Daily Archives: July 22, 2019

July 22 Dealing with Temptation

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:11–13

Key Verse: 1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Imagine yourself standing in the middle of a blazing forest fire. Flames leap from above, rise from below, and dance back and forth on all sides. You are scared, breathless, and certain that all is lost. Then you notice a clear, fire-free path that leads from where you are standing to a spot out of harm’s way. What do you do? Well, you run like crazy down the safe path, of course!

How would you respond to someone who says, “You know, I’d rather just jump headlong into the fire and see what happens”? We would not be able to understand! Why on earth would someone choose to run toward danger and refuse to take advantage of a clear way of escape?

When we face temptation, it is like standing in the middle of a forest fire. Danger beckons from all sides, inviting us to jump into the fray. The problem, though, is that the fire looks inviting in these situations. Not only does the danger seem moot, but it actually appears to be a source of joy.

Joy never results from giving into temptation. Surrendering to the tempter only brings heartache and sin. Fortunately, God has promised that He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear; He always provides a way of escape. If you would run from fire, then it is only reasonable that you would flee from temptation; the only difference between the two is that temptation is more dangerous.

Lord, Your truth has shown me that yielding to temptation is like willingly running into a forest fire. Give me the strength to turn my back on those things that tempt me.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2006). Pathways to his presence (p. 213). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

4 Ways to Take Your Thoughts Captive | Lies Young Women Believe

by Liza Proch | 7/22/19

Picture this . . .

It was springtime, and the streets were quiet. From the king’s elevated balcony, there wasn’t much movement to be seen. No wonder, since most of the men of the city had gone out to fight in battle. He decided not to go. Maybe he was tired. He’d fought so many battles in his time. Didn’t he deserve a little rest?

On a hot day, he got up and started to pace. The sun was glaring, and as he turned his eyes away from its blaze, he noticed a glint of sunlight from a rooftop, a reflection coming from a pool of water. And then he saw her: Bathsheba. His thoughts raced, but instead of reigning them in and turning away, he called for her. He made the biggest mistake of his life.

If you’re familiar with the story above, you know that after King David saw Bathsheba bathing on the roof, he made her come to his palace, and soon after she announced that she was pregnant with the king’s child. To cover his tracks, David arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to be killed in battle.

First, he saw her.

Then, he lusted in his mind.

Finally, he acted, committing adultery, which led to murder.

We can’t change history (and wouldn’t want to, since God used all of David’s mistakes in His redemptive plan), but let’s just imagine that David hadn’t given into his thought to stay home from battle. He never would have been in a situation to see Bathsheba bathing or would have had all that free time on his hands to bring her up to the palace! Even if he stayed home, what if the minute he saw her, instead of instantly lusting after her, he had turned away? What if, instead of summoning her, he went inside and prayed for God to help him resist temptation?

Have you ever thought about thoughts? Have you pondered, Wow, I have this thing in my head called a brain and it enables me to think, to weigh two decisions and come up with plans. The thoughts I think shape my whole life!

What we think about shapes who we are.

Listen to 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

We don’t have to live with impure or negative thoughts bouncing around in our head. Those thoughts don’t have to lead to action. Here are four ways to take your thoughts captive.

  1. Define them. Ask God to show you where your thought life is struggling (Ps. 139:23–24). Thoughts that we have to “take captive” aren’t necessarily “bad.” They may not be judgmental or unkind or lustful, but perhaps your thoughts are out of line with the truth of Scripture or God’s view of you. Sometimes it’s a “good” thought that is simply occupying too much of our time, distracting us from other, more important things. Think back over the last hour. Is there a thought that sticks out in your mind that’s been hanging around? Is it a healthy thought? Define the unwholesome thought process that led you there so you can capture it!
  1. Talk to yourself. In the Psalms, David often talks to himself. (Check out Psalm 103 for an awesome example of this!) Once we’ve defined our impure thoughts, we can capture them by talking to ourselves and reminding ourselves of God’s Truth. An awesome way to do that is by memorizing God’s Word. Then you always have it on hand when those thoughts start barging in again!
  1. Hand ’em over. We would be stranded if we had these thoughts “captured,” but had nowhere to ditch them. But instead, we have somewhere to lay them down. Jesus’ patience and kindness toward our constant thick-headedness never gives up. Lay those impure thought patterns at his feet and leave them there. How? Pray and tell the Lord you want to hand the thoughts over to Him. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut if our negative thoughts have become habitual, but with Jesus’ help we can make it out of that rut.
  1. Replace that space. If we don’t replace that impure thought with a pure one, there’s nothing to stop another impure one from jumping right into its place (Matt. 12:43–45). We don’t just “take every thought captive.” We also “set [our] mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). We have to revise our mindset to have a truly God-honoring thought life.


July 22 Unforgiveness

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14–19

Key Verse: 1 John 2:10

He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

The path to freedom from an unforgiving spirit runs straight through the cross of Christ. When He died, forgiveness for man’s sins—all of them—was provided.

When we receive Jesus through faith, we no longer should hold grudges or seethe over injustices. Christ Jesus has forgiven us. We are called to extend His forgiveness—even to our enemies. We did nothing to earn our forgiveness. Then we cannot make others earn our forgiveness, which may be the tool used by Jesus Christ to demonstrate His unconditional love to believer and nonbeliever alike.

Because of the Cross and Christ’s presence in your life through the Holy Spirit, you have the supernatural capacity to extend His forgiveness. As a new creation in Christ, you are not a prisoner to your old habits of revenge and retaliation. Christ in you is your hope (Col. 1:27).

The love of God will not allow you to keep bitterness and resentment in your heart and still enjoy His fellowship. Now is the time to boldly forgive the one who has hurt you, not in your power but in the full forgiveness provided by the Lord Jesus Christ for every person at Calvary.

Lay your burden down. Let God’s love flow through you, and then watch Him work.

Almighty God, thank You for forgiving me. Now give me the supernatural ability to extend forgiveness to those who hurt me. Let Your love flow through me to others.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1999). On holy ground (p. 213). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Lawsuit brings murder of DNC staffer back into spotlight

A former Fox news contributor is suing media outlets who accused him of spinning conspiracy theories over leaked emails from the Democrats. Ed Butowsky had suggested former staffer at the Democratic National Committee Seth Rich passed on sensitive information to Wikileaks.

Students Slam Obama Immigration Quote… When They Think It’s From Trump | ZeroHedge News

Authored by Cabot Phillips via Campus Reform,

President Donald Trump announced that he would use ICE to track down and deport illegal aliens who have been convicted of a crime.

The move prompted outrage from many on the Left who accused the practice of being anti-immigrant and unprecedented.

Proponents of the move pointed out this week that President Barack Obama gave his support to the same policy when he was in office and bragged of deportations of criminals having increased 80 percent during his tenure.

In 2014, Obama gave an immigration address from the White House, in which he said:

We are a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why over the past six years deportations of criminals are up 80 percent, and that’s why we’re going to keep focusing on threats to our security.

Wanting to know what college students would think of this quote and whether Obama was “racist” for wanting to deport illegal aliens convicted of a crime, Campus Reform‘s Cabot Phillips headed to Georgetown University to find out.

After being told the quote came from “a president,” students offered near-universal condemnation for it, as well as the policy of deporting criminals.

“I think that policy comes from a place of white American nationalism,” one said, before another added, “Donald Trump has embraced this rhetoric of racism and xenophobia that’s not beneficial to our country at all.”

“I don’t think that quote stands true,” another stated.

“It’s just really awful.”

After gathering their responses, Phillips played each student the video of Obama’s speech, showing them he was the president the quote belonged to.

“I thought it was the Trump administration that said something like that,” one bewildered student said, while another agreed, saying “I didn’t expect it to be Obama… it never occurred to me that it could be him.”

“It’s quite surprising. I thought that was from Trump,” another said.

My understanding of Obama vs Trump is that Obama was more liberal as far as amnesty… I expected that quote to come from Trump.

One student said it reminded him how hypocritical many politicians have become:

“One person can say something five years ago and next thing you know it doesn’t apply to them anymore and they can now be the morality police for whoever is in office now.”

What did the others have to say? 

Watch the full video to find out…

Source: Students Slam Obama Immigration Quote… When They Think It’s From Trump

Trump Blasts ‘The Squad’ — ‘Racist … Inexperienced … Not Very Smart’ — The Gateway Pundit

President Trump is tripling down in his battle with “The Squad.”

The president blasted four “progressive” Democratic lawmakers last weekend: Reps. Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Since then, he’s kept the hammer down.

On Monday, he took to Twitter to once again rip the four women who have dubbed themselves “The Squad.”

“The ‘Squad’ is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart. They are pulling the once great Democrat Party far left, and were against humanitarian aid at the Border… And are now against ICE and Homeland Security. So bad for our Country!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The president’s tweet came after a video emerged of Tlaib being thrown out of a 2016 Trump event after causing a disturbance. Looking deranged, Tlaib shouts to Trump supporters: “You guys are crazy!”

Donald Trump Jr., ripped that one over the weekend.

Trump also hit the lawmakers over the past weekend. “I don’t believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country. They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said. They are destroying the Democrat Party, but are weak & insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation!”

RELATED: MUST SEE: THREE VIDEOS That Prove Radical Squad Leader Rashida Tlaib Is A Violent Lunatic With Unchecked Anger Issues

via Trump Blasts ‘The Squad’ — ‘Racist … Inexperienced … Not Very Smart’ — The Gateway Pundit

Trump Should Stop Taking God’s Name in Vain, Say His Supporters — Pulpit & Pen

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

As Ben Shapiro regularly points out, one should view the POTUS through the lens of “Good Trump, Bad Trump.” Sometimes he does good things, and we should call them good. Sometimes he does bad things, and we should call them bad. And asking that “God bless America” while repeatedly taking God’s name in vain is a bad thing.

Paul Hardesty is a Democrat, but he’s a Democrat from the conservative state of West Virginia, which means that he’s also a Trump supporter. Although being both a Democrat and a Trump supporter seem like mutually exclusive ideas, in some pockets of the Bible Belt, some conservatives have still inexplicably held onto their party affiliation. Hardesty is one of those. And Hardesty, in a recent letter sent to Trump, rebukes him for taking the Lord’s name in vain while acting in his official capacity as President of the United States.

Many evangelicals were also shocked and dismayed at Trump’s use of God’s name, but all evangelicals should be.

Hardesty wrote, “I have a real appreciation of your support for the coal industry and I thank you for that. I am, however, appalled by the fact that you chose to use the Lord’s name in vain on two separate occasions when you went off the prompter during your speech.”

Hardesty continued, “There is NO place in society — anywhere, anyplace and at anytime — where that type of language should be used or handled. Your comments were not presidential. I know in my heart that you are better than that.”

Trump had said in a speech…

“I said, ‘You don’t like me and I don’t like you. I never have liked you and you never have liked me. But you’re gonna support me because you’re a rich guy. If you don’t support me, you are going to be so [GD] poor, you are not going to believe it.”

Unfortunately, the crowd cheered rather than winced.

If Trump seeks to win the evangelical vote, and thereby win the 2020 presidential election, he should stop misusing the name of their God. And if Paula White, Ronnie Floyd, and Robert Jeffress are really advising the president, they should start with explaining blasphemy.

via Trump Should Stop Taking God’s Name in Vain, Say His Supporters — Pulpit & Pen

July 22 A Heavenly Perspective

Scripture reading: Matthew 14:28–31

Key verse: Matthew 21:21

Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.”

