Multiple times throughout the book of Revelation Jesus is referred to as faithful and trustworthy. In chapter 12 we are introduced to a deceptive dragon and in 13 his beast minions that also deceive.
We are all given a choice. To follow what is faithful and true or what is deceptive and false.
When painted so clearly it seems silly that some would actually choose the latter. Unfortunately, if you look around, we see Christians dabble in the ways of the world. They straddle the fence of what is right and wrong.
Those who straddle will be deceived. Right and wrong becomes muddied. Black and white becomes gray. They will slowly drift further from what is faithful and true and more in line with the way of the world.
Vs. 8 describes those who fall into that trap:
“And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast. They are the ones whose names were not written in the Book of Life that belongs to the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made.”
A few verses later is the mark of the beast. A time when a clear choice will have to be made. Will you be branded and continue to live a worldly life that takes your name out of the book of life? Or will you maintain your allegiance to Christ even if it means severe persecution, being cut off from buying goods and even possible death?
That day may come in our lifetime; it may not. You do not have to wait until then to make your choice.
Like Joshua (Joshua 24) – choose for today whom you will serve – as for me, I will serve the Lord.
Where does your allegiance lie?
Choose today! Choose to follow what is faithful and true and stay vigilant to not be deceived.
Can you think of a time when you were deceived by Satan or by “the world”? What could you do differently to not be deceived next time?
Because of the evil, deception and difficult times John writes that God’s people will need what 3 characteristics (see Revelation 13:10 and 18). What grade would you give yourself in each of these areas? What can you do to strengthen yourself in each area?
How has Jesus shown himself to be faithful and true?
Daniel continues to walk faithfully with God and to serve kings. His abilities are obvious to the new king, King Darius. Daniel excelled above the other leaders. In fact, he was noticed because “he possessed an extraordinary spirit”. The king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. Unfortunately, Daniel’s extraordinary abilities gave rise to jealousy from other leaders. They went about investigating Daniel’s character or work, but he was flawless. So then they devised a malicious plan to turn Daniel’s faithfulness to God along with his routine prayer life against him. They appealed to the king’s pride while ensnaring him with his own law. The continued prayer of Daniel was the offense that they used to throw him into the den of Lions.
It is easy to see the jealousy boiling over in this situation. You know that it will not go well for Daniel’s accusers. It reminds us of the leaders who accused Jesus and later the leaders that went after Paul the apostle. Jealousy was present there, too. In fact, the scripture states that where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. As followers of Jesus, when we see other Christians excelling, we should be happy for them. Encourage and rejoice in their success. We should never let jealousy begin in our own lives. And we should also imitate, the actions of Daniel. He stood strong and remained faithful for God’s glory – not for his own. Not only did his devotion to God save him from the Lions, but it also turned the heart of a king. Then Darius made a decree about God to everyone in his kingdom, “He is the living God and enduring forever, And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, And His dominion will be forever. He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” (Daniel 6:26, 27)
Has jealousy ever caused a problem for you? What is the best way to combat your own feelings of jealousy?
How would you describe Daniel’s prayer life and his relationship with God? How would you describe your own? Where do you see opportunities for improvement?
Re-reading Daniel 6, what can we learn from Daniel in regards to his relationship with God and with men?
In today’s chapter, there are three parables: the Parable of the the Ten Virgins, the Parable of the Talents, and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
It is important to note that parables are earthly stories that teach spiritual truths. Jesus creates images that his hearers would understand, and applies them to spiritual realities. The Parable of the Talents section will go into more detail about interpreting parables.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
In the first parable, we see ten women who are waiting to guide a groom to his bride. Five of these virgins were wise and prepared for the coming of the groom by have enough oil to last all through the night. Five were foolish, unprepared, who have to run off and fill up their supply of oil while the groom is on the way. They weren’t ready for the bridegroom and his coming, and they were not allowed in because they were late.
Obviously, we can see the parallel with our faith. The point made by this story is simple and spelled out for us in verse 13: “Be on alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” We must be prepared for the coming of Christ, ready for his return.
But what does it mean to be ready for his return?
