Eternity Has Begun

“Eternity has begun for us.”

That phrase was used in a message on the First Day of the Feast of Tabernacles this year, and it kept cropping up in conversations and sermons throughout the rest of the week where I was keeping the Feast.

In my churches, we teach that people who are not called today will get a chance at salvation after the second resurrection. The books will be opened, giving them understanding of the Bible, and then after an unspecified period of time they’ll be “judged according to their works” (Rev. 20:11-13). For those in God’s household today, though, judgement has already begun. This is our chance at eternal life.

Eternity Has Begun | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Great Responsibility

Those of us who’ve responded to God’s call and entered a covenant with Him have been given great gifts of understanding. After we receive an invitation to become firstfruits, God teaches us “things which angels desire to look into” (1 Pet. 1:12). The kingdom of God is a mystery that isn’t shared with just anyone yet, and for a very good reason.

And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:47-48)

The more someone knows, the more they’re accountable for. Today, God is working with a select few — people He knows can make it if they will truly follow Him and love with all their hearts, minds, and souls. Even so, we’re warned quite clearly that there will be people in the churches who think they’re serving God but still don’t “get it.”

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt. 7:21-23)

We can’t follow God however we want, even if it looks good from the outside, and expect to make it into His kingdom. We have to follow God the way He commands, and cultivate a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Run To Obtain

As God gets to know us on our walk with Him, He’s purifying and molding us into a “new creation” in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). At the same time, we’re being judged to see how we measure up. Are we growing? Do we desire a relationship with Him? Will we submit to His headship in our lives?

In Matthew 25, Jesus says that when He “comes in His glory” He will gather people before Him and divide them into two groups. By this time, the judgement is already made — He knows who is a sheep and who is a goat (Matt. 25:31-46). When we stand before Christ, it will be too late to try and convince Him you really were a sheep who just acted like a goat sometimes. We have to commit ourselves to His way of life now.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:24-27)

God isn’t going to make you or me a firstfruit just because we showed up for church. There isn’t a participation prize. Not everyone who runs a race wins, and not everyone who claims to follow Jesus will be in His kingdom. We have to discipline ourselves to run in a way that qualifies us to receive the ultimate prize.

God wants people in His family who are teachable and humble — who respond to His work in their lives and take an active role. Only God can transform us, but we can chose whether or not to let Him. We can choose to strive for “an imperishable crown.”

Judgement Today

 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (1 Cor. 11:31-32)

The uses of “judge” in 1 Corinthians 11:31 come from two different Greek words. “If we would judge” — diakrino, to discern (G1252) — “ourselves, we would not be judged” — krino, tried in a solemn judicial manner (G2919). If we would exercise discernment and take a good look at ourselves, we would behave in such a way that there was no need for a divine judicial ruling to correct and motivate us.

There’s still cause for hope even when we don’t exercise perfect discernment in judging ourselves. God’s first response when judging someone is to give them a chance to change, not destroy them. He judges and chastens us as a Father does His children (Heb. 12:5-11). It’s for our correction and growth.

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now, “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Pet. 4:17-18)

“The time has come,” Peter said, and that was almost 2,000 years ago. The house of God is still going through “a solemn judgement, a judicial trial” (Zodhiates, G2917, krima). God is looking at us right now, refining us and correcting us to make certain of our character. He wants us to fill important roles in His family, and He won’t give us those roles if we aren’t a good fit — it wouldn’t be fair to the people God’s family is serving and teaching in the Millennium.

Becoming like Christ is the key to our transformation from someone who would be judged as a goat to someone who will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We have to follow His example completely, develop a close relationship with Him, and learn to obey God’s commands. Hebrews tells us that even Jesus, “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). If God in the flesh had to learn and suffer, it follows that we will as well. Indeed, the context of 1 Peter 4:17-18 is suffering “according to the will of God” without being ashamed (1 Pet. 4:16, 19).

In a proper Christian context, trials are seen as a good thing because they are a tool God uses to bring us closer to Him. Suffering, chastisement, and judgement are part of the refining, discipline process of turning us into firstfruits. It’s meant as a stepping stone — not a stumbling block — on the way to eternity.

Advertisements

Pointing To Christ

Sukkot/the Feast of Tabernacles is over for another year. We kept the Feast on the East Coast this year, and I’ve come back with collections of new friends, sea shells, and blog pot topics mined from messages we heard.

