Monday, January 18, 2010

Choose For Yourself (this one is pretty long and very, very important so come to it when you have several minutes)

Now the LORD said to Abram,
"Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you
Genesis 12:1

So the story begins. “Leave everything behind Abram and I will take you to the land that I have prepared for my people.”

Often referred to as the “Promised Land”. Of all the places in this world that God could have selected for His people to dwell, the “promised land” seems the least likely in common sense.

Surrounded by enemies on all sides, Egypt on the South, Israel sits precariously on the edge of total destruction yet it is the very land that God planned for His people.

If you are at all familiar with Israel's history, you will know how tempting it has been to have Egypt directly to the south of Israel. It seems that, often, when things got tough due to economic hardship or drought Israel would run to the help of Egypt. It may be helpful for you to reread the final several chapters of the book of Genesis to remind you about these events.

Over and over again, when things got tough, God's people would run to Egypt to escape their plight. Tragically, God finally gave the whole nation of Israel to Egypt as servants and slaves for over 400 years.

Why is this story important to us today?

Just like Israel, the church of Jesus in the United States has been planted in the midst of hostile enemies. More importantly, is that we have also been planted very close to Egypt. As we now move on beyond the Christmas season and face the coming bills associated to our recent decisions we have become little more than servants and slaves to the Egyptian system.

God never intended for us to live this way. He certainly give us the choice but it is not His design nor is it His desire of us. We tend to listen to the Egyptian hierarchy and react accordingly. Economic downturns? High unemployment? The newest in the long line of flu scares? Can you not hear the siren's luring songs?

Read the following words of God very carefully; see if they apply!

Isaiah 30

Woe to the Obstinate Nation

"Woe to the obstinate children,"
declares the LORD,
"to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,
heaping sin upon sin;
who go down to Egypt
without consulting me;
who look for help to Pharaoh's protection,
to Egypt's shade for refuge.

But Pharaoh's protection will be to your shame,
Egypt's shade will bring you disgrace.

Though they have officials in Zoan
and their envoys have arrived in Hanes,

everyone will be put to shame
because of a people useless to them,
who bring neither help nor advantage,
but only shame and disgrace."

An oracle concerning the animals of the Negev:
Through a land of hardship and distress,
of lions and lionesses,
of adders and darting snakes,
the envoys carry their riches on donkeys' backs,
their treasures on the humps of camels,
to that unprofitable nation,

to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless.
Therefore I call her
Rahab the Do-Nothing.

Go now, write it on a tablet for them,
inscribe it on a scroll,
that for the days to come
it may be an everlasting witness.

These are rebellious people, deceitful children,
children unwilling to listen to the LORD's instruction.

They say to the seers,
"See no more visions!"
and to the prophets,
"Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
prophesy illusions.

Leave this way,
get off this path,
and stop confronting us
with the Holy One of Israel!"

Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says:
"Because you have rejected this message,
relied on oppression
and depended on deceit,

this sin will become for you
like a high wall, cracked and bulging,
that collapses suddenly, in an instant.

It will break in pieces like pottery,
shattered so mercilessly
that among its pieces not a fragment will be found
for taking coals from a hearth
or scooping water out of a cistern."

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.

You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.'
Therefore you will flee!
You said, 'We will ride off on swift horses.'
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!

A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill."

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, "Away with you!"

He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.

See, the Name of the LORD comes from afar,
with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke;
his lips are full of wrath,
and his tongue is a consuming fire.

His breath is like a rushing torrent,
rising up to the neck.
He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction;
he places in the jaws of the peoples
a bit that leads them astray.

And you will sing
as on the night you celebrate a holy festival;
your hearts will rejoice
as when people go up with flutes
to the mountain of the LORD,
to the Rock of Israel.

The LORD will cause men to hear his majestic voice
and will make them see his arm coming down
with raging anger and consuming fire,
with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail.

The voice of the LORD will shatter Assyria;
with his scepter he will strike them down.

Every stroke the LORD lays on them
with his punishing rod
will be to the music of tambourines and harps,
as he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm.

Topheth has long been prepared;
it has been made ready for the king.
Its fire pit has been made deep and wide,
with an abundance of fire and wood;
the breath of the LORD,
like a stream of burning sulfur,
sets it ablaze.

God's word says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

It sounds so easy when we simply read the words. It get so very difficult when we keep hearing the Egyptians' invitations for comfort, success, accomplishment, and wealth. So where is your trust? Is it in your understanding or is it truly in your God?

Behold, God is my salvation,I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation." Isaiah 12:2

The past is past. What we have control over is what we will do next.

Joshua 24:15 states:

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD

Choose for yourself whom you will serve!

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