Wrath and Reward

Revelation 16

If you’ve ever needed an incentive to remain obedient to God, read about the 7 bowls of God’s wrath as recorded in Revelation 16 – if a stick motivates you.

Bowl 1.  Revelation 16:2, “The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.

This is a good reason not to worship the beast, better known as the antichrist.  But it gets better…

Bowl 2. The sea turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.

Bowl 3. The rivers and springs of water turned to blood.

Bowl 4. People were seared by the intense heat of the sun, which grew very hot.

Bowl 5. Darkness, and men gnawed their tongues in agony.

Bowl 6. Demons gathered the kings of the earth for the war of Armageddon.

Bowl 7.  An earthquake more devastating than any since man has been on the earth.  Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found.  From the sky, huge hailstones of about 100 pounds each fell upon men.

This should give us the incentive to remain faithful to God in the midst of persecution from the antichrist.  But we can’t endure alone, we will need God’s help.  This brings us to a promise in Zechariah 4:6, also in today’s reading, which says, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”

We need to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God.  And when tough times come, He will give us the strength to endure, with the power of His Holy Spirit.

Personally, I’m more of a carrot kind of guy.  So I look more at the promises of Revelation 21:4, which says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

So whether you’re motivated by a carrot or by a stick, the important thing is to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God today.  Once the tough times come, it will be really hard to start serving Him then.

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 3-4 and Revelation 16

Life and Death – and Life Again

Zephaniah 1 – 3 and Revelation 13

Today’s reading contains some disturbing imagery, so readers be warned.

In Revelation 13, we find details of the person we call the antichrist. In Revelation 13:7, we’re told “He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them…”  In Revelation 13:9-10 we read, “He who has an ear, let him hear.  If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go.  If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.  This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

In a nutshell, we know that at some point in the future (I believe in the relatively near future), a person we call the antichrist will arise.  He will deceive the nations and will control the economy such that only those who receive the “mark of the beast” will be able to buy or sell.  (We will find out in Revelation 14:10 that those who do receive the mark of the beast will be tormented in the lake of fire.) And he will successfully conquer Christians.

As a Christian, this doesn’t sound very appealing.  If all we’re focusing on is this life, it won’t seem worth maintaining our faithfulness to God.  When that time comes, we’ll need to remember what God has promised for the wicked, as recorded in Zephaniah – also part of today’s reading.

In Zephaniah 1:2-3, we read, “I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth, declares the Lord.  I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.  The wicked will only have heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth, declares the Lord.”

In Zephaniah 1:18, we read, “…In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for He will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.”

Zephaniah 3:8 tells us, “…I have decided to assemble the nations to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them – all my fierce anger.  The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.

But then we find hope in Zephaniah 3:12-13, where we read, “But I will leave within you the meek and the humble, who trust in the name of the Lord.  The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down, and no one will make them afraid.”

In short, terrible times are coming for Christians, when the antichrist will try to annihilate us from the earth.  It will be critical to remain faithful to God during those difficult times, even if we lose our lives.  Because ultimately, God will judge the world, and completely destroy the wicked.  Even if we die, we will be resurrected to live in peace forever.  While the wicked will be completely destroyed forever.

I’m reminded of Deuteronomy 30:19 where we read, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Choose to remain faithful to God.  Choose life.  Even if you have to succumb to death.

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zephaniah 1-3 and Revelation 13

Pay Attention!

Revelation 2

When John begins to explain the revelation that he has received, he writes 7 letters to churches in Asia minor (modern day Turkey). As we read 4 of the 7 letters, we can notice that each letter contains the same important exhortation: “Anyone who has an ear had better listen to what the Spirit says to the congregations!” (vv. 7, 11, 17, 29). This is John’s way of saying “Pay attention!” While each one of his letters is not lengthy or full of details, they are nonetheless very specific about what they address.

In 3 of the 4 letters, John brings a harsh criticism against the congregation to whom he is writing. These criticisms are prefaced with a phrase such as “But I have this against you” (vv. 4, 14, 20). Only Smyrna is spared this criticism. It seems that there is something about the church in Smyrna that didn’t deserve the type of correction that the other churches received.

