Know God’s Plan

Micah 3-4

Yesterday, we read about God’s words to a people who were on the breaking point. To be fair, Israel had seen a lot– civil disputes, mass religious wars, a kingdom divided. But here, Israel is facing its final days as an independent nation.

So we read Micah’s desperate attempts to warn his people– Israel and Judah both– that their only hope is to return to the LORD. Chapter 1 talked about the coming destruction. Chapter 2 talks about these “oppressors,” who are likely people of political or financial power that are abusing the people around them.

In chapter 3, Micah now addresses two groups of people: the political leaders and the prophethood. Micah tells the leaders that they “hate the good and love the evil,” (3:1). The prophets that Micah confronts were likely professional “prophets” that lived in the king’s court. They may or may not have been followers of the LORD and they were not like the prophets that God chose for Israel. Micah says they prophesy peace when it gets them something to eat (3:5) and teach the masses when it gets them paid (3:11). 

On and on, Micah confronts everyone in the nation who has shown corruption, greed, selfishness and evil. He closes chapter 3 by saying  these ways are going to leave Zion, God’s holy city– flattened to a plain. 

And then Micah’s message does a complete 180-degree turn. In chapter 4, he starts giving some really good news. He says that the house of the LORD will be a meeting place where everyone turns to know God (4:2). He says that God is going to bring the weak, lowly, hurt, sick, and anyone who’s been abused, and He is going to personally make them strong (4:6-7). 

And here we begin to see what we call “God’s redemptive-historical plan.” That’s a fancy way of saying that God’s plans span thousands of years. And although Israel rejected and resisted God, He would not give up so easily. God sent His Son Jesus into the world to be an atonement, a light, and a leader for all of humanity. And in this way, every good thing that God has promised to mankind will be made true in Jesus our King.

If this isn’t good news enough, wait until tomorrow, when Micah is going to have even better things to say! 

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to the Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Micah 3-4 and Revelation 9

Who is Like the Lord?

Micah 1-2

Have you ever wondered, “what’s so special about Jerusalem?”

I mean, think about it. Maybe look at a map. That area has been hotly contested by kingdoms, empires, nations, world religions, and people groups since the dawn of time. Why? The reason for each group is a little different, but practically speaking, it’s the only strip of land that connects Europe, Asia, and Africa all together. Everything around it is pure desert. 

So Israel, since the days of Moses, has been an impossibly small tribe in an ocean of military conquests and empires. Over and over again, though, God had protected Israel and preserved their residence in the top real estate of the ancient world.

Until the days of Micah.

During the time of the Old Testament minor prophets, Israel had walked away from God and His protection. The northern half of the kingdom (which split off from Judah, the southern half)) was about to be destroyed by the kingdom of Assyria. Micah was pleading with his countrymen to return back to God and His protection before they fell to a similar fate.

Micah means “Who is like the LORD?” and his name fits the theme of his message perfectly. Chapter 1 is a call for Judah to start mourning for the fate that is sure to befall them. It’s also a reminder that all of this will happen because they turned away from their covenant to God (see our discussion on Amos 5 earlier this week). 

In chapter 2, Micah goes on and on about the many ways that his country has totally forgotten about their God. My favorite verse in this section is 2:7b: “Do not my words do good to him who walks uprightly?” In other words, God asks Judah, “if you were following my Word, wouldn’t you be so much better off?” And this is the lesson for the reader today: God’s Word is beautiful and practical. We don’t just learn about God in His words! We also find life, love and contentment in God’s words!

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible Reading Plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Micah 1-2 and Revelation 8

God’s Business

Jonah 3-4

Yesterday, we saw Jonah’s reluctance to God’s call for his life. Actually, “active rebellion” against God’s call is more accurate! However, we saw Jonah pray to God during his time in the belly of the great fish. We were left asking the question, “Will Jonah finally answer the call to proclaim God’s message?”

He does. In 3:1, the word of the LORD comes a second time to Jonah. In 3:3, “Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh.” As the story goes, which so many of us learned in our childhood Sunday school, Jonah preaches that Nineveh will be destroyed, and so the Ninevites repented. And our happy ending occurs in 3:10: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” 

But wait. There’s more.

Why was Jonah SO reluctant to preach to Nineveh? Why did he run in the opposite direction to avoid God’s call on his life? Why did it take a great storm, being thrown overboard, and three days in the belly of a fish to learn his lesson? And why did Jonah scoff at the mercy of God in 4:1? 

The truth is, we will never be able to see Nineveh or Assyria in the same way Jonah did. We didn’t grow up witnessing the brutality and evil that Assyria committed with every passing year, and we will never experience the same wars and terrible things that it did to Israel. But Jonah was very close to the evil that Nineveh did. In fact, Jonah had some really good reasons to really, really dislike Nineveh. Jonah didn’t want to see God’s mercy extended to his enemies. He actually wants to see the destruction of a city with 120 thousand people because he dislikes them so much! In fact, he camps out at the edge of the city hoping that their repentance doesn’t last.

