Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A 4-fold Challenge

"Ah, soiled, defiled, oppressing city!  It has listened to no voice; it has accepted no correction.  It has not trusted in the LORD; it has not drawn near to God."
(Zephaniah 3:1-2)

Jerusalem: the Holy City. Center of Jewish life.  It's about to face a reckoning, says Zephaniah.  The date is the mid-to-late 6th Century BC.  The people have wandered away from following God wholeheartedly.  Payback is coming.

As chapter 3 begins, Zephaniah scolds them for 4 specific faults:
  1. "It has listened to no voice"... The people have made no attempt to gain wisdom or insight from others...
  2. "It has accepted no correction"... It's one thing to be scolded, or told of your errors.  It's another thing to accept one's punishment and learn from one's actions.  Jerusalem has not.
  3. "It has not trusted in the LORD"... Instead, it has relied on itself and/or others than God for protection & strength.
  4. "It has not drawn near to God"... No time spent together.  No intimacy.  No eagerness to be in God's presence.
What a compelling indictment!  But not just for the city of Jerusalem some 2600 years ago.  How about for us here 7 now?  How open are we to seeking out the wisdom & insight of other "voices" in our lives?  When we mess up and fall into sin, can we take correction?  Is God the source of our trust & security?  And do we make the time to spend with God on a regular basis?  I know that I can't answer affirmatively for all those things all of the time.

PRAYER: "Forgive me, LORD.  Open my heart & life to the wisdom & correction of others.  Help me put my trust in you, ultimately... and give me the desire & discipline to draw near to you regularly.  AMEN."

Sibling Rivalries

[From Sept. 13, 2012]

"The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, the hostility of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not be hostile towards Ephraim."
(Isaiah 11:13)

Sibling rivalries.  The healthy ones have a deep & abiding love undergirding them.  The toxic ones don't.  Whether it's actual brothers/sisters... or coworkers... or teammates... or country-mates... this is something that abounds.

In the Old Testament, the 12 tribes of Israel split into two district groups: the North (Israel, sometimes also called "Ephraim") and the South (Judah).  The North had the tougher times, as they had to be constantly vigilant against foreign invaders (they were a buffer for Judah in the south).  Plus, Jerusalem was in the South, so the power center resided there.  MAJOR sibling rivalries ensued.  Extreme jealousy and hostility was rampant.  It definitely was not healthy.

Isaiah 11:13 looks to the day when that will end and a healthy relationship replaces it.  I can't help but pray that prayer in so many other places: in this country, as we near another election (have you seen the hateful things posted, tweeted, and said about one another?)... among co-workers who should be "on the same team"... among (wealthy) athletes, grumbling about the salaries of others... and in so many families.  

LORD, heal us!  Restore us!  Renew us!

Remember... and DREAM!

[From Sept. 11, 2012]

"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; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
(Micah 4:3-4)

Today is the day.  11 years ago.  The day that changed the world in so many ways.  Air travel, security, our military, and so much else will never be the same again.  So many died.  So many lives cut short.  So many families impacted.  True heroes emerged.  An entire religion vilified.  The war on terror began in earnest by the US.  11 years ago today.

As I sat at Starbucks this morning reading Facebook & Twitter posts, so many are remembering today.  And that's important.  And then in my devotional reading I came across Micah 4:3-4.  The prophet looked for that time when wars would cease and everyone would sit under their own trees "and no one shall make them afraid."

A world without fear.  Now that's something to dream about & look forward to!  By the grace of God... may it be so... soon.