prophecy

1 Chronicles 18, Zechariah 3

Today we’re reading 2 Chronicles 18 and Zechariah 3.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 18.

“Counseling should be encouraging” a man said to me years ago. It was his justification for ending weekly sessions of marriage counseling I’d arranged for him and his wife with a Christian counselor I trust.

I had talked with this couple enough myself to know that there were serious sin problems that needed to be addressed--mostly, but not completely--on his side. The Christian counselor I sent them to work with was kind but candid about how he was treating his wife sinfully. A straight dose of truth was exactly what he needed but it was not what he wanted. So, they quit going.

Do I even need to tell you that they are now divorced?

Ahab, the king of Israel, had similar feelings toward Micaiah, the truth-telling prophet. When Jehoshaphat king of Judah wanted a true prophet of YHWH to speak God’s mind about his joint venture of war (v. 6), Ahab replied, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah” *(v. 7).

Why did Micaiah always prophecy bad things for Ahab? Because Ahab was an ungodly man who did ungodly things. Rather than repent when confronted with he truth, Ahab preferred to change the channel and find prophets who were more encouraging.

We all have a tendency to avoid facing the truth about ourselves or our ways. It is easier to change the channel than to change yourself.

But God is in the “changing you” business. He wants us to grow in our walk with him and that begins by honestly confronting your sins.

Do you find yourself looking for a positive message to drown out the truth of God’s word? Please realize how foolish it is to ignoe God’s loving correction in your life. Instead, seek out his correcting word and do what it says.

2 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 1

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2019 Devotionals

Next year’s daily devotional will be called 66 in 365. This will lead you to read the entire Bible through in one year using a modified form of the Bible reading plan developed by Robert Murray M’Cheyne. If you are already an email subscriber, you don’t have to do anything. You are already subscribed for next year. If you want to stop receiving the emails (at any time), click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of any of the daily emails.

NOTE: I may write some new devotionals for next year, but my plan is to edit, modify, and reuse the devotionals I’ve written over the past three years for 66in16, NT17, and OT18. I think these will still be profitable for you, even if you’ve read them all before but if you want to unsubscribe in January, I totally understand; no hard feelings.

Today’s Readings and Devotional

Today’s readings are 2 Chronicles 16 and Zechariah 1.

This devotional is about Zechariah 1.

When Zechariah wrote these words (v. 1) were still 18 years or so to go in Judah’s 70 year exile. The end was not yet in sight but it was closer than the beginning. God’s message to the people in the first 6 verses of this chapter can be described as follows: • Your parents and grandparents refused to repent when the prophets preached to them that the exile that we’re in was coming. Don’t be like them (v. 4). • What happened to those ancestors off yours, anyway? Oh, yeah, they died in exile just like the prophets said. The prophets themselves died too, by the way (v. 5). • What survives from those days? God’s word; that’s what (v. 6). Everything God said would happen, did happen.

The point of these first 6 verses is that God’s word through the prophets had proved to be true. His word was so clearly true that even the rebellious ancestors were forced to admit, “The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.” God’s punishment for their sins was clear proof of the truthfulness of his word.

So, “‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Don’t wait for the punishment of sin to prove the truth of God’s word. Believe that God’s word is true now and turn to him accordingly.

People in every generation have rejected and tried to discredit God’s word. They argue that there is no proof that the Bible is God’s word; it is just a human book, they think.

Leaving aside the prophecies that have already been fulfilled, God’s word is fulfilled day after day in the consequences that people experience for their sins. “The wages of sin is death” according to Romans 6:23; the fact that every sinner dies proves this word of the Lord to be true. The Bible also promises blessings for faith in and obedience to his word as well as judgment for unbelief and disobedience to his word.

You and I have the benefit of history. We can see how others who lived before us have disregarded God’s commands and sinned because the wanted to sin. What became of their lives? In every case I can think of, they proved that faithlessness and disobedience bring heartbreak and sorrow.

Receive the grace of God in the warning of these words and choose to believe that obeying God’s commands will be far better for you than disobeying them. That’s the lesson God wanted the people of Zechariah’s generation to learn from the exile. Likewise, it is the same lesson he wants us to learn, too.