The message that John gives to the church in Smyrna is one of encouragement to endure through the persecution and suffering they were experiencing. One of the reasons that they were suffering was because other people were speaking evil of them. And apparently, it was going to get worse, so much so that some of them were going to be thrown in prison. But they were promised that if they would endure and be “faithful to death,” that they would receive the “crown of life” (v. 10).

What we can apply to our own lives from John’s encouragement to the church in Smyrna is the importance of remaining faithful to the Lord. While we may never face persecution and death in the way that they did, we each have been or will be at some point in our lives the object of another person’s evil words concerning our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though the ways in which we will suffer for our faith will differ, the reward that we all will receive is the same—the crown of life!

No trial is too small and no task too trivial to consider it worthy to endure for the sake of our Lord. We must always desire to honor him through every day and season of life no matter what may come, knowing that it is before him that we will stand one day judged for everything we have said and done.

-Jerry Wierwille

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Amos 3-4 and Revelation 2

It’s Time to Get the Heck out of Dodge

Revelation 14-18

Dodge City, Kansas made the perfect background for many of the early westerns that hit the silver screen. Any title character was the game-changing lawman who took on the town that was historically and notoriously known for its gunslingers, reckless living, violence, and pretty much the hub for all things unabiding and uncouth.  Dodge became the epitome of frontier lawlessness, and those who resided there were in a collective agreement: every man or woman for himself.  What initially seemed like a good time, a get rich quick plan, or a temporary set of circumstances became a way of life for most those who stayed, and ironically for many, that is exactly what it cost them to stay in Dodge: their life.  Those few that escaped the cruel fates of this city, these ethical outsiders who found themselves living inside its “walls”, could see the turn of the tide, and knew it was time to get the heck out of Dodge.

Dodge City is not alone for its notoriety as an evil city.  Abraham’s nephew, Lot and his family hailed from Sodom and Gommah, cities God destroyed with sulfur and fire because of their wickedness.  God also gave instructions to Joshua to destroy the seven nations that were descended from Canaan (who did equally despicable things including child sacrifice).  Additionally, a once-blessed Babylon is handed over to Darius which would lead to an idiom in its own right, because God spoke through the “handwriting on the wall.” In each of these instances, God provides opportunities for the inhabitants of the places to get the heck out. (Angel’s warning and Lot’s escape (Genesis 19); Jericho’s march and Rahab’s salvation (Joshua 6); Jeremiah; Israelites spared (Daniel 5)

As we see in the prophecy delivered in Revelation, there is a new nation that is forming/formed that is not the Babylon of old, but a new one represented by an adulterous woman (Rev 12) There are definite similarities in the wickedness that is taking place in the future and that of Babylon’s past.  This new Babylon is a place of great excess which results in every opportunity to do evil (including the destruction of God’s prophets), and possibly a physical location to the events that are taking place near New Jerusalem (although some think it may be a western civilization like the United States) soon to be established by Jesus.  So what is the word given for those who reside in this place?  That same warning delivered by Jeremiah 600 years prior:  Flee from Babylon!  Run for your lives! (Jeremiah 51:6)  

We do not need to be able to pinpoint on a map where this new Babylon is in order to make plans to run in the direction of God.  He will deliver those who follow his perfect and pleasing will, making a way for those who choose Him.  While the United States or the Western World may or may not be the Babylon spoken of here in this text, with some quick conjecture, there are striking similarities in the way our culture is rapidly shifting in the last half-century or so.  The quest to be the source of  knowledge is valued more than faith in God Almighty. Our wealth and standard of living continue to increase, but so do our distractions and devices. Lawful and unlawful wickedness occurs even to the point that lives of children are being destroyed.  So, does this mean that we should flee to a new country?  Probably not. And it isn’t our physical location that is the primary issue.  It is the heart. We need to make distinctions about our citizenship – it is kingdom bound first.  We are simply in this world, not living for it.

So where have you made your encampment?  Just outside of Sodom?  It won’t be long before you are inside the city walls (Genesis 13:12).  Is your indulgence a constant? Then it is not a vacation home — it’s where you live. Run away from Sodom!  Flee from Babylon!  Get the heck out of Dodge!  This is a cry to myself and to you.  Keep yourself from getting tangled in the web of fulfilling your every whim, pursuing knowledge that gives you some sort of power or position, and desiring things that have nothing to do with God’s kingdom. Your diplomas, your clothing, your dwelling, and your status are the commodities of moths.  Bridle your body so your hands and feet are available to do the work of God or physically move if you must (FLEE! 2 Timothy 2:22) Only then can we be saved from the fate of Babylon and live in the fullness of the new city worth taking up residence.

-Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Revelation 14-18

Tomorrow we finish the book and the year with Revelation 19-22.

Stay tuned for the big unveil – SeekGrowLove’s Bible Reading Plan for 2021!

The Weights of Kings

Daniel 4-6

As the narrative in the book of Daniel has progressed, it seems like the focus has been stolen away from Daniel and put on Nebuchadnezzar. Could there really be redemption for the tyrant who besieged Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and scattered the people of God into exile? The story up until now has given us the crazy idea that yes, redemption seems possible, although the pathway there for the king hasn’t been linear.

Nebuchadnezzar has now again been plagued by bad dreams, has again called his sages to interpret, and has again been disappointed by their inability to deliver. The man for the job is Daniel, clearly. So he tells Daniel of his dream of a big important tree that gets chopped down to the stump. Daniel helps us fill in some blanks. The tree is a representation of the highly powerful and influential king. But he is going to be driven away from society, go live with the animals, and be bathed by the dew until he learns a lesson. And when he learns that lesson, recognizing that God is sovereign, he can be re-established as king, extending again from the stump and roots that were left.

A year after having this dream, Nebuchadnezzar goes to his roof and delights in how powerful and great he is for creating such a beautiful Babylon. This is the perfect moment for God to come in and knock him off his high horse. If I may paraphrase God, he says, “I warned you this would happen.” And it seems like our creaturely ignorance requires him to say this a lot.

Just as he was warned, Nebuchadnezzar wanders off into the wilderness and lives like an animal, eating grass, getting all wet in the dew, growing his hair out scarily long and tangled, and letting his fingernails become like that of small velociraptor claws. But don’t worry, he is unable to open doors. I like to imagine that during this time, he also became the vocalist of a local metal band, but they had to let him go because of creative differences. It was like someone flipped his beast mode switch.

And then one day Nebuchadnezzar suddenly snaps out of this terrible phase, acknowledges the sovereignty of God, and has all his former glory restored to him. I love what he says to close out chapter four: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are truth, and his ways are justice; and he is able to bring low those who walk in pride.”

Amen to that. But the last part can sometimes be a hard reality to swallow. We’ve all heard that pride comes before the fall, and we’ve seen here one more example of how that pans out as a true proverb. Having healthy levels of self-esteem and confidence is a good thing. The kind of pride we saw in Nebuchadnezzar seems to be an amped-up and unbalanced version of this that made him believe he was all that. And when you prop up that delusion long enough, painful and humbling reality has to come out eventually.

So now we can add big bad Nebuchadnezzar to the long list of unlikely redemptions. I’m on the list, and so are you. Praise God that he seems to like orchestrating these all the time.

With Nebuchadnezzar ending his appearances on a high note, he has left a legacy in the air. He is an answer to the question of what can happen when God gets through to someone and they yield to him, however painfully. Enter Belshazzar. He is an answer to a contrasting question: What can painfully happen when you not only don’t yield, but also add a large amount of idolatry and blasphemy to the equation?

Belshazzar is in the middle of throwing a very well-attended and sexy drinkathon when he comes up with a great idea. He asks for the vessels of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar looted from the temple in Jerusalem, because he thinks it would be extra classy to drink wine from them. So that is what they do, along with worshiping gods of various metals and materials.

What happens next is what any reasonable person would expect. Of course, a disembodied hand writes on the wall. The terrified and probably self-wetted Belshazzar calls for his experts, but they are unable to figure out what the writing means. The queen knows just the man for the job.

Daniel agrees to help and even indicates he doesn’t want the rich rewards. But first he recounts the story of Nebuchadnezzar and how he humbled himself after his prideful fall. Belshazzar knows this story well, yet he has not followed his example and humbled himself before God. Daniel tells Belshazzar that “the God in whose power is your very breath, and to whom belong all your ways, you have not honored.”

The writing is on the wall. That’s right, the phrase we utter in the face of impending doom comes from this very story. If you are like me, you have read Daniel’s interpretation of “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin” many times and not really understood how he got there. Somehow it means that the days of Belshazzar’s kingdom are numbered, that he’s been weighed and found wanting, and his kingdom is going to be divided and given to the Medes and Persians. At least the Medes and Persians part seems to groove with the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s nightmare about the gold headed statue. But did Daniel skip a step on the board?