And so God decides to teach Jonah a lesson. He grows a plant that gives shade and comfort to Jonah, and then kills it. Jonah reacts with anger once again. And finally God teaches Jonah the lesson he needed all along: Nineveh is like the plant in this story. God grew it and has concern for it (see 4:11). But on the other hand, he scolds Jonah for caring about a plant he never grew in the first place. In other words, just like the plant, Jonah has no right to be angry about a people that are actually God’s business all along.

So what do we learn here? There are a lot of lessons that come out of Jonah: God’s ways are far higher than our ways. His sense of justice and mercy will sometimes be at odds with our understanding of justice and mercy. We are challenged to lay down our prejudice and serve others in the name of God. And when God calls you to Nineveh, don’t run away– just go!

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Jonah 3-4 and Revelation 7

Running from the Lord

Jonah 1-2

The story of Jonah is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. However, the book of Jonah is one of the least read books in the Bible! Let this devotion serve as a challenge to read this book with fresh eyes this week.

Jonah is perhaps the most unique prophet in the Bible. Isaiah, Daniel, Elijah, and so many others serve as intensely righteous men who carry about the Lord’s message with great zeal. Habakkuk shows shocking honesty and transparency in his prayer life. Amos, as we just read, shows us that the most humble people– yes, even the shepherds– are called into ministry of some kind. But what about Jonah?

Jonah shows that rebellious streak that runs within all of us at some time or another. God has called him to preach to the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and Jonah does not listen. It’s understandable; Nineveh is nearly 700 miles away from Jerusalem. That would take well over a month to travel there in his time! But wait– Jonah doesn’t just say no to God. He actually runs away in the opposite direction!

So Jonah runs away and God lets him know that there’s no running from God. In fact, throughout Jonah’s refusal to minister to the Assyrians, it still brings glory to God. The sailors he’s traveling with tremble with fear when they discover who Jonah’s God is. Notice that, in 1:11, the sailors want to please Jonah’s God, and instead of saying, “Let’s turn this ship around and head to Nineveh,” he says, “Just throw me overboard.”

But God wasn’t done with Jonah. Jonah’s saved. But more importantly, Jonah experiences a spiritual reckoning: Jonah has a moment of complete clarity and offers up a remorseful, prayerful praise to God. He recognizes that God is the one in control (2:3). And he recognizes that salvation comes only from the LORD.

So here are a few questions for us to consider in all this:

Do we listen for God’s voice like Jonah does? 

Do we reject God’s call like Jonah did? Probably more than we realize.

Do we expect God to call us to the “Nineveh” of our lives?

Do we learn from our mistakes like Jonah did, and pray about it? 

Will Jonah learn from these events, and change his ways? We’ll have to find out tomorrow.

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Jonah 1-2 and Revelation 6

1 Short Chapter – 49 Cross References

Revelation 5

Imagine, for a moment, your favorite movie or tv show. How much of it can you quote? How many references have you made to your friends who have seen it with you a thousand times? How many times have you watched, acted it out, or recited memorable lines?

Revelation 5 is one of the most theologically packed chapters of the Bible. Why is that? Because the Bible is a complete, unified story that spans thousands of years and dozens of authors, and they all point to a single narrative. The author of Revelation, John, knows his Bible like a movie that he’s watched hundreds of times. In Revelation 5, my Bible shows 49 cross references to other verses. John really knows his Bible!

What’s the purpose, then? When we read Revelation 5, we’re reading the fulfillment of lots of God’s promises. In just 5:1, for example, we’re reminded of the throne room of God in Ezekiel 1, and the sealed scrolls in Daniel 12:4 and Isaiah 29:11. (Tip: when a biblical author makes a clear reference to a different spot in the Bible, they usually want you to go back and read it to see what they mean!!)

What is this scroll, anyway? And why is it that no one in heaven or on earth is worthy to open it? We have to keep reading to find out. And here lies the secret behind all of Revelation 5: God’s written plan, which he held in his own hand, could only be carried out by one very, very, very worthy individual. And his name is Jesus. 

The rest of Revelation 5 lists off the many qualifications that Jesus holds. He is the lion of Judah. (See Genesis 49:8-12, when God says that the ruler of Israel is like a lion, and he will be of the tribe of Judah). Jesus is the Root of David (see 2 Samuel 7:14, when God promises that one of David’s descendants would rule forever). Jesus is the lamb that was slain (read about the passover lamb in Exodus 12, and how Paul calls Jesus our Passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7). We see how these immensely powerful creatures, who dwell constantly in the presence of God, sing about this important role of Jesus– that he can open the scrolls because he was slain, ransomed us for God, and made us a kingdom of priests to God, so we can reign on the earth. 

I hope you’re starting to see the story of redemption that God had been planning since Genesis. Jesus is the fulfillment of that story. And the four living creatures, the myriads and myriads and thousands of thousands of angels of heaven, are all “in on” this great story and its many references and quotes from history. They know that Jesus is the climax of God’s great story. 