No one would deny the fact that faith is a battle. And at times we may feel as though we step forward to trust the Lord, only to stumble back several steps. As thoughts of doubt flood our minds, we wonder: What if _____ happens? What if God doesn’t do what He promised? Can I trust God even when I don’t feel that He is close to me?”

That was exactly where Peter found himself as he began to walk to Jesus across the stormy surface of the Sea of Galilee. As long as Peter’s gaze was on the Lord, the waves and the wind meant nothing to him.

However, the moment he thought of the magnitude of the storm, he began to doubt and sink. We encourage fear and disbelief when we interpret a situation in light of our own knowledge and without regard to God’s ability. What could have been a great moment of faith turned life-threatening as Peter caved in to thoughts of fear.

Another action that leads to increased anxiety is seeking the approval of others. A friend’s counsel is fine, but first make sure you know God’s will for your life. Many times another’s point of view will not line up with God’s. A heavenly perspective always leads to victory! All doubt is earmarked with discouraging lies of Satan. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Seek His will for your life through the light of His Word (Ps. 119:105).

Help me keep my eyes on You, Jesus, when faith is a battle. Give me the heavenly perspective that leads to victory.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 213). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

President Trump: ‘Mainstream Media is out of control,’ They ‘Constantly Lie’ — The Gateway Pundit

President Donald Trump is blasting the media once again after the Washington Post published an article that he says used “made up” sources.

The article that sparked the outrage referred to Trump’s tweets about “the Squad” as racist in the headline and claimed that advisers wrote talking points for him and handed him reams of opposition research on the four freshmen congresswomen.

“The Amazon Washington Post front-page story yesterday was total Fake News,” Trump tweeted. “They said ‘Advisors wrote new talking points and handed him reams of opposition research on the four Congresswomen.’ Now really, does that sound like me?”

“What advisors, there were no talking points except for those stated by me, & ‘reams of paper’ were never given to me. It is a made-up story meant to demean & belittle. The Post had no sources. The facts remain the same, that we have 4 Radical Left Congresswomen who have said very bad things about Israel & our Country,” Trump continued.

The tweet was referring to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley , and Rashida Tlaib — the members who make up “The Squad.”

President Trump didn’t stop with just the Post, however. He also took aim at the Mainstream Media as a whole.

“Mainstream Media is out of control. They constantly lie and cheat in order to get their Radical Left Democrat views out their for all to see. It has never been this bad. They have gone bonkers, & no longer care what is right or wrong. This large scale false reporting is sick!” he wrote. “Fake News Equals the Enemy of the People!”

via President Trump: ‘Mainstream Media is out of control,’ They ‘Constantly Lie’ — The Gateway Pundit

July 22, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

A Great Beginning

Zechariah 1:1–6

In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:

“The Lord was very angry with your forefathers. Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. Do not be like your forefathers, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord. Where are your forefathers now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your forefathers?

“Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.’ ”

Zechariah is one of the most difficult books of the Old Testament, but one thing is not difficult: the dating of the book. In the very first words of his prophecy, Zechariah says that he received his first revelation from God in the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the emperor of Persia. This places Zechariah within the same time frame—indeed, within the same years—as his contemporary Haggai. Haggai and Zechariah were among the 42,360 Jews who had returned to Judah under the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and it was only two months after Haggai had received his first message from God that Zechariah received his. He thereby became the second prophet of the restoration. Since Haggai prophesied until near the end of the ninth month of the second year of Darius, Zechariah and Haggai overlapped as prophets for a short period.

These circumstances, plus the content of the books, encourage us to think of Zechariah’s prophecy as supplementary to that of Haggai. The burden of Haggai’s book is that the temple of God must be rebuilt, and that God would make it glorious. In speaking of this great but future glory, Haggai pointed forward to, but did not elaborate on, the messianic age. He promised that God would be with his people and would bless them once they began to rebuild the temple. These words must have encouraged the small committed band so overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Like Haggai, Zechariah’s message is one of encouragement. But he was aware that not all the returned remnant were fully sincere in their desires to serve God, and he therefore counseled them to repent of sin and return to God with all their hearts and minds.

Zechariah’s encouragement made his book particularly dear to the reformers. Martin Luther has provided us with two commentaries on Zechariah, one in Latin (prepared by others from careful lecture notes) and one in German. Luther regarded Zechariah as the very “model” or “quintessence” of prophecy (Ausbund der Propheten), particularly in its messianic predictions.

John Calvin regarded it as particularly suitable to his age. “This doctrine may be fitly applied to our age: for we see how Satan raises up great forces, we see how the whole world conspires against the Church, to prevent the increase or the progress of the kingdom of Christ. When we consider how great are the difficulties which meet us, we are ready to faint and to become wholly dejected. Let us then remember that it is no new thing for enemies to surpass great mountains in elevation; but that the Lord can at length reduce them to a plain. This, then, our shield can cast down and lay prostrate whatever greatness the Devil may set up to terrify us: for as the Lord then reduces a great mountain to a plain, when Zerubbabel was able to do nothing, so at this day, however boldly may multiplied adversaries resist Christ in the work of building a spiritual temple to God the Father, yet all their efforts will be in vain.”

Zechariah should encourage anyone who is trying to do a work for Christ in any age.

Who Was Zechariah?

Zechariah is a common name in the Bible—at least twenty-seven Bible characters had it—but the author of the prophecy distinguishes himself as the “son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo” (Zech. 1:1, 7). Apparently his father died young, for he is named as the immediate successor of Iddo in the list of the heads of the priestly families in Nehemiah 12:12–21. Probably for the same reason, he is identified merely as a descendant of Iddo in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14. Since he is called a “young man” (Zech. 2:4), he was probably little more than a child when he returned with the first wave of the regathering exiles.

The only real problem with Zechariah’s identity comes from a New Testament saying of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 23:35 Jesus says to the people of his day, “And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” Since there is a story of the murder of a prophet named Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, by stoning in the courtyard of the temple in 2 Chronicles 24:20–22, it is assumed that Jesus confused the two, thinking that the later Zechariah, the eleventh of the minor prophets, was the earlier Zechariah, who died about 800 b.c. This introduces the additional problem that the earlier Zechariah, who died by stoning in the temple area, was the last of the Old Testament martyrs, which Jesus’ statement implies.

The solution to this problem is to start over again with the assumptions (quite well founded) that Jesus knew what he was talking about, that the Zechariah he was referring to was indeed Zechariah son of Berekiah, and that Zechariah son of Berekiah was also martyred between the temple and the altar in a manner reminiscent of the murder of the earlier prophet of the same name. One writer concludes, “Since Jesus referred to Zechariah as the last of the Old Testament martyrs, there can be no legitimate doubt that it was the eleventh of the twelve minor prophets he had in mind.… We can only conclude that the later Zechariah died in much the same way the earlier one did, as a victim of popular resentment against his rebuke of their sins. Since there are about twenty-seven different individuals mentioned in the Old Testament bearing the name Zechariah, it is not surprising if two of them happened to suffer a similar fate.”

We do not have any biblical or other history of this period, so we do not know what Zechariah’s life may have been like between the beginning of his prophetic ministry in 520 b.c. and his death by stoning years later. Because of the scattered time references throughout the prophecy, we do know that he continued to prophesy for several years at least.

Did Zechariah write all of Zechariah? This has been questioned because of the differences between the first (chaps. 1–8) and second (chaps. 9–14) halves of the book. These contain different subject matter and are written in different styles. The first half is dated by reference to the years of King Darius; the second is not. These differences lead many scholars to posit two authors and two separate works that have somehow become joined.

These arguments are valid only if it is necessary to believe that a writer must use one and not a variety of styles and deal with one and not a variety of subjects. Many scholars operate on these assumptions, but they are highly questionable for any writer and particularly so for Zechariah who came so near the end of the line of the prophets. It is understandable that Zechariah would write of the conditions of his day, giving encouragement to those who were attempting to rebuild the temple. In this he is at one with his contemporary, Haggai. But it is also reasonable that he (or any prophet) should also be led of God to look ahead to that future day of full messianic blessing, as in the last six chapters. Since the last half of Zechariah deals with events that will occur largely in the future, how could the subject matter, moral issues, and historical setting not be different from chapters 1–8? Their difference is not fixed proof of separate authorship.

Call to Repentance

Zechariah is going to unfold many rich and comforting promises both in the first and also the second sections of this prophecy. But riches like these are for people who have repented of sin and are ready to embrace the will and declarations of God. For this reason, the book opens with a message calling on the people to return to God and not be as their forefathers who refused to listen to him.

The prophecy says: “The Lord was very angry with your forefathers. Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty. Do not be like your forefathers, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says, ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord. Where are your forefathers now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your forefathers?

“Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do’ ” (vv. 2–6).

These verses contain a number of valuable truths that are worth getting in mind at the outset of our study, even as the people of Zechariah’s day must have fixed them in their minds.

  1. God judges sin. If there is anything past history should have taught the returning exiles, it is that God does indeed judge sin. For hundreds of years the people were unwilling to acknowledge this, even when God gave them ample proof of his displeasure and unrelenting warnings of the destruction that was to come. There were warnings to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel by such prophets as Hosea and Amos. In the south Joel, Micah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah warned of judgment. Jeremiah alone prophesied for a period of forty years. During this time, with the exception of a few brief periods of partial revival, the people continued to go their way, arguing that no judgment could come upon them simply because they were the chosen people of God and Jerusalem was God’s city. Indeed, for all those years it seemed as though these self-righteous and presumptuous people might be right. God did indeed seem reluctant to destroy their city.

Yet destruction came. Jerusalem was overrun, the people were deported, and both the temple and the walls of the city were destroyed. This was a great and inescapable fact of recent Jewish history, and the evidence of it was fresh on every mind. The walls were still down. The city was still a ruin. The land that had once flowed with milk and honey was now a barren wilderness.

So no one could possibly miss this first point when Zechariah reminded them of it. The prophet said, “The Lord was very angry with your forefathers.”

The hearts of the people would have been forced to echo, “Indeed, he was.”

Zechariah declared, “Where are your forefathers now?”

The people would have answered, “Gone, dead, scattered.”

“And the prophets, do they live forever?”

The people would have been forced to acknowledge that even the prophets had been carried away in the judgment that came upon Jerusalem.

“Did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your forefathers?” Zechariah asked.

The people would have answered that the word of God through the prophets had indeed come true and that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah had indeed been overthrown, as they had said. Could anything be more obvious? God judges all. Although in his patience judgment may be for a time delayed, it does at last come and sinners do have to give an accounting for what they have done, whether good or bad.

  1. Past judgments are a warning to us to turn from sin. This is the central point of Zechariah’s opening message to the remnant. They were aware of what had overtaken their forefathers for their obstinate refusal to heed the word of God. They could hardly escape this knowledge. But the facts of that earlier destruction were not merely items of historical interest. They were examples intended to bring about wholehearted repentance and subsequent obedience.

Some people have imagined a problem at this point. They point out that when Zechariah’s contemporary, Haggai, preached his first message just two months earlier, the people “obeyed the voice of the Lord their God,” “feared the Lord,” and got on with the rebuilding (Hag. 1:12–15). Does this mean that they had relapsed by the time Zechariah started his ministry? Did Zechariah read the situation wrongly? Or is something more involved here? We could point out that obeying one specific instruction from the Lord is not the same thing as a wholehearted turning from all sin, which is what Zechariah is calling for. But that is beside the point and probably is an underestimate of the depths of repentance under Haggai’s preaching. What the people needed now was renewed and deeper dedication. As Leupold writes, “Every repentance, every return unto the Lord is imperfect at best. It is an expression that requires deepening; it must be done more sincerely and thoroughly. In a sense, a godly life consists of perfecting repentance, always doing it more effectually. So what Haggai claimed was true: the people had God on their side because they had returned to Him. But what Zechariah claimed was also true: Israel needed to return with more sincere devotion if God’s promises for the future were to become a reality.”