The Feast pictures Christ’s Millennial reign described in Revelation 20:4 and other prophecies. In this verse, the saints are said to “live and reign with Christ for a thousand years.” Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 describe our role as “kings and priests.” There’s quite a bit of responsibility contained in those roles, but it boils down to one simple task. In the words of a gentleman who spoke on the second day of the Feast, “kings and priests point others to Christ.”

Pointing To Christ | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Kings

When Israel asked for a king, God called it a rejection of Him because they preferred having a physical ruler and military commander to trusting in Him (1 Sam. 8:7, 19-20). This request wasn’t unexpected, though, and God already had guidelines for kings in place. Only a native Israelite could rule (Deut. 17:15), he wasn’t allowed to amass a huge army, or take the people back to Egypt, or marry many wives (Deut. 17:16-17), and he had to write a copy of the law (Deut. 17:18).

And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. (Deut. 17:19-20)

Knowledge of God, reverence for Him, obedience, and humility are key qualifications for kingship. The first king, Saul, was chosen because he could lead armies and was humble (1 Sam. 9:16, 21). When he lost that humility and stopped obeying God, he was rejected as king (1 Sam. 15:11, 17).

And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ (Acts 13:22)

To become kings, we must have a heart like the King of kings. God won’t let people rule in His family if they aren’t on the same page as Him. There’s a psalm David apparently wrote for his successor, Solomon, that talks about this.  Psalm 72 points to Messiah’s reign and describes God as a great King, whose example of righteous judgement and commitment to His people lesser rulers would do well to imitate. Kings are supposed to model what Jesus Christ is like, and point to Him by their example.

Priests

When there was a tabernacle or temple standing, priests were always there. Their job was to minister before the Lord and “to bless in His name” (Deut. 10:8). They were also involved in settling judicial disputes, especially in the time before the kings (Deut. 21:5).

One of the primary ministerial responsibilities of the priests involved offering sacrifices. People couldn’t just sacrifice to God anywhere — they had to come to the temple and have a priest present it on their behalf. Today, Christ fills that role of intermediary between believers and God. He has helpers, though, just as the High Priest did in the Old Testament.

Pointing To Christ | marissabaker.wordpress.comyou also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  (1 Pet. 2:5)

We’re already becoming a priesthood today, and we’ll be doing even more in the future. As priests, we serve and point others to our High Priest, Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:14-5:10). The quallifications for this type of service are very similar to those for a king.

Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.  (1 Sam. 2:35)

To walk before God’s Anointed, the Messiah, forever, we must tune-in to His heart and mind. We have to follow His lead, teaching others about Him and pointing to the High Priest. Everything we do in any sort of leadership role — now or in the future — is done in service to the King of kings and Priest above all priests. Pointing others to Him is the best thing we can do for the people we’re called to serve.

God’s Anger in Nahum

God's Anger in Nahum | marissabaker.wordpress.comYou usually only hear about Jonah, but there’s a second book in the Bible that’s concerned with the destruction of Nineveh. Since Nineveh repented after Jonah’s warning, its destruction was held off about 150 years — until 612 B.C. According to my study Bible, Nahum probably wrote his prophecy around 620 B.C., and this time Nineveh’s destruction really was just around the corner. The city’s repentance hadn’t translated into continued faithfulness through the generations, and the people’s return to wickedness meant it was time to fulfill the prophecy of destruction made originally though Jonah.

The burden against Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; the Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies; the Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. (Nah. 1:1-3)

Studying a book wholly concerned with a fulfilled prophecy might seem like time that could better be spent elsewhere, but while reading through Nahum I realized it actually has quite a bit to teach us about who God is and how He works.

When God Gets Angry

In the first verses of Nahum, God is called “slow to anger” in the midst of a passage describing His wrath and vengeance. It might seem odd, but actually God’s fury at this time is an example of His being “slow to anger.”

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him (Ps. 103:8-11)

David’s Psalm is talking about God’s dealings with His own special people, but this is also what happened with Nineveh. Though the city was populated with unbelievers who oppressed God’s people, He held back His judgement when the city repented. He was “slow to anger” for 150 years, but this time there was no repentance and justice demanded a reckoning for sin.

Behold, I am against you,” says the Lord of hosts, “I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions; I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall be heard no more.” Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery. Its victim never departs. (Nah. 2:13-3:1)

In Jonah, we weren’t given a list of Nineveh’s transgressions, but we have one here in chapter three: Lies, robbery (v. 1), warfare and slaughter (v.2-3), harlotry, witchcraft, the selling of nations and families (v. 4), and general “shame” (v. 5).