1 Chronicles 3-4, Amos 3

Today we’re reading 1 Chronicles 3-4 and Amos 3.

This devotional is about Amos 3.

Judgment is coming to Israel but in this chapter God tells his people that they shouldn’t be surprised when it arrives. The chapter begins by reminding Israel that God chose them to be blessed and rescued them from Egypt (vv. 1-2a). Then in verses 3-6, God’s prophet reminds the people that things happen for a reason. Specifically:

People don’t randomly walk side by side; the reason they walk side by side is that they have agreed to take a walk together (v. 3). Lions don’t roar when they are hunting; that would scare off their prey. The reason they roar is that they have caught something and want to keep others from trying to take it (v. 4). Birds don’t fly into traps; they get caught in traps because they are drawn there by bait (v. 5a-b). The trap doesn’t close on its own; rather, the reason it closes is that something has taken the bait (v. 5c-d). When someone sounds an alarm, people get scared because the alarm was triggered by incoming armies. When you have a live person blowing the trumpet’s alarm, you don’t get alarm malfunctions or need drills like we have. So people had a reason to be scared when they heard the sound of a trumpet.

So, things usually happen for a reason and the reason that Samaria would fall and Jerusalem would, too, later is that “the Lord caused it” (v. 6d).

The good news, though, is that God warns his people before he sends judgment on them. That’s the message of verse 7, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” The rest of the chapter goes on to tell the people, again, that God has warned them through his prophets. The implication, then, is that they should repent.

People don’t like messages of judgment. Who would? No fortune cookie will tell you that within a year you’ll be dead of cancer. Who would want to read that? Some people would complain to restaurant’s management if they got a fortune like that. But if you were dying from cancer and didn’t know it, that’s exactly the message you’d need to hear, like it or not. An accurate diagnosis gives one a chance to avoid the inevitable disaster.

God has left us in this world to make disciples but also to warn the world of God’s coming judgment. People complain and call us unloving when we talk about sin, judgment, and hell; they should understand that the message of warning is a gracious act of God. On the day of judgment no one will escape by saying, “I didn’t know I was guilty before God.” On the contrary; many will have as part of their condemnation the fact that they heard the warning of God’s word and ignored it.

If you are reading this and have not come to faith in Jesus, please listen to the warnings of God’s word and turn to him in faith and repentance now. If you’ve already become a Christian, please don’t avoid talking about God’s justice and the need that everyone has for forgiveness.

Deuteronomy 21, Isaiah 48

Today, read Deuteronomy 21 and Isaiah 48.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 21.

Earlier this week I wrote about the death penalty and the very high standards that had to be met before it could be used. Today’s chapter touches again on the death penalty in a couple of different ways:

  • An animal was to be executed as a substitute for the unknown murderer in an unsolved murder according to verses 1-9. The purpose of this law was to uphold the value of human life by making sure that there was some kind of life-for-life exchange if the killer could not be found.
  • A rebellious son could be executed if his parents charged him in the presence of the elders of the town in verses 18-21.
  • Verses 22-23 regulated the public display of someone who was executed. God’s law required burial for anyone who was displayed in this way “because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.”

Let’s consider that last instruction in verses 22-23 today. In each of the death penalty cases we’ve come across so far, God’s word commanded the method by which the death penalty must be... um... executed. In every case that I can remember, God’s law required the method of execution to be stoning. Verse 21 of this very chapter, for example, commands, “...all the men of his town are to stone him to death.”

Stoning someone to death required binding that person’s hands and feet so that he couldn’t run away. Once bound, the person was thrown into a pit and the witnesses or the elders would throw large rocks at him until he died. Usually the first stone thrown would be a very large rock that would be dropped on the person’s head so that he lost consciousness immediately and possibly would even die from that strike. It is not the most humane way to die, but it was the only way available in their society that multiple people--representing the entire community--could take part together in the execution.

Now, since God’s word prescribed the use of stoning as the method of execution, why did God include these verses about someone who is executed and hung on a pole? This law did not require that the dead body be hung on a pole this way; it only regulated such a pole-hanging if it ever were to occur.

Also, why would the law say, “anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse” but not anyone “guilty of a capital offense” (v. 22a) is under God’s curse? In other words, why does the curse apply only to the one executed if he is hung on a pole?