That is why these stories of God’s past judgments are still relevant for us, even though we may have turned from sin to Christ in our conversion. We can be Christ’s and still live for a time as the disobedient Israelites. We can go our own way and turn a deaf ear to God’s warnings. Are you doing this? If so, you must learn from God’s judgments and allow them to turn you back from sin. We must all be warned to follow closer after God.

  1. Obedience brings blessing. Sin brings judgment, but obedience brings blessing. This is the point most emphasized in Zechariah’s message: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 1:3). The point is clear: if the people will return to him, God will return to the people and will bless them. The threefold repetition of the name “the Lord Almighty” underscores its certainty.

We think of what God said through Haggai. In the second chapter of that book, in a message delivered about a month after Zechariah had begun his ministry, Haggai quoted God as saying: “ ‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on—consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s temple. When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew, and hail, yet you did not turn to me,’ declares the Lord. ‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive trees have not borne fruit.

“ ‘From this day on I will bless you’ ” (Hag. 2:15–19).

This passage is, in a certain sense, a commentary on Zechariah. Up to the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month the people had been disobeying the Lord out of twisted priorities and motives. They had been serving themselves, and their lives and work had not prospered. Their fields had not flourished. Their vines and trees had not borne fruit. But they had responded to Haggai’s word and had obeyed God, and God had said that their fortunes would be spared from blight, mildew, and hail. They would see the fig, pomegranate, and olive trees begin to produce fruit in abundance. The vines would flourish, and the wine vats would again be full. This is a remarkable promise of material well-being predicated on a life of obedience by God’s people. But it is what Zechariah is saying too, though in perhaps more spiritual terms. If God seems far away, it is because we are removed from him by our sin. It is not God’s fault. If we return to him, he will return to us and bring blessing.

  1. Like God Himself, the word of God is inescapable. The prophecy says, “But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your forefathers?” (Zech. 1:6). The fathers of the remnant thought they could escape God’s judgment, but the word overtook them and they perished. So it was with the flood generation. So it will be at Christ’s final judgment. No one escapes God’s word. God’s word is eternal. It is longer lasting even than the prophets who speak it. They passed away (v. 5), yet the word spoken through them lived on and was fulfilled in the people’s experience (v. 6). Jesus said, “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18).

“Return to Me”

The last sentence of Zechariah’s message tells of a past generation: “Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do” (v. 6). He is not speaking about the generation that perished in the destruction of Jerusalem, but their successors, those who saw the hand and justice of God in what happened. This is the spirit Zechariah wants to see in the remnant before he begins to unfold the visions that constitute the bulk of his book.

If we had only Haggai to go on, we might assume, however wrongly, that God was interested most of all in the temple, that is, in buildings. But this is not the case. True, God had given instructions about this building. But most of all, God was interested in the people to whom he had given this work, and he was concerned that they be truly surrendered to him. Luther saw this and wrote: “This, then, is a brief outline of this first sermon of Zechariah: he first wishes to make the people pious and God-fearing by means of threats and promises; and in order to frighten them, he offers them the example of their fathers. For while they are to build the temple and the city of Jerusalem and do good deeds like these, he first wants them to be pious, so that they might not think that God would be satisfied with their work of building the temple and the city, as their fathers had thought that it was good enough if they sacrificed. No, my good man, rather than all good works he wants faith and a heart converted to him. That is all he is interested in. This must come first and be preached first: ‘Return to me, and after that build me a temple,’ and not, ‘first build me a temple, and after that return to me.’ Good works inflate us and make us proud, but faith and conversion humble us and make us despair of ourselves.”

This is the good beginning God wants. He wants it to be said of us, as it was of the believers of the apostle Peter’s day: “You were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).[1]

Return to Me

Zechariah 1:1–6

The Lord was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, “Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zech. 1:2–3)

One of the great questions of life is “How do we start again?” It is a question every sinner faces at one time or another. Broken marriages face the question, as do broken friendships and broken dreams. It was a question pressing hard upon the people of Judah in the time of the postexilic prophet Zechariah, who was charged with speaking for God to a people trying to start over again. Theirs was a broken relationship with God, a broken covenant. Having returned from bondage in far-off Babylon, their generation was asking, “How do we start again?”

The opening passage of this book clues us into the approach this prophet takes. Beginning in verse 2 of chapter 1, Zechariah points the people to the Lord. Three times in two verses he confronts them with the name “the Lord Almighty.” In order to deal with the past, and therefore with the present and the future, he says, the people would have to turn to God. That is always true. The power to heal what is broken, to start again what is ended, and to raise up what is cast down is always and only found with the Lord. “How do we get right with God, and what will it mean to us if we do?” That is where Zechariah begins, and that was the issue facing those who had come back to the Lord to start over again.

Approaches to the Study of Zechariah

We should begin our study of Zechariah by specifying the approaches that will enable us to interpret this book of Scripture rightly. First, we will approach Zechariah historically. We should always be historical in our study of Scripture, since the books of the Bible were given by God through actual men in the context of real circumstances and settings. As a result, our study of Zechariah will increase our knowledge of Old Testament history. We will become familiar with important figures unknown to many Christians: Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah; Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel of the house of David and ancestor to our Lord Jesus; the high priest Joshua, of the line of Zadok; as well as Zechariah and his prophetic colleague Haggai.

Second, we will consider this book doctrinally. While this and every book of Scripture comes to us out of a historical setting, it also is part of the whole Bible given by God for our instruction in salvation. The book of Zechariah has a great many truths to set before us, doctrines of our faith that were at a particular stage of development in the progress of God’s redemptive work. We want to take stock of its teaching both in light of how it was then presented and how the various subjects would ultimately be rounded out in the completed canon of Scripture.

Third—and this is a strong emphasis in the book of Zechariah—we will approach this material christologically. We will trace the line of thought as it leads to Jesus Christ, the Messiah anticipated by the Old Testament, and the Savior who fulfills its promises and answers its questions. So frequent and dramatic are the pointers to Christ in Zechariah that the book might be dubbed The Gospel according to Zechariah. It is sometimes said that the gospel is in the Old Testament concealed and in the New Testament revealed. When we get to the book of Zechariah, Christ is barely concealed but often blatantly revealed to the eyes of those trained by the later revelations of the New Testament.

Fourth, we will approach this book from a practical perspective, applying its message to our own setting and lives so as to derive its full benefit. Though we are separated by time and circumstances from the prophet and his generation, the issues of faith and godliness have not ultimately changed. Everything God revealed in this book for individuals and for Israel as a whole finds a contemporary application for Christians and the church.

The Historical Setting of Zechariah

First, let us consider the historical setting from which this book of Scripture comes to us. A good place to start is in the year 586 BC, when the Babylonian conqueror Nebuchadnezzar seized and destroyed the Israelite capital, Jerusalem. This was an event long portended in the prophetic writings, most nearly by the prophet Jeremiah, whose title, “the weeping prophet,” was earned from his participation in those horrible events. At the beginning of his prophecy, Jeremiah explained all that was going to take place, and why:

The Lord said to me, “Out of the north disaster shall be let loose upon all the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the Lord, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands.” (Jer. 1:14–16)

Despite warning after warning, from prophet after prophet, the day finally came when the Lord brought judgment upon his people for their sins, and especially the sin of idolatry to which they were so addicted. At the end, the situation was as described in Jeremiah’s brokenhearted book of Lamentations: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people!… The Lord has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe” (Lam. 1:1, 5).

Jerusalem lay in ruins, empty, her walls torn down, and her buildings scorched with fire. Thus concluded a key stage in the history of God’s people, one brilliantly begun in the exodus, gloriously advanced under King David, but brought to ruin by the sins of his hardhearted people. Despite their status as God’s people, despite God’s presence in their midst, despite the institutions of the theocracy, the temple and the royal palace, and despite the holy hill of Zion where Israel worshiped, even the Israelites were not spared the judgment for their sins. The fall of Jerusalem stands as a lasting testimony to the folly of presumption and the wages of sin.

The Israelites went into exile, to weep by the waters of Babylon while the Promised Land was inhabited by other people (Ps. 137:1). Yet God promised grace to his people in their sorrow. Through Jeremiah he said:

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you. (Jer. 29:10–14)

Other prophecies of hope came from the latter chapters of Isaiah, written about two hundred years beforehand. So specific were Isaiah’s predictions that he even named the ruler who would restore the fortunes of Israel: “I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free” (Isa. 45:13 niv).

Liberal critics of Scripture use this prediction to claim a postexilic dating for the latter chapters of Isaiah, presupposing that actual foretelling is impossible. But God’s expressed purpose was to give confidence to his people at a time when many would have wondered about his ability to save. When this specific prediction was fulfilled, it was a staggering proof of God’s sovereignty. “I am God,” he insisted, “and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’ ” (Isa. 46:9–10).

Cyrus the Great was the Medo-Persian emperor who overthrew Babylon and gave the orders for the Israelites to return to their land (see Ezra 1:1–4). Accordingly, in 538 BC, forty-eight years after the fall of Jerusalem, Sheshbazzar received the temple articles from Cyrus and led the return of the first party to the ruins of Jerusalem. It was a moment of epochal significance and great drama.

Sheshbazzar, the son of Jehoiachin, the last legitimate king of Judah before and during the exile, would have been fairly aged by this time. We do not read a great deal about him in Scripture, except to learn that he succeeded in laying the foundation for a rebuilt temple on Mount Zion (Ezra 5:16).

The second chapter of Ezra, which along with Nehemiah is the main historical record of this period, tells us that the initial party returning to Jerusalem consisted of 42,360 Israelites. Although Cyrus had placed Sheshbazzar in command, it seems clear that from the start the acting leader was the younger and presumably more able Zerubbabel, the son of Sheshbazzar’s older brother Shealtiel, along with Joshua the high priest. These two represented the kingly and priestly lines going back to David and Zadok his faithful priest.

One of this multitude was Zechariah, who must have been a young man or boy at the time of the return. He is named in verse 1 as son of Berechiah, and grandson of Iddo. In the record of Nehemiah 12, Zechariah is listed as the head of the house of Iddo, so many commentators reasonably suggest that Zechariah’s father must have died young, leaving him as the principal heir of Iddo’s house. His was a priestly family, something Zechariah held in common with both the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

The New Testament provides one additional piece of biographical information having to do with Zechariah’s death. In Matthew 23, as Jesus was speaking his woes upon the Pharisees and upon Jerusalem, he recounted the people’s record of killing the prophets. “On you,” he cried, “may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar” (v. 35). Liberal commentators consider this an error in the Bible, since 2 Chronicles 24:20–22 records a different Zechariah being slain in the temple courtyard, long before the time of our prophet. This assumes that there could not have been two different prophets of this name (and Zechariah is a fairly common name in Scripture) so that Jesus was therefore in error. Rather than presupposing Jesus’ fallibility, we do better to accept his word and conclude that our Zechariah, the postexilic prophet, had his own life ended at the hands of the people in the very temple God used him so mightily to see to completion. As such he was the last of the prophets slain in the Old Testament, a line started outside the gates of the Garden with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.

