Lakeside lesson #3

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This Bible lesson was taught at Lakeside Advent Christian Campground, Belgrade, Maine, on July 28th, 2021.

Session 3 – 20210728

I am going to be reflecting on some Old Testament verses that explain how our God demonstrates his love to us.

My overall theme is simple: God loves us. If you believe that, you will be cheering on these messages. But if your faith in the biblical God as a loving God has been challenged, I hope you will be encouraged by these studies.

Today’s text is Nehemiah 9:18-19 CSB

Nehemiah 9:18 Even after they had cast an image of a calf for themselves and said, “This is your god who brought you out of Egypt,” and they had committed terrible blasphemies,

Even the most blessed of all people can go desperately wrong by taking matters into their own hands instead of waiting on God for guidance. This is what took place among the Israelites under Moses. God had provided them with a trained guide and shepherd, but the people abandoned God’s guide and sought to create their own means of guidance. In doing so, they were like the pagan nations, who created gods in their own image, and sought guidance from them – a means of guidance that they could manipulate to their own advantage.

Before the advent of the great monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) most of the planet had been trapped in animistic religious systems and cultures. Ironically, modern secular philosophers are now harking back to animistic polytheism as the only hope to restore the world to balance. This rewriting of history is happening in much the same way as the social theorists have rewritten history in such a way as to blame the European pioneers for stealing all the land from native Americans and polluting it. Sure, there is some truth to that – but the idea that the Native Americans were noble, peace-loving tribes which the foreigners destroyed is too simplistic. We encountered that ideology in New Zealand as well. People blamed the European settlers in New Zealand for crimes against the Maori, but failed to mention the tribe that lived in the land before the Maori came. The Maori ate them!

The fact is, if the Israelites had followed God’s instructions they could have avoided the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. You and I should learn some lessons from that. One lesson is that when God gives us a way, we should not set it aside and seek to create our own.

The good news is …

Nehemiah 9:19a you did not abandon them in the wilderness because of your great compassion.

God had every right to abandon the Israelites as a result of their abandoning him. But he is compassionate.

The longer we live as Christians, the more opportunities we have to make great, glaring, tremendous boo-boos. How thankful we should be that our God is a compassionate God, forgiving us and bringing us back to himself time after time.

• God is רָחוּם rachum – compassionate. He acts with mercy, not giving us the condemnation we deserve, and he feels that compassion.

He suffers with those who suffer, even if that suffering comes from their disobedience and selfishness. The secularists think of God as the mysterious other, and criticize religions for believing in a God who is worldly enough to give laws for people to obey. But the religious see those laws differently. We see the laws as reflections on a God who loves. He cares about what happens to us, and what happens to others because of us, and what happens to the world around us.

• Psalm 78:38 Yet he was compassionate; he atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them. He often turned his anger aside and did not unleash all his wrath.

• Joel 2:13 Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God. For he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and he relents from sending disaster.

• Jonah 4:2 He prayed to the Lord: “Please, Lord, isn’t this what I thought while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster.

Lest we get the wrong idea, let us remember that God spared the Ninevites because they repented. His compassion is moved by our repentance and godly sorrow. He will not tolerate defiance.

Many in the world today seem to think that God (if there is one) tolerates sin because it is insignificant to him. They cannot image the divine being caring about someone’s beliefs or social habits.

Later, God did destroy the Ninevites. His wrath against sin is just as much truth as his compassion toward the repentant.

Speaking of repentance, I have to say that there are many today who seek inclusion in Christ’s kingdom without repentance from sin.

• Matthew 4:17 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

There is no entrance into the kingdom to the non-repentant.

Our text says that God did not abandon the Israelites in the wilderness. Instead, he demonstrated his love to them by giving them laws and regulations to live by. The secularists are wrong when they say God is only the mysterious force behind all life. He is more than that. He is the close counselor who comes alongside us and gives us what we need to take the journey he commissioned us to take.

Nehemiah 9:19b During the day the pillar of cloud never turned away from them, guiding them on their journey. And during the night the pillar of fire illuminated the way they should go.

God provided a visible means of guidance to the Israelites as they walked. He provides an invisible means of guidance for us as we walk the Christian walk.

• John 14:15-17 (NET) “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.

• John 14:26 (NET) But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.