One reason that the Israelites might hang someone on a pole is to publicly display the dead body. The purpose here would be to display God’s curse on the man who was executed and hopefully to deter others who might be tempted to commit the same offense. We don’t know enough about daily life in Israel to know if this was ever used but there is certainly no instance of it in the Old Testament historical books that I can think of.

The New Testament, of course, does provide an example that would fit this description which is our Lord Jesus himself. Although he was not “guilty of a capital offense” (v. 22) personally, he came to serve as a substitute for our capital offenses against God. As our substitute, he was cursed by God (Isa 53:4c-d, Gal 3:13 so that we could be blessed with eternal life.

These two simple verses in Moses’s law, verses that may never have been relevant to any situation that Israel ever faced before Jesus’s death, remind us of the blessing of forgiveness we have in Christ. But they also show us how God foreshadowed the atonement of Christ for us in his word, thousands of years before Jesus was even born. This is one of many reasons why we can believe the Bible and know that it is God’s word.

Numbers 5, Song of Songs 3, Psalm 118

Today’s readings are Numbers 5, Song of Songs 3, and Psalm 118.

Some churches begin their services on the Lord’s day by saying, “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Maybe you’ve said that to yourself when you need a little boost in the morning or when trying to drag a tired child out of bed.

That quotation comes from today’s reading, Psalm 118:24. And, theologically, there is everything right with saying that about any day.

But, Psalm 118:24 was not written to encourage us on any and everyday. That’s (maybe?) why the NIV translators went away from the translation you’re used to hearing and translated the verse as, “The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” That translation should get us to look at the context and see that “this very day” is a reference to verses 22-23 which say, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” You may recall that Jesus quoted the words of verse 22, “the stone the builders rejected...” in Luke 20:17 and applied them to himself. In that context, he was referring to the judgment he would bring in the future on those who rejected and killed him (see Lu 20:13-16). What all of this means is that Psalm 118 is an end-times prophecy of Christ. It is a promise, a prediction, that God, in the person of Christ, will rescue his people (vv. 10, 14-17), establish his kingdom (with Christ himself as “the cornerstone” v. 22b), and bring them safely into that kingdom. THAT is the day the Psalmist looked forward to and called on his companions to rejoice about in verse 24. When that happens, our Lord will be worshipped, thanked, and praised by all of us that he has redeemed.

My understanding of this verse and these types of prophecies is that they were made for Israel and will be fulfilled literally for Israel but that we Gentiles, according to God’s eternal plan, have been grafted into the plan by God’s grace. This is the hope that we wait patiently for until Christ returns and begins the fulfillment of these words.

So, go ahead and encourage yourself by saying, “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” But realize that any rejoicing you do today will be just a taste of what God has planned for us in eternity. On THAT day, when Jesus establishes his kingdom on the unshakable cornerstone of himself, we’ll have so much more to rejoice about!

Matthew 24

Here’s a link to [Matthew 24] (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matt24&version=NIV). Read it.

Now then, Matthew 24 begins with the disciples being much too impressed by Herod’s temple (v. 1). Remember that this chapter continued Matthew’s description of the passion week, the week which ended in Christ’s crucifixion and burial. Already this week, the disciples witnessed Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matt 21:1-11). They saw him bounce the merchants from the temple, refute and then rebuke the religious leaders of Israel (Matt 21:12-. After seeing all of this, I can’t help but think the disciples were anticipating a revolution that would result in Christ becoming king of Israel. As his disciples, they would have control over Israel’s culture, politics, and worship, so these magnificent buildings would be under their control. “Isn’t it going to be great, Jesus, when we have control of all this majestic beauty?” That seems to me to be the mood of the disciples in verse 1.

Bursting their euphoric bubble, Jesus told them not to get too attached to it all because it would all be leveled someday (v. 2). Verse 3 tells us the setting for the rest of this chapter was “the Mount of Olives.” This is a hill just outside the city of Jerusalem and it provides a sweeping, impressive view of the oldest part of Jerusalem, including the temple area. If you’ve heard people talk about “The Olivet Discourse,” they are talking about this chapter, Matthew 24. Here Jesus spoke prophetically about what would happen to Israel at some future time.