There would be sixteen years between Israel’s initial return with the laying of the temple’s foundation in 536 BC and the beginning of Zechariah’s ministry. His prophecy, we are told, begins “in the eighth month, in the second year of Darius” (1:1)—that is, in the year 520 BC. Darius was a general who assumed the Persian throne after a plot resulted in the apparent suicide of Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus, who had been away effecting his conquest of Egypt. By this time a dispirited restoration community in Jerusalem had become bogged down both spiritually and materially. One commentator explains:

If the returned exiles expected the dawn of Yahweh’s universal reign, with Jews and Gentiles flocking to Jerusalem, their hopes soon faded. Jews did not leave the population centers of [Babylonia] in vast numbers, and interference from the longtime inhabitants of the land frustrated the building efforts, bringing the work on the temple to a halt.

Two months before Zechariah’s first vision from God, the prophet Haggai had broken the silence and called the people into action: “Go up to the hills,” he cried, “and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord” (Hag. 1:8). While Haggai focused the people on building the temple for the Lord, God came to Zechariah and focused him on rebuilding the people and their faith.

Return to Me!

The opening lines of Zechariah highlight a doctrinal theme that will be important throughout the book: repentance. Zechariah explains the situation: “The Lord was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 1:2–3). We are reminded here of the Lord Jesus’ teaching as he started his gospel ministry five hundred years after the prophet: “Repent,” Jesus cried, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

There are at least four points to be made about repentance from this passage. First is the need for repentance. This need is established by the fact that God judges all sin. The problem with the Israelites’ forefathers was that they doubted God’s judgment and therefore denied the need for their own repentance. Since they were God’s chosen people, and since they possessed such divinely ordained institutions as the temple, they thought God would never punish them. This is why they ignored and often persecuted the prophets God sent to them. The fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity were God’s telling response to their hardness of heart in refusing to repent. Zechariah’s generation asked, “How do we start again, when our relationship with God is damaged by sin?” This is a question many people ask today. The answer is that we begin with repentance.

Zechariah pressed the need for repentance upon his own generation by recalling their nation’s recent history. He warned, “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the Lord” (Zech. 1:4). Then he asked leading questions designed to make his point: “Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?” (Zech. 1:5). The answer was obvious as they stood amidst the ruins of the once magnificent city. Their fathers had gone into slavery and exile, and even the prophets were gone. Finally, Zechariah drove home the reality of God’s prophetic Word: “But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?” (Zech. 1:6).

Though these events were in the past, the Word of the Lord had prevailed and come forward into the present. As Isaiah had said, “All flesh is grass.… The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:6–8). The one thing that could never fail was God’s Word, and Zechariah was bringing it forward into this new generation. Zechariah’s name means “the Lord remembers”; on the one hand God remembered his people, but on the other he remembered his words and decrees, which must always be reckoned with, then as now.

Verse 1 says, “The word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah.” If any one message characterized the prophetic mission—any one “word of the Lord”—it was this call to repentance. Although the prophets of old were gone, God had raised up a new prophet to perform the same task and bring the same message. The forefathers had realized this in exile, once it was too late, repenting and saying, “As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us” (Zech. 1:6). A clear expression of repentant prayer among at least some of the exiles is found in Daniel 9, where that prophet-in-exile expounded upon these very words. His and others’ willingness to repent left this later generation of their children without excuse if they did not follow suit.

If the first lesson is the need for repentance, the second is a definition of repentance. Repentance is both turning from sin and turning to God. God had said to the earlier generations, “Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds—” (Zech. 1:4), and that is no less a requirement now. Repentance is turning away from sin, both from the way of sin and the works of sin. Repentance is about both our actions and our attitude. We tend to think we have repented if we just curb our behavior a small bit, but repentance includes our hearts and desires, as Zechariah explained, “Return from your evil ways and your evil deeds.” Along with turning from sin, we are called to turn to God. Zechariah 1:3 puts this directly: “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.”

These two are inseparable—turning from sin and turning to God. On the one hand we cannot turn to God except by turning from the sin he abhors; on the other hand until we come back to God, we simply lack the strength to overcome the sin that holds us in bondage. Only his light can cast out our darkness.

Zechariah’s words are especially striking in light of the particular audience to whom he was speaking. These were the people who had returned to the land. The majority of their fellow countrymen had remained comfortably ensconced in Babylonia, where the Jews had grown prosperous. Yet as Haggai’s prophecy made clear, the hearts of the returnees were not fully devoted to the Lord. They had walked back down the long road to God’s city, yet they had stopped short of God himself. Partly due to opposition from nearby enemies and partly due to their own indifference, the restoration community had lost interest in rebuilding God’s temple. T. V. Moore describes the situation before Zechariah:

He had witnessed the growth of that selfish greed for their own individual interests, and their neglect of the interests of religion, that was so mournful a characteristic of this period.… Now, as the temple was to them the grand symbol of revealed religion, indifference to it was an undoubted symptom of backsliding and spiritual declension.

“Return to me!” says the Lord, and that is a command we too must note. It is not enough for us merely to call ourselves Christians and to go to the places where the Lord is worshiped and served. We must actually worship and serve him from the heart. “Return to me,” God said to this people who had come so far to the city but had grown cold in their hearts toward him. “Return to me, and I will return to you.” That is always the rule of spiritual life and blessing.

This leads to the third point about repentance: God graciously receives all who turn to him. “I will return to you,” he promised. What a blessing those words must have been to these children of idolaters, sons of an adulterous generation whom God might well have repudiated altogether. Yet this is the grace that always characterizes the heart of our Savior God. Even before the exile he had given every chance for the people to repent, inviting their return to him in faith: “Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God” (Jer. 3:12–13).

This is our great incentive for repentance, that however great our sin and backsliding, God is ready to receive those who come to him in repentance and faith. This is the gospel according to Zechariah, the good news of great joy that God will gladly receive those who turn to him in repentance and faith.

Jesus taught this in the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal had taken his share of the father’s wealth, which he then squandered in sinful living, only to find himself in desperate straits. Despondent, but having come to his senses, he determined to go back to his father, begging for mercy. But Jesus said:

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:20–24)

Such is our God; why would anyone refuse his loving heart?

This leaves a fourth and final point about repentance: it is only through the blood of Jesus Christ that God forgives those who repent. We noted that our approach to Zechariah will be christological, and here is where the opening verses point to Christ. God’s call to repentance was directly linked to the rebuilding of the temple. There is a reason for that, for it was at the temple that the blood sacrifices were offered that dealt with the problem of sin. God is a holy God; he must always judge sin. Therefore God could not accept these sinners unless atonement was made. In Zechariah’s day this required the blood of lambs at the very temple they were to rebuild, but ultimately it required the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus is the true Lamb of God, and his was the blood shed to take away our sin. Theologian J. I. Packer explains: “Between us sinners and the thunderclouds of divine wrath stands the cross of the Lord Jesus. If we are Christ’s through faith, then we are justified through His cross, and the wrath will never touch us, neither here nor hereafter. Jesus ‘delivers us from the wrath to come’ (1 Thess. 1:10).”

When we repent, therefore, we must come through faith in Jesus Christ and in his blood, which turns God’s righteous anger into joyful acceptance and love. Because Jesus was slain upon the cross for us, God robes us in his righteousness and is glad to receive us with arms open wide in bounteous grace as we return in penitent faith.

An Urgent Appeal

Our approach to Zechariah will be historical, doctrinal, christological, and also practical. Therefore, we must apply these words to our own situation: “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you” (Zech. 1:3).

The earlier generation of Israelites thought God would not judge them for their sin; the ruins of their city bore eloquent testimony to their folly. Our generation is also piling up ruins out of folly, even within the church. “Do not be deceived,” Paul wrote: “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:7–8).

If you are a Christian, but backslidden into sin and spiritual decline, remember the history lesson Zechariah placed before his generation. Your sin will not bring blessing but ruin, however sweet its deceptive song in your ears. If you persist in sin you will at the least bring upon yourself God’s chastisement, and at the worst you will prove that you have really not believed at all, ultimately to reap the destruction you are now sowing with the seeds of sin. In fact, this invitation from God speaks grace to every Christian, every day—backslidden or not! In the ups and downs of our spiritual lives, how wonderful to see God’s open arms encouraging continual repentance and trust!

If you are not a Christian, these words are especially for you. If God hates sin enough to punish even his own people, what do you think will happen to you? If God allowed his chosen people Israel—the elect nation of his own love and purpose—to fall to the sword, to be dragged off in chains, and the city and its temple reduced to ruin—what, then, will be your fate if you continue to rebel, you who have no such claim upon his affection? The lesson is clear: You must repent at once, turn from your sin and to this God of grace who offers everyone salvation through the blood of the Savior Jesus Christ. If you will repent and turn to him in faith, your sins will be forgiven on the spot and you will enter into everlasting life.

“Return to me,” says our God, “and I will return to you.” “Come to me,” he offers, “return!” Those who do will find God ready to forgive through Jesus Christ, ready to restore, and ready to bless from out of the depths of his abounding grace. No matter who you have been or what you have gone through, by turning to God you will be able truly to start again, because God will return to you.[2]

A reminder of their fathers (vv. 1–6)

God was calling these people to return to him (v. 3). Why did they need to return? Because they had been refusing to obey him. After their release from Babylon, these people did well for a while. They came out of that captivity with a burning desire to serve God faithfully. They immediately set to work on rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem and made good progress.

But with the passing of time, their interest in the Lord’s work began to wane. For fourteen years, the temple work was neglected, which is another way of saying that God was neglected.

Sadly enough, Zechariah’s people were not kindly disposed to the message of repentance. Sinful people never are so disposed apart from the grace of God! They needed a history lesson, and the prophet was ready to supply it.

It has often been pointed out that those who refuse to learn from history are destined to repeat it. That is Zechariah’s message in this passage. In particular, he urges the people to think about their fathers. They had lived in sin, and God had sent prophet after prophet to confront them and call them to repentance. But those people refused to listen. So Zechariah asks his hearers, ‘Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?’ (v. 5).

Zechariah was saying that both the wicked fathers and the righteous prophets were gone. The swift tide of death had carried them away. But the great lesson taught by the fathers and the prophets was still present for everyone to see! What was that lesson? That the word of God always comes to pass!

Their fathers had been told to repent or else experience God’s judgement. They refused to repent, so God’s judgement came in the form of the Babylonian captivity. For a long time, the fathers thought that they were getting away with their sins. The captivity did not come right away, but it did come. The message of the righteous prophets overtook that generation. Zechariah was now calling his people to repent of their own indifference towards the Lord and not wait for God’s judgement to wring repentance out of them as it had with their fathers in Babylon.

The prophet’s message met with a positive response. The people returned to the Lord, admitting that the Lord had dealt with them according to what he had promised (v. 6). They also resumed work on the temple and completed it.

This is a message for all who truly know the Lord. How easy it is for us to become so wrapped up in our own concerns that we become indifferent to the things of God! God is patiently pleading with his people to lay aside lesser things and to give themselves wholeheartedly to serving him. We can turn heedless ears to his pleas, thinking all the while that we are no worse off for our indifference. But the God who loved us enough to save us also loves us enough to punish our disobedience (Heb. 12:3–11). His promise of chastisement will finally catch up with us!

This is also a message for unbelievers. The Bible has a clear message for all those who refuse to repent of their sins and who spurn the salvation available in Christ. It promises eternal destruction for all such (2 Thes. 1:9).

