The Right Days and Hours

Revelation 9

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Chapter 9 gives much more detail on the first and second woes than the first four trumpets, which received just six verses. That mirrors the brief coverage of the first four seals. It is true that seven is “a number of completion or perfection”, but I think more than that is involved with the several sets of seven in Revelation. John’s vision is very complicated, but how it was relayed to him helped him pass it along. It also helped others to memorize it (many believers have heard rather than read Revelation). One aspect is how certain descriptions parallel or contrast with each other. Another useful detail is the images it contains, particularly the throne. Most of John’s vision can be placed relative to that central image. We can’t automatically visualize how that gives the vision structure, but we can attempt to bring it to mind. Perhaps John didn’t always hear the 24 elders at the same volume in the background of a scene, they could have been ‘turned down’ in his perception to let him concentrate on a new event, but several times we read of scenes happening near the throne or of John looking farther away. We don’t always understand the significance of the details John provides, but some of that may be in what we are actually looking for. John provided this book for audiences with varying needs, encouraging in times of persecution, reminding of God’s promises, and offering warnings, among others. Perhaps the final generation of this age will make very special use of the vision, employing some of its peculiar design as an aid to its understanding, when taken in context with events.

The fifth trumpet involves a pit being unlocked to release creatures that are like winged locust-horses prepared for battle. They have human faces with lion’s teeth, long human hair and something like gold crowns. They also have scorpion tails that they will use for five months to deliver pain in a reign of terror. Their targets are only those who don’t have God’s seal on their foreheads (9:4, referring back to chapter 7). These attacks cause so much pain people wish to be dead, but they aren’t killed. You can choose whether to see them as monsters, or perhaps a really complex metaphor. In Jeremiah 51 we read of an army serving God in bringing judgment described as “a population like locusts” (v. 14) and “horses like bristly locusts” (v. 27), maybe picturing their armor. But this goes a fair way beyond that. And it doesn’t help that their leader is described as an angel king known as Destruction or Destroyer. We only hear of him this one time, but it seems like we will read about the pit again a few days from now – the key to the pit will be brought back by another angel so that the devil can be locked up there (20:1-3).

The sixth trumpet is blown, and a voice speaks from the four horns of the golden altar (in front of God’s throne). This takes us back to just before the start of the sequence of seven trumpets when a censer filled with fire from the golden altar was cast onto the world. Each of the first four trumpets related to flame, and the fifth trumpet involved a burning star falling from the sky and smoke rising up. Now with the sixth trumpet the reference to flame is very distinct. The voice calls for four angels which have been bound at the Euphrates River in the Middle East to be released. We are told they were kept in waiting for this exact day and hour, but it isn’t fully plain what their role in the situation is. Perhaps they act as generals directing the force which emerges, for there comes a massive army of what are in effect mobile flame throwers. They are described as 200 million horsemen mounted on creatures with lion’s heads and snake tails capable of producing fire, smoke, and sulfur from the mouths at both ends. Sulfur (which has also been known as brimstone) produces a dangerous gas when it burns, and its flames are difficult to put out. The text pictures the fire, smoke, and sulfur as three plagues on humanity.

We are not given a timeframe for how long the second woe devastates humanity, but the death toll is a third of the global population. We also learn that in the wake of these events the survivors do not change their ways. In 6:16 we heard that the people realized God’s wrath had come, but they wanted to hide from it rather than repent. This text reaffirms that remorseless attitude, as well as stating some of the evils they were guilty of. Between the two trumpets there is quite the display, first a group of people who hurt so badly they wish they were dead but who don’t improve their lives during the course of five months of this, and then the deaths of masses of people without providing a cautionary tale to anyone. If God is teaching lessons by these events perhaps it is less to the people of that time than to us, letting us see how far gone matters will be by then, making us aware that God picked the right time for the end of the age. Renewal needs to come, I long for renewal actually, but let it be at the right time. The Father knows all the right days and hours.

Lord, you are loving and patient and kind. But you will not let the wicked go unpunished. You are the one who provided the Lamb, you wanted the stain of sin to be removed from me before I even knew what it was. You want to avoid punishing. You want to save, to protect, to shelter. You once flooded your creation and said you would never do it again. But you reserved this world for fire because the flood didn’t solve everything. And I’m sorry all this came about. I grieve that it was necessary. Please show me how to be a blessing, to use your Spirit to make this world a better place and reduce some of the suffering that might have been in it when you will need to act. Thank you God, I love you. Amen.

-Daniel Smead

Reflection and Application Questions

  1. Would you rather…live through the events of the 5th trumpet or be killed in the events of the 6th?
  2. Why do you think God prompted John to write down the vision of the book of Revelation? Why are we reading it today? What specific further actions should it lead us to?
  3. Can you give an example of God’s perfect timing, either from the Bible or a personal account?
  4. How would you describe God’s love AND His need to punish the wicked to someone who has never met God?

