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Wednesday, 13 April 2016

As up-to-date as tomorrow's newspapers!

Those who read the Bible with any level of understanding will appreciate what used to be often claimed that, in its basic teachings, it is not a bundle of irrelevant ancient documents, but is, as the title of this post says, as up-to-date as tomorrow's newspapers!

This was, once again, brought home to me during my personal devotions this morning.  Having completed my time in Paul's letter to the disciples of Jesus in Galatia, I decided that I should return to the books of the Minor Prophets, in the Old Testament.  These are the closing books of the OT, starting at Hosea and going through to Malachi.  I should perhaps point out that they are referred to as the "minor" prophets, not because they are less important than the 'major' prophets, but merely because their writings are shorter!

It is always useful, I would contend, to familiarise oneself with the background to any Biblical text before attempting to read it, and learn from it.  Accordingly, I picked up a commentary by Warren Wiersbe - in my opinion, one of the finest Biblical commentators of this generation.  In his introduction to Hosea, I read the following: "Israel was enjoying great prosperity, but Hosea could see that the nation was rotten to the core; for honest government, pure religion, godly homes, and personal integrity had vanished from the land.  Judgment was inevitable."

The book was published in 1996.  Twenty years later, those words are, surely, even more true of most of the so-called "western" countries, than they were back then.  I read my daily (online) newspaper; I receive additional information through e-mails; I am inundated by Facebook messages that also inform me as to the state of the world in which we live.  Sadly, I see that "... honest government, pure religion, godly homes, and personal integrity ..." are in as short supply today as they were in Israel [the northern kingdom; the southern kingdom, at that time, was referred to as Judah] at the time of Hosea.   In the UK there is a Prime Minister who appears, to many, to be an inveterate, almost pathological, liar.  The major, traditional, Christian denominations are almost indistinguishable from the world to which they should be an example, and a prophetic voice (like Hosea!).  Godly homes are almost as rare as hen's teeth.  Personal integrity seems to have become little more than a phrase from antiquity.

Is it too much to suggest that judgement is inevitable?  Indeed, is it possible that we are, in the 'western' world, already tasting that judgement?   When child sacrifice, under the name of "abortion", is practiced on a scale that would horrify even those who practised it millennia ago in an attempt to appease the 'deities' they worshipped, but merely because a pregnancy, and the responsibility of a child, would be "inconvenient", what right have we to claim that we are the civilised ones? When deviant sexual relationships are accepted as being perfectly normal, even although they are incapable of producing children, what allows us to call our selves "progressive"?  When people are murdered, under the label of "euthanasia", because they have reached a certain age, and are no longer 'productive' members of society, how on earth may we call ourselves loving, caring, and compassionate?

All of the above - and there is so much more - is in total contradiction of the teachings of the Bible, and the will of the Creator God Who, through His servants, authored it (see II Tim.3:16).  However, Paul, writing to those Galatian believers in the letter that I have just finished reading again, warned them: "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Gal 6:7-8).  As a society, I fear that we are beginning to reap what we have sown - and it is not pleasant!

A mighty man of God named Moses, spoke to the Children of Israel shortly before his own physical death.  Listen to these words, spoken towards the end of that discourse: "I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life , that you and your descendants may live, loving YHWH your God, obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which YHWH swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them." (Deut 30:19-20).

Have you chosen life?  It's readily available to you, and in a measure greater than was offered to those people all of those millennia ago.  Because the life that is offered to you is the very life of Almighty God - eternal life, here and now.  It is something that you can never deserve; never purchase; never earn.  It is offered, as a free gift, to those who are willing to confront, and confess, their sins - and their total inability to do anything about them - but who come to the foot of the cross of Calvary, and accept, by faith, that God has done it all, in Jesus the Christ.  He has paid the penalty that you and I ought to pay, that we might know salvation, full and free.  When you take that step, you become His child, adopted into His family: "How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every blessing in heaven because we belong to Christ. Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be His very own through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy in His eyes, without a single fault - we who stand before Him covered with his love.  His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And He did this because He wanted to!" (Eph 1:3-5; TLB; emphasis added).

Like me, you may live in a world that appears to be "going to the dogs".  Like me, you may enter a new relationship; a new family; and have a new future.  The choice, always, is yours.  Make the right one!

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