It may not now appear that the Word of God is true. But the truth of God’s Word does not depend on consensus. Its truth will ultimately be revealed and its rejecters punished.

Zechariah’s first message also brings comfort. The same Word of God that promises judgement also tells us that God is gracious and forgives sinners. Just as the word of judgement will not perish, so the word of forgiveness will also endure.[3]

The Call to Return to God (Zech. 1:2–6)

The initial word of warning and invitation summarizes the story of the Israelite forefathers and God’s word to them through the earlier prophets. The wording of this retrospective summary resembles passages such as Jeremiah 25:4–11. But verse 6 adds two additional steps to the account of what had happened—divine judgment and repentance. The course of this history corresponds to the four occurrences of your forefathers in this unit. First, the Lord was very angry with them (v. 2). Verse 4, the précis of prophetic preaching which had called upon the ancestors to abandon their evil ways and evil practices, reveals the reason for this anger. The forefathers refused to repent (v. 4), and God’s word of judgment was fulfilled (vv. 5–6). Several passages in Jeremiah (e.g., Jer. 7:25–26) make it clear that the prophets’ preaching and the ancestors’ refusal to heed the divine word had extended over many generations. God’s word to Zechariah’s audience uses this part of the story as a cautionary example, Do not be like your forefathers. After the Babylonian conquest, another generation of ancestors did repent (“turn,” as in v. 4), acknowledging the justice of God’s judgment and identifying the cataclysm of 587 b.c. as a fulfillment of the divine word (v. 6b).

1:2–4 / The issue for Zechariah’s audiences is their response to the Lord’s invitation and promise, “Return to me … and I will return to you” (v. 3). Will they refuse to turn, like the preexilic generations (vv. 4–5), or will they turn, as had their ancestors who survived 587 b.c. (v. 6)? The repetition of the verb shwb highlights this choice and ties the past examples to the present decision. It is a decision that every generation and every individual must make. (The niv translates shwb with 3 different English words and obscures this feature of the passage: return, twice in v. 3; Turn in v. 4; and repented in v. 6.)

Penitential prayer had become an important individual and communal practice in the time when the audiences of Zechariah the prophet and the first readers of Zechariah the book lived. These biblical prayers describe the transformation of understanding, commitment, and action involved in accepting the call to turn. The book of Lamentations and prose prayers such as those of Daniel and Ezra acknowledge that the loss of land, temple, and monarchy was the result of the nation’s rebellion and sin (Lam. 1:3–8; Dan. 9:7–11; Ezra 9:7; Neh. 9:16–18, 26, 29–30). Thus these prayers teach Israel to understand its identity and history in terms of the story of the failure of the disobedient Israelite kingdoms to realize the Lord’s reign on the earth. Yet the story of Israel’s failure is also the story of God’s mercy, faithfulness, and commitment to justice and righteousness as expressed in the Torah.

After the end of royal rule from Jerusalem in 587 b.c., Israel was not able to act as a nation in the person of the king and his court. There was no longer a central authority or representative figure whose faithfulness or rebellion influenced or determined commitments and consequences for the people as a whole. God thus addresses the invitation to return to individual Jews, their households, and communities. Ezekiel 18 reviews the consequences for individuals of turning away from, or turning toward, God’s way. Neither the sins of one’s forebears nor one’s own past unrighteousness would make it impossible for one to turn to God and receive life.

We must understand God’s promise, “and I will return to you,” against its ot background. Many Psalms, as well as Lamentations, express the perception of abandonment by God. God had turned his back on Israel, and, perhaps, had rejected [them] forever (Lam. 5:21–22). Ezekiel’s elaborate vision of conditions in the Jerusalem temple (Ezek. 8–11) climaxed in the departure of the glory of the Lord toward the east (Ezek. 10:18–19; 11:22–23). Jerusalem had been left vulnerable to attack and destruction. The final vision, however, anticipates that the glory of the Lord will come to fill the temple once again (Ezek. 43:1–4). Zechariah 14:5 also uses the verb “come” for the Lord’s promised return to Jerusalem.

At the same time that Zechariah was promising the Lord’s return, Haggai was assuring his audience of God’s promise that “I am with you” (Hag. 1:13; 2:4) and “my Spirit remains among you” (Hag. 2:5). This presence is like God’s presence with Israel after the exodus (Exod. 33:14; Num. 14:7). Yahweh’s powerful presence “with” Israel preserved them alive and brought them into the land. Doesn’t this assurance contradict the promise to “turn/return”? If God is already “with” them, what is the meaning of the promise to “return” to them? Although being “with” seems to follow logically on “returning,” the Lord’s “return” belongs to a different set of ideas in its ot usage. The two concepts do not appear together.

Zechariah 1:16 reiterates God’s promise, “I will return,” but the destination is Jerusalem. The results of God’s returning to Jerusalem are the building of the temple, towns overflowing with good things, and comfort for Zion. This is like the return of the glory of the Lord to the temple in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 43:1–5).

Malachi 3:7 makes the same invitation with the promise, “Return to me, and I will return to you.” The context indicates that the people’s return consists in keeping God’s statutes, from which they had “turned aside.” Bringing the required tithes to the storehouse is an example of this return. The agricultural blessings God promised to the people who return are the blessings that follow God’s turning to them (Mal. 3:10–12). God had announced this coming in glory in Malachi 3:1–5.

1:5–6 / The rhetorical questions here in verse 5 prepare the ground for the assertion about the enduring nature of God’s word in verse 6. “Where are your forefathers now?” Many died at the hands of the Babylonians in the course of conquest and deportation in the early sixth century. Their deaths, according to the interpretation of the preexilic prophets, demonstrated the effectiveness of God’s “words” and decrees, as “commanded” through God’s “servants the prophets.” Other ancestors survived in exile, or in the conquered land. The exilic generation who had repented had also been overtaken by God’s word. They accepted the truth of the prophets’ preaching as the explanation for their servitude to the conquering empire, and they committed themselves to keep the statutes of torah. “And the prophets, do they live forever?” No, for the prophets were mortal, like their audiences. Yet the messages they had carried from God endured. The living word of the living God does not lose its power and truth.

A third rhetorical question makes the point: “did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your forefathers?” This question personifies not only words of warning and judgment, but also God’s will expressed in law, as predators or enemy attackers from which the ancestors could not escape. The text does not mention here the human armies who carried out the attack. This sentence succinctly illustrates the relationship between God, prophetic messengers, and the people. Prophets set God’s word loose in the world to accomplish God’s will, generation after generation.

Then they repented reports what the succeeding generation did. Survivors of the Babylonian conquest, along with their children in exile and in the land, had accepted the prophets’ explanation from God about the reasons for their defeat. But they had also trusted in the divine words of promise. Jeremiah 31:18–19 is an example of such repentance. For Jews in exile, this turning to God could also require a long and dangerous journey back to Jerusalem. (See Ezra 8:15–32 for an account of such a journey decades later.)

God addresses the invitation, “return to me” (v. 3) to every generation of audiences of Zechariah’s book. The book continues to look for a return from dispersion. Beyond physical return to the land is the constant call to everyone who believes in God to align their steps with the way of the Lord.[4]

[1] Boice, J. M. (2002). The Minor Prophets: an expositional commentary (pp. 485–491). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Phillips, R. D. (2007). Zechariah. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & I. M. Duguid, Eds.) (pp. 5–15). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] Ellsworth, R. (2010). Opening Up Zechariah (pp. 13–16). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[4] Goldingay, J., & Scalise, P. J. (2012). Minor Prophets II. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (pp. 193–196). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

July 22, 2019 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)


The U.S. Air Force has suspended paying incentive fees at all 21 military housing bases operated by landlord Balfour Beatty Communities following a Reuters-CBS News report that the company falsified maintenance records at an Oklahoma base to help it qualify for millions of dollars in bonuses.

The U.S. military on Sunday accused a Venezuelan fighter aircraft of “aggressively” shadowing a U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries II plane over international airspace, a fresh sign of growing hostility between the two countries.

Iran said on Monday it had captured 17 spies working for the CIA and sentenced some of them to death, an announcement President Donald Trump dismissed as “totally false” amid an escalating international crisis over tankers in the Gulf.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday dismissed Iran’s announcement it had captured 17 spies working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and sentenced some to death.

At least 17 people were killed and 28 others wounded when a bomb went off outside a hotel near the international airport in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Monday, medical officials said.

U.S. congressional and White House negotiators are close to a deal to extend the U.S. Treasury Department’s borrowing authority until July 31, 2021, a source close to the talks said on Monday.

Israeli forces demolished a cluster of Palestinian homes near a military barrier on the outskirts of Jerusalem on Monday, in the face of protests and international criticism.

Trading on China’s new Nasdaq-style board for homegrown tech firms hit fever pitch on Monday, with shares up as much as 520% in a wild debut that more than doubled the board’s combined market capitalization and beat veteran investors’ expectations.

Credit-reporting company Equifax will pay up to $700 million to settle U.S. federal and state probes into a massive 2017 data breach of personal information that affected around 147 million consumers, authorities said on Monday.

Sri Lanka on Monday extended a law granting security forces emergency powers for a fourth month following the Easter Day bomb attacks on hotels and churches that killed more than 250 people.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s health minister, Oly Ilunga, resigned on Monday in protest at the presidency’s announcement last week that it would take control of the response to the Ebola outbreak instead of his team.

India launched a rocket into space in an attempt to safely land a rover on the moon’s south pole, its most ambitious mission yet in the effort to establish itself as a low-cost space power.

AP Top Stories

The government is implementing a new proposal that would ban asylum for immigrants coming to the United States through Mexico. It pins the uptick in border crossers on the asylum process, but the government’s statistics reveal that 90 percent of crossers in 2019 were not referred for an asylum interview at the border, and the highest share ever referred was just 19 percent in 2018.

The U.S. Army is investing in studying the “hyper fit” women who pass some of the military’s most grueling tests. “There’s this group of women who made it through the training so we want to get them to at least do these observational investigations to explore what makes them unique.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed electricity company Con Edison as thousands of people were without power Sunday night amid dangerously hot weather. “We’ve been through this situation w ConEd time & again & they should have been better prepared-period,” Cuomo tweeted.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that if a planned safe zone in northern Syria is not established, and if threats continue against Turkey, Ankara will launch a military operation east of the Euphrates River.

Tankers are offloading millions of barrels of Iranian oil into storage tanks at Chinese ports, creating a hoard of crude sitting on the doorstep of the world’s biggest buyer.

The first-ever Gay Pride parade was held in the eastern Polish city of Bialystok on Saturday, but the march was marred by violence from soccer hooligans and conservative campaigners staged counter protests, local police said.

Zimbabwe hiked fuel prices on Monday for the second time in a week but most pumps remained dry, with no end in sight to shortages that are helping drive inflation rapidly higher and which have led to protests about the cost of living.

Japan wants to make every effort to reduce tension between the United States and Iran before responding to an expected U.S. request to send its navy to guard strategic waters off Iran, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday.


Argentina has designated Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement as a terrorist organization and frozen its assets.

Hong Kong has been left in shock after a night of violence on Sunday, which saw dozens of masked men storm a train station.

Benjamin Netanyahu has become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, surpassing the record set by the country’s founding father.


Over 1,100 people from 19 different African countries have been arrested illegally crossing the border into the United States since May 30.

Records of more than 5 million Bulgarians got stolen by hackers from the country’s tax revenue office. In a country of just 7 million people, the scale of the hack means that just about every working adult has been affected.

