7 The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. 8 They eat up the sin of My people; They set their heart on their iniquity. 9 And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds. 10 For they shall eat, but not have enough; They shall commit harlotry, but not increase; Because they have ceased obeying the Lord. (Hosea 4:7–10, NKJV)
The northern kingdom of Israel was in the throes of spiritual adultery. The nation was unfaithful to Jehovah with the idols of the land. Immorality and selfish oppression of others was the order of the day. Sin increased daily, even as did the scarcity of their daily provisions. Famine, drought, plagues, pestilence, and warfare had not turned Israel back to God (Amos 4:6-11). Their hearts were set on sin. The priests taught the people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4). So, God was ready to punish them for their sinful conduct (Amos 4:12). We must turn our hearts to God fully and be faithful to Him alone. Then He will bless us. Otherwise, judgment is certain.
23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24, NKJV)
Jesus did not pronounce this stinging condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees because they were careful to tithe herbs (this was commanded in God’s law to Israel, Leviticus 27:30). He pronounced woe upon them for abandoning the principles and motives that characterize acceptable obedience to God. They strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel with their minute correctness while failing to obey God out of justice, mercy and faith. They “passed by justice and the love of God” in their zeal to keep the law (Luke 11:42). Unfortunately, this passage is frequently used as an “either, or” proposition to justify disobedience in the name of justice, mercy, faith and the love of God. Jesus did not say that. He taught that careful obedience is useless unless it genuinely expresses faith, mercy and justice. Obeying God does not contradict justice, mercy, and faith. While being faithful to obey God, be just and merciful to others. Do not “pass by the love of God” lest you fall into condemnation (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).
2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’” (Acts 7:2–3, NKJV)
We have heard people say that God would never expect them to leave (go contrary to) their family to do His will. Yet, that is exactly what God commanded Abraham to do. Abraham obeyed God without hesitation and went to a foreign land, all because God said to do so. This is the essence of God-pleasing faith. Listen to Hebrews 11:8: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Genuine faith in Jesus Christ means loving Him more than we love our own family and our own country. Genuine faith obeys the word of God, even when relatives will not. Family is important, but family is not the most important thing (God is more important, see Matthew 10:34-38). Many people have a hard time with this simple but profound truth. The gospel of Christ calls us to make a fundamental choice of Jesus before family, before country, and before self. Without faith (the kind of faith Abraham had) it is impossible to please God. Why? Because “he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Make sure Christ is always first in your life.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13, NKJV)
More than a few times we have heard this passage misused to endorse accepting people in error and the immorality it produces. Such brethren defy the existence of absolute truth while tacitly accepting the moral relativism it produces. Since good and sincere brethren disagree on certain doctrinal issues (which they define as gray areas), they conclude each one will have to just “work out their own salvation” on the matter. This view is applied to divorce and remarriage. One of the problems with using Philippians 2:12 this way is it results in accepting adulterers as if they are faithful Christians. No longer is the sinner rebuked and called to repentance. Now he or she is tolerated and allowed to “work out their own salvation.” People “commit adultery” when they divorce and remarry in violation of Matthew 19:9. How do you “work out your own salvation” as an adulterer? God only forgives the adulterer when the sinner repents, prays and ending the adulterous remarriage. “Work out your own salvation” means to keep on obeying God (read verse 12 again). You bring your salvation to its full accomplishment by obeying God, not by remaining in disobedience.
3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. (2 Thessalonians 3:3–4, NKJV)
Christians are urged to never doubt the faithfulness of the Lord. “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). The Lord is always present to strengthen and preserve us from the devil and secure us in times of trial. However, this does not free us from our personal responsibility to watchfully “resist the devil” so that he will flee from us (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8). As verse 4 of today’s passage indicates, it is as we obey the commands of Christ’s apostles that our assurance of His strength and protection is realized. Standing fast in the Lord is inseparably connected to holding to the truth handed down to us by the apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15). It is precisely when we choose not to hold fast this pattern of sounds words that we falter and give the devil an opening to settle into our hearts, much like he did in the life of Judas (2 Timothy 1:13; John 13:2, 27). Although Judas was with Jesus, he fell because he chose defiance and betrayal over trusting obedience to Jesus. Put all your trust in Jesus by obeying His commands. The Lord is faithful to secure you, and all who do so.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3, NKJV)
Regular Bible reading is very important. But, reading without listening to its message gives no lasting spiritual profit. One may have bragging rights to say, “I read through the Bible every year,” but without actually understanding and following its teachings, such a boost is vain glory. Without keeping the words of divine revelation, reading alone cannot prepare one for God’s purposes. God’s blessing is assured when we read and listen to God’s declarations, and then conform to what is written. This assurance is given throughout the Scriptures (see Psalm 119:33-35; Ephesians 3:3-4; 1 Timothy 4:13-16). Spend time with the Bible. Listen to what God has said by His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). Keep His words in your heart and obey them in your life. God fulfills all His purposes, and by following the inspired guideline in today’s verse, you will be ready when He does all that He has promised.
Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:51, NKJV)
Jesus was an obedient child. He intentionally subjected himself to the nurturing of his parents, just as God still expects children to do (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3). While some may think 12-year-old Jesus did not obey his parents when he lingered behind in Jerusalem following the Passover, we do not agree with that conclusion at all. As Jesus passed from childhood (“child,” Luke 2:40) to adolescence (“boy,” Luke 2:43) his spiritual life also matured (Luke 2:52). This is revealed in how he answered his parents. Joseph and Mary should have known where to look for Jesus, he said, because they should have known he “must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). His obedience to his parents is the model for children today. Growing up does not mean you do not have to obey your parents, it means obeying them in a responsible way. Like every mother, as Jesus grew to adulthood, Mary treasured in her heart all the things he said and did. As you transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, leave your parents good memories of respectful obedience to keep in their hearts, not rebellious opposition. Jesus shows you how.