A Study of Haggai: The Secure Love of God

In the summer 2020 message series “For the Love,” the Clear Creek Community Church Teaching Team will examine one of the least known sections of the Bible, the books known as the Minor Prophets, to better understand the great love of God and our faithful response to that love. Join with us in reading each book along the way! Each Sunday afternoon we will post an introductory video by The Bible Project and a 5-day reading plan with reflection questions to prepare you to hear the following Sunday’s message.


DAY 1—Read Haggai 1:1-11

Haggai preached his message to God’s people during the same period as Zechariah. Which leaders does he address by name? What is he calling for the people to do? What have they been prioritizing instead (v. 4)?

Haggai’s language in this passage mirrors the covenant curses described by Moses in the Law. Read Deuteronomy 28:15-24. What difficulty was Haggai’s audience enduring, and how does this mirror the curses predicted in Deuteronomy? In what way was their failure to rebuild the temple equivalent to failure to keep their covenant with the Lord?

 

APPLY—In what ways do we tend to prioritize our own cares and concerns over the priorities of the kingdom? Read Matthew 6:25-33. What would need to change if you began to seek his kingdom first, walking by faith rather than fear?

 

 

 

DAY 2—Read Haggai 1:12-15

In yesterday’s reading, Haggai preached a strong word of rebuke and correction. How do his listeners respond? How do both their attitudes and behaviors change? How do you typically respond to spiritual correction?

While enduring famine, the people may have believed that God was against them. Without a temple, they may have believed that God was absent from them. But God responds to them with another message through the prophet: I am with you. How would this assurance have comforted and encouraged Haggai’s listeners? Read Matthew 1:23 and 28:20b. How does Jesus’ identity as Immanuel comfort and encourage you?

 

APPLY—In the Old Testament, the temple was the place where sacrifices were made for God’s pleasure and where his presence was most clearly seen (2 Chronicles 5:1-14). How have you, like the people of Judah, failed to seek his presence and his pleasure? How do you need to respond today with repentance and belief?

 

 

 

DAY 3—Read Haggai 2:1-9

In verse 3, Haggai anticipates the people’s disappointment with the temple’s construction. As we see when the foundation was laid in Ezra 3:12-13, those who were old enough to remember Solomon’s temple can clearly see that this building will never compare with its splendor. What three commands does God give to them in response to their disappointment (v. 4-5)?

Verse 9 is a key verse for the book of Haggai. How do you think the people would have understood this promise? Read Luke 2:21-33. How was the glory and peace of God manifested at the temple in this passage—in a way that Haggai’s listeners would never have expected?

 

APPLY—At the temple, the Lord’s glory was evident to all because his presence was there. Read John 2:18-22. In what way is Jesus the true and better temple? Why does it matter to us that Jesus is now the place where God’s presence is most clearly found—where, the Lord declares, in this place I will give peace?

 

 

 

DAY 4—Read Haggai 2:10-19

How much time has passed since Haggai’s last prophecy (2:1)? Since his first prophecy (1:1)? What group is the intended audience of this oracle?

Haggai asks the priests about the laws regarding ritual cleanliness, especially the ease by which uncleanness can spread (Numbers 19:11,22). Have the nation’s offerings so far been holy or unclean? What have been the results of their lack of holiness (2:16-17)?

 

APPLY—The people of Jerusalem are stuck in an unclean state. Because there is no one among them who is clean, the priests, their sacrifices, and the temple construction itself are contaminated. However, the Lord responds to the start of the temple construction with a clear message: from this day on, I will bless you (v. 19). They still haven’t managed to cleanse themselves through good works, but their repentance is evident in both their hearts and actions. God’s response to this is mercy: a blessing that they don’t deserve. How have you experienced the mercy of God? How can it transform our lives when we see his blessings as a gift we don’t deserve, rather than something our behavior has earned?

 

 

 

DAY 5—Read Haggai 2:20-23

How much time has passed since Haggai’s last prophecy? Who is he addressing this time? What does Haggai prophesy about the surrounding nations?

What metaphor does the Lord use to describe Zerubbabel’s future state? Zerubbabel was not only the governor of Judea appointed by the Persian emperor—he was also the heir to David’s throne, grandson of Jeconiah who was carried away to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Read Jeremiah 22:24-30. In what way is Haggai’s prophecy a reversal of Jeremiah’s proclamation?

 

APPLY—Although he was revered as a noble leader of his people, Zerubbabel never sat on David’s throne or saw Judea free from foreign rule. Read Matthew 1:12-16. How did Zerubbabel’s faith lead to David’s heir finally being enthroned? Have you ever experienced a delayed arrival of a promised blessing? What are you still waiting for right now? How can it make a difference when we wait in faith for God to move rather than demanding his immediate action?


