As we struggle to live in a morally loose society, we need the examples of great men and women to encourage us. James pointed out that the prophets of the past serve in this way. “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:10) Many prophets come to mind: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. All of them lived exemplary lives in difficult circumstances. Many other great prophets are mentioned, but we don’t even know their names.
In our Sunday a.m. Bible class, we have been reminded of the difficult life of Daniel. He quickly gained the respect of Babylonian kings. Belshazzar said of him, “…illumination, insight, and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you.” (Dan.5:14) When Daniel’s enemies attempted to find some condemning flaw in his life, “they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.” (6:4)
Here is the amazing thing about these prophets: while they were well known as great, godly people, at the same time they were despised and hated. They suffered violence and attempts on their lives. Yet they insisted on living righteous lives in their difficult surroundings. It would only be until future generations that they would be acknowledged for their patience and godliness, as James and Jesus later testified (James 5:10; Matt.5:12).
So, what is the lesson for us today? While it may be useless to live in an upright manner when nobody around us seems to care, God cares; people you may not know may care; people of the future may look back and care. Above all else, you are to care. Like the prophets of old, you are to live your life the way God wants it lived, not to please everyone around you.
This may be hard to do, but when has it ever been easy?
– Tim Johnson
As Israel was hauled off into captivity by the iron-grip of Nebuchadnezzar in 606 BC, they wondered what had happened to God’s promises of protection. They settled into this foreign land where people spoke a language they didn’t understand, and worshiped gods Israel knew nothing about. What happened to all God had said over the years about His faithfulness to them?
Before the first wave of people had even left for Babylon, God revealed through Jeremiah that their stay would last 70 years (see Jer.25:11). Sometime close to the end of the captivity, Daniel reminded them of Jeremiah’s record of God’s promise about the 70 years. Somehow, in all their grumbling, the people had forgotten what the Lord had clearly said.
But the Lord hadn’t forgotten. Ezra recorded that when the 70th year came, the new king Cyrus was providentially motivated by God to write an official decree releasing all Israelites who wanted to return to Jerusalem. It’s all laid out in Ezra 1:1-4. Once that 70th year arrived, it was like an alarm clock going off – it was time to go home! What’s even more interesting is that 250 years before, Isaiah predicted that the liberator’s name would be “Cyrus” (see Isaiah 44:28). Can you imagine that? Two centuries before he lived, God clearly recorded what his actual name would be!
The entire saga of Israel’s trials and release from Babylon demonstrates the iron-clad promises of God. He always fulfils what He says He’s going to do. We live in a world that constantly breaks its promises, but that should never weaken our trust in a God who never breaks His.
We are saved by God’s promise (Gal.3:29), and protected by a promise (1 Peter 1:5). If God fulfilled His promises in such a dramatic way to Israel, you can count on Him doing the same for you.
– Tim Johnson
It is hard for us to imagine the minds of those who have recently killed and injured innocent people in Europe. We wonder where they will strike next, and how we can protect ourselves and our country. Their actions have caused fear and disgust in people everywhere.
It’s interesting that the Bible speaks about similar ancient Middle Eastern powers that once terrorized nations all around them. The Assyrians, Babylonians and Syrians were particularly guilty of atrocities. Isaiah spoke against Assyria in Is.10, predicting their destruction in verses 15-19. In chapter 17 he says the powers in Damascus would be destroyed overnight; “Such will be the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those who pillage us.” (v14) Judgment on the Babylonians is featured in chapter 21, and by other prophets like Jeremiah and Daniel.
God clearly pointed out that He is in control of the destiny of nations, and He will judge them when their time is up. Nothing escapes Him, and for that reason we do not need to fear. I have no doubt He will judge the current terrorists when He feels the right time has come; He may use other nations to do it. We can trust His wisdom in these complicated matters.
Our work in the world is to “observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually” (Hosea 12:6). Our business is to save the souls of men, and to teach them how to follow Christ. Let’s keep busy with these things and not fear the ravings of violent men and women. God comforted His people in difficult times of the past, and we can rest in His care today.
– Tim Johnson