Monthly Archives: May 2017

Through the Bible, May 31

Reading: Luke 4:16-30; Acts 8:26-40; Hebrews 8:1-13

Summary: Today’s readings are three prominent examples of how Jesus and the New Testament writers viewed and applied prophecies of the coming Messiah and the new covenant He would initiate.  Note, in the example from Luke in particular, how preconceived ideas prevented people from grasping the truth of the prophet’s message and its fulfillment.

Devotional Thought:

It’s Easy to Reject Jesus

How hard is it to accept (receive, believe…insert your word of choice here) Jesus?  Had it ought not to be easy?  His coming into the world was by the work and will of God.  There’s nothing too difficult for Him.  His intention is for all men to be saved (and thus the need for Jesus being accepted).  The capacity to do acts and deeds far beyond human capacity (miracles) was at His disposal.   His arrival on earth, among men, was not a surprise as it had been foretold in such a way that people were in expectation of his appearance.

Everything appears to be in place for people to fully embrace Jesus as the Son of God.

But, they did not.

Perhaps the most startling rejection came in His own hometown, Nazareth.  What began as a warm welcome quickly digressed to attempted murder averted only by a divine act—at least that’s how I understand “passing through their midst, he went away” (Luke 4:30).

The fact is, Jesus did not fit their preconceived notions of what the Messiah should be, He didn’t do for them the miracles they’d heard about, He dared speak the truth of God’s word that contradicted their cherished traditions.  To them, He failed utterly.

We may hold dear to many ideas, notions, and beliefs that actually contradict reality, truth, God’s word, and His Son.

It’s easy to do.

It’s easy to reject Jesus.

Through the Bible, May 30

Reading: Obadiah

Summary: This will likely be the shortest reading assignment of the year as Obadiah is the shortest book of the Old Testament as well as the only one that is a single chapter in length.  Obadiah joins Jonah and Nahum as books whose entire message is devoted to foreign powers.  Nearly all of the prophets, though, contain at least some oracles against the nations.

Obadiah is addressed to Edom—comprised of the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother—for their failure to aid Judah in her hour of despair.

Devotional Thought:

You Get What You Give

Many people wonder how the judgment will turn out for them.  Will I make it?  Will I be saved?  What can I anticipate receiving from God?

In answer to that last question, the answer is pretty much, whatever you have been giving to others.  What do you want from God?  Forgiveness, compassion, mercy and grace?  Then that better be how you are treating others.

A very certain and true biblical principle is that we will receive back what we give.  Jesus taught this repeatedly; from his parable of the unmerciful slave (Matt. 18:21-35), to the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” (Matt. 6:12), to the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:7), to His explicit statement, “For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

The principle didn’t originate with Jesus, though.  The prophet Obadiah had warned the Edomites long years ago, “As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head” (Obadiah 1:15).

The formula isn’t too hard to figure out.

Through the Bible, May 29

Reading: Joel 1-3

Summary: Joel’s prophecy is unlike any other of the prophets in that the entire message is based on a single catastrophic event; a locust plague.  There is no way to date this book with any accuracy, although Joel’s use of the event to warn of the coming “day of the Lord” has led many to believe he is speaking of the Babylonian invasion and captivity.  Other events of God’s judgment, though, have been referred to in the same way, so this connection is in no way certain.

Devotional Thought:

What Day Is It?

A day is a day, right?

Not really.  Is a child’s birthday just another day?  Is a wedding anniversary day to be treated like all others?  Is a day off like a day at work? Does not the day of the death of a loved one stand out?

So, no, a day is not just a day.

Joel certainly didn’t think so. His concern was for the “day of the Lord”.  There is that sense in which every day is His since He made them all (Psa. 118:24).  There is also the day each week that is designated as the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10).  But the day of the Lord the prophet speaks of is something different.

It’s referenced no less than seven times in this brief book.  It’s a day in which God will act in a special way.  For some it will be a day of “destruction” (1:15), a day of “darkness and gloom…of clouds and thick darkness” (2:2).  But it’s also a day that is “great and very awesome” (2:11).

In order for it to be the latter and not the former required something of His people.  They must “return to the Lord your God” (2:13).

So here’s something else about that day: “Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).

We have to decide.  It’s our decision that will make that day great or dark.  Either way, the day of the Lord comes.

May Supplemental Reading Introduction

Week 5: Supplemental Reading

May 29-31

      May’s supplemental readings will be taken from two additional prophets, Obadiah and Joel.  Both are somewhat difficult to place chronologically, but likely fall in the general time frame of this month’s readings.  Also, we’ll look to the New Testaments at some examples of how Jesus and others used and applied prophecies from Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Through the Bible, May 28

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflections: Today being the planned catch up day for the fourth week of May, we have no readings scheduled.  Please give some thought, though, to the following points and observations from this week’s reading.

  1. Though Zephaniah proclaimed the certain judgment of God to Judah, he did not suggest that every person was at fault. “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord” (Zeph. 2:3).

Yes, God’s anger would be poured out on Judah, but his prayers were that those righteous ones might be spared harm through what would undoubtedly be very difficult times.  This is yet another example that sometimes the righteous do suffer for the sins of others.

  1. Generational faith is challenging. As the line of kings in Judah demonstrated, faithfulness in the father did not guarantee it in the son.  One wonders about the spiritual influences on ones like Hezekiah and Josiah who had such wicked fathers yet became such great kings?  And, why their offspring were as unrighteous as they had been good?

One thing is for certain, we must exercise great care for the spiritual influences in our lives and those of our children.

  1. The citizens of Jerusalem could not believe the message of Jeremiah. They were convinced of God’s