 

Repentance

The Protestant Reformation – arguably, one of the most impactful events in history – unofficially kicked-off when Martin Luther posted a list of grievances on the door of the Wittenberg church. His opening statement included the claim that “all of the Christian life is to be repentance.” When Jesus began his preaching ministry, his cry was “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news,” (Mark 1:15). The repentance that Jesus calls us to is not a one-and-done event, but rather an ongoing change of direction. Those who hear and obey Jesus are called away from a life of sin and toward a life of following him.

But what does it really look like to live a life of repentance? For many, the word repentance conjures a picture of self-contempt and worthlessness. However, a life of repentance is a full life.

 

What Repentance Is Not…

As Jesus calls us to repent, the call is to turn away from sin and toward him. A lifestyle of repentance is not simply turning away from what Scripture calls sin; it is also believing in the goodness and saving work of Jesus. To repent without believing in Jesus is nothing more than an attempt to improve or save ourselves. Pastor and author Tim Keller refers to this kind of repentance as “religious repentance,” explaining that repentance without the Gospel is self-righteous and based on avoiding punishment. If we merely turn from sin for self-seeking purposes, we will not grow closer to Christ. Rather we might grow in resentment, like a child that only obeys her parents in order to get what she desires.

Religious repentance is an activity that we perform in order to receive something. One who fears hell might repent in order to avoid it, like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. This kind of repentance will not lead to a life of devotion to Christ. In reality, religious repentance misuses Jesus’ death and resurrection.

We must also avoid thinking of repentance as a means of receiving earthly benefits.

 

What Repentance Is…

The pages of Scripture are dripping with calls to repent and examples of repentance. Examining the nation of Israel in the Old Testament gives us great picture of the necessity of living in repentance. Israel knew the Lord, but often turned away from him. When the Lord would call his people back to him, he spoke clearly about the seriousness and consequences of sin, but he also told the people of his goodness. The message of the prophets could be dire, but God always reminded his people of whom they would be returning to.

We as the Church would be wise to learn from the example of Israel. Our Lord is a sovereign, holy, and perfect God. Sin is an affront to him, leading to separation and death. But, our holy God is also good and merciful. When he calls us to repent, we must turn from sin and believe in the work that Jesus has done on our behalf.

 

How Then Should We Live?  

Without repentance, it is impossible to live a life fully devoted to Jesus. While it is true that salvation has been gifted to us, we are not yet delivered from sin’s presence. Because Jesus has given us a new identity, we must repent of the sin that would turn our affections away from Jesus. Because of our new identity as Christ followers, we have a new standard of how to live. Our new identity drives our activity. When we fall back into our old, sinful activity, we must repent and believe in Christ. This is why Luther stated so clearly that the Christian life is one of repentance. As believers, repenting and believing should become as natural as breathing. The following is a list of practices to help us live a lifestyle of repentance:

  1. Know God: Learn more about who God is. Study his attributes and read Scripture. Write down how he has worked in your life so that you can remember his goodness.
  2. Know Yourself: Recognize the seriousness and depth of your sin. The more we recognize God’s holiness and our sinfulness, the more we become aware of how our sin separates us from God. Recognizing this gap will also grow our thankfulness for Jesus’ saving work. Our small groups can be helpful here. Trusted Christian brothers and sisters can help us see sin we might be blind to.
  3. Talk to God: Make time in prayer for repentance. Ask the Lord to show you any sin that you might not recognize. As you pray, remember the Gospel and turn to Jesus for forgiveness.
  4. Turn: Take repentance seriously enough to make practical steps to avoid sin. Confess struggles to your small group. Be honest and accountable to brothers and sisters in Christ.
  5. Stay Hopeful: Look forward to the return of Christ and the ultimate defeat of sin.

 

044: New Testament, New God?

Have you wondered if God changed from the Old Testament to the New? Sometimes people might remark that he seems angry and wrathful in the Old Testament but loving and forgiving in the New Testament. Rachel Chester sits down with Yancey Arrington to discuss how we should approach Scripture with this question, what the Bible reveals about the character of God, and how all of this is fully revealed and explained in Jesus.

 

RESOURCES:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/marcion-getting-unhitched-old-testament/

 

A Study of Zephaniah: The Gracious Love of God

In the summer 2020 message series “For the Love,” the Clear Creek Community Church Teaching Team will examine one of the least known sections of the Bible, the books known as the Minor Prophets, to better understand the great love of God and our faithful response to that love. Join with us in reading each book along the way! Each Sunday afternoon we will post an introductory video by The Bible Project and a 5-day reading plan with reflection questions to prepare you to hear the following Sunday’s message.


DAY 1—Read Zephaniah 1

Zephaniah begins his book with a brief note to give us some clues about the author and setting. Who is Zephaniah’s famous ancestor? (You can review his story in 2 Chronicles 29-32.) During whose reign was Zephaniah prophesying? (You can review his story in 2 Chronicles 34-35.) Bonus question for those who read the 2 Chronicles texts—what similarities do you see between these two kings and their reigns?