This is the kind of thing that would have been a little more obvious to the original audience, but gets totally lost in translation for us. To compound the confusion, Daniel maintains its reputation for being a weird book by being written partly in Aramaic (from the middle of 2:4 to the end of chapter 7). So you thought knowing Hebrew would get you out of this pickle? Think again. I know only English. This is where commentaries or the internet come in handy.

As it turns out, the words are all measures of weight: a mina (or 60 sheqels), a sheqel, and two half-minas. So the first layer of this is that you can take the succession of kings and plug them in according to their weight or legacy. Nebuchadnezzar, the king who humbled himself, is worth more, so he is the mina. Belshazzar is a joke, so he is like 1/60th of Nebuchadnezzar, or a sheqel. Then the two half-minas would be the decently presented Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. But in this schema, they are each only half the man Nebuchadnezzar was.

Okay, this will work, but it isn’t the angle Daniel is taking. There is wordplay that hopelessly eludes us. Mene is interpreted as a similar word mena, a verb that refers to something like counting or reckoning. Teqel is interpreted as a verb meaning “to be weighed” but also it is interpreted as tiqqal (to be light). Belshazzar? Nothing to him. Daniel is clever and says Peres, which is the singular of Parsin (half-minas). Peres gets us to more wordplay since peras means assessed or divided. But to top it off, paras means Persia. Like I said, this all hopelessly eludes us as English speakers separated from the writing by more than two thousand years. The Bible is full of wordplay and puns like that, but sadly, we miss most of them. My apologies go to anyone who is actually familiar with Aramaic, as I’m sure my Jedi-waving over the vocabulary probably wasn’t adequate.

Belshazzar richly rewards Daniel for the interpretation and makes him third in rank in the kingdom. That night, Belshazzar is killed, and his kingdom is handed off to Darius the Mede. After all, the writing was on the wall.

Darius retains a very high rank for Daniel, which makes the satraps extremely jealous. They are unable to find any dirt on Daniel, because he lives with integrity. But they know Daniel prays, so they come up with a conspiracy to make it illegal to pray to anyone except the king for thirty days. The penalty is being demoted to Temporary Cat Sustenance Technician. This is always a demotion.

Daniel knows this, yet continues to faithfully pray, neither concealing nor broadcasting what he is doing. According to the satraps’ scheme, he is caught, and the king has no choice but to follow through with the punishment, since he signed the law, although he does not want to harm Daniel.

Here is another friendly reminder that doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee you anything. Maybe you will reap benefits. Maybe you will be granted protection. Maybe you will upset people very close to you. Maybe you will be hated and persecuted. Maybe you will be physically injured or even killed. Especially when faced with extreme situations like Daniel’s, the idea of doing the right thing might sound like it is not an option. But there is an option. It could be that the only thing you are guaranteed by doing the right thing is never having to wish that you had done the right thing. And that’s the right place to be, wherever it takes you.

In this case, where it takes Daniel is a miraculous deliverance much like his friends had just a few chapters ago in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace. They have almost identical stories of faithfulness to God, resulting in peaceful noncompliance with the authorities, and ending with the miraculous skirting of the death penalty. Most of the time, you can be faithful to God and honor the authority of your Babylon without a conflict (Matt. 22:21, Rom 13:1), and even when faced with a conflict, for most of us in this modern world, the consequence for being faithful to God instead of the state doesn’t result in death. But sadly, persecution, violence, and martyrdom are still the fate of many of our brothers and sisters.

This next part is probably not mentioned or illustrated in the toddler bedtime bible, although kudos go to anyone with the audacity. Darius doesn’t let the satraps get away with their act of deception, so he orders them, their children, and their wives to be thrown in the pit. The lions tear them all to pieces before they even hit the ground. Barbaric and chilling? Absolutely. This is one of many examples that would earn the Bible an R rating for its content, if not worse. Anyone who thinks of the Bible as just a bunch of nice bedtime stories hasn’t read it. If you run across these types, it is probably best not to correct them, because if they knew what was in there, they might be offended and launch a campaign to have it banned. I kid, but only halfway.