Parable of the Talents
In the second parable, a master goes on a long journey, and gives talents to his slaves. When we read “talent,” remember that the word HERE means “an amount of money”. A talent is a VERY LARGE amount of money, about 6,000 denarii. A denarius is one days wage. 1 Talent would take a working person 16 years to save. (see note) Five talents, two talents, and one talent are all VAST sums of wealth, and the King gives them to his slaves and entrusts that money into their care according to their abilities. When the master returns, he rewards those who use his wealth to make more, but punishes the one who hides the money away and does not use it.
Again, we should start to see some connections to our own life. It is important to remember that this is a parable. Jesus is using images from the world around him to teach a spiritual point. The talents given by Jesus, the King, to us, his slaves, are decidedly not always money. There may be people who follow Christ who are dirt poor. Moreover, it should not be considered specific abilities or spiritual gifts. Because this story is a parable, one-to-one relations don’t always work. For example, what is the oil and who are the oil sellers in the parable of the ten virgins? Don’t think too hard on it, because those are silly questions. The parable is about being ready for the return of Christ. I’m making a similar point for this parable: don’t try to define what the talents are (spiritual gifts, or natural abilities, or other) but think of them as the blessings of God in our life generally. And that makes the point clear: We can either use the blessings God has given us to produce more blessings for ourselves and others while risking and sharing, or we can bury our blessings and avoid the risk of interacting with others.
If you use the talents with which you are gifted, you will receive the reward the master gives. He says to both the one with five talents as well as the one with two : “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (21, 23). Note the words aren’t different, though the blessings are. We are to use our blessings that we have been given. We are not to worry about not having as much as the next person or whether we can see the fruit of them using their blessings. It is for the master to judge them, not another slave.
Finally, Jesus, our master, EXPECTS us, his slaves, to gain on the blessings given. For the slave given one talent, even if the talent was just “put in the bank”, then it would have been better. Instead, the slave played it safe, and is punished for his unfaithfulness. The one who is was unfaithful has their blessings revoked and the blessings were given to the faithful. (Another reason we don’t think of talents as specific spiritual gifts or natural abilities. It seems doubtful that God would take the spiritual gift or natural talent from one and give it to another.)
We need to be ready at all times for the return, and that is by using our blessings to bless others. Jesus puts a fine point on this teaching by saying the final parable of the chapter.
The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats
In the final parable, all humanity is imagined as a herd of animals, sheep and goats. The final judgement, that comes at Christ’s return, has him separating sheep and goats. Jesus tells the sheep that they fed, watered, invited, clothed, and visited the great king by doing it for the “least of the brothers of mine.” When we care for other Christians, we are caring for Jesus, the great king Himself. Moreover, many Christians have understood a greater implication. Because Jesus is human, he views all of humanity as brothers and sisters. This is why Paul says in Galatians 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Not ONLY believers, but especially believers. It starts in the family and radiates outward. However, the goats did not feed, water, invite, clothe, or visit the great king. When they did not care for their brothers and sisters in Christ and for their human family, they were not caring for the king.
And what happens to each group is shocking. One is given eternal life, life in the age to come, life that lasts forever because it is in the presence of the One who is Life. And the other is punished, and the punishment, death, will be eternal and final.
These three stories teach us what it means to be ready for the return of Christ which is promised in chapter 24. To be serving the least of these, both in and out of the family of believers, with any and all blessings that God has given us, actively waiting and expectantly watching for the coming of Christ. It is not staring at the sky while twiddling our thumbs nor is it quietly serving with no Kingdom messages. It is serving the least, blessing them, and sharing with them the Gospel of the Kingdom. That’s the message of the parables.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Are we the wise or the foolish virgins? Will we be found prepared, without knowing the day or the hour? Will we be running around when he comes, hoping to be found ready?
Are we faithful with the blessings of God we have been given? Are you using the gifts God has given in an effective way?
The sheep seem to be surprised that they were serving the King, and the goats are surprised they weren’t serving him. Are you taking care of the least, the last, the little and the lost? When have you fed or given water to the poorest in your community? When have you given clothes to those who have none or invited them into your homes? It is tempting to say “I give to charities that do that” but Jesus won’t be asking the charity if THEY cared for the least of these, he will be asking you and me. Will we be in surprise that we served or in surprise that we did not?