Even If

Habakkuk 3

Friday, November 11, 2022

I want to use this devotion today as a part confession, part devotion to share. At multiple times in my faith I have doubted God. The most common question I ask is “Why does so much bad happen in the world if we have a powerful God?”

And that’s the question Habakkuk asks when communicating with God. The minor prophets before him continuously condemned the corrupted Israelites, but all Habakkuk does is ask God that same question.

The main reason I share that about my life is so that even if one reader out there has asked that question, they know they’re not alone. The cool thing about it? It’s not a new or unusual question! Luckily the answer to the question, that eventually brought me peace, lies within this book.

To really focus on what Habakkuk three is all about we have to look at the set up of the previous two chapters. In the first chapter, he’s complaining to God about the corrupt Israelites. God then responds by saying that’s why he is raising Babylon. Habakkuk then flips to backtracking and telling God to slow down, Babylon is WAY worse than Israel. God teaches Habakkuk that all of the nations will have to answer eventually and that he’s not with Babylon, simply God’s not bringing them down just yet. These sins of Babylon aren’t exclusive to Babylon, there will always be a Babylon. Will God let this cycle continue?

So this back and forth is developed through the first two chapters to lead us to the third and final chapter. Habakkuk implores God to renew them in their days, not wanting to wait any longer. In verses three through fifteen Habakkuk then goes on in prayer, starting with God’s mighty appearance to the world, “radiance Like the sunlight”, a lot like the appearance of God to the Israelites way back in Exodus. He then produces in this prayer/poem that God will indeed crush evil.

“In indignation You marched through the earth; In anger You trampled the nations. You went forth for the salvation of Your people, For the salvation of Your anointed.

You struck the head of the house of the evil To lay him open from thigh to neck.” (Habakkuk 3:12-13)

This is Habakkuk eventually coming to realize the truth. God will come around to having evil vanquished from our world and our lives, and he will do it by our side.

In the last three verses of the chapter, Habakkuk choses faith. He chooses that whether in war or peace, or famine or harvest, he will choose triumph in the Lord. To rejoice in the God of his salvation.

Understanding what went on in the whole book of Habakkuk draws very clear parallels to the lives of any and all who, at one time or currently, have doubted God. Take extra time to pray today but structure it differently. Pray to have your faith increased, and to be strengthened in submitting yourself to the timing of our God.

-John Evans

As a new writer for SeekGrowLove, I was asked to include a short bio about myself, so here goes...Currently attending McGintytown Church of God of Abrahamic faith, and serving as a youth leader, deacon, and assisting with worship. At Twenty-One years of age I have a lot to learn, but was once told I don’t have to know everything to be a great teacher, I just have to know something you don’t. Thanks for reading, have a blessed day.

Application

  1. Have you ever doubted God? What can you learn from Habakkuk?
  2. If you were to write a personal version of Habakkuk 3:17-19 what are some “Even if..” statements you would include? Consider hardships God has already seen you through, hardships you are currently in, as well as what the future may hold. How would you describe God’s strength and benefits for you (verses 18 & 19). Share your new poem with God as you pray for your faith to be increased.

It is Coming

Obadiah

Monday, November 7, 2022

Sometimes it can be hard to see what God has planned in our lives. When we choose to live a God-honoring lifestyle, it is easy to see all of the pain and suffering in the world and sit back and ask, “Why?” Why are some extremely wealthy and prosperous, yet, evil people allowed to do what they do untouched? The first thing we say is that it just isn’t fair. But really, to the people of God, good is coming and all we need to do is trust in God’s timing.

To be the smallest book in the Old Testament, the book of the prophet Obadiah is probably one of my favorites. Its message, once determined, is quite comforting and tells a message that is familiar to those of the Christian faith, albeit, from a different angle.

The whole book is composed of a powerful twenty-one verses that is to reveal the outcome of Edom, descendants of the family of Esau and long term enemy of the Israelites. And it doesn’t hold back. Condemning them for their pride, and for Esau’s violence against his brother Jacob, God says that though they build themselves up high like eagles, from that place He will bring them down.

“Then the house of Jacob will be a fire And the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau will be as stubble.” (Obadiah 1:18)

The main lesson to be taken from this book is that God is a God that will vanquish our enemies. Yahweh is a living God that if we can trust, does hold the ultimate reward and in verse 21 “The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion To judge the mountain of Esau, And the kingdom will be the Lord’s.” The kingdom of those who can put their peace in the future day of the LORD.

-John Evans

Reflection Questions

  1. What are your feelings when you hear the Day of the Lord is coming?
  2. What does it mean to you that, “Your dealings will return on your own head”? Are there any exceptions?
  3. Do you feel prepared for the Day of the Lord? Is there anything you need to take care of in your relationship to God and to others before that day comes?
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