Mid-Day Snapshot · July 22, 2019

The Foundation

“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.” —James Madison (1792)

Sanders Campaign Collides With Economic Reality

Bernie will now cut staffers’ hours to pay them his heavily touted $15 minimum wage.

Does Anyone Care About the National Debt?

Congress and White House negotiators are working to spend ever more of your money.

Massive Drop in Global Poverty Due to Free Market

But the UN attempts to claim government programs and socialism led to the decrease.

The American Dream or an American Nightmare?

Republicans are running to lead America. Democrats are just running it down.

Eliminating Educational Apartheid

Two bills introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley aim to break up the education “monopoly.”

Count the Ways President Trump Impacts the Black Community

The Left has turned a blind eye to Trump’s undeniable impact on the lives of black Americans

Video: America Isn’t Great?

Freedom Toons brings us “The Debunkers vs. The New York Times” on America.

Video: Google Is Censoring the 10 Commandments

Google VP says PragerU’s video is restricted because it contains the word “murder.”

Today’s Opinion

Joe Bastardi
Putting a Cap on Heat Hysteria
William Federer
Moon Landing and Communion on the Moon
Kathryn Jean Lopez
Setting an Example
Hans von Spakovsky
Trump Wins Big in Emoluments Lawsuits: 2 Down and 1 to Go
Todd Starnes
Federal Judge Bans Graduation Prayers, Religious Songs
For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.

Monday Top News Executive Summary

Mueller shakedown, budget status quo, Sanders’s self-destruction, Georgia hate hoax, and more.

Monday Short Cuts

Notable quotables from Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, and more.

Today’s Meme

For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.

Today’s Cartoon

For more of today’s cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.

News – 7/22/2019

Flocks of Dead Birds Randomly Fall From Sky in Australia: A Sign of End-of-Days?
A flock of birds fell from the sky in Australia, dying in gruesome agony. A closer look reveals that this is far from an isolated phenomenon and as more of these sightings occur, one rabbi warns that the death of nature is both a sign and an opportunity for us to fix our relationship with the Creator.

Russia Would Welcome Any Improvement Of Relations Between US, Iran – Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would welcome any moves aimed at easing tensions in relations between Tehran and Washington. “We would welcome any steps aimed at improving relations between the United States and Iran,” Putin told US film director William Oliver Stone in an interview. The Russian president also expressed concern over escalation of tensions around Iran as the country lies not far from the Russian borders.

Episode 1: The Secrets of Ilhan Omar
Episode 1 of the mini-series The Secrets of Ilhan Omar Exploring the evidence that a member of Congress Ilhan Omar committed Bigamy, Marriage Fraud

House Chaplain Casts Out Demons During Morning Prayer In Capitol Building
Reverend Patrick Conroy serves as the House of Representatives Chaplain in Washington, D.C. and regularly starts the day off for lawmakers with prayer. Thursday’s invocation was a little more serious than most days for Rev. Conroy. The Roman Catholic Priest prayed specifically to cast out the demons inside Capitol Hill. As reported by Fox News, Rev. Conroy said, “This has been a difficult and contentious week in which darker spirits seem to have been at play in the people’s House.” Conroy is a Jesuit priest, …

More than 500,000 still without power after severe weather strikes Michigan, Wisconsin
The majority of the power outages remain in Michigan, where more than 470,000 remained without electricity as of midday Sunday, according to poweroutage.us. More than a quarter of those outages were from Wayne County, which is home to Detroit.

Hurricane center watching system east of Bahamas, what it means for South Florida
The National Hurricane Center is watching an area of low pressure east of the Bahamas that has a 20 percent chance of tropical development over the next five days. The disorganized area of showers and thunderstorms is moving west at around 15 mph. While chances of a tropical cyclone forming are low, the disturbance is expected to increase rain chances for South Florida this week, according to the National Weather Service in Miami. If a tropical storm did form, it would be named Chantal.

California Is Launching a Creepy “Cradle to Career” Data System to Track EVERYTHING About Children
California, has a brand new program. The “Cradle to Career Data System” will study and document everything about a child born in the state. But don’t worry, it’s for your children’s own good. Beginning at birth and stalking the child until he or she joins the workforce, California wants to keep on eye on all sorts of demographics and variables.

Italy’s Etna volcano erupts on Sicily, closing two airports
Italy’s Mount Etna, Europe’s biggest live volcano, erupted overnight with lava flows and explosive burps, vulcanologists said Saturday. A heavy emission of ash into the sky forced the closure of two airports in Sicily’s second-biggest city of Catania. They partially reopened early Saturday.

Are you a Salad Bar Christian?
Did you know there are Salad Bar Christians, melding together a lot of curious practices, choosing what they like, but sometimes irrespective of what Scripture might say? A little of this and a little of that. A dash of Bible reading. A few prayers. A little Zen Buddhism here, and a little Hinduism (think yoga) there. Maybe church once a month. Dabbling in this and dabbling in that. Crystal-healing sessions, fortune telling, a little astrology, a tad of magic, medium readings, spiritism, burning sage, reiki, healing stones. “What’s twinkling to you?” … if you understand the spiritual aspects for much of the list above, it’s wise to stay away from it. And Scripture commands us to steer clear of fortune telling, mediums, and astrology. ad Bar Christian?

Kushner Heading to Israel, Arab Nations for Next Step in ‘Prosperity to Peace’ Plan Talks
Jared Kushner is expected to arrive in Israel next week as he sets out on another shuttle diplomacy effort to promote the Trump Administration’s Middle East economic development plan. Specifically, the trip is intended to finalize details of the proposed U.S. $50 billion plan to jump-start the Palestinian Authority economy while giving a boost to Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

Boris Johnson is right: Islam means cultural suicide
“there must be something about Islam that indeed helps to explain why there was no rise of the bourgeoisie, no liberal capitalism and therefore no spread of democracy in the Muslim world”. After describing the beauty of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s artistic masterpiece in Rome, Boris Johnson wrote: “There is nothing like it in Muslim art of that or any age, not just because it is beyond the technical accomplishment of Islamic art, but because it is so theologically offensive to Islam”. In the world of media, tv, the entire cultural milieu, it is forbidden to claim Western cultural superiority.

Volcano eruption leads to state of emergency, evacuations in southern Peru
Peru’s government has declared a state of emergency and carried out numerous evacuations in the areas hit in one way or another by the Ubinas volcano’s eruptive process which has affected around 30,000 people in the south of the country, mainly due to the dispersion of ashes, authorities reported Sunday. The volcanic activity peaked Thursday when a column of ash of about 5,000 metres high dispersed in several regions of the south of the country, even reaching places in neighbouring Bolivia.

Former CIA agent exposes the Deep State
Kevin Shipp held several positions in the CIA and had top security clearance. Since leaving the CIA, he has become a whistleblower about the corruption he saw there and in other intelligence agencies. And he believes the Deep State is attempting a secret coup to take down President Trump. He believes that coup is treason. He made that claim and others in a recent interview with Greg Hunter of USA Watchdog. Shipp thinks indictments will be coming down, maybe as soon as this year – a civil war that has been brewing for over 60 years. One side is composed of the “dark left,” the shadow government – the FBI, CIA and the NSA – the DNC and members of Congress. Armed citizens are a key component to thwart them, he says.

Israeli security forces razing Palestinian homes in Wadi Hummus
Israeli security forces began razing some 18 Palestinian-owned buildings in Wadi Hummus, located in the West Bank just outside of Jerusalem. Photos and videos from the anti-occupation NGO All That’s Left, showed the border police surrounding and entering some of the buildings. While many of them are still under construction, it is thought that there are three families, totaling 17 people, living in a number of the buildings.

Hong Kong protests: Armed mob violence leaves city in shock
Hong Kong has been left in shock after a night of violence on Sunday, which saw dozens of masked men storm a train station. The men – dressed in white shirts and suspected to be triad gangsters – assaulted pro-democracy protesters and passers-by in the Yuen Long area. This is the first time this kind of violence has been seen in the ongoing anti-extradition demonstrations.

Imran Khan: Pakistan PM to meet Trump in bid to mend ties
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is due to visit the White House for his first face-to-face talks with US President Donald Trump. The meeting is part of a push to mend relations, which have been strained by the Afghan conflict. Mr Trump reduced security aid to Pakistan early last year, accusing the country of “lies and deceit”.

Medical chief calls for global health effort
Countries must work together to tackle global health risks, England’s outgoing chief medical officer has said. In her final annual report, Prof Dame Sally Davies said focusing on domestic issues could risk failing to control global threats such as Ebola. And she said learning from other countries would also ensure the NHS was not left behind.

‘Slaughter the Jews’ painted in Arabic on Western Wall in Jerusalem
An anti-Semitic vandal scrawled “Slaughter the Jews” on a section of the sacred Western Wall in Jerusalem over the weekend, according to local reports. The chilling phrase was spray-painted in Arabic on the Kotel HaKatan, or “Little Western Wall,” on Saturday in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Venezuelan fighter jet ‘aggressively shadowed’ U.S. aircraft, Pentagon says
A Venezuelan fighter jet “aggressively shadowed” an American reconnaissance aircraft flying over the Caribbean last week, military officials said Sunday. The Russian-made SU-30 Flanker approached the U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries II on Friday at an “unsafe distance” and in an “unprofessional manner” while the aircraft was flying in approved international airspace, the United States Southern Command said in a statement.

CBP: Over 1,000 African migrants arrested near Mexican border
According to a new report from the U.S. Border Patrol, over 1,100 people from 19 different African countries have been arrested illegally crossing the border into the United States since May 30. “The apprehension of people from African countries illegally crossing our borders continues to increase,” said Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Raul L. Ortiz.

China says U.S. criticism over South China Sea is slander
Remarks by U.S. officials on China’s role in the South China Sea are slanderous, its foreign ministry said on Monday, after the United States voiced concern over reports of Chinese interference with oil and gas activities in the disputed waters. China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in shipborne trade passes each year, are contested, all or in part, by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Turkey will retaliate if U.S. imposes sanctions over S-400s: minister
Turkey would retaliate against what it called an unacceptable threat of U.S. sanctions over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defenses, its foreign minister said on Monday, adding he thinks President Donald Trump wants to avoid such measures. Turkey began receiving deliveries of the surface-to-air S-400 systems earlier this month, prompting the United States to begin removing the NATO ally from its F-35 stealth fighter program…

Democratic Party pours old Nazi-era tropes into new GOP-wineskins
…Could it be that Democrats are beginning to sense the extent to which their sustained, “toxic” and “politically-charged rhetoric” has so far exceeded the limits of civility, reason, and history that a serious push-back is coming? And, if Antifa is finally declared a terrorist organization, how will that implicate their funding sources, and the Democratic Party? “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will make the skins burst, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined.” Mark 2:22

Chinese Activist: Camps in Communist China Like ‘During the Holocaust,’ Body Organs Being Sold
Jewher Ilham, a human rights activist who fled Communist China after her father was imprisoned, noted that China’s concentration camps are like the ones that operated during the Holocaust and that human body organs are being sold.

Wildfires burning in heavily forested Castelo Branco region, central Portugal
More than 1 000 firefighters are battling several large wildfires in central Portugal since July 20, 2019. Fanned by strong winds, the fires are burning in heavily forested Castelo Branco region, 200 km (124 miles) N of capital Lisbon.