So when we read Revelation 5, let us sing along with all of God’s angelic host in proclaiming that to God and the Lamb “be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Obadiah and Revelation 5

Mercy

Amos 7-9

When you think of judgment, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of a judge, sentencing a convict. Maybe you think of punishment. The minor prophets have a lot to say about “judgment” against Israel. First, we need to understand why God has so much to say to Israel before we can understand God’s judgments against Israel.

In Deuteronomy 30, God is covenanting with the people of Israel. A covenant is not like today’s modern-day transactional relationships, like an employee and client relationship. Rather, a covenant is a binding union between two parties. It can have conditions or strings attached, but the point is that a covenant is not fickle or nonchalant. It’s intimate and binding. Marriage is a form of a covenant: there are expectations (or vows) between the two parties, and it is an irrevocable binding of two parties. In Deuteronomy 30:15-16, Moses says “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.”   

This is a covenant. You may remember yesterday, in Amos 5, God said “Seek the LORD that you may live.” In other words, life is ONLY found in devotion to God. So what happens when God’s covenant partner utterly forsakes the agreement? We find our answer in Amos 7-9.

This passage can be hard to understand. It’s rife with visions. In chapter 7, God shows a series of images depicting total destruction–this is what Israel deserves– but He promises mercy instead (see 7:3,6). Chapter 8 describes horrific famines that affect even the strongest men and women in the land. But in chapter 9:11-15, after these fearsome images of judgment and punishment, God says something the reader might not expect. God says that He’s going to restore Israel, build it up, and make them prosper. He’s going to pick them back up, dust them off, and help them to be the nation He designed them to be. In other words, God is keeping His end of the covenant, no matter what.

Amos shows us an image of judgment (in fact, most of the minor prophets do). However, even moreso, Amos shows us that God is loyal in spite of our sin, merciful in the face of our sin, and blesses us when we don’t deserve it. He is so good! Praise God! 

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Amos 7-9 and Revelation 4

Seek the LORD and Live

Amos 5-6

Amos. A prophet to Israel in a difficult time. Amos introduces himself as a mere shepherd rather than as a prophet–and God still used him to deliver a mighty message to His people. His words still ring loud for us today:

Seek me and live. (Amos 5:4b)

Every culture, every civilization, and every era of history has given false promises about where to find life to the full.

Seek the LORD and live (Amos 5:6).

God uses Amos to tell His people over and over again: life is only found in Him.

The God who made the stars, brings each passing day and night, and moves each and every tide of the ocean waves– the LORD is his name! (Amos 5:8).

We have a great God, who is glorious and mighty beyond comparison. He is a beacon of goodness, and if we seek him, we can pass that onto others. A major theme of Amos is a call to pursue justice and righteousness.  Verse 14 says “seek good, not evil, that you may live.”

What does the LORD require of us? Church traditions?  Heartless obedience? Quite the opposite. God tells us in verses 22-23 that the sacrifices, songs, and festivals mean nothing without– you guessed it– justice and righteousness. Treat your neighbors justly, and live rightly.

How do we know what justice and righteousness even look like? Where do we go? 

Seek the LORD, that we may live!

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Amos 5-6 and Revelation 3

God’s Face

Job 31-32 and Psalm 79-80

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” “For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Verses like these are famous. We’ve all heard them. They receive the bulk of our attention when reading Scripture. If you’re following a reading plan, though, you’ve probably come across some passages that are hard to swallow: “How long, LORD God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?” (Psalm 80:4).

Today, Psalm 80 was on the reading plan. Some may look at Psalm 80 and see a passage about God’s anger, or God’s burning justice. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand these passages. But when I read Psalm 80 (and other passages like it), I don’t see an angry God– I see a hurting person placing their trust in the only One who can help them. 

Look at verses 3, 7, and 19. Did you notice they look almost identical? The author is using a phrase that his audience would know well: “make your face shine upon us.”  During the time of the Exodus, God gave a prayer of blessing directly to the high priest, Aaron, in Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” It’s clear that the author of Psalm 80 was remembering this famous blessing that God had given them (on a side note, verses 8-11 of Psalm 80 are also about the Exodus. The author was probably remembering all the good things God had done for Israel!).

But what does that mean? When I think about someone’s face “lighting up,” I think of someone smiling with favor and affection. Or maybe I think of Moses, who came down from the mountain, literally shining because he had been in the company of the God of the universe. When I think of God’s face shining down on us, I think of favor, company, and affection. God is looking upon us favorably. He is keeping us company. And he has affection for us. 

Let’s remember, alongside the author of Psalm 80, that things will not always go well for us. Life can be difficult sometimes. It’s not always clear why. But we have a God who has done incredible things in the past, and wants to keep working in our lives. Let’s pray “God, make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.”

-Levi Salyers

Levi is a recent graduate of Atlanta Bible College, current pastoral intern, and last week he received his ministerial license from the Church of God Ministerial Association. Congratulations, Levi! Keep sharing God’s love and wisdom to the world in many ways! Thank you for writing for us today!

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Job 31-32 and Psalm 79-80

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