Overlooking his feeding of the lions with women and children, Darius seems to be a decent king and understands how it works, without the same kind of power struggle and roller coaster that Nebuchadnezzar had. He orders that all the people tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, “For he is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end. He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth; for he has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” 

Darius gets it. Way to be, Darius.

-Jay Laurent

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Daniel 4-6

Tomorrow we will read Daniel 7-9 as we continue on our

Discipline with Justice – then Restoration

Jeremiah 46-48

Jeremiah 46 28c NLT sgl

Today we remember that God is not just the God of the Jews – but the God of the world – all the nations.  And as God has watched the sins of these nations – so will He exact discipline on these nations.  Jeremiah writes what God tells him to write regarding the coming destruction that God will oversee and orchestrate against Israel’s neighbors.

Jeremiah uses vivid imagery to describe these events:

“The sword will devour till it is satisfied, till it has quenched its thirst with blood.”  (Jeremiah 46:10 NIV)

“Moab is disgraced for she is shattered.” (Jeremiah 48:20 NIV)

His descriptions show not only how scary and total the destruction will be – but also what a sad state of affairs these societies had become.  The most powerful passage that got my attention was in the message against the Philistines, “Terrified fathers run madly, without a backward glance at their helpless children.” (Jeremiah 47:3b NLT).  Where have the strong, brave protectors and defenders of their families gone?

We would do well to pay special attention to the passages that point to the reasons for this judgment.  All of these neighbors are being punished for their mistreatment of God’s chosen people, as well as for their own sins. “Since you trust in your deeds and riches, you too will be taken captive…We have heard of Moab’s pride – her overweening pride and conceit, her pride and arrogance and the haughtiness of her heart…In Moab I will put an end to those who make offerings on the high places and burn incense to their gods…Moab will be destroyed as a nation because she defied the LORD” (Jeremiah 48:7, 29, 35, 42 NIV).   How many similarities do you have to Moab – just one of the countries that would feel the burn of God’s discipline?  How do you treat God and His people?  Is your pride in check?  Where do you put your trust – in your job, your finances, your teachers, your doctors, yourself – or in God?  Do you offer your best and first time, talents and resources to God or to selfish pursuits and false gods?

After 46 verses of judgment against Moab, the final verse of chapter 48 says, “Yet, I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come.”   Hope and restoration is coming – at least for those judged worthy.  Amongst the condemnation of these chapters, Jeremiah includes a beautiful word from God for Israel as well,

But do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant;
    do not be dismayed, Israel.
For I will bring you home again from distant lands,
    and your children will return from their exile.
Israel[f] will return to a life of peace and quiet,
    and no one will terrorize them.
28 Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
    for I am with you,” says the Lord.
“I will completely destroy the nations to which I have exiled you,
    but I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you, but with justice;
    I cannot let you go unpunished.” (Jeremiah 46: 27-28 NLT)

God sees and will not let the guilty go unpunished.  But His deepest desire is to find and reward faithfulness in His children so He can live with them in peace.  God still judges in His love today – as a wise and caring parent.  There will yet be a time of unequaled punishment for those who appeared to get away with evil with a proud heart, relying on themselves and turning their backs on God.  This is discipline with justice.  And, then, there will be restoration and peace.  Come Lord Jesus Come – may He find us faithful.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 46-48.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 49-50 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God is No Magic Genie

1st Chronicles 3-5

1 Chronicles 4 10 b NIV

When we began 1st Chronicles two days ago we likened the beginning of this book to a family reunion.  It was written for the people of God who were returning to the Holy Land after years of captivity and living amongst foreign people who did not worship God (which had been their punishment for forsaking God).  Now, they were returning and receiving a history lesson on what it means to be God’s people.  If we listen in, I believe we can also benefit greatly from this lesson.

In today’s reading our list of genealogies is broken up in chapter 4 with a passage about Jabez.  In two short verses we learn: “he was more honorable than his brothers”, “his mother had named him” – PAIN (in Hebrew Jabez sounds like pain), he prayed to be blessed, “and God granted his request.” (1 Chronicles 4:9,10).  Makes you wonder why we don’t have any babies today named Epidural?