When we left you yesterday, evil Haman was going to go in the next day and ask King Ahasuerus to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had built in anticipation. Now we will find out the rest of the story. During that night the King was having trouble sleeping so he asked for his book of records to be brought to him and read out loud. In it they read the story of Mordecai saving his life. He asked how they had honored him, and they said that nothing had been done for him. And Mordecai had not ever tried to get any special recognition for this act of bravery.
When Haman shows up that morning to visit the king, he asks Haman, “What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?” Haman, thinking he must be talking about him, says, dress him in a royal robe, put him on a royal horse with a crest, and then have a prince lead him through town, proclaiming before him. The King said, Quick, do everything you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who saved my life. Not quite what he envisioned.
The King and Haman go later that evening to the special banquet with Queen Esther. Once again, the King tells her she will receive anything she asks for, up to half of the kingdom. Chapter 7:3 “Then Queen Esther answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request.” Our enemy will have us destroyed, killed, and annihilated. He asks, “Who is this enemy?” she replies, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!” Haman pleaded for his life, but the king sent him to the gallows that he had built for Mordecai to be hanged. King Ahasuerus gave Queen Esther Haman’s estate, and gave the signet ring that he took from Haman to Mordecai because the Queen appointed him to manage things. Then she begged the king to stop the decree that Haman had already sent out to kill the Jews. He had another decree sent out that allowed the Jews to protect themselves against anyone who would assault them. The Jews overpowered those who hated and wished to destroy them. After two days of fighting, they enjoyed a day of rest, celebrating their victory with a feast. Mordecai made a decree that the Jewish people would celebrate this holiday every year as a time when, God through Esther, saved the lives of the Jewish people and the evil plot which Haman had devised failed and returned upon his head. His ten sons were also killed on the gallows. The days of Purim are still celebrated by the Jewish people today. King Ahasuerus advanced Mordecai in his kingdom until he was second only to the king. Chapter 10:3 says: “For Mordecai the Jew was second to King Ahasuerus and was great among the Jews and well received by the multitude of his brethren, seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his countrymen.”
This story reminds me of how faithful God is to his children. I am reminded of Genesis 50:20 when Joseph told his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” The things Haman had devised were evil, but God was able to turn it around for the good of His people. God had orchestrated so many things to be in place to save them. We need to trust God, even when we are going through hard times. We need to realize that we are not going through them alone, because God has promised that he will be with us. It also brought Ephesians 3:20 to mind, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Queen Esther asked for her life and the life of her people. She was given that and more. The King gave her the estate of Haman and Mordecai was able to advance to the number 2 man in the kingdom, even though they were Jews. He became very powerful and influential, and it says in the last verse that even with all his power, “he was seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all of his countrymen.” Mordecai was a wise man and he used his life to lead people to seek God and live a life according to his will. What purpose have we been made for, let’s be courageous and trust God and let him use us as He wills, let’s seek good for others as we work for God’s glory.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on BibleGateway here – Esther 6-10
Tomorrow we will finish up the book of Ezra (7-10) and then just 2 more books to read in the Old Testament before we get to start the New Testament next Wednesday.
If you’re reading along with this Bible plan and read yesterday’s blog, you might expect to read more about people “doing as he/she saw fit” as you read the introduction to Ruth.
Thankfully, this book of the Bible is nothing like Judges. We read about individuals who are faithful, loyal, hardworking and honorable.
If you’re paying attention to the news lately you’ll hear a mixture of very sad statistics right alongside stories of people doing good. And that’s one of the things that I appreciate about the book of Ruth: while all sorts of people are ignoring God’s Law, there are still righteous people, like Boaz, doing the right thing.
So while you are quarantined to your homes, what good and right thing can you do? It starts with how you treat and speak to those with whom you share a living space with. Do you find yourself with spare time on your hands these days? Instead of increasing your screen time, what good and right thing can you do for your neighbors (while maintaining your social distance, of course)? Maybe because your social calendar is empty, you actually have some spare change in your pocket. What good and right thing could you do for your church and/or community with that extra cash?
So while we are living in extraordinary times, you have the prime opportunity to do something special. Be faithful. Be loyal. Be hardworking. Be honorable. Be Christlike.
Today is a bit longer. Please bear with me to the end.
Before we start this devotion, please go read Isaiah 7:14.
