Tag Archives: Prophets

No Lone Rangers

lone ranger mask eyes
Over twenty years ago we heard a sermon that God does not want lone ranger Christians. God established His Church and each and every believer is responsible to be part of His Church. It was based on a very principle of God’s Word. And let us continue to consider how to motivate one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another even more as you see the day of the Lord coming nearer. Hebrews 10:24, 25

This principle of unity or meeting together in the assembly is based in the Law, used for over 1,500 years in Israel, Jesus joined the assembly in synagogue services and at the temple. The very word church, ekklesia, εκκλησι´α is the word “assembly”. Jesus said, “That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:21, 22

So with these examples and commands of assembly, where do lone prophets such as Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Amos and John the Baptist fit in God’s Plan? We can add Christians who stood alone such as Martin Luther to the list, but the question is the same. How do we reconcile “Here I stand. I can do no other” with the command to gather together in my name?

Samuel said, “Does the LORD delight as much in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the LORD? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 (ISV) Sacrifices were both commanded and done in the assembly as the most important aspect of public worship, but Samuel pointed out that obedience was more important. Obedience is an individual choice.

The responsibility of the prophets was to proclaim the Word of God, even if that meant opposing the assembly. “And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him. The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.” 1 Kings 13:1-5

The entire chapter of Hebrew 11 lists men and women who stood alone for God against assemblies of wickedness. The important points are that they were called by God and were obedient to God’s revealed Word. They did not simply neglect the assembly because they were lazy. The assembly departed from God’s Word and left them.

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Balaam vs Jonah — No Comparison — Or Is There?

File:Rembrandt Balaam's Ass.jpg

Here’s a very brief comparison/contrast of Balaam versus Jonah. You let me know what you decide, because frankly, I don’t know what to think about these two guys, except for a couple of observations I’ll make after my list.

Balaam: Summoned by kings with promises of reward.

Jonah: Summoned by God with no promise of any kind.

Balaam: Asked to curse people he didn’t know anything about, or care about, even after God said, “They are blessed.”

Jonah: Sent to hereditary enemies of his people, very nasty folks who should be dead.

Balaam: Told to curse the people so bad things would happen to them.

Jonah: Told to warn the people so that bad things might not happen to them.

Balaam: Went with the ambassadors even though he knew he couldn’t do what Balak wanted

Jonah: Tried to run as far as he could in the other direction

Balaam: Smacked his donkey around and failed to see the Angel of God standing ready to kill him until the donkey talked to him.

Jonah: Almost got the ship’s crew killed and spent 3 days and 3 nights in the great fish (Hey, they both have animal encounters!)

Balaam: Soaked Balak for multiple sacrifices trying to get paid, but failed to curse the children of Israel

Jonah: Seems to have wandered about bleached, bloated, and in rags, shouting his warning, and got the Ninevites to repent.

Balaam: Whispered in Balak’s ear that he could use hot women and cool idols to get Israel in big, big trouble.

Jonah: Sat on a hill in a stick booth under a gourd vine (till it shriveled up and blew away), apparently still hoping the Ninevites might get blasted into nothingness.

Balaam: Got killed by Joshua and his army

Jonah: Got a lecture on loving his enemies and went on to bigger and better prophesies.

File:Prophet Jonah.jpg

Here’s what I did conclude that sort of tips the scales in Jonah’s favor. The sailors Jonah tried to get killed by running all got “saved”! (They sacrificed to the Lord and made vows.) That seems as if it would not have happened if Jonah had done the right thing in the first place. Jonah pretty clearly repented inside the fish, though he did have a backsliding incident up on the hill. (The part where he still wished those people would be dead!) God never really tried to reason with Balaam, but he did have patience and compassion with Jonah. I am more confused than ever about Balaam, but I kinda think I can identify with Jonah, and hope for mercy and grace like he got in spite of my stubbornness. Both these men had a gift from God, and it all came down to how they used it.

Here are a few verses I found that might help you make up your mind in the Balaam vs Jonah controversy.