Christians still debate about whether these prophecies have been fulfilled or not. At least one of these prophecies, the one about the destruction of the temple in verse 2, certainly has been fulfilled already. It happened in AD 70 when the Jews went to war against the Roman empire and the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, including the temple. What is still debated is whether or not any or all of the rest of these prophecies has been fulfilled historically or if they are still to come. The answer you come to on that question is intricately tied to your views on other New Testament prophecies about the end times and this devotional is not the place for me to get into all that.

The final paragraph of this chapter is very appropriate for a devotional like this one. There Jesus encouraged us to act like “the faithful and wise servant” (v. 45a). If we see our lives as a stewardship, an opportunity to faithfully do what God commanded and called us to do, there will be eternal rewards in store for us (v. 47). If, however, we doubt that Jesus is coming or presume that his coming a long ways off, that is a sign of unbelief and, despite our claims to follow Jesus, we will fall under his judgment because of our lack of faith (vv. 48-51).

As a much younger man, newly married to Suzanne and early in my seminary training, I worked with a guy who was very, very interested in Bible prophecy. He was training me to work the overnight shift in a hotel, so there was a lot of time when we were sitting around with very little work to do. Since I was in seminary, he was very interested in talking to me about the end times. But if I asked him about his church attendance or his walk with Christ or why he was living with a woman and having children with her, I hit a conversational brick wall. Bible prophecy and the end times are valid and important subjects for us as Christians to study and understand. If we study and understand them, however, without them causing us to live as better managers of our lives on this earth for God’s glory, we are missing the point. Jesus calls us to be ready for his return but being ready for his return requires diligently living according to his commands. This passage, then, is an opportunity for each of us to think about our lives. Where do we put our time and attention and money? Do we put them in things that will grow us in our faith and holiness, in things that will extend the message of the gospel and thus expand God’s kingdom? Or are we wasting the time that we have living self-centeredly (v. 49)?

The master is coming; are you doing what he expects you to do until he arrives?

2 Chronicles 30, Revelation 16, Zechariah 12:1–13:1, John 15

Merry Christmas!

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 30, Revelation 16, Zechariah 12:1–13:1, John 15. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Zechariah 12:1–13:1.

Today’s passage from Zechariah is not nearly as well-known as other prophecies of Christ but it is an important one because it foretold the sufferings of Christ on the cross. After promising destruction to Israel’s enemies (12:1-9), God promised “a spirit of grace and supplication” for “the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (v. 10). Surprisingly, however, after prophesying grace and supplication, Zechariah immediately said, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (v. 10). You may recognize the first part of this verse from John 19:37 where John quoted it as fulfilled at the crucifixion of Christ. While not everyone in Jerusalem mourned the death of Christ, the faithful disciples who followed Jesus did, just as this passage said.

But what brings together the two seemingly disjoined ideas in verse 10--the idea that there would be “grace and supplication” while “they look on me, the one they have pierced and they will mourn for him...?” The answer is provided in Zechariah 13:1: “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.” This is why Christ was pierced and how his piercing could provide “grace and supplication.” His death on the cross for us became a fountain that cleanses sinners from sin and impurity. This is something to remember and be thankful for on Christmas morning! As we gather to worship together this morning, prepare your heart by giving thanks for the fountain of grace and forgiveness that Jesus is for us.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

2 Chronicles 22–23, Revelation 10, Zechariah 6, John 9

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 22–23, Revelation 10, Zechariah 6, John 9. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Zechariah 6.

Zechariah is one of the prophets who received the Lord’s word through highly dramatic, visual, symbolic visions. Here in chapter 6 he saw “two mountains” made of bronze (v. 1) and four chariots with horses of many colors (v. 3). These horses and chariots represented “the four spirits of heaven” going from the Lord throughout the earth (v. 5). The point of his vision was that the unrest with Babylon, which resulted in the Babylonian captivity of Judah, was over (vv. 8-10). God’s people are now returning to their covenant land and will be at rest.

