Monday, February 17, 2014

"Vengeance is Mine," says the LORD ...

Day #52:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - February 18th

Scripture Reading:  Judges 12 - 15 ...

The Judges, Israel, the Philistines and Samson ... they were all characters in a real-life drama in which the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was at the center.  We have seen that this roughly 300-year period in the history of Israel revealed both the depth of mankind's depravity and the wisdom, power, mercy and grace of God as He brought judgment on Israel's enemies and, at times, upon Israel, yet continued to save a remnant who believed and trusted in Him.

It would have been easy for Israel to be overcome by their enemies at any time during this period.  They had no central leadership among the twelve tribes, they had no unified commitment to worship the one true God, who had brought them into the land in fulfillment of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and they had no unified army to fight against their enemies.  The Judges that God raised up and empowered were extremely flawed people for the most part who, like Samson, made serious errors in judgment.

Yet, a clue to God's work during this period is found in Chapter 14, verse 4, as God chose Samson to lead Israel:  "His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel."  The Philistines (who lived in the land presently occupied by the Palestinians - the Gaza Strip), were a thorn in the flesh for Israel.  We will hear more about them in the future (Hint:  Goliath was a Philistine!).  Having occupied the land before God brought Israel out of Egypt and into the land, the Philistines were continually opposed to Israel and were at this time exercising authority over them, making life miserable for the tribes of Israel.

It was God's intention and desire to deal with them and to point those in Israel back to Him.  "Judgment" and "vengeance" are not words used today when referring to the God who reveals Himself in His Word, in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the world around us.  So why all of the bloodshed?  Why did God use people like Samson to bring judgment on peoples and nations?  The answer lies in God's plan to bring HOPE, to bring salvation - deliverance from His wrath ... through the death of His own Son on the cross.

It is the cross of Jesus Christ that stands as the centerpiece of God's plan to gather a people for Himself from every people, tribe, nation and tongue.  No other religion - NONE - either understands God's holiness and His just wrath and judgment, or understands God's mercy and grace in providing a Savior to take the place of those who are chosen by God to be His special people.  What is sad today is that many in the church who claim to believe in this one true God do not truly know Him or honor Him as God.  Instead, they question the justice of God in choosing some and refuse to believe that God will ultimately bring His vengeance upon anyone!

John's Revelation, the conclusion to God's prophecies about the future, displays clearly what God is about to do ... much as He did to the Philistines ... but we are told by many today that the book of Revelation is symbolic and is not to be taken literally.  Here is truth:  There is one God.  He is God in the Old Testament, during the time of the Judges; and He is God in the Gospels, as He sends His Son to take upon Himself a human nature to seek and to save the lost; He is God in the New Testament, as the Gospel of grace is spread throughout the world; He is God today, as He withholds the final judgment until the last of His sheep is found ... and He is the God who will release His wrath in full measure on all those who have rejected Him and His offer of salvation in His Son, the only HOPE ... Jesus Christ!

Learn from these pages of history from the past.  Receive God's offer of forgiveness today as you come to Him through faith in Jesus, and find peace, hope and joy ... for a lifetime ... and MORE!!

"Heavenly Father, YOU alone are God!  I praise You because You are worthy of praise.  You are perfect in all Your ways and You rule over all You have made.  Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever!  Thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Son and for Your amazing, amazing grace.  In Jesus' name, Amen" 

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