OK, here's the plan (if God is willing):

1) Every day will be a new devotional. I have enough devotionals for every day for three years

2) Also as I can, I'll be posting on my new political blog (see bottom of page).

Some other housecleaning:

A) If you'd like to just get new postings sent to your email, just submit your address in the box on the left just below. There's just one possible downside, though. Occasionally I'll add a music video at the end that's relevant to the devotional, and you won't get them in the email sent to you. If I add a video though, I'll make sure to mention in the posting, so you'll know to come to the site to see it if you'd like.

B) I actually finished writing new blog posting for the TAWG at the end of 2016. So what I'm doing now is at the beginning of every month, I'll move the earliest month from 3 years ago ahead so that a "new" posting appears every day. That's why you won't find any postings for January 2014, for example.

C) When I started this Blog, I was using the 1984 edition of the NIV, and that’s what I linked to on the Biblegateway site. However, in 2011 Zondervan updated its edition and thus reworded a lot of the NIV translation. Therefore, all the links which went to the 1984 edition now redirect to the 2011 edition, which often has slightly different wording. Thus, part of my editing process has been to update my Scripture quotes in my postings. But I might have missed some, in which case you might see my quote in the posting as a little different from what comes up when you click on my citation link, since that redirects to the 2011 edition on the Biblegateway site. It's a good thing that we realize that the work of translation never ends, but it can be a kind of a pain on a site like this. If you see any difference in verbiage between my quote and what shows up as a link on the Biblegateway site, or if you hover over a link and it has "NIV1984" at the end of it, please notify me and I'll correct it.

D) I can't believe I have to say this, but here goes. At the end of every posting is a suggested short prayer that has to do with what we discussed. This is actually what I've prayed when I finished writing it. In no way am I asking you to pray the exact verbiage of my suggested prayer. It's just a springboard for your own prayer, nothing more. Quite frankly, I've never been a fan of praying rote prayers written by someone else. As with everything else I do here, to the degree it helps, great; to the degree it doesn't, chunk it.

As always, thank you so much for reading, even if it's to read one post. God bless.

[May 05]—The Sin of Damascus

Amos 1:3-5

            The first two verses of Amos are the introduction of the prophet and set the mood of the rest of his book. To a shepherd like Amos, the roar of a lion would be just about the most frightening sound he could ever hear. The Lord wanted to be the Shepherd of Israel, but because of their behavior he would now be a lion that roared before he devoured their nation.
            What follows over the next chapter and some of the next is a round-robin of condemnation. The inspired prophet turns his accusatory word towards the nations which surrounded Israel on every side. As expected, none of these neighbors had especially good relations with Israel, and most if not all of them were openly hostile.
            Each of these short passages has the same pattern: The Lord (speaking thru Amos) says that “for three sins. . .even for four,” he'd punish the nation/group in question, then proceeded to name both their crime and their punishment. The term “for three sins. . . even for four” was a Hebrew idiom that indicates that a careful count has been made and we can be sure of it. Up until the “third” sin the Lord had been patient, but the “fourth” sin is roughly equivalent to saying “but this is the last straw.”
            So what did Damascus do that was so horrible? Damascus was the capital of Aram, now modern Syria. Israel and Aram clashed, and the Arameans brutally attacked Israel’s territory east of the Jordan, especially Gilead. For people like me who have zero experience with farming, threshing was the process of separating grain from straw, done in that day by driving a wooden sledge with sharp teeth over the cut stalks. Damascus “threshed” the people of Gilead like wheat, either figuratively or possibly literally: It certainly wouldn’t be out of character for them to literally run the sledge over the peoples’ bodies.  Basically the Lord is condemning them for cruelty and brutality in their conquest.
            As we’ll see hammered home over the next few days as we read Amos’s accusations of the nations, there’s an underlying issue. God revealed thru the Torah that all people are created in his image. This truth should inform all our dealings with others. People die in warfare—that’s a given. But there’s a difference between killing soldiers in the midst of a battle and displaying cruelty towards people whom you’ve conquered. All people are to be treated with respect and some measure of dignity, just because they’re image-bearers of our Creator.
            And whatever else he is, the Lord is just. They disregarded basic human decency towards those they’d conquered, and he would revisit this crime back onto their heads. Hazael was the name of one of their great kings, the father of their current one. The “house” which he had built up, his dynasty, would go up in flames like gasoline-soaked kindling in the summertime, and this fire would spread to the fortresses of Ben-Hadad, the current king. Their gates would be broken down, and the king—the symbol of their nation and strength—would be destroyed.
            So how can we apply this? Most of us aren’t soldiers, and the ones I’ve known would never even think about committing war crimes against enemy soldiers, much less non-combatants. But notice what the people of Damascus were putting their faith in: Their king and his dynasty, and military resources like fortresses and gates. And since they weren’t following the Lord, they’d see for themselves just how fragile these defenses could be.
            And do I see other people as created in the image of my Lord? I might not cut with a literal sledge, but my tongue can be just as sharp at times.
            As we’ll see over the next few days, before I write off those pagans as being barbaric and cruel, I might want to think twice about myself.

Father God, everyone around me is created in your image, and as such carries infinite value and worth. May my words and thoughts reflect that, please. 

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