In verses 10-11 Zechariah was instructed to get gold and silver from some of the exiles who had returned from Babylon and make a crown to put on the head of Joshua the high priest. Then Zechariah was to give Joshua a word from the Lord, “Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’” Our translation seems to imply that Joshua is the Branch and will serve as both priest and king. However, the Hebrew indicates something else. The translation “here is” is not meant to indicate, “Here, this guy, Joshua is the Branch.” Instead, it is meant to convey something like, “Look, Joshua here symbolizes one who is called ‘The Branch.’” The one who is referred to as, “The Branch” will give life to Israel by building the temple of the Lord, receiving the majesty of the king, and being Israel’s priest as well as her king (v. 13). Verse 13 concluded by saying, “‘And there will be harmony between the two.’” After years of struggle between kings--some of whom lived to honor the Lord and many more of whom did not--the Branch would unite the kingship and priesthood of Israel in one person. This is, of course, a prophecy of Jesus. He is our king, our Lord but also our savior, the one who made atonement for us.

Israel is still waiting for this priest-king to finish his work of unifying the nation politically and religiously and, since we have been grafted into the branch by God’s grace, we wait with Israel for this fulfillment as well. As we look forward to Christmas on Sunday, we remember not only coming of Jesus our Lord and Savior but also the promises he will fulfill when God’s time for them comes.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Chronicles 24–25, 1 Peter 5, Micah 3, Luke 12

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 24–25, 1 Peter 5, Micah 3, Luke 12. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Chronicles 24-25.

Buried in these two chapters of Levite names are these three statements: “David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals” (v. 1). “The sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king’s supervision” (v. 2). And, “As for Jeduthun, from his sons: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah and Mattithiah, six in all, under the supervision of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the Lord” (v. 3).

Did you notice that some variation of the word “prophecy” was used in a musical context in each of those verses? Verse 1: “...for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals,” verse 2: “The sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king’s supervision” and verse 3: “...who prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the Lord.” This is a curious use of the “prophecy” word group, especially if you think of prophecy as the act of foretelling the future. But, biblically speaking, foretelling the future is only a sliver of what prophets did. While some prophets did foretell the future, most of them reminded God’s people of his law and applied to their lives. This “reminding” often meant rebuke and applying it to their lives often meant repentance. So prophets were given to Israel to apply God’s law to the lives of God’s people. The foretelling the future aspect of prophecy, then, consisted of either (a) predicting that God’s judgment which was promised in the law for disobedience would come through the Assyrians or Babylonians or through drought or whatever or (b) prophesying a golden age for Israel through the Messiah which the Law also promised and the Davidic covenant further clarified. The predicting aspect of prophecy, then, was just one part of a larger category of applying God’s word to God’s people.

What does any of this have to do with music? The answer is that music makes learning things easier. If you sing the A, B, C song when you are putting something in alphabetical order or sing one of the books of the Bible songs when you’re trying to find a passage in the Bible, you know how powerfully music teaches. In a society where many people may not have been literate and where written books and documents were rare, songs were an effective way to teach God’s word to God’s people. These “prophets” among the Levites, then, were singers and musicians who created songs from God’s truth and taught them to the people.

Even in the New Testament we see allusions to this idea. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” You can see here how teaching and songs are correlated. 

While it is not clear, singing may have been what Paul had in mind when he said to the Corinthians, “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” in 1 Corinthians 11:5.

This is why the content of songs is just as important in church worship as the tune and singability of a song. Because a catchy song is easy to remember, it causes us to rehearse the truths in our minds over and over. I’ve found myself today singing a song we’ve been doing on Sundays—“Your Words” without thinking about it. I wish it were easier to find worship songs with rich, biblical lyrics than it is because of the teaching power that music has. May God continue to give us more and more skilled “prophets” like Asaph and his gang who dig deeply into His word and teach it to us with music.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

2 Kings 7, 1 Timothy 4, Daniel 11, Psalm 119:25–48

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 7, 1 Timothy 4, Daniel 11, Psalm 119:25–48. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Daniel 11.