Your injury has no healing, your wound is severe. All who hear news of you will clap their hands over you, for upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually? (Nah. 3:19)

It’s one thing to commit sins that hurt you, but wickedness that spreads out and injures or enslaves other people is something God will not tolerate. He is slow to anger, but this sort of thing does make Him angry and will be removed. When the wound is incurable, it must be cut out to prevent further infection.

Hope For The Repentant

Even in the midst of prophecies about destruction and the outpouring of God’s wrath there is still, as always, hope.

Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him. (Nah. 1:6-7)

God's Anger in Nahum | marissabaker.wordpress.comEven in troubles that come as part of God’s just vengeance, He is still a stronghold for those who trust in Him. In fact, getting close to God is the only safe place to be as the world draws nearer and nearer to judgement for its evils.

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:25-29)

Though the events described in Nahum took place long before Christ was even born, there are parallels for Christians today. Just as Nineveh was destroyed, the world we now live in will be shaken and removed at Christ’s second coming. Whether that happens in our lifetimes or not, our responsibility now is to listen to God and actively draw near to Him as we strive to serve Him “acceptably.”

O Judah, keep your appointed feasts, perform your vows. For the wicked one shall no more pass through you; he is utterly cut off. (Nah. 1:15)

The Cure For Evil

In Micah, the prophet speaks out against immorality and injustice. The book also contains some beautiful Millennial passages, since ultimately the solution to the evils Micah talks about is the rule of Jesus Christ. Even so, he doesn’t tell us to just sit around begging Jesus to come back and fix everything. We’re still responsible for our actions, and God still expects the immoral and unjust to repent or face the consequences.

The Problem

Woe to those who devise iniquity, and work out evil on their beds! At morning light they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. (Mic. 2:1)

A friend recommended the TV series Hell on Wheels, and in the pilot episode there was a conversation where one character says, “there were certain lines that I crossed, lines of morality I didn’t think myself capable of crossing. But that’s what men do in war.” The main character replied, “Moral men don’t.”

This scripture in Micah 2 is talking about that first kind of man — the kind who crosses lines of morality when they think there won’t be consequences. The kind who plots how they can get away with evil things, and then does whatever they want as long as they have the power to do it. God hates that sort of thing.

The Cure For Evil | marissabaker.wordpress.comAs Micah goes on, God promises that those who covet, steal, oppress, and lie will be destroyed because they have hurt God’s people while they defiled and polluted their lives (Mic. 2:1-11). This refers to anyone walking contrary to God; the next chapter moves on to a more specific group of evil doers.

And I said: “Hear now, O heads of Jacob, and you rulers of the house of Israel: Is it not for you to know justice? You who hate good and love evil; who strip the skin from My people, and the flesh from their bones; who also eat the flesh of My people, flay their skin from them, break their bones, and chop them in pieces like meat for the pot, like flesh in the caldron.” Then they will cry to the Lord, but He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, because they have been evil in their deeds. (Mic. 3:1-4)

This isn’t just talking about civil leaders either. The religious leaders were also corrupt.

Now hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build up Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with iniquity: her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the Lord, and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No harm can come upon us.” (Mic. 3:9-10)

These were the leaders who were supposed to guide the people to God, and instead they plotted to increase their wealth at the expense of others. They thought that merely by virtue of being in leadership among God’s people that God would protect them, but He doesn’t protect those who exploit the authority He has given.

Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest. (Mic. 3:12)

The Challenge

Though the leaders are harshly judged — “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48) — the people don’t get off without correction. If we forsake the Lord, we’re responsible for that even if we were “just following” whoever’s in charge.

Hear now what the Lord says: “Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. hear, O you mountains, the Lord’s complaint, and you strong foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a complaint against His people, and He will contend with Israel. “O My people, what have I done to you? And how have I wearied you? Testify against Me.” (Mic. 6:1-3)

The Cure For Evil | marissabaker.wordpress.comThe Lord asks Israel if they have anything to reproach Him with, any reason they can give for forsaking Him. They really can’t accuse Him of anything, but they do reply in verses 6-7.

With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Mic. 6:6-7)

The fact that they even suggested a human sacrifice shows just how far away the people had strayed from true worship. It’s like the people are saying they’ve given up on following God because it is too hard and He never seems satisfied. God shuts that idea right down.