Is that verse about Jesus?
According to Matthew 1:23, the answer is a clear and resounding yes. Now, go back and read Isaiah 7:14, 16-17, 8:3-4, 10. It would seem that Immanuel is also a reference to Isaiah’s son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, who is the child of a/the young woman, and his title (Immanuel) shows the people that God is with them (Immanuell literally means “with us is God”).
I know that may be some new information for you, but this is what I want you to see : When Isaiah gave the Immanuel prophecy, he wasn’t JUST talking about something that would happen hundreds (700+) of years in the future. He was talking about something that was going to happen SOON, that would impact King Ahaz’s life in just a few years time. Did he speak about the future as well? Matthew says yes, but that’s not all he speaks about.
This bit of insight is helpful to have in mind as we read Revelation 17 (or if you have already read it, as you go now and re-read it). Many who read the text of Revelation focus on the future aspects of the book. When will it happen? (Some people say : “Always just around the corner!”) Who are Gog and Magog? (“Always enemies of our country, like Germany, China or Russia!”) Am I prepared? (“Buy your food kit now!”) But, just as the prophecies of Isaiah meant something for the people of his day, we MUST recognize that the prophecy and revelation of John meant something to readers of John’s day.
And John’s readers knew what he meant. There are things that are hard to understand about the scene he saw, but he made it clear enough that they would have understood at least SOME of it. The picture is of a prostitute/harlot/whore sitting upon a beast. She commits sexual immorality with kings, she rides upon a beast, gets drunk on the blood of the saints. She has many names.
Woman who rides upon the beast, through hints we see in this text, is Rome (and by extension, the Roman Empire). Rome is a city sat upon seven hills (v.9). Rome is the great city that has an empire over the kings of the earth (v.18). Rome, like Babylon the Great before her, destroyed the Jewish Temple, and therefore Rome was acting in the “spirit of Babylon”. (v.5) The sexual immorality committed by the kings of the Earth is their worship of the Emperor as “the son of the gods” and “god-in-flesh”, which was discussed in an earlier devotion on Revelation, when the author spoke about the imperial cult. (v.2) Most importantly for the first readers, this woman was drinking the blood of the saints; that is a poetic description of what they were experiencing under the persecution of Rome.(v.6)
When John uses all these images, we are given a powerful picture of the spirit of any empire that moves against Christ. And that is true in every age and in every place where there are empires drinking deeply the blood of saints and worshipping that which is not God. What we must always realize is that both in the day of John and our own, the truth is that Christ will conquer them all. Verse 14 says “These will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”
Could there be another city that will sit upon 7 hills, with kings, and be Babylon the great? Maybe. All of Revelation 17 could happen again in the future, with other systems, empires, and rulers. But verse 14 will be always and forever clear : whoever makes war against the Lamb will be defeated. The Lamb will conquer them by his power.
Brothers and sisters, we stand with him. We are called. We are chosen. No matter the persecution of the Dragon, the Beast or the Harlot, let us remain faithful. (v 14)
The book of Revelation is a dramatic masterpiece that I would love to see in a comic book one day. The author, John, uses tremendous action, suspense, plot twists, and so much more! When we finally come to chapter eight, there is a great tension that is set up by the author. We have seen that the Lamb at God’s right side has finally broken all seven of the seals that bind this important Scroll from chapter five, and we are anxiously awaiting to see what it contains.
Unfortunately for the reader, we will have to wait a little while longer before we learn what this Scroll says, as John builds our anticipation even more with the introduction of the seven trumpets that bring about God’s judgment. John is looking to whet our appetite even more for the contents of the Scroll, as we see what God is going to do to those who have persecuted and killed His people.
Back in chapter six, when the fifth seal of the Scroll was broken (6:9-11), we were introduced to these Christian martyrs who had been killed for their faithful preaching of the gospel. They cried out to God, begging Him to vindicate them and enact judgment on those who had killed them. It is these prayers for vindication that God is responding to with the seven trumpets that are introduced in this chapter. In 8:3-5, an angel is going to take these prayers that are rising up to God and throw them down on those who were responsible for these Christian martyrs’ deaths. What happens after, through these trumpets, are poetic images of God’s judgment raining down on those who have tormented and persecuted God’s people, similar to what happened in the Exodus story with Pharaoh.