Today’s reading in Daniel 11 continued the interpretation of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10. The speaker in this chapter is an angel who was sent to interpret Daniel’s vision. Daniel 10-12 is a remarkable passage that predicted in detail the future events that followed the Medo-Persian empire as well as some events that are still future to us. Sorting all this out and explaining it is beyond what I’m trying to accomplish with these devotionals. But there is something devotional for us to take away from this passage today. In verses 30b-31 we read, “He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant. His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation….” This all refers to a king from the Seleucid (Greek) Empire named Antiochus. The Jewish people were divided with some who worshipped the gods of the Greeks and others who worshipped the Lord. Verse 30 described him showing “favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.” These are the Jewish people who worshiped the false Greek gods. In verse 31, we were told that, “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice.” This refers to the time when Antiochus outlawed the worship of the Lord and ended the sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. He actually went further than just ending the sacrifices commanded in Moses’ law. Antiochus had an altar to Zeus constructed in the Jewish temple and sacrificed a pig (a ceremonially unclean animal, unfit for worship in the Lord’s temple) on that altar to Zeus. Verse 32 told us that he would flatter the Jewish people who had forsaken the Lord for the gods of the Greeks, and then verse 32 concluded with this, “…but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” This prophesied the rise of the Maccabees, a group led by Judas Maccabaeus, who were faithful to Moses’ law and successfully battled Antiochus into withdrawing from Judea. The Maccabees then cleansed the temple and restored it to the covenant worship of the Lord. Notice from verse 32 that they key to this resistance was that it was led by “the people who know their God.” This phrase means that they were students of God’s word and believed it. They believed God’s covenant with Israel was true and that God’s laws were to be kept. Their faith in God led to their unexpected victory. God’s word taught them who God was and that empowered them to claim God’s  promises by faith and valiantly—and successfully—fight when the odds were against them.

This passage, then, in addition to providing a prophecy that was historically fulfilled also gives us a template for successful resistance in a world dominated by unbelief and that wants to suppress and even extinguish our faith. The way we combat the hostility to God around us is to know him through his word, believe his promises and live accordingly. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 20, 1 Thessalonians 3, Daniel 2, Psalm 106

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 20, 1 Thessalonians 3, Daniel 2, Psalm 106. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Daniel 2.

What would you do if you were a powerful leader but suspected that your spiritual advisors were making stuff up? You might do what Nebuchadnezzar did here in Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar had a weird dream (v. 1) and he apparently believed that something was being communicated to him in it. Instead of describing it for his spiritual advisors, he tested them: could they tell him what he had dreamed and THEN interpret what it meant (vv. 2-9)? The key phrase in that passage is in verse 9: “You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” If they could tell him what he had dreamed that would be proof that they had genuine access to the spiritual realm. That would give him greater confidence in their interpretation of this dream and in their spiritual guidance in every other matter.

Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual advisors did not like the new terms of service he was imposing on them. They protested that what he wanted was impossible (vv. 10-11) which confirmed to the king that they were dealers of nonsense; Nebuchadnezzar therefore ordered them to be put to death (vv. 12-13). Daniel and his friends were apparently junior officers in the spirituality cabinet of Babylon at this point. They were subject to the same death penalty but had not been given the opportunity to advise Nebuchadnezzar about his dream (v. 14). Daniel asked for some time and urged his three friends to pray (vv. 15-18), and God answered their prayers, revealing the vision and its meaning to Daniel (vv. 19-45). 

The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is important because it predicted world events that would happen after his reign and would culminate with the kingdom of Christ (vv. 36-45). But for this devotional, I want to focus on how Daniel responded when God answered his prayers. Daniel was given a gift that, according to Nebuchadnezzar’s astrologers, was impossible: “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks!” they said in verse 10. Daniel recognized that what they said was right. His ability to interpret dreams was a supernatural gift from God, not a natural skill he developed himself (v. 23). Daniel also recognized in this dream that God was at work in world events (v. 21). While we think that kings and leaders are chosen by natural events, political processes, and/or human manipulation, God’s providence stands behind it all. The rulers of this world think they are in control but their control is an illusion. God is using their ambitions to advance his will. While we should do what we can to influence world events toward righteousness, we need to recognize that the nations and political structures of this world belong to this world; they will be replaced by the kingdom Jesus came to establish (vv. 44-45). What seems so powerful, so permanent, so impenetrable to us now will be supernaturally—“not by human hands” (v. 34)—“broken to pieces and… swept away without leaving a trace” (v. 35). 