Seriously though, I hurt for this man Jabez.  It doesn’t seem very nice of his momma to pass along the brief pain she felt at childbirth (I know, in the midst of it, it doesn’t feel brief) to her son to bear the name PAIN the rest of his life.   Can you imagine the jokes he heard from the neighborhood boys?  We also know it can be very painful growing up with less than honorable brothers.

It could have been a rough life for poor PAIN/Jabez.  BUT – it wasn’t.  Even though he had a few strikes against him in his early years, he knew to cry out to God.  And, perhaps because of Jabez’s honor, and I am guessing his heart was in the right place, God was ready, willing and able to fulfill his request.

Just what was his request?  “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!  Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from PAIN.”  It is a touching prayer knowing his background.  Other versions have slightly different interpretations – I especially love the NKJV, “Keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.” It sounds so much more noble.  But, either way, he cried out to God and God “granted his request”.

Does anyone else get a vision of a genie, or is it just me?  Jabez cried out (with a list of 4-5 wishes) and his wishes were granted.  Poof.  Who wouldn’t take a God like that!  I can fill a whole book with my wishes and cry out to God and all my wishes will be met.  Never mind what God requires of His children.  Never mind the timeline and big picture that God is working with in His infinite wisdom.  Never mind the growth, compassion and character that develops in the midst of trials.  I want no pain.  I want it now.  Give it to me, God.

I would love to read the rest of Jabez’ story – the daily details, his life’s timeline.  I highly doubt that he never felt ANY more pain – never stubbed his toe, never lost a friend or family member, never needed to cry out to God again.  But, we know that God was faithful.  He blessed Jabez and He answered his prayer.

God wanted the returning Israelites to know the story of Jabez.  He wanted them to know of God’s faithfulness and the good gifts that He brings to His children who are honorable and cry out to Him.  Likewise, God wants you and me and the world today to know the story of Jabez.  God takes us in our pain and gives us blessings.  God is good.  God is powerful.  God is love.  God is faithful.

BUT don’t be fooled.  God is no magic genie.   In fact, He is so much more.

Our history lesson continues.  Keep reading, in chapter 5 (verses 23-26) we meet the half-tribe of Manasseh.  They were God’s people. God had already fought their battles and given them land.  They had prospered and become numerous.  Their leaders were “brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families” (1 Chronicles 5:24).  It sounds so good.  It looks like they were leading a charmed life.  God’s goodness and power have provided for these people.  We see God’s blessings – but do they?  NO!  “But they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land” (1 Chronicles 5:25).  In their pampered state they turn from the One who has blessed them.  They leave their Provider and Protector to run after false gods.  They chase what the ungodly society calls good – rather than clinging to their Creator, the God of their fathers.

And, their foolishness comes with consequences.  They don’t get more wishes granted.  What they have is taken away.  God uses the Assyrians to remove them – to place them into exile in a foreign land.  They have earned themselves a Big Time-Out which will last several years, until God prepares the way for the exiles to return.

God wanted the returning Israelites to know the story of the half-tribe of Manasseh.  He wanted them to know of the serious consequences that He puts into action when His children flaunt their waywardness.  Likewise, God wants you and me and the world today to know the story of the half-tribe of Manasseh.  God has given blessings, how will we respond?  God is just.  God is powerful.  God is faithful.  His loving kindness requires our faithfulness, too.

Marcia Railton

Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Chronicles+3-5&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Psalm 73, & 77-78 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

In Difficult Times

Psalm 34

Psalm 34 4 NIV

In yesterday’s lesson, I neglected to point out a story from 1 Samuel 21 that is relevant to today’s reading.  When David ran away from Saul, he escaped to Gath (enemy territory) so Saul wouldn’t keep chasing him. The king’s servants pointed out that David was the man about which they sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

David took these words to heart and was very much afraid, so he pretended he was insane –  scratching on the doors, and letting his saliva run down his beard. When the king saw this, he thought David was crazy, and sent him away.

David wrote Psalm 34 after this experience.  Here are some verses that stand out to me.

V 3, “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.”

V 4, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

V 6, “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.”

V 7, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

V 8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

V 12-14, “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.  Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

V 15, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry;”

V 19, “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all’

We need to be quick to praise God for whatever he does for us, just like David did.  It’s easy to cry out to God when times are tough, but sometimes it’s harder to remember to praise Him and let others know what He has done for us.  This is important too.