Daniel Turner: California’s latest descent into liberal madness – Berkeley bans natural gas
From sanctuary cities to brutally high taxes, California is the undisputed center of gravity for today’s far-left. If you want to see how liberal policies would look on a national level, you don’t have to imagine it. You can just look at the thousands fleeing the once-great state.

Los Angeles, California cities ‘overrun by rodents’ that pose public health epidemic, study says
An ever-growing number of rodents in California — particularly in Los Angeles — is being fueled by a spiking homeless population and restrictions on rodenticides that are risking a public health crisis, according to a study released Tuesday.

Autistic child kidnapped by state ends up in CPS system before being trafficked – are they trying to “disappear” all vaccine damaged children?
Despite all of their manufactured outrage over the illegal alien children that are allegedly being “separated” from their families and held in detention “cages” at the southern border, liberals are hypocritically nowhere to be found in standing up for the many American families that continue to be separated and torn apart by the corrupt Child Protective Services (CPS) system.

Powerful derecho sweeps through Midwest, leaves 365 000 customers without power
A powerful derecho swept through the Upper Midwest on Friday night local time, July 19, 2019, leaving more than 365 000 customers without power from Minnesota Michigan.

California Launches Creepy “Cradle-To-Career” Data System To Track Everything About Children
If you want to have a social credit system like the one in China, I guess you’ve got to start early…

Headlines – 7/22/2019

Senior US team to visit Middle East for talks on Washington’s peace plan

Trump’s peace team is heading back to Israel next week

Kushner to finalize Palestinian economic plan on Mideast tour, says US official

Despite hostile political stance, UN buying more from Israel

Trump congratulates Netanyahu for becoming Israel’s longest-serving PM

Trump: Radical Democrats need to apologize to US and Israel

‘Slaughter the Jews’ painted in Arabic on Western Wall in Jerusalem

Israel Begins Demolition of 70 Homes in Palestinian-controlled East Jerusalem Neighborhood

ISIS militants return to Iraq, continue fight

Syrian government bombing of rebel stronghold kills 11

Militants bomb, derail phosphate train in central Syria

Israeli Sources: Iran Trying to Arm Syria, Hezbollah by Sea

Saudi Arabia urges global action against Iran after UK tanker seized

Britain’s May to chair emergency session on seized tanker

For Britain’s Next Prime Minister, A High-Stakes Standoff With Iran Awaits

Japan’s Abe says will make every effort to reduce tension between US, Iran

Imran Khan: Pakistan PM to meet Trump in bid to mend ties

Hong Kong protests: Night of violence shocks city after seventh week of mass marches

UK PM front-runner Boris Johnson says trade deal can break Brexit deadlock

Venezuelan fighter jet ‘aggressively shadowed’ Navy aircraft over Caribbean Sea, US military says

Puerto Rico governor announces he will not seek re-election but refuses to resign

Reps. Cohen, Green vow to keep pursuing articles of impeachment against Trump

Omar’s boycott resolution tests a party’s moral compass

‘Apologize to America,’ Trump tells Democratic congresswomen

Nadler: Substantial evidence President Trump ‘guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors’ contained in Mueller report

Cat filter mistakenly used during police news conference on double homicide

India moon mission set to launch a week after it was aborted

5.5 magnitude earthquake hits near Merizo Village, Guam

5.2 magnitude earthquake hits near Merizo Village, Guam

5.2 magnitude earthquake hits near Amahai, Indonesia

Sabancaya volcano in Peru erupts to 27,000ft

Ubinas volcano in Peru erupts to 21,000ft

Reventador volcano in Ecuador erupts to 16,000ft

Sangeang Api volcano in Indonesia erupts to 12,000ft

Invest 94L Is Unlikely to Develop in the Atlantic But Will Enhance Moisture in Florida

Records fall as last day of heat wave bakes Midwest, East Coast

Major power outages pop up from Michigan to New York amid dangerous heat wave

At least 50 dead pilot whales wash up on remote beach in Iceland

Philippines declares national emergency after more than 100,000 people contract Dengue fever

Administration pauses enforcement of abortion restriction

Polish city holds first LGBTQ pride parade despite far-right violence

David Jeremiah warns modern church is entertainment-driven social organization afraid of controversy

Why religious freedom is becoming a pressing global issue

Apostasy Watch Daily News

This Week in Crazy — Medical Proof for Tongues, Selective Healing, Dirty Mantles & Pastor’s Becoming Irrelevant

Jesus Army sex scandal: The dark secrets of life in a commune

I lost my dad the day he told me he wanted to become a woman

Joe Biden Would Have His Justice Department Overturn Every Single Pro-Life Law Nationwide

North Korea more afraid of Christians than nuclear weapons, says formerly imprisoned pastor

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“A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it…” – Martin Luther

Tensions mount as Iran seizes oil tankers & U.S. deploys more troops to Middle East. Here’s the latest, and my interview with CBN News. — Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Tensions with the Iranian regime continue to heat up, and at the moment a U.S. military confrontation with Tehran seems increasingly likely.

On June 23rd, I asked, “Do the mullahs and ayatollahs in Iran want a war with the U.S.? Or do they believe the current American President is likely to follow the way of most  presidents for the last several decades and back down in the face of Iranian aggression? I wish the mounting tensions were nothing more than the fiction of my latest thriller, The Persian Gamble. But the situation in real-life is actually becoming very serious.”

At the time, I provided a detailed list of Iranian provocations and American responses. Much has happened since then. Here are the latest headlines:

What exactly is Iran trying to accomplish? I discussed this last Thursday in Washington with CBN News. Click here to watch the video, which runs almost five minutes. (I also discussed my speech at the State Department’s conference on advancing religious freedom. To read the full text of the speech, please click here.)

via Tensions mount as Iran seizes oil tankers & U.S. deploys more troops to Middle East. Here’s the latest, and my interview with CBN News. — Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

MUST READ: Vladimir Putin Discusses Russian Interference in US Election and the Attempted Coup d’état with Oliver Stone — The Gateway Pundit

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently sat down for an interview with far left Hollywood producer Oliver Stone.

The transcript for the interview was posted on the Kremlin website.

Most of the liberal mainstream media is covering the part of the interview where Oliver Stone asked Putin to be the godfather of his grandson.  The Democrat Pravda media is ignoring the rest.

Robert Wenzel posted part of the transcript on his website.

You can make up your own mind on this interview.

But it really is amazing that he is more believable in this video than the liberal mainstream media has been in the past three years!

Here is this amazing dialogue on the US elections.

Oliver Stone: Yes. So recently, you know Russia has been obviously accused and accused over and over again of interference in the 2016 election. As far as I know there is no proof, it has not turned up. But now in the US there has been an investigation going on about Ukraine’s interference in the election. It seems that it was a very confusing situation, and Poroshenko seems to have been very strongly pro-Clinton, anti-Trump.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is no secret.
Oliver Stone: Do you think there was interference?
Vladimir Putin: I do not think that this could be interpreted as interference by Ukraine. But it is perfectly obvious that Ukrainian oligarchs gave money to Trump’s opponents. I do not know whether they did this by themselves or with the knowledge of the authorities.
Oliver Stone: Were they giving information to the Clinton campaign?
Vladimir Putin: I do not know. I am being honest. I will not speak about what I do not know. I have enough problems of my own. They assumed Mrs Clinton would win and did everything to show loyalty to the future US administration. That is nothing special. They wanted the future President to have a good opinion of them. This is why they allowed themselves to make unflattering statements about Trump and supported the Democrats in every possible way. This is no secret at all. They acted almost in public.
Oliver Stone: You do not want to go any further on that because you do not have any information?
Vladimir Putin: You know, this would be inappropriate on my part. If I said something more specific, I would have to put some documents, some papers on the table.
Oliver Stone: You understand that it has huge implications because Mr Trump would be very grateful?
Vladimir Putin: I did not interfere then, I do not want to interfere now, and I am not going to interfere in the future.
Oliver Stone: But that is a noble motive. Unfortunately, the world has degenerated in these two years, with all this backbiting and accusations, dirty fighting. Anyway…
…Vladimir Putin: To change anything. If you want to return to US elections again – look, it is a huge country, a huge nation with its own problems, with its own views on what is good and what is bad, and with an understanding that in the past few years, say ten years, nothing has changed for the better for the middle class despite the enormous growth of prosperity for the ruling class and the wealthy. This is a fact that Trump’s election team understood. He understood this himself and made the most of it.
No matter what our bloggers – or whoever’s job it is to comment on the internet – might say about the situation in the US, this could not have played a decisive role. It is sheer nonsense. But our sympathies were with him because he said he wanted to restore normal relations with Russia. What is bad about that? Of course, we can only welcome this position.
Oliver Stone: Apparently, it excited the Clinton people a lot. The Clinton campaign accumulated the “Steele dossier.” They paid for it. It came from strange sources, the whole “Steele dossier” issue. Some of it comes from Ukraine. They also went out of their way, it seems to me, with the CIA, with Mr Brennan, John Brennan, and with Clapper, James Clapper, and Comey of the FBI. They all seem to have gotten involved, all intelligence agencies, in an anti-Trump way.
Vladimir Putin: They had levers inside the government, but there is nothing like that here. They applied administrative pressure. It always gives an advantage in countries such as the USA, some countries of Western Europe, about 2 percent on average, at a minimum.
Oliver Stone: Two percent? What are you talking about?
Vladimir Putin: Yes. According to experts, those with administrative pressure they can apply always have a 2 percent edge. You can look at it differently. Some experts believe that in different countries, it can vary, but in countries such as the United States, some European countries, the advantage is 2 percent. This is what experts say, they can be wrong.
Oliver Stone: I do not know. I heard of the one percent, but it seems to get more like 12 percent.
Vladimir Putin: That is possible, depending on how it is used.
Oliver Stone: Well, you are not disagreeing. You are saying that it was quite possible that there was an attempt to prevent Donald Trump from coming into office with a soft, I will call it a soft coup d’état?
Vladimir Putin: In the USA?
Oliver Stone: Yes.
Vladimir Putin: It is still going on.
Oliver Stone: A coup d’état is planned by people who have power inside.
Vladimir Putin: No, I do not mean that. I mean lack of respect for the will of the voters. I think it was unprecedented in the history of the United States.
Oliver Stone: What was unprecedented?
Vladimir Putin: It was the first time the losing side does not want to admit defeat and does not respect the will of the voters.

You can read the whole thing here.

via MUST READ: Vladimir Putin Discusses Russian Interference in US Election and the Attempted Coup d’état with Oliver Stone — The Gateway Pundit

July 22 Committed to the Task

scripture reading: Luke 9:57–62
key verse: Luke 9:62

Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Jesus was committed to the Father’s mission, even to the point of death. If you plan to answer the call of Christ, you must be committed to His mission.

Lack of commitment may cause you to waver, become fearful, and eventually quit. Peter sank while walking on the water because he took his eyes off the Savior and became consumed with his surroundings.

Jesus told His disciples that no one who puts his hands to the plow and then looks back at what might have been is fit for the kingdom of God. Commitment is everything to Him. If you are not fully committed to Christ, you will never be committed to His mission.

Many people fail to answer God’s call because the commitment seems too great—the requirements too stiff. You may never understand God’s motive in calling you to a certain task, but you can be sure He has a purpose and a wonderful plan in store for you. Obedience is always the prelude to blessing.

Jesus was and still is fully committed to you. Are you committed to Him and His call? If so, praise Him for His work in your life, and then ask Him to give you wisdom and insight into your personal mission.