About Balaam

“Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the Lord, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the Lord speaks, that I will speak.” (Numbers 24:13)

“Therefore, flee to your place now. I said I would honor you greatly, but behold, the Lord has held you back from honor.” (Numbers 24:11)

Some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. (Revelation 2:14)

The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain. (Joshua 13:22)

About Jonah

But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3) 

Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. (Jonah 1:10) 

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” The Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-4) 

He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher. (2 Kings 14:25)

Image credits

Rembrant, Balaam’s Ass, Wikimedia Commons, public domain in the US

Michaelangelo, Jonah, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain in the US

Scriptures from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

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The Greatest Commandment


“Master Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

Everything we do, every decision we make must have these two guiding principles. Does it glorify God? Does it show that I love my neighbor as myself? This blog post is inspired by a variety of topics that come across my Facebook page.

People have said in many different ways that they want their Facebook experience to be, in effect, “light and fluffy.” They don’t want to talk about religion or politics. A cute picture or a funny story receives many, sometimes hundreds of “likes,” reposts, and comments. Sometimes we like and repost such things too. But important posts, prayer requests for persecuted Christians or links to important news items, rarely show any evidence that anyone has even seen them.

As believers in Christ Jesus, we are not keeping these two commandments when we keep our lives “light and fluffy.” As believers, we are part of the Church, engaged in warfare. As believers we are faced with daily choices. Are our bodies temples of the Holy Spirit, or are they simply, as the Secular Humanist bumper stickers claim, amusement parks?

The Scriptures have detailed teaching about how a church should conduct itself and what it should expect of its membership, and vice-versa. Failure to follow these Scriptures is sin. A church or an individual needs to condemn failure to follow clear Scriptures or the making up of practices the Scriptures do not teach or allow for.

The Word of God clearly commands us not to fellowship with believers living in open sin. Though it grieves God’s heart, some people in positions of church leadership are living in open sin. Sadder still, unbelievers mock and ridicule the Word of God in the majority of the church buildings of Western Europe and the United States. We can neither glorify God nor love our neighbor in these services. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us discern exactly what type of ministry we should join and support.

But some people say they won’t go to a church service if it does not meet their “needs,” whatever that means. Would you attend a church where men were segregated from women and children? What about a service without pews or chairs, where you had to stand for the entire service? What about a church that met in a different place each service because of threats on the worshipers’ lives?

There are three standards in the word of God for choosing to fellowship and support a local work by joining in membership. First, does it preach the Word of God? This means the whole council of God, not just what I want to hear. Second, is there a place for ministry? If the abilities and gifts God has blessed you with cannot be used in one fellowship, seek out another place where they can be used. Third, can I faithfully attend the services? The perfect fit a thousand miles from your house is not such a perfect fit.

These should not be such high standards. Instead, Christian Churches are filled with people “whose god is their appetites.” Philippians 3:9. These people will only attend a church which meets their appetites. The sad part is, what might be acceptable for one believer, might be a stumbling block and a sin for another believer.

The following is a brief list of some of the issues we have seen which cause people to leave a church. 1) The church is not the right size. These are “Goldilocks” Christians. This church is too big. This church is too small. They go through life forever searching for the church that is “just right.” 2) The music or worship service is not “contemporary” enough. They often tie this to other issues. They say the church is cold, unfriendly, judgmental, sometimes after attending for years and suddenly discovering that all these things have bothered them for years. Do they really mean to say, “I hate this church and I know this church hates me because I hate its music”? 3) The Church isn’t “giving” enough. What they usually mean by this is that other members are not giving them enough. 4) The Church is “legalistic.” This word is so overused that it has lost it’s meaning. In the Bible the word legalism simply means works salvation. Sometimes people simply mean that this particular church has standards they do not like.

So maybe our facebook pages, and our churches, and our lives, should not consist of what is light and fluffy, of what is pleasing to us, but rather of things that fulfill the Greatest Commandment.

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