I feel the hopelessness that so many others do in this election cycle. Our freedoms are being encroached on by the government regardless of which political party is in office and we may soon learn what it means to suffer for Christ. If our hope were in reforming this world and it’s rulers, we would have plenty to worry about, but our hope is in Christ. His kingdom may be right on the verge of appearing or it may be another thousand years away. Only God knows the timeline, but he has revealed to us the outcome. Look in faith to these promises and trust God to watch over us and use us in the meantime, just like he did with Daniel and his friends.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Judges 15, Acts 19, Jeremiah 28, Mark 14

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Judges 15, Acts 19, Jeremiah 28, Mark 14. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Jeremiah 28.

In Jeremiah 27, which we read yesterday, God commanded Jeremiah to develop a little object lesson for the kings of his era. He commanded Jeremiah to make a yoke and wear it around his neck (27:1-2), then to send a message to them urging them to submit voluntarily to the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar (vv. 3-12). Here in Jeremiah 28 a prophet named Hananiah confronted Jeremiah with a prophecy of his own. He spoke his words “in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and all the people” (v. 1) and told them that God would break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon within two years (vv. 3-4). He even removed the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck and broke it to emphasize the message (vv. 10-12). 

Jeremiah responded with an enthusiastic, “Amen!” (literally, v. 5). However, he warned Hananiah about making untrue prophecies (v. 9). With only two years or less for his prophecy to become true, his role as a prophet would either be validated or he would lose all credibility as a spokesman for God (v. 9). Later, God himself spoke to Jeremiah and sent him to warn Hananiah about the consequences of prophesying falsely in God’s name.  

Predicting that God will do something within a period of time where you will probably be alive is a bad idea. If it doesn’t happen, people will know that you are a fraud. Jeremiah, however, made a prophecy with an even shorter runway to fulfillment; he predicted that Hananiah would die within the year. The reason for this prediction was God’s judgment on him “because you have preached rebellion against the Lord.” Although Hananiah's word was rosy and optimistic and encouraged people’s hearts, it was, in fact, urging them to rebel against the Lord instead of obediently following the word that came through Jeremiah. God honored his true prophet, Jeremiah, by causing his prophecy to come to pass: “ In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died.” Hananiah didn’t make it two months (see v. 1) before God vindicated Jeremiah and discredited him.

God does not seem to bring such swift and clear punishment against those who speak lies in his name today. Why? Because God is merciful to them. In fact, that was the point of Jeremiah’s prophecy to Hananiah. The reason he was told that his death was approaching was so that he could repent. Had he repented, God would likely have let him live for many more years. This is always why God’s word warns us—to lead us to repentance. While disobedience to God’s commands may not lead to premature death, there are always painful consequences to sin. Let’s consider this when we are convicted of sin in our lives. It is unwise and unsafe to ignore the confrontations and warnings of the Lord. Conviction of sin is for our good; let’s welcome it and respond to it in repentance for God’s glory and our good (see Heb 12:4-11, esp. verses 10-11). 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Numbers 19, Psalms 56–57, Isaiah 8:1–9:7, James 2

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 19, Psalms 56–57, Isaiah 8:1–9:7, James 2. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Isaiah 8:1-9:7.

Although they had the great prophet Isaiah living among them and speaking constantly on behalf of God, Judah was in deep rebellion to God’s word and cared nothing for Isaiah’s prophecies. As people tend to do, they looked to more mystical sources for revelation instead of the written Law of God and the spoken teachings and prophecies of Isaiah. God rebuked his people for this in Isaiah 8:19. Instead of fooling around with false sources of spirituality, God through Isaiah called them back to his word: “Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (v. 20). When people look outside God’s word, they are dissatisfied (v. 21a) and end up cursing God (v. 21b). Instead of finding light in these sources, they find “distress and darkness and fearful gloom” (v. 22). 

Chapter 9 opens against this bleak backdrop from chapter 8 by promising “no more gloom” (v. 1) but instead that “people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (v. 2). Isaiah is prophesying a day of victory for God’s people (vv. 3-5) but it starts with the birth of Christ, foretold in Isaiah 9:6-7. Whether people look to God for truth or not, God would (and did!) send his son to bring light into the world and he will come again to finish the work and establish his kingdom on earth. That is our hope, so let’s look to his word only for guidance and revelation and truth about how to live until his kingdom comes.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.