O God, make me committed to You with the same level of commitment You have toward me. Raise me up in Your strength to fulfill my personal mission in this world.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1998). Enter His gates: a daily devotional. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

22 july 365 Days with Spurgeon

Continental tour «3

suggested reading: 1 Corinthians 9:19–23

I was allowed to stand in the pulpit of John Calvin. I am not superstitious, but the first time I saw this medal bearing the venerated effigy of John Calvin I kissed it, imagining that no one saw the action. I was very greatly surprised when I received this magnificent present, which shall be passed round for your inspection. On the one side is John Calvin with his visage worn by disease and deep thought, and on the other side is a verse fully applicable to that man of God. “He endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” That is the very character of the man. That glorious man, Calvin! I preached in the cathedral. I do not think half the people understood me in the Cathedral of St. Peter’s; but they were very glad to see and join in heart with the worship in which they could not join with understanding. I did not feel very happy when I came out in full clergyman’s dress, but the request was put to me in such a beautiful way that I could have worn the Pope’s tiara, if by so doing I could preach the gospel more freely. They said,—“Our dear brother comes to us from another country. Now, when an ambassador comes from another country, he has a right to wear his own costume at Court; but, as a mark of very great esteem, he sometimes condescends to the manners of the country which he visits, and wears the Court dress.” “Well,” I said—“yes, that I will, certainly, if you do not require it, but merely ask it as a token of my Christian love. I shall feel like running in a sack, but it will be your fault.” But it was John Calvin’s cloak, and that reconciled it to me very much. I do love that man of God, suffering all his life long, enduring not only persecutions from without but a complication of disorders from within; and yet serving his Master with all his heart.

for meditation: The advice “When in Rome do as the Romans do” may lead the believer into unhealthy compromise. When in Geneva Spurgeon willingly became as a Genevan for the sake of the gospel. Does the same thought motivate us to be adaptable, without compromise, in order to win all sorts and conditions of men?

part of nos. 331–332[1]

[1] Spurgeon, C. H., & Crosby, T. P. (1998). 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (p. 210). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

Is the Social Gospel the Whole Gospel? — Grace to You Blog

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused Verses. The following entry from that series originally appeared on October 9, 2015. -ed.

You wouldn’t tell your children, “Bathe regularly; if necessary, use water.”

Nor would you advise a friend, “Be a faithful husband; if necessary, love your wife.”

Those redundant instructions defy logic. They also beg the question about what other means you would employ to accomplish those goals. You might as well tell someone, “Stay alive; if necessary, breath oxygen.”

And yet many Christians rally around a similarly illogical statement when it comes to evangelism. “Preach the gospel; if necessary, use words,” is a mantra that is a darling of social gospel activists. That quote, wrongly attributed to Francis of Assisi, is wielded when it’s time to poke zealous evangelists in the eye, or rebrand social work as a form of evangelism. Social gospel advocates like Rick Warren [1] Rick Warren, 40 Days of Community: Better Together Devotional: What on Earth Are We Here For?(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010) 61. and Jim Wallis [2]https://sojo.net/about-us/news/pope-francis-message-washington love to use it.

And let’s face it, there is a winsome ring of truth to the idea that my lifestyle can be a testimony of God’s saving work. Moreover, there is a built-in rebuke of evangelists who fail to walk their talk. Their hypocrisy—faith without works—is a reproach on God, His Word, and His people (James 2:14–17). But it’s absurd to turn that hypocrisy into an argument for the primacy of good works apart from the clear proclamation of the gospel.

The Necessity of Words

Paul never said, “How will they see without a preacher?” He said, “How will they hear without a preacher” (Romans 10:14). That is because every time the word “preach” appears in the New Testament it refers to vigorous verbalproclamation. It is verbal in its testimony of the works of a Savior who fulfilled the law that we have continually broken (Matthew 5:17–18; Romans 3:23), suffered the punishment that we could never bear (Isaiah 53:4–6; 1 Peter 2:24), and defeated the grave (2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14).

And because Christ’s people depend entirely upon Hisunique work done on their behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21), there is no way to fully demonstrate it through actions alone. As Voddie Baucham points out: “For me to think that I can live the gospel is to put myself in the place of Christ.” [3]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Rd2WiYyDxs

So where does that leave works of social justice such as feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and caring for the oppressed? No one would argue that they are bad things to do. Indeed James defines them as integral to pure religion (James 1:27). But do those acts of mercy have any role to play in a person’s salvation?

Advocates of the social gospel argue yes, and appeal to Matthew 25 as their apex argument:

Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

Then He will also say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.” Then they themselves also will answer, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?” Then He will answer them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:34–46)

Was Jesus saying that our eternal destinies hinge on feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, clothing the naked, and visiting the oppressed? And how would that square with salvation by grace through faith apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9)?

The Whole [Other] Gospel

Tony Campolo is one of the most prominent advocates for the social gospel. His handling of Matthew 25 typifies the wider movement. While not explicitly denying the gospel of grace alone, he argues that it is our treatment of the poor and oppressed that will determine our eternity:

I place my highest priority on the words of Jesus, emphasizing the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus makes clear that on Judgment Day the defining question will be how each of us responded to those he calls “the least of these.” [4]http://tonycampolo.org/for-the-record-tony-campolo-releases-a-new-statement/#.Vg4Hbnh7DxM

The recently closed Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE), of which Campolo was founder and president, clearly defines who he thinks “the least of these” are:

That Jesus was homeless and taught that we may encounter Him in “the least of these”—the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, widow, stranger and imprisoned (Matthew 25:35-40), is the basis of what Tony calls the Whole Gospel and informs EAPE’s holistic ministry.  And it raises questions for the Church and every Christian: what should be our response to the homeless and to “the least of these”? [5] http://eape.org/tag/matthew-2535-40-rich-mullins/

Note Campolo’s use of the term “Whole Gospel.” He is implying that proclamation of the good news is only a partial gospel and must be accompanied by social action in order to become a complete or “whole” gospel. But his imbalanced emphasis betrays his mishandling of Matthew 25:35–40.

The Bible repeatedly teaches that good works are ultimately God’s works because they are the natural fruit of salvation; never the cause (cf. Ezekiel 36:25-27; James 2:14–17). And in Matthew 25 you don’t see judgment based on works, you see works revealing who is truly saved by faith. John MacArthur is emphatic on this point:

The good deeds commended in Matthew 25:35–36 are the fruit, not the root, of salvation. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that they are not the basis of entrance into the kingdom. Christ will judge according to works only insofar as those works are or are not a manifestation of redemption, which the heavenly Father has foreordained. If a person has not trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, no amount of seemingly good works done in His name will avail to any spiritual benefit. [6] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 24–28 (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1989) 122.

Who’s Who Among the Judged

Another critical issue in understanding Matthew 25 is to recognize that the division Christ makes is not between the church and the pagan world, but between true and false Christians. While the pagan lives in open unbelief, the false Christian is an imposter who has blended in among God’s people. False Christians are the recipients of Christ’s most terrifying judgment:

So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:20–23)

Matthew 25:34-46 makes a similar division between those who have genuine faith and those whose faith is false, according to the evidence of their works. Note carefully that both groups of people think they are Christians because they address Jesus as “Lord” (Matthew 25:37, 44). Both groups are also surprised by the verdict. The surprise reveals humility among Christ’s people (“when did we,” Matthew 25:37–39) and self-righteousness among those who are faking it (“when did we . . . not,” Matthew 25:44).

Who’s Who Among the Lowly

Finally, the beneficiaries of these good works are not the disenfranchised people of the world, as Campolo suggests. The word “brothers” (Matthew 25:40) is vital to understanding where our benevolence is to be directed. Jesus is saying that the fruit of genuine faith is evidenced in the way we care for fellow believers who are suffering (cf. John 13:35; 1 John 3:10–11). MacArthur brings this point home:

The King’s addressing these people as brothers of Mine gives still further evidence that they are already children of God. . . . Because of their identity with Christ, they will often be hungry, thirsty, without decent shelter or clothing, sick, imprisoned, and alienated from the mainstream of society. [7] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 24–28, 124–125.


This is not to deny any duty we have to love the disenfranchised people of the world. But if proponents of the social gospel were serious about Scripture, they would target passages that refer to loving our neighbors—even loving our enemies (Matthew 22:39; 5:44). Christ’s words in Matthew 25 have nothing to do with the social justice they advocate.

Matthew 25:34­–46 was never written as a blueprint for salvation through social work nor should it be employed as such. It’s not an argument for preaching the gospel through our actions alone, but rather that our actions authenticate the gospel we preach. And those actions must be prioritized towards our suffering fellow believers. So please, care for other believers because Jesus commanded us to. Realize that a lack of care may point to a lack of saving faith. And preach the gospel with words because they’re always necessary.

via Is the Social Gospel the Whole Gospel? — Grace to You Blog

22 JULY 365 Days with Calvin

Persevering after Persecution

Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. Acts 5:20

suggested further reading: John 16

The apostles are delivered so they might employ themselves in bravely preaching the gospel and courageously provoking their enemies until they valiantly die. The apostles are eventually put to death when the hand of God ceases and they have finished their course. But for now the Lord opens the prison for them so they may be at liberty to fulfill their function.

This is worth noting because we see many people who, having escaped out of persecution, afterward keep silence, as if they have done their duty toward God and are no more to be troubled. Others escape further duty by denying Christ. The Lord does deliver his children to the end, not that they may cease from the course that they have begun, but rather that they might afterward be more zealous.

The apostles might have objected, saying it was better to keep silence for a time, because they could not speak one word without danger. If we are now apprehended for only one sermon, they might ask, how much more shall the fury of our enemies be inflamed if they see us make no end of speaking?

But because they knew that they were to live and to die to the Lord, the apostles did not refuse to do what the Lord commands. So we must always mark what function the Lord prescribes to us. We may be asked to do many things that may discourage us, unless we are content with the commandment of God alone and do our duty, committing the success to him.

for meditation: We are quick to think that our hardships merit a time of peace and ease. But we can see from the apostles’ example that this is not the case at all. Submitting to hardships is so often difficult; let us pray for God’s grace so that we might be spurred on to new and radical obedience by the trials we face.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 222). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

July 22 – He has rolled away the reproach of Egypt — Reformed Perspective

“And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’” – Joshua 5:9

Scripture reading: Joshua 5:1-9

The LORD explained in verse 9 why He had commanded the Israelites to circumcise their sons at Gilgal: Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.

What is the reproach of Egypt? Remember how Moses prayed to the LORD after Israel worshipped the golden calf. He said:

“O Lord God, do not destroy Your people . . . lest the land from which You brought us say, Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land that He promised them, and because He hated them, He has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness. For they are Your people and your heritage, whom You brought out by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 9:26-29).

The unbelief and rebellion of Israel constantly brought God’s work of salvation into question. How can people like this be saved? How can people like this be God’s people, God’s beloved children? Our sin puts a question mark behind God’s promises.

But God erases that question mark with the gospel: God saves sinners for the glory of His Name (Ephesians 1:3-14), and He has exalted His Name and His Word above all things (Psalm 138:2). Israel’s arrival in Canaan was never really in doubt. God vindicated His Name when He brought Israel through the Jordan on dry ground. He has staked the glory of His Name on your salvation; believe that He will bring you to Himself, through the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for prayer

Thank and praise God that He has chosen to glorify His Name in your salvation, and rejoice in the certainty that that gives you.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario.

via July 22 – He has rolled away the reproach of Egypt — Reformed Perspective