What I really like about this chapter are the multiple times that David points out that we will experience difficult times, but God sees us through those times.  I like the image conveyed by verse 7. When I’m going through a hard time, it’s comforting to imagine God sending an angel to protect me. This doesn’t mean I won’t have difficulties, but God sees me through.  God is attentive to the righteous.

In verse 8, I picture David saying, “I’ve been through some hard times, but I’ve remained faithful to God, and God has pulled me through.  I want to encourage you to develop a close relationship with the Lord. Once you experience that relationship and experience His helping you through those difficulties, then you too can understand how good God is.”

I have to echo David’s words, because I’ve been there.  So I encourage you too, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

–Steve Mattison
Today’s Bible reading (Psalms 7,27,31, 34, 52) can be read, or listened to, at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+7%2C27%2C31%2C+34%2C+52&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be more Psalms written by David (56,120, 140-142) as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making A Different People : Repeated, Enhanced, and Focused

Leviticus 19-21

Leviticus 19 18 NIV
Today, let’s start with a quick rundown of the laws of each section and chapter, and then go back and focus on some important points.
Leviticus 19 has a lot of different laws covering many topics. You may notice some repetition between Leviticus and Exodus (and even other parts of Leviticus). Leviticus 19:3 is very similar in the command about honoring mothers and fathers in Exodus 20:12, for example. Moreover, certain laws are enhanced, like how the peace offering of Leviticus 3 is to be eaten. Leviticus 19 goes through topics like lying, going to psychics and mediums, and being honorable and above board in business.
Leviticus  20 contains laws that are about being faithful : being faithful to God over other Gods, being faithful to God over mediums, being faithful to your spouse over adultery, and being faithful to family over sexual gratification. God warns that being faithful is a prerequisite to possessing the promised land, and if the Jews act unfaithfully, the land will “spew you out!”
Leviticus 21 enhances all the laws so far and talks about how a priest must act and what priesthood requires. The life of a priest was a holy and blessed honor, but not everyone could be a priest, only a select group of people.
I know it’s a lot. But let’s break it down to three key elements:
Repeated : When God repeats something, he wants you to pay attention. For example, he gave us four gospels. Obviously, the story of Jesus was important enough to get four testimonies. So, when we see a law get repeated, we need to take inventory of that law. As noted above, some of the laws in this section are repeated from Exodus in the twelve commandments, some are repeated from Leviticus 18, and some will be repeated again in Deuteronomy. Look for repetition and see if you should follow that command in practice (how to be pure sexually) or if you should follow it in principle (how to sacrifice well).
Enhanced : Be careful that you are paying attention to commands and to whom they are addressed. When we look at the commands of Leviticus 21, we can see that there are additional regulations put on priests, not just any old Tom, Dick or Harry… or even Theophilus, Dan or Hananiah. Today, because of Christ, all believers comprise a royal priesthood.(1 Peter 2:9) But, even in that royal priesthood, those who are leaders, teachers, pastors, elders and deacons are held to stricter standards, and must be above reproach in their leadership. (For more on these requirements, see James 3:1(teacher); 1 Timothy 3(qualifications for overseer and deacon); Titus 1 (qualifications for elders) ; 1 Peter 5:1-4 (elder=pastor=overseer[all words refer to the same office]).)
Focused : Jesus gave many commands, but when asked what is the greatest commandment, he did something both completely expected and completely unexpected. First, he quotes the Shema, the ultimate Creed of Judaism : “Hear O Israel, YHWH is our God! YHWH Alone!” And he follows this quote up with the command that follows, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” This comes out of Deuteronomy 6:4ff. BUT, then he does something completely not expected. He FOCUSES in on a second answer, a commandment that was so important to Jesus it was LIKE “Love God with everything you have.” That command is found in Leviticus 19:18b: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus took a small phrase in the middle of Leviticus and said “according to God, this is the second most important commandment in all scripture!” According to Jesus, “Love God, Love People” summarized the whole law and the prophets (Matthew 22:40), which is another way to say the entire Old Testament. Quite a lot of focus given to something in the middle of a bunch of laws, related to not bearing a grudge!
If you ever wonder WHY reading Leviticus is important, remember, Jesus used Leviticus 19:18b to give us the SECOND GREATEST COMMANDMENT. That’s pretty important.
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+19-21&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s passage will be Leviticus 22-23 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Opening My Eyes and His Book

psalm 119 18

FREE THEME WEEK –

Today I do not have an amazing, earth-shattering verse to tell you about that will change your world.