While this letter wasn’t written directly to us in 21st century America, we can learn much from John’s address to the seven churches in Asia Minor. The key point that I have learned from this chapter is that no prayer goes unheard by God. He is going to respond to His people’s cries to Him, even if it may take some time. God is not unjust and will vindicate His people when they are being persecuted for being faithful to Him. So be encouraged today! God hears your prayers! He will vindicate you from the persecution that you face for being faithful.
Right off the bat we see several really good nuggets of truth in chapter 4. “This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” 4:1-2. Those of us who have accepted Christ into our lives have been entrusted with a knowledge of the transforming power of Christ, and we must be faithful. Just like the servant in the parable of the talents who was required to earn a profit on the money entrusted to him by his master we need to be growing the kingdom. Also those who are believers should not view themselves as being holier and better than other people, but as servants to all with a mission.
For those that have not yet accepted Christ into their life there is also a message here in verse 4, which says “ My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” A lot of people can get in trouble because they only listen to their own internal moral compass. The problem is that compass can be bent to your own desires, and when a compass is wrong you will never find your way. This is why we need to check our actions against God’s teachings because in the end we will not be judging ourselves, but God will judge us. Most people do not think that they are sinning in their life, but it is once we encounter Jesus that we realize the weight of our sin and the fact that we need his blood to cover all of our sins.
The book of Acts is one of the most exciting reads you will ever come across: action adventure, good guys, bad guys, left for dead, miracles, jail breaks, courtroom drama, angry mob, shipwreck, dramatic monologues, and some of the most fascinating characters of the early church. The author, Luke, was the same Gentile doctor who wrote what is now the 3rd gospel – an account of Jesus’ life and ministry. Here, in the book of Acts, his story continues with the Acts of the Apostles – the story of the early Christian church age.
Luke opens his account in Acts with the crucified and resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples for 40 days, speaking about the kingdom of God (1:3) – obviously a topic near and dear to Jesus – so it should likewise be a topic we are passionate about. Then, Jesus told his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (1:8). And as he ascends into the clouds, two men in white reassure the disciples that Jesus will return the same way that he rose. And, throughout the rest of Acts, we see what happens when Jesus’ witnesses are faithful.
The promised Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they were able to do many miracles and wonders, even speaking in languages that men from all parts of the world would understand the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Most of the first half of Acts follows the disciples, particularly Peter, as they teach and preach and grow the early church. Even amongst strong opposition the church grows, with many new believers being baptized and committing their lives, homes, finances, and families to following Jesus. Some, like Stephen, even gave their life – as he was stoned to death for speaking the truth about Jesus, the Son of God.
Most of the second half of Acts tells the incredible – and true – stories of Paul. It starts with the conversion of Saul who was persecuting Christians. BUT – he changed and became the great apostle who went on 3 missionary journeys and wrote much of what would become the New Testament (but more on that tomorrow when we cover the 3rd Division of the NT – Paul’s Letters).
There are so many great passages in the book of Acts you just have to read it for yourself! Not only are there amazing action stories, but you also get some wonderful sermon snippets and see what is most important to the early church. You see their teachings, courage and priorities.
We are still waiting for that day when the clouds will part and our Lord and Savior will come down to greet his followers. What a day that will be! If you have read the gospels to see Jesus in action – then you are his witness. If you have felt Jesus’ peace in the storm – then you are his witness. May we be faithful witnesses ready for his return.
This letter starts out asking for prayer that the word of the Lord spread rapidly and be honored. My favorite verse of this chapter is verse 3: “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” You may go through trials, but God is always with you. In the end He will prevail; we will be with him and other believers for eternity.
The 2nd part of this chapter tells us that we need to be busy…Not busybodies. It tells us not to be idle and to stay away from those who are. We are to never tire of doing what is right. I know that is difficult at times. Sometimes we don’t want to wait the 20 seconds to hold the door open; we are in a hurry to do something else or we just don’t want to help. This set of verses tell us to live according to the teachings and continue our hard work.
It has been a pleasure writing the devotionals this week. Thank you Marcia for all the work you put into this every day! I would like to close the same way Paul does in verse 16 and 18: “16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”