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? (Mic. 6:8)

So the answer to Israel’s questions is, “No, God will not be pleased with thousands of rams or rivers of oil.” He wants you. In some ways, that’s harder than just going through rituals, But its also reassuring. You might feel you don’t have anything to offer God, but you have the one thing He really wants — you.

The Solution

Today, God works on a small-scale to win individual hearts to Him, but the permanent solution to the problem of evil men is still in the future.

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”

For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Mic. 4:1-3)

The Cure For Evil | marissabaker.wordpress.comThis is still in the future, but the first steps toward God’s kingdom on earth have already been taken. Micah 5:2 prophecies the coming of “One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” this verse is quoted in Matthew 2:5-6 in reference to the birth of Christ. Because Jesus lived and died as prophesied, ultimate victory is assured.

Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light; I will see His righteousness. (Mic. &:7-9)

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19)

God is where we must look for the solution to sin — both our sins, and those of the people around us. We can’t fight against injustice or immorality on our own, but we can stand firm knowing that the commands of God are true, and that the victory He has promised will come.

Servants of God Forever

Servants of God Forever | marissabaker.wordpress.comLast week we talked about the future, and what the people of God might be doing in the tribulation leading up to Christ’s return. Today, let’s go a bit father into the future. In Revelation 20, we’re told that the devil will be locked away for 1,000 years while the faithful live and reign with Christ (20:4). At the end of the Millennium, he is released and those who join his rebellion against God are destroyed, and Satan is locked away (20:7-10). This is followed by the second resurrection and final judgement of the dead who were not counted among the firstfruits.

From this point on, we have very little detail. Revelation 21 and 22 gives descriptions of the New Jerusalem and the new heaven and new earth, and we’re told there will be “nations of those who are saved” (21:24). We know “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” giving light to the entire world (21:22; 22:5). One thing we don’t know is exactly what we’ll be doing there. Most speculation I’ve heard assumes we’ll be helping Christ re-build the world and counsel survivors of the tribulation through the Millennium. Some have suggested we might spread out and colonize other planets after that. But we really don’t know. I’ve always thought that if it was really important for us to know, God would have told us. A message I heard a couple weeks ago, though, has me wondering if He did give us some clues after all.

Servants

The Rabbi at my Messianic group was talking a couple weeks ago about patterns that God sets up in how He runs things. In ancient Israel, the Levites were a tribe set apart for God, which this speaker connected to our role today as God’s called-out people. The Rabbi’s focus was on how that affects us today, but I wondered if it might carry over into the future as well, with God re-using this pattern.

Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the children of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine. After that the Levites shall go in to service the tabernacle of meeting. So you shall cleanse them and offer them like a wave offering. (Num. 8:14-15)

The Levites — 1 tribe out of 12 — were specifically set aside for God to serve in His tabernacle. Verse 11, here in Numbers 8, calls them “a wave offering from the children of Israel, that they may perform the work of the Lord.” Similar wording is used today, as we’re called to present ourselves to God as an offering.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1)

Our lives aren’t our own. When we commit to following God, we pledge everything we are to His service. We are His, and just as He said the Levites “shall be Mine,” so He can call each of us His because He redeemed us.

For they are wholly given to Me from among the children of Israel; I have taken them for Myself instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the children of Israel. For all the firstborn among the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast; on the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them to Myself. I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel. (Num. 8:16-18)

Servants of God Forever | marissabaker.wordpress.comBecause of the events that happened on Passover, when the Lord rescued Israel from Egypt, all the firstborn were holy to Him. Instead of having all the firstborn sent to serve in the tabernacle, though, He set aside one tribe for that role. In much the same way, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice made redemption possible for all people, but right now He’s only working with the firstfruits.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

We are purchased with Christ’s blood, bought-back from our enslavement to sin so we can serve God (Rom. 6:15-23). That’s not a role that’s going away any time soon.

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. (Rev. 22:3-5)

This is in the description of the New Jerusalem. Right before this, it talks about “the nations” who walk in God’s light and are healed by the tree of life (Rev. 21:24-22:2). Then, we see God’s servants mentioned as a separate group. Could that be those who were firstfruits, continuing in their role as servants especially chosen for God’s holy use?

Priests

Not all the Levites served as priests. Even within the tabernacle service there were different roles and responsibilities. Most notable was the fact that there was only one high priest at any given time. Today, the role of High Priest is held by Jesus Christ (Heb. 8:1-6), whose perfect sacrifice fulfilled the sacrifices offered by the Old Covenant high priests. So, where did the rest of the Levites fit in?

And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary. (Num. 8:19)

Here, the Levites are described as a gift given to the high priest for service in the tabernacle. This is repeated several chapters later.

 Behold, I Myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel; they are a gift to you, given by the Lord, to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting. (Num. 18:6)

This sounds a lot like Jesus’ prayer on the night in which He was betrayed.

I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. (John 17:9-10)

Servants of God Forever | marissabaker.wordpress.comGod has given us to His Son, our High Priest, to serve and glorify Him. As quoted earlier, we are God’s temple today. That’s where priests serve — in the temple (or the tabernacle, at the time when Numbers was written). Jesus is in His church as the High Priest in His temple, and we’re right there serving with Him.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9)

Even today, God’s people are described as a priesthood. That role continues into the future — definitely into the Millennium, and quite probably beyond.

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Rev. 20:6)

When you look back at the book of Numbers, both passages we quoted about the Levites’ role as helpers to the high priest emphasized service. That’s also the common thread uniting the two descriptions of God’s people in the future as servants and priests. If we want to work on something that will carry over into the future, serving God by serving His people seems a good place to start. There is an aspect of our future that involves ruling, but to learn to rule with Christ, we must first learn to serve. That’s what Christ did and does (Phil. 2:5-9), it’s what Paul did (Phil. 2:17-18), and that’s what we should be doing.

 

Lessons From Joel

I recently heard that pastors tend to use the same set of scriptures over and over when speaking. It’s probably not even on purpose — you just naturally go to the verses you know well and are comfortable with when writing about a given topic. I wondered if I do that in this blog, and started trying to think of scriptures that I don’t regularly quote. The minor prophets came to mind. I spend time in Hosea, but not really any of the others. Maybe this will turn into a series of posts on the minor prophets. For now, let’s start with Joel.

Repent From the Heart …

Joel begins with prophecies of destruction. First, he warns Israel that locusts will sweep through and destroy the food crops. There wouldn’t even be enough harvest to supply the offerings in the temple (Joel 1:9).

Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty. (Joel 1:14-15)

Mercy triumphs over judgement (James 2:13), but that doesn’t mean God won’t punish sin. Sometimes, that’s the only way to get our attention and save us by turning us back to Him.

In chapter 2, the prophecy shifts to what is still for us future events (at least, that’s what it looks like to me. Zodhiates’ study Bible says there is some disagreement among scholars). It sounds a lot more like Revelation, though, than a famine caused by locusts. Regardless of the timing, the conclusion of both prophesies is the same — an immediate call to repentance.

“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him — a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? (Joel 2:12-14)

We should stay close to God through both good times and bad, but if we have drifted away He is still ready to hear us as individuals and as a nation. Genuine repentance from the heart will always get God’s attention.

… And There Will Be Blessings

Joel tells us that when all the people — including the elders, youth and ministry (Joel 2:16-17) —  come to God with tears and a request for mercy, He will hear.

Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, and pity His people. The Lord will answer and say to His people, “Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.” … Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done marvelous things! (Joel 2:18-19, 21)

Lessons From Joel  | marissabaker.wordpress.comGod promises to send so many blessings that they will make up for everything that was lost in the plagues described earlier (Joel 2:25). This makes me think of  a passage in Romans, where Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). There’s certainly no reason Christians can’t be happy and joyful in their lives today, but often our walks are marked by trials and touched by sorrow. Either way, we have a magnificent future to look forward to, and focusing on that can help us endure as we follow in Christ’s footsteps (Heb. 12:1-3).

Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame. And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:27-29)

Fulfillment of this prophecy began on the Pentecost where the disciples were given the Holy Spirit, which Peter points out as he quotes Joel 2:28-32 when he explains what’s going on (Acts 2:14-21). The remainder of the prophecy, and Joel chapter 3, relate to future judgement.

In Joel, we’ve already seen cycles of judgement, repentance, and blessing. Now, the subject turns back to the tribulation and wars before the coming of Jesus Christ. Though things look extremely bleak, once again it will ultimately result in blessing for the people who stay faithful to God (Joel 3:16-21)

The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel. (Joel 3:16)

There is hope and help for us now, and in the future if we whole-heartedly draw near to God. That’s a main message of the book of Joel — bad things are going to happen because of sin, and therefore we need to draw near to God and repent so good things can happen to us in the end.