:2–3, NKJV)
Israel’s wilderness wanderings tested their faith in the Lord God. Would they obey Him? Or would they rebel in disobedience when faced with hardships, setbacks, and uncertainties? God disciplined their hearts through the trial of hunger and by the blessing of daily manna (and other provisions, Deut. 8:4-6). God meant for their trials and blessings to humble them and turn their hearts to Him. God taught Israel by trials and blessings to live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” God also lovingly teaches and corrects us by trials and blessings, like parents who love their children, Heb. 12:4-11). Life is more than bread. Life is more than comfort. Like Israel, life with God that lasts forever comes from God when we obey Him. Jesus knew this when the devil tempted Him to sin (Matt. 4:3-4). Let us accept God’s training during times of trial and blessing that we may humbly obey the Lord God and live with Him now and forever.
1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, 3 And gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. (Psalm 107:1–3, NKJV)
Redemption by the Lord from the grip of the enemy arouses thanksgiving in the recipients of His mercy. Psalm 107 rehearses God’s merciful deliverance of Israel from their Babylonian exile back to Canaan. God took them from “the hand of the enemy,” gathering a remnant from every place they were scattered, redeeming them from captivity. Israel had “rebelled against the words of God” and suffered greatly because of it (Psa. 107:10-12). But, when “they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, He saved them out of their distresses” (Psa. 107:13). God is merciful and forgives when we turn from sin to Him. If God has redeemed you from sin’s bondage, give thanks for His goodness! If you are still in the clutches of sin, then call on the name of the Lord for mercy and forgiveness (Acts 2:21, 37-41; 22:16). As He did for Israel, even so now God is gathering redeemed souls from the four corners of the earth by the gospel of Christ (Isa. 11:11-16; Mk. 16:15-16; Rom. 1:16; 11:5). “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”
10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. 11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. (Psalm 33:10–12, NKJV)
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” is often cited as a benediction on behalf of nations today (for example, America). It is true that any nation that honors God will be blessed (Prov. 14:34). But, please note the contextual application of the great declaration of this passage. It sets the plans of the nations in contrast with the plans of Jehovah. The Lord rules over the nations of men, and no counsel prepared and executed by men will ever overthrow His sovereign counsel (Jer. 18:5-11; Dan. 4:25, 34-35). The nations and their rulers vainly plotted against the Lord and His Anointed, Jesus Christ, whom He raised from the dead and crowned at His right hand as Ruler over His people (Psa. 2:1-9; 110:1-2; Acts 2:30-36; 4:23-28). The people God “has chosen as His own inheritance” in today’s passage no doubt initially applied to the nation of Israel (v. 12; Exo. 19:5-6). But now, with Jesus Christ ruling as King of God’s kingdom (the church), “the nation whose God is the Lord” is the church (Matt. 16:18-19; Heb. 12:22-23; Gal. 6:16). The church of Christ is God’s “holy nation,” and therefore, we must honor and obey the Lord’s will to be His blessed people (1 Pet. 2:9-10; Jno. 18:36).
6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. (Romans 9:6–8, NKJV)
God showed His faithfulness by fulfilling His promise to Abraham that “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). The gospel of Christ reveals this promised blessing as salvation from sins “for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel also makes it clear the “children of the promise” are now the children of God. The promised blessing is obtained in Jesus Christ, not as a Jew under the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:16-19). Whether Jew or Gentile, “we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” not through the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:23-27). The nation of Israel is no longer God’s chosen people. God chose us “in Christ” for redemption, regardless of race (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). In Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Being a citizen of the nation of Israel does not make one a child of God. The church is now the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:15-16).
12 When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:12–15, NKJV)
Acts of worship do not conceal evil hearts and sinful conduct from the eyes of God. God took no pleasure in the many sacrifices Israel offered Him (Isa. 1:10-11). Her heart was far from God; her hands were full of death (Isa. 29:13). Even when Israel offered sacrifices and observed days taught in God’s law, He refused them. This shows contempt for God and for His holy worship. True worship must combine a pure heart of reverent honor for God with the acts of worship God’s word approves. This is worship “in spirit and truth.” This is the worshiper God continues to seek (Jno. 4:23-24).
18 Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. 19 And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment. (Acts 13:18–19, NKJV)
God keeps His promises. He had promised to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:7; 13:14-15, 15:7, 18). Many believe God did not entirely keep His land promise. They expect Him to give Israel the land in the future. However, time and again, the Scriptures say God fulfilled His land promise. He has already given Israel the land He promised them. To expect God to do so in the future denies His word. Hear God’s word: 1) Paul said God distributed their land to them. “He distributed their land to them.” 2) Israel received the land under Joshua. “So the Lord gave Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it: (Josh. 21:43, 4-45; cf. 11:23; 23:14). 3) Solomon’s rule corresponded with the promised land (Gen. 15:18; 1 Kgs. 4:21). 4) The psalmist confirmed God gave Israel “the lands of the Gentiles” (Psa. 105:11, 42-44). 5) Jeremiah said God gave them the land He swore to their fathers (Jer. 32:21-23). 6) Nehemiah records God’s fulfillment of the land promise (Neh. 9:7-8). In the face of multiple declarations that God fulfilled His land promise, millions of souls cling to the false hope of the false doctrine of premillennialism that God will one day keep His word. He already did. We reject the failed framework of false doctrines that force one to conclude God did not keep His word.
4 Remember me, O Lord, with the favor You have toward Your people. Oh, visit me with Your salvation, 5 That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, that I may glory with Your inheritance. (Psalm 106:4–5, NKJV)
God’s historic goodness toward Israel is recited in Psalm 106. From Egypt, to the wilderness, to the land of promise, and to their exile among the Gentiles, Israel repeatedly repaid God’s favor with rebellion. “Many times He delivered them; But they rebelled in their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity” (Psa. 106:43). Yet, God “regarded their affliction,” remembered His covenant when they cried to Him, and showed them mercy among their captors (Psa. 106:44-46). The unrelenting goodness of God compels us to learn from Israel and live faithfully in His blessings under the covenant of Christ. Today, the Israel of God is the church – those who are of the faith of Abraham, not of the flesh of Abraham (Gal. 6:16; 4:21-31; Rom. 2:28-29; 4:12, 16). Those who serve the Lamb of God share in His powerful victory over Satan and his cohorts, for we are “called, chosen, and faithful” (Rev. 17:14). God offers this salvation to the world through Jesus Christ. In Christ we are the recipients of God’s grace, we gladly rejoice as His nation, and we glory in our inheritance (cf. Psa. 106:5; Eph. 1:3-7; 1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 9:15; 1 Pet. 1:3-4). Just as God gathered a remnant of Israel from the Gentiles, the church is gathered by the gospel as a remnant of grace from the nations. We thank God for His power and triumph in His praise (Psa. 106:47; Rom. 11:5; Isa. 11:11). Truly God’s mercy is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psa. 106:48).
22 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:22–26, NKJV)
This priestly blessing drew Israel’s attention to the presence of Jehovah and His providence over them. Israel was favored when the Lord God was with her, guarding the nation and being gracious to His people. As the sun warms the body, the face of the Lord looked mercifully in love and salvation upon the souls of His chosen ones (Psa. 27:1; 44:3). (But, the Lord’s face was turned against Israel when the nation sinned against Him, resulting in destruction and death, Deut. 31:17-18; Psa. 34:16.) This priestly blessing would remind the Israelites to keep their faith focused on the Lord God as their Provider, Protector, and Giver of peace. Surely these things have been written for our sake (1 Cor. 9:10; 10:11; Rom. 15:4). Christ’s church is the Israel of God, with Christians composing a royal priesthood (Gal. 6:16; 1 Pet. 2:9). The Lord shines down His eternal favors of grace and salvation to us, His children, compelling us to walk in the warm light of His truth (Jno. 8:12). We are “kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” and inherit a blessing when we are faithful to the Lord (1 Pet. 1:5; 3:8-12).
15 For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not, 16 And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses”— Therefore you shall flee! And, “We will ride on swift horses”— Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!” (Isaiah 30:15–16, NKJV)
God extended the blessings of repentance to Israel in spite of being “a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord” (Isa. 30:9). Even though they told God’s prophets, “Do not speak to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isa. 30:10), God was willing to save them if only they would repent. Yet, they sought alliances with Egypt instead of reliance upon the Lord (Isa. 30:1-7). We are also tempted to rely on the strength of human alliances instead of relying on the Lord’s word and way. Human wisdom is accepted over the pure gospel of Jesus (1 Cor. 1:18-25). Human philosophies are heeded instead of divine directives (Col. 2:2-3, 8-9, 20-23). Human doctrines and practices are clung to instead of a “thus saith the Lord” (Col. 3:16-17). Human pride is followed instead of humbly submitting to the Lord’s word (Jas. 4:6-10). Like Israel, salvation will be ours if only we will repent. Truly, God “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Flee to the Lord for His salvation, not to the false hopes of men that will never save you from sin and will never secure your fellowship with God.
21 “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. 22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.” (Amos 5:21–22, NKJV)
If you are under the impression that God accepts whatever worship is brought to Him, then please give close attention to today’s passage. During the days of Amos the northern kingdom of Israel was immersed in idolatry, immorality, and injustice against one another (Amos 5:25-27; 4:1). They oppressed the weak and rejected the word that God sent them by His prophets (Amos 5:10-15; 2:11-12). They attempted to worship the Lord with gold calves (set up by Jeroboam as a hedge against the reunification of Israel and Judah, 1 Kgs. 12:26-30). Israel could not come before God with impure hearts and unclean hands and be accepted by Him. Neither can we (Jas. 4:7-10). It is the height of hubris to ignore the word of God that explains how we must worship Him “in spirit and truth” while confidently asserting God is pleased with us (Jno. 4:23-24). Such arrogance is rejected by God, who “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6). You see, it matters how we worship God as well as what type of heart we bring before God when we worship. Let us humble ourselves before God and obey His word, so that our worship will be in spirit and truth. Otherwise, our worship will not be accepted by the Lord.