Rather, I want to tell you that when you faithfully seek God, and His wisdom, truth, and love in His Scriptures, He responds in what may feel like earth-shattering ways that will change your world.

Let me give an example from just a few weeks ago, with a little background information first . . .

I have been working on reading 5 Psalms a day (as suggested by Pastor Jeff Fletcher in the Grow16BibleReading devotion a few months ago – https://grow16biblereading.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/just-two-choices/).  I have always been impressed with Pastor Jeff’s spiritual wisdom and figured if this was one of his techniques for growing, then I wanted to try it, too.  He explained, “Whatever day of the month you are on, read that (numbered Psalm), and then add 30 and keep going up by 30.  That way, in 30 days you will read all 150 psalms. On the first day of the month read Psalm 1, 31, 61,91 and 121, the next day read Psalm 2,32,62,92,122.”   Jeff spreads his Psalms out through the day so that his whole day is immersed in Psalms.  I like that idea, but am currently just working on being faithful with all 5 in the morning, along with the Proverb of the day and the Grow16 devotion chapter.

But, this particular morning I was already into the nitty-gritty of my day – my cute daycare kids had been dropped off in my home daycare, my husband and kids were off to their scheduled activities, and I was . . . clipping coupons and finding the best grocery shopping deals.  If you’ve ever tried it – you know it takes some time.  While I have always been frugal with my finances, my couponing goes in spurts – because of the time it takes.  Currently, I am trying to make a dream trip to Israel a reality so I am in super-saver mode which for me includes getting out the scissors and Sunday ads and digital coupons.    As I was snipping and clipping I was wondering if it was all worth it – should I actually be spending my time doing other (probably, more valuable) things?

WAIT – STOP!   All of a sudden I remembered – what about my morning Bible reading – how did that get missed?  Of course there was more valuable things to be doing than saving $1 on 2 boxes of General Mills cereal!  I put my scissors down and curled up in my favorite Bible reading corner of the couch.  I love having digital versions of God’s Word readily available at my fingertips and able to quickly do online searches to find just what verse or topic I am seeking out.  But, for daily Bible reading I am a huge fan of the comfortable, marked-up, leathery Word of God in my lap.

So, with a bit of guilt for not doing it sooner, I was flipping pages to begin with my Psalms of the day. I can not explain why my eyes FIRST took in one single verse from Proverbs 13 – it wasn’t even the 13th of the month.  Besides, I always start with the Psalms first.  The verse was not highlighted or at the top of the page.  There was nothing that should have pulled my attention to this Proverb.  Nothing – But God.  My eyes read: “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” Proverbs 13:11  WHAT!   I read it again and again -now with tears in my eyes.  I had JUST been questioning if my time couponing was of any value at all – and God sends me “accidentally” to this verse.  God sure got my attention – because He deserves it – so much more often than I willingly give it.   God told me – “Make sure you don’t steal your coupons – but go ahead and save your money little by little – it’s okay if it takes some time.”  Little by Little.

That morning I received God’s reassurance and promise – FIRST – keep FIRST things FIRST.  Come to Him and His Word FIRST – with every little need and worry and question.  And He is Big Enough to provide all we need.  Faithfully seek Him daily.

This was written thousands of years ago – for me at that moment in time.  I wonder how many others through the ages have found THAT specific verse at just the right time for them.  And then, to consider, that is just ONE tiny snippet of the truths stored up for each of us that seeks Him.

That verse – Proverbs 13:11 – probably isn’t THE verse you just needed to hear this morning.  I don’t know what your questions and needs are today.  But God does.  God directed me to the answer I was seeking that morning.  And, he has – and will – do it again and again.  The answer may not always come quite so immediately – but remain faithful – it will come – because He is faithful.

Our God is Big and Mighty and He lives and breathes in His Word.  Open it up and take in God.  He is not a foreign, distant God.  He has the answers and He wants to share them when His children come humbly and faithfully before Him.   He is waiting for me and you to draw near to Him.

Sit down and open up His Book – so He can reveal Himself in marvelous ways.

Marcia Railton

 

%d bloggers like this: