Daily Discipline

by Colleen Donahue

Sometime during my idealistic adolescent years I heard the phrase, "man is basically good". That was a relief to know, because so much in the news, and some of the things happening in my own school didn't seem to support that theory! Even my own life had its flaws and so I was glad to hear that "I was basically good!"

In the years that followed my conversion and commitment to Jesus Christ, I began studying the Bible. I wanted to know what God had to say to me - especially because I learned that this book was HIS word to all men. It was truth by which all things could be measured.

When you commit time to study the truth, you can soon detect what is false that you once thought was "gospel". I could see that God did not agree with the fact that "man was basically good." So, did God make us bad? No. He made us in His own image but He did not make us robots. He gave us free wills. We could choose to love God and align our wills with His, or go our own way. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, chose to "do their own thing" and we have been doing it ever since.

We want to continue now our studies of the minor prophets (those 12 little books at the end of the Old Testament). We're going to look at the picture they paint of man. I must warn you, it is not pretty. It will not leave you thinking that you are "basically good". So, why should we study such a negative, depressing topic? — a very good question.

How many people do you know that have cancer but go around saying they are basically healthy? No, when you have cancer you find out what kind you have, where it is located and all the relevant details about it. It's only when a person looks squarely at the facts that he can even begin to be treated.

The same is true with the heart of man. We need to look at the facts before we can begin to accept God's cure. Most of us have grown up in societies that see alcoholism as a disease, overeating as genetic, homosexuality as an alternative, and divorce as an acceptable way out of a bad choice. The list goes on and on. We can't help what we did or are doing. It's like the comedian Flip Wilson said… "The Devil made me do it!"

This is all wrong thinking. Every man has a will and WE are responsible for how we use it. It is not the fault of a disease or genetics or our mothers! If you are tired of lies and are ready to face truth then God has an abundant life available for each of us. So stay with me as we look at…

A Portrait of Man

I. Sins Against God

Day 1 There is one sin that is most deadly and leads to almost all other sin. It is pride. Pride looks within and sees a very capable, intelligent person. It deceives one into thinking that we are tops, that we are invincible and that we have no need of anyone else and that we are better than others. Obadiah 1:3-4 / Zephaniah 2:10

Day 2 It was this pride in "self" that ultimately led God's own chosen people into breaking covenant with God and forgetting Him. Hosea 4:1b / Hosea 8:14/ Hosea 13:6 / Amos 2:4 / Zephaniah 1:6

Day 3 This disregard for God led naturally to idolatry. In the time periods we are studying, idolatry took the form of manmade figures made of wood or stone that men turned to and worshipped. But in a broader sense idolatry is putting anything in the place of God. Hosea 4:11-13 / Hosea 8:4-5 / Hosea 11:1-2 / Hosea 13:1-2 / Habakuk 2:19

Day 4 God compares this worship of other gods to a harlot or prostitute. Instead of being faithful to Him they went about looking for other lovers. This unfaithfulness hurt God deeply. Hosea 5:3-4 / Hosea 6:10

Day 5 Without a regard for God there is no longer a regard for what is holy and sacred. Amos 2: 7b-8

Day 6 It therefore became thinkable to steal from God… Joel 3:5 / Malachi 3: 8-10

Day 7 ...and to speak against Him. Malachi 3: 13-15

Day 8 Sins against God lead to hardness of heart. In love, God disciplines us so that we will come back to Him. Do not miss this loving discipline as Israel did. Amos 4: 6, 8-11

II. Sins Against Man

Once man displays the fact that he has no fear of God, then he certainly will have no fear of man. Here were some of the things going on at the time that may sound strangely familiar.

Day 9 There was no regard for truth. The people would not listen to the prophets and they would accept no correction. Zephaniah 3:2,7 / Zechariah 1: 2-4 / Amos 5:10

Day 10 Having no regard for God and His will is a first step to unfaithfulness with our spouse leading to divorce. Malachi 2: 13-16

Day 11 People become relentless, unforgiving and without mercy. Amos 1:11

Day 12 There was little or no regard for the poor. Amos 2: 6-7a / Amos 5:11

Day 13 Indifference set in. People were fat and happy with no regard for what was happening around them. Amos 6:1, 4-6

Day 14 Not only were people indifferent to each other, but indifferent to their own family members. Obadiah 1:10-14

Day 15 They took advantage of neighbors. Habakuk 2:15

Day 16 Getting ahead no matter what led to plenty of business dishonesty. Habakuk 2:9-11

Day 17 They committed atrocities. Amos 1:13 / Amos 2:1, 8

Day 18 And they promoted slavery. Joel 3:6 / Amos 1: 6, 9

III. A Look At Leadership

Whenever we judge a body of people our gaze first turns to look at what the leaders are like. These are the men and women that set the standard for all of that group - whether that be parents of a family, the teachers in a school, or the senators in a democracy. Leaders are responsible under God for the "flock" that are under their jurisdiction. All authority is given by God and therefore they are ultimately accountable to Him.

Day 19 There were actually leaders then, as there are now, that plotted how to use their power and authority for their own gain at the expense of the people. Micah 2: 1-2

Day 20 They even went beyond simple exploitation to actually destroy those they were to serve. Micah 3: 1-3, 9

Day 21 The prophets, who were to explain the truth to people, were leading them astray. Micah 3:5

Day 22 The use of power to obtain money is still going on centuries later. Micah 3:11

Day 23 Read this great description of the spineless, uncommitted lot that were the leadership of that time. They could not be found when they were needed. What word does Zechariah use to describe these shepherds (leaders)? Nahum 3:17-18 / Zechariah 11:17

Day 24 Here is another description of the officials, judges, prophets and priests of the time. Zephaniah 3:3-4

Day 25 The priests in Jewish society were held in very special regard as they were responsible for guarding and passing along to their people truth and instruction from God. What ended up happening? Malachi 2: 7-9

IV. A Composite Picture of Society

Day 26 Hosea gives us a very clear and straightforward description of what society had become. Could this description fit our society today? Hosea 4: 1-2

Day 27 Here are a few other passages describing people and places of that time. Hosea 6: 8-10 / Micah 6:12 / Micah 7:2-6

Day 28- Notice that with the deterioration of society comes the deterioration of the land, and animals, birds and fish. For if men do not respect God and their fellow men they certainly will not respect the environment. Hosea 4:3

Day 29 What was God's advice to the prudent men and women of this time? Amos 5:13

As we reflect upon our own society, may we also keep silent before Him that we may again hear His voice.

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