“The day of the Lord” is an important theme throughout the book of Zephaniah, when the Lord will come bringing both judgment for sin and restoration for the righteous.  What type of prophecy do we see in today’s reading: an oracle of judgment, repentance, or salvation? What nation and city are the targets for Zephaniah’s message? What clues do you see about the reason for this oracle?

 

APPLY—In verse 12, Zephaniah accuses the men of Jerusalem of complacency, of thinking that the Lord isn’t actively at work in either salvation or judgment. This is such an easy mindset for us to fall into. When have you been distracted from God’s work by your own agenda or priorities? How do our false beliefs about God’s character and activity lead us to see him as unavailable or uninvolved? How do you need to shift your thinking in order to both appreciate his sovereignty and participate in his mission of redemption?

 

 

 

DAY 2—Read Zephaniah 2

In Chapter 2, Zephaniah turns the message of God’s judgment against the surrounding nations, almost as though he stands on the hills in Jerusalem and looks to each of the compass points. Verses 4-7 are directed at the cities of the Philistines, a nation located west of Judah. What does Zephaniah say will be their punishment? What glimpse of hope for the people of God can be found here?

The nations of Moab and Ammon, Judah’s eastern neighbors, are addressed in verses 8-11. What characteristic do these nations display that is the source of their downfall (v. 10)? What three things does the Lord encourage his people to seek in verse 3 so that they may avoid the same fate?

 

APPLY—Cush (v. 12) was a nation located south of Judah, and Assyria (v. 13-15) was the great power in the north who had already conquered the nation of Israel by Zephaniah’s time. Verse 16 makes clear Assyria’s pride in their own sufficiency and exceptionalism. Has comfort ever made you complacent? In what ways can having all our desires met lead us away from faith? What can you do today to remind yourself of your ongoing need for the Lord’s provision and presence?

 

 

 

DAY 3—Read Zephaniah 3:1-8

The people of Jerusalem would probably have cheered throughout the last chapter, as Zephaniah proclaimed God’s judgment against all their enemies—but then he launches into a scathing indictment of his own nation. In what actions do you see Judah’s pride displayed in verse 2? What would a response of humility before the Lord have looked like instead?

Zephaniah continues his accusations by naming specific groups among his people, detailing their failures. What officials does he identify (v. 3-5)? Of what are they guilty?

 

APPLY—Verse 8 closes today’s reading with an image of fire, burning and consuming everything in its path. Which of God’s character traits are being depicted in this metaphor? Why do we sometimes see these traits as less true of God’s character than his love or grace? How do we need to shift our thinking to see these aspects of God’s nature as not only acceptable but even desirable?

 

 

 

DAY 4—Read Zephaniah 3:9-13

Today’s reading reveals that the flames of God’s wrath are not merely destructive—it will also burn away wickedness and purify those whom he has chosen, removing all rebellion and pride. Read the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9. How can Zephaniah’s prophecy in verse 9 be seen as a reversal of the judgment at Babel? How is this beautifully fulfilled in Revelation 7:9-10?

Zephaniah continues his emphasis on pride as the downfall of God’s people, with humility as their only chance of salvation. What character traits does he juxtapose in verses 11-12? How will their actions be transformed (v. 13)?

 

APPLY—Today’s reading concludes with a promise of a flourishing life: they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. What is the intersection between pride and fear in our lives? How might humbling ourselves result in freedom from fear through trusting in his purpose and plan? What could you do today to begin to walk in humble faith rather than fearful pride?

 

 

 

DAY 5—Read Zephaniah 3:14-20

The restoration of God’s people is celebrated in today’s reading. Who is the active party in this passage? List the many actions that God says that he will take on his people’s behalf. What benefits will we experience?

We often speak of God’s promises as Already/Not Yet—already happening but not yet completely fulfilled. What promises in this passage have already been fulfilled? Which are still to come? Which of them are Already/Not Yet simultaneously?

 

APPLY—In a passage of lovely promises, one in particular provides a clear hope of mercy for God’s people: The Lord has taken away the judgments against you (v. 15a). Read John 5:24. How has Jesus completely and perfectly fulfilled this promise? Which of the promises in today’s passage have you personally experienced? How has experiencing the grace of God transformed your life?


 

A Study of Habakkuk: The Patient Love of God

In the summer 2020 message series “For the Love,” the Clear Creek Community Church Teaching Team will examine one of the least known sections of the Bible, the books known as the Minor Prophets, to better understand the great love of God and our faithful response to that love. Join with us in reading each book along the way! Each Sunday afternoon we will post an introductory video by The Bible Project and a 5-day reading plan with reflection questions to prepare you to hear the following Sunday’s message.


DAY 1—Read Habakkuk 1:1-11

Unlike many of the other prophetic books, Habakkuk doesn’t begin with any historical or biographical information. We don’t hear about who was king or which nation is being addressed; we know nothing about the prophet’s family or hometown. But that doesn’t mean we can’t know anything about Habakkuk as a person. Take another look at verses 1-4: What does Habakkuk do in response to trouble? What does his complaint tell us about his concerns and priorities?

How does the Lord promise to respond to Hosea’s concerns? What does this tell us about God’s passion for righteousness and justice among his people?

 

APPLY—Although Habakkuk hopes for rescue and relief, God instead answers with a promise of coming judgment. How do you respond when God hasn’t changed your circumstances in the way that you hoped? What can we learn from Habakkuk’s example of faithful lament in suffering?

 

 

DAY 2—Read Habakkuk 1:12-2:3

Habakkuk is clearly unhappy with the Lord’s response, questioning the justice of using a godless nation to punish God’s own people. However, what does verse 12 reveal about Habakkuk’s faith? What does he believe about the character of God?

How does Habakkuk describe the enemy who is coming against his nation? What does this tell us about who God will use to accomplish his purposes?

 

APPLY—The Lord answers Habakkuk as Chapter 2 begins, with an assurance that his plans will come to pass, even if it seems slow. When have you experienced God’s timing not aligning with your preferences? In what ways can his slowness be a mercy to us? How can an eternal perspective help us to trust him as we wait?

 

 

DAY 3—Read Habakkuk 2:4-5

Our reading today was short, but it contains a phrase so significant that it is quoted in the New Testament three times. While these verses are primarily concerned with the unrighteous nation that is coming to conquer Israel, verse 4 contains a contrasting phrase: but the righteous shall live by his faith. Let’s look at Romans 1:16-17, where Paul quotes Habakkuk to emphasize the importance of the gospel. What connection does Paul make between righteousness and faith? What does this have to do with the power of the gospel for salvation?

Paul also quotes this verse in Galatians 3:11. What is he contrasting with faith in this passage? How does he imply that we are justified?

 

APPLY—Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 in order to explain our justification: that we are made righteous by receiving Christ’s perfect righteousness and eternal life through faith in his work on our behalf. The author of Hebrews extends this by applying it to our continuing faithfulness as Christians—not only living forever with him, but living by faith today in and through his righteousness. Read Hebrews 10:36-39. What does it look like to endure suffering by faith? Why is it important that our faith in Christ is an ongoing reality rather than just a one-time event?

 

 

DAY 4—Read Habakkuk 2:6-20

In this passage, the Lord assures Habakkuk that the godless nation that is coming will not escape the wrath of God. He pronounces a series of woes against them, displaying his awareness of their depravity and his judgment to come. There are five statements of woe in our reading today—what sins are being condemned? In what ways will the punishments fit the crimes?

The series of woes is broken by a clear proclamation of God’s greatness in verse 14: For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Jeremiah 31:31-34 expands on this idea, discussing the New Covenant that began with Christ’s coming. How is this an Already/Not Yet promise (both already happening but not yet completely fulfilled)?

 

APPLY—The chapter closes with an assurance of the Lord’s reign in verse 20. How does this statement contrast with the depiction of the idols in the preceding verses? How can faith in God’s sovereignty transform our thoughts and choices? What kind of speech does it silence?

 

 

DAY 5—Read Habakkuk 3

Our reading today is a prayer of Habakkuk’s written in poetic form, most likely to be sung congregationally—notice the musical references throughout (see Psalms 6-7 for comparison). The song begins with Habakkuk remembering the past works of the Lord and praying that he would act again. Why do you think he prays that God would in wrath remember mercy (3:2)? How popular do you think that worship song would be today?

Habakkuk uses poetic imagery in verses 3-15 to recount God’s past salvation of Israel, primarily in the exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan. Though the language is often more picturesque than obvious, to what specific events do you think he is referring?

 

APPLY—By the end of the book, Habakkuk’s faith has grown, although his circumstances haven’t changed. He closes by declaring that the Lord is his source of joy, even if he loses everything else. If you had written verse 17, you probably wouldn’t have used Habakkuk’s agricultural references. What symbols of a fulfilled life would you list? Which of these is most difficult to consider losing? Do you believe that God is enough for you, even if those things were gone?


 

The Justice of the Kingdom

As a lawyer, justice is always forefront in my mind.

But even if you don’t practice law, you can see that there is injustice everywhere in our world today. Within our culture, we are inclined to take on an adversarial stance, making every attempt to identify a guilty party, justify those on our side, or oppose any group that seems untrustworthy. Conversely, we may be tempted to wash our hands of the situation completely, like Pontius Pilate, thinking, this has nothing to do with me.

But, as followers of Jesus, we must be willing to courageously take a different path. Biblical justice doesn’t only entail the responsibilities of the government to maintain law and order. Though these concerns are important, biblical justice encompasses much more than punishments; it is also about making things right. True justice is about restoring what is fallen and repairing what is broken—from property to policing, from principles to people.

As we read through the minor prophets, it’s hard not to notice an emphasis on God’s concern for the vulnerable. He consistently calls for his people to enact justice on behalf of those who have been exploited, oppressed, or victimized. 

 

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against one another in your heart.’”
– Zechariah 7:9-10

 

God’s perfect justice always holds retribution and restoration together. Because of his covenant with Abraham and Moses, he judged Israel for their idolatry and then rescued them from foreign oppressors and their own sin time and again while continually promising a day of complete justice for all people.

That promise was fulfilled in Jesus, who perfected justice on our behalf. He not only atones for our sins, covering the debt that we owe, but through his death and resurrection, also restores us—the Gentile, the Jew, the Samaritan, the leper, the poor, the outcasts—completely to intimate relationship with God. We are transformed into new people who love and serve one another, freed from slavery to sin and able to live life to the fullness that God created for us.

So what is our response to this type of life-altering, eternally transforming love? Is it simply to be thankful and move on? Or is to be transformed into those who will do the same for others? How can we, saved from the justice that we truly deserve and restored to life in Christ, look away when we see people made in the image of God who are victimized, oppressed, or persecuted?

Our values, behavior, relationships, and hopes are all transformed through Christ as we follow him, reflecting his image more closely each day. As citizens in the kingdom of God, we are called to continue his work of restorative justice, setting the world right to reflect the kingdom of God. Jesus, God himself, stepped in to rescue us in our deepest need. In the same way, we must each lend our position, influence, and voice to serve those who are vulnerable or marginalized, offering the love of Christ and acting in selfless sacrifice for the benefit of those around us.

We live in the already/not yet time of history. Jesus is king over all, and yet sin still runs rampant in this world. We grieve together in the midst of injustice, but we also hope in the return of Jesus. As we wait for that day, we are commanded to live and love as his representatives. It is our call, as missionaries of Christ, to do whatever we can to implement justice. 

 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
– John 13:34

 

Law school taught me all about our country’s adversarial court system, including its benefits and challenges.

As a lawyer, I know our secular justice system is necessary—imperfect and complicated, but necessary. As a Christian though, my ultimate hope is in the justice of God. The justice of God is greater—it is perfect—in both its requirements and promises.

Jesus, by the grace of God, has fulfilled the requirements of justice and fulfills the promise that all things will made right. God is at work, and as his followers, we must also be willing to sacrifice and serve to bring about his restorative, redemptive justice.

Father, help us to be a people who seek justice in your name. Give us the conviction and courage to step into the mess of this world and the injustice around us, and help set it right — to bring your kingdom to earth as it is heaven.


 

A Study of Micah: The Disciplining Love of God

In the summer 2020 message series “For the Love,” the Clear Creek Community Church Teaching Team will examine one of the least known sections of the Bible, the books known as the Minor Prophets, to better understand the great love of God and our faithful response to that love. Join with us in reading each book along the way! Each Sunday afternoon we will post an introductory video by The Bible Project and a 5-day reading plan with reflection questions to prepare you to hear the following Sunday’s message.


DAY 1—Read Micah 1-2

The book of Micah begins with a description of the coming of the Lord—and it is anything but comforting. Who is the Lord coming to judge in 1:1-9? What is their crime? Why is it significant that the Lord’s coming will tread on and melt the “high places” (v. 3)?

In Chapter 2, Micah continues to detail the guilt of his people, transitioning his focus from their sins against the Lord to their sins against their neighbors. What actions are they accused of in 2:1-3?

APPLY—Despite their patterns of idolatry and exploitation, God promises that they will not be completely consumed by the coming judgment. What image does he use to describe the future remnant of Israel in 2:12-13? How do we see this promise fulfilled in the coming of Christ (John 10:11-17, Mark 6:34)? What comfort do you gain from Jesus’ promise to guide and lead his people?

 

 

DAY 2—Read Micah 3:1-4:8

What political and religious leaders does Micah indict in Chapter 3? Of what sins are these groups accused, and how will they be punished for their actions?

The sinful actions of Israel’s leaders result in devastating judgment not only for them, but for the nation itself. How have they been building Jerusalem (the capital city) and Zion (the hill on which the temple stood) in 3:9-10? How will the judgment of God reverse their work (v.12)?

 

APPLY—Chapter 7 begins with a promise of restoration by contrasting the future preeminence of Mount Zion with both the devastation of the preceding verses and the idolatrous high places of Micah’s day. Why is it significant that all nations will be welcomed and taught on the mountain of the Lord (Acts 13:47-49)? How have you experienced peace and rest as you learn his ways and “walk in the name of the Lord our God” (v. 5)?

 

 

DAY 3—Read Micah 4:9-5:15

Today’s reading contains an extended image comparing God’s people to a woman enduring labor pains—great suffering leading to a glorious outcome. What suffering will the nation endure (4:10)? How do we see the promise of Micah 5:2 fulfilled in the coming of Jesus (Matthew 2:1-11)?

Chapter 5 ends with a description of the actions that the Lord will take to turn his people’s hearts back to worship of him. What will he take away from them (v. 10-14)? How is this both a punishment and an act of grace?

 

APPLY—Micah 5:4-5a contains a beautiful description of Jesus’ reign over our lives as a benevolent and majestic Shepherd-King. How has an awareness of both his strength and compassion brought security and peace to you? What can you do today to grow your awareness of his goodness amid life’s distractions and difficulty?

 

 

DAY 4—Read Micah 6

Micah utilizes the structure of a court case in Chapter 6. Who has been accused of a crime? Who has been wronged? Who are the judges?

God’s history of faithfulness serves to underscore Israel’s guilt in rebelling against his covenant. Of what good works on their behalf does God remind them? (See Exodus 7:1-5, Exodus 14, Numbers 22-24, Joshua 4) What do these stories reveal about his character—and about theirs?

 

APPLY—Micah 6:8 is probably the best-known verse in this book, but it is often quoted devoid of context. In verses 6-7, Micah is putting words into the mouth of the defiant people of God, sarcastically complaining about the seeming impossibility of pleasing God without even realizing that they have completely misunderstood what will actually honor him. What spiritual or religious behaviors do you sometimes believe will help you to earn God’s favor? What might it look like to instead “do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”?

 

 

DAY 5—Read Micah 7

Chapter 7 is in many ways more personally vulnerable than Micah has been so far. What image does he use in verse 1 to help the reader feel his sorrow? What is the source of his despair (v. 2-6)? What is the source of his hope (v. 7)?

As Micah identifies with his nation, he also comes face-to-face with his own sin. Yet his hope is found in God’s forgiveness rather than attempting to assert his own innocence (v. 8-9). How is Micah’s response an example for his people (and for us) when enduring God’s discipline?

 

APPLY—God displays both his commitment to justice and his unfailing covenant-keeping love in the closing verses of Micah.  While his holiness demands that sin be punished, he promises future compassion because of his promises to Abraham and Jacob (Genesis 17:1-8, 28:10-15). How are God’s justice and mercy both displayed at the cross, according to Colossians 2:13-14? How does this reality shape how you relate to God as Savior?


 

A Study of Amos: The Faithful Love of God

In the summer 2020 message series “For the Love,” the Clear Creek Community Church Teaching Team will examine one of the least known sections of the Bible, the books known as the Minor Prophets, to better understand the great love of God and our faithful response to that love. Join with us in reading each book along the way! Each Sunday afternoon we will post an introductory video by The Bible Project and a 5-day reading plan with reflection questions to prepare you to hear the following Sunday’s message.


DAY 1—Read Amos 1-2

Amos begins with a description of its author and the impetus behind his ministry. Where is Amos from, and what did he do before becoming a prophet (v. 1)? God’s voice was so loud in Amos’ ears that he couldn’t ignore it (v. 2). What might this tell us about who God uses to do his work?

Today’s reading is a series of oracles containing God’s promise to judge various nations. What similarities and differences do you see in both the judgments they will endure and the reasons for God’s condemnation?

 

APPLY—The nation of Israel is the recipient of the longest of Amos’ oracles in today’s reading, and the remainder of the book will continue to address them. In the midst of this condemnation, the Lord reminds them of his past faithfulness to rescue them (v. 9-11). How can remembering our past experiences of receiving grace lead us to repentance and transformation? What works of God in your life do you need to remember today?

 

 

DAY 2—Read Amos 3-4

Chapter 3 contains a series of rhetorical questions, some of which may feel unfamiliar to a modern reader. What is the implied answer to all of these questions? Why is the culminating question (v. 6b) difficult for us? What is God claiming sovereignty over?

In Chapter 4, Amos utilizes a colorful image to describe the wealthy women of Samaria. To what animal does he compare them? For what actions have they earned God’s condemnation?

 

APPLY—Amos 4 outlines the Lord’s varied attempts to bring his people back to repentance: plenty and famine, health and pestilence, kindness and discipline. Looking back on your life, what are some circumstances—both good and bad—that God has used to draw you to himself? How can even difficulties in our life be evidence of God’s kindness and grace?

 

 

DAY 3—Read Amos 5-6

Compare Amos 5:5 and 5:14. What are the Israelites told to seek, and what will be the result if they do? In what way are these verses equivalent? How does God define goodin this chapter?

Chapter 5 ends with the Lord’s condemnation of the Israelite’s religious practices. Why would God hate something that he had commanded them to do (Isaiah 1:11-17)? What does verse 24 proclaim to be God’s greater priority?

 

APPLY—Chapter 6 can be hard to read from an American perspective, where even the poorest among us can still be considered wealthy on a global scale. The Israelites’ enjoyment and comfort are not sins, but symptoms—how do verses 8 and 12 show the underlying reasons for the coming judgment? In what ways do we need to examine our lives, repent, and pursue humility and justice?

 

 

DAY 4—Read Amos 7-8

Amos is given three visions of judgment in Chapter 7. How does Amos react to the first two predictions of disaster (v. 1-6), and how does God respond to his pleas? In contrast, Amos’ third vision illustrates Israel’s failure to meet God’s standard of righteousness. What is different about Amos’ response to this vision?

Chapter 7 ends with a narrative, breaking from the poetic forms of the remainder of the book. Who is Amaziah, and what does he demand that Amos do? What do you think is at the root of Amos’ fearless response?

 

APPLY—Amos 8:11-12 predicts a coming famine—not of food or water, but a loss of hearing God’s voice. The people of God experienced 400 years of silence between the prophet Malachi and the appearance of John the Baptist, during which no prophets spoke and no new revelation was given. We are blessed to have unlimited access to the entirety of God’s word—including a record of the life and teaching of the Word of God himself—yet at times we neglect the gift of being able to hear from him. What could you do today to build a habit of prioritizing time spent listening to his voice in his Word? How might that habit transform your life?

 

 

DAY 5—Read Amos 9

Verses 2-3 would have reminded Amos’ audience of Psalm 139:7-10, where David uses a similar structure to highlight God’s omnipresence as well. How are the implications of the Lord being with David different from the nation of Israel’s sobering experience here?

In verses 11-12, we get the first glimpse of any possibility of future restoration. What does Amos mean by “the booth of David”? How do we see this prophecy fulfilled in the coming of Jesus?

 

APPLY—Amos concludes with a promise of abundant future blessing: not just water, but wine; instead of bare ground, beautiful gardens; not simply survival, but endless flourishing. How do we as Christians alreadyexperience these spiritual blessings of abundance (John 10:10)? In what ways have we not yetreceived these blessings in their entirety (Revelation 22:1-5)? What can you do today to both turn to Christ for refreshment and fix your eyes on his future coming?


 

Four Truths About the Minor Prophets

This summer we begin a series that walks through the books of the Bible known as the minor prophets. The Teaching Team won’t go through every verse in every book. We will do more of an overview. Our hope is to uncover the essential message of each minor prophet as it relates to one of its major themes: the love of God.

Some believers have gone their entire lives without reading these books. Maybe it’s because the minor prophets feel confusing, obscure, or simply too far removed from the New Testament. Others who have read them often have done so in a piecemeal format – reading a verse here or a brief passage there. Still, there are others who think these books are full of prophecies for the modern world and thus, must be read with a newspaper in hand. As far as the minor prophets go, misconceptions can easily abound.

So, in order to reduce some confusion and help us maximize our time in this series, here are four truths about the minor prophets that you might not have known.

 

They’re not called the minor prophets because they’re insignificant. 

There are four major prophets in the Old Testament: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. They are called major because of their length. Fun fact: these books are also ordered together in our English Bibles with only Lamentations stuck in the middle. Thus, the minor prophets, twelve books in all, are named so because they are comparatively short, not because they are of lesser importance.

The major and minor prophets are collectively known in the Hebrew Bible as the Latter Prophets (or Writing Prophets, because they authored their own works). This is because they came later in Israel’s history, as opposed to the earlier books of Joshua, Judges, 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings. These books are referred to as the Former Prophets.

 

The prophetic books aren’t all prophecy.

To read any of the minor prophets is to find books composed of different genres of literature in addition to prophetic material. These writings also contain genres such as narrative, apocalyptic, wisdom, poetry, songs, and even sermons. This means that in interpreting these books well we must have different rules for reading different styles of writing. That may sound challenging but it’s worth it because it allows us to better understand the books as they were originally given.

For the record, if this kind of thing stresses you out, I highly recommend taking Clear Creek’s class “How To Study the Bible” in the fall. It will give you the tools and training to engage and interpret the different literary genres that we encounter in studying the Bible.

 

The prophecies in the minor prophets aren’t always about our future.

One of the most common misconceptions about the prophetic books is that the prophecies therein are entirely about the days and times still awaiting modern folks. We need to remember that those prophecies were meant for the original audience thousands of years ago. Many of those prophecies, while yet to be fulfilled in the future for them, actually came to pass centuries ago for us. Scholars Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart point out in their co-authored book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (page 166),that less than 2 percent of Old Testament prophecy has to do with Jesus, less than 5 percent deal with the New Covenant age (e.g., the age we currently reside), and less than 1 percent concerns events yet to come.

 

 

Prophets didn’t just spend time foretelling the future.

It is true that part of a prophet’s role was to foretell the future. The most popular Hebrew name for prophets was nabi which meant “called” and very likely was tied to the fact that these individuals were “called” by God and also “called out” to the people on God’s behalf. But prophets had additional functions central to their role. One helpful way to see this is in the difference between forthtelling and foretelling.

We rightfully think of the prophets as foretellers of the future. However, the prophets spent a lot of their time forthtelling. As scholar Sidney Greidanus notes, the prophets “uncover and point out the idolatry, the corruption, the injustice that exists under the veneer of religiosity, and they call for a radical change” in God’s people (The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, 230). Essentially, the prophets are God’s covenant enforcement mediators for ancient Israel. Much of reading the minor prophets is to see text after text not of a prophet predicting the future but calling Israel to be faithful to God’s ways in the present.

 

When you better understand the role of the prophets and the messages they gave in Scripture, the minor prophets can take on a whole new meaning for followers of Jesus. We just have to take the initiative to study these books. Many Christians are amazed at how texts written to God’s original covenant people can feel so timely and appropriate for for Christ’s New Covenant family today.

Not only is that my hope as we begin our series in the minor prophets but that we would be awash in amazement and gratitude for a God who not only redeems his people but cares how they live and love in the world in which he has placed them.


 

 

A Study of Joel: The Serious Love of God

In the summer 2020 message series “For the Love,” the Clear Creek Community Church Teaching Team will examine one of the least known sections of the Bible, the books known as the Minor Prophets, to better understand the great love of God and our faithful response to that love. Join with us in reading each book along the way! Each Sunday afternoon we will post an introductory video by The Bible Project and a 5-day reading plan with reflection questions to prepare you to hear the following Sunday’s message.


DAY 1—Read Joel 1:1-12

The book of Joel begins with the recounting of devastating tragedy. What natural disaster has affected the nation (v. 4-7)? What difficulties and disappointments are they facing?

In an agricultural society, the loss of crops was equivalent to a loss of life. What poetic comparison does Joel make in v. 8 in order to describe their mourning?

 

APPLY—As the locusts destroy their land, Joel’s countrymen watch their hopes disappear as “gladness dries up from the children of man” (v. 12). When have you faced this kind of loss? What does a godly grief look like when gladness feels impossible to find?

 

 

DAY 2—Read Joel 1:13-20

The second half of Chapter 1 begins by addressing Israel’s priests. How would the locust swarm have affected their responsibilities? How does he expect them to respond?

It seems that the locusts have been followed by more disaster. What difficulties have afflicted the land next (v. 17-20)?

 

APPLY—Joel ends the chapter with a description of the creation itself longing for God to meet their needs, for his judgment of Israel’s sin has affected the land as well as the people (v. 20). What sin do you need to turn away from today? What difference might that transformation make in the lives of your family and neighbors?

 

 

 

 

DAY 3—Read Joel 2:1-17

In Chapter 2, Joel connects an impending judgment to the destructive locusts and fire in the previous chapter. What is threatening the nation now? How will the land and people be affected?

“The day of the Lord” is a phrase frequently used by the biblical prophets to speak of a coming time of both judgment of evil and salvation for the righteous (v. 1, 11). Who is facing judgment in this passage? How does the Lord want them to respond, and what will happen if they do (v. 12-17)?

 

APPLY—Joel 2:13 contains a description of God’s character, using the same words that he proclaimed after the Israelites worshipped a golden calf at the base of Mt. Sinai (Exodus 34:6). The Lord is recalling his past mercies, reminding them that he always responds to repentance with grace. How have you experienced his forgiveness in your own life? How can a reminder of his compassion for you affect your willingness to turn back to him today (Hebrews 4:16)?

 

 

DAY 4—Read Joel 2:18-32

In today’s reading, we see the Lord’s compassionate reversal of the judgments of the first half of the book—not because of their righteousness, but simply as a gift of grace. In the chart below, identify the judgments found in the previous passages and the promises of renewal in Chapter 2.

 

God’s Judgment   Judgment Reversed
1:1-7 The locust swarm 2:24-26
1:10-12 2:23
1:19-20 2:21-22
2:1-11 2:20

Verse 27 promises that God will dwell among his people during this future renewal, both reminding them of his past presence in their midst and anticipating a greater fulfillment to come. What does John 1:14 reveal about how Joel’s prophecy has come to pass?

 

APPLY—On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the apostle Peter preached from Joel 2:28-32 in order to explain the day’s events to the crowd. The Holy Spirit had come in power to everyone who believed: young and old, rich and poor, slave and free. God was no longer simply dwelling amonghis people, but withinthem. What encouragement can you take from God’s promise to send his Spirit to live within you? How might his presence shape your daily choices, actions, and attitudes?

 

 

 

DAY 5—Read Joel 3

The final chapter of Joel begins with a reminder that God’s mercy is not universal. Who will be judged on the day of the Lord (v. 1-12)? In contrast, who will find a refuge in the Lord (v. 16)?

In verses 15-16, Joel describes the creation’s response to the Lord’s judgment. How do we see these same phenomena take place in Matthew 27:45-54? Who is receiving the wrath of God at the crucifixion, and who will receive salvation (Romans 5:6-9)?

 

APPLY—Joel concludes with a description of the Lord dwelling again in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion, in the midst of his people. In Revelation 21-22, John describes the New Jerusalem that we will inhabit following Christ’s return, using images that relate back to Joel’s writing. What do these images of peace and flourishing stir in your heart? How can a longing for eternity shape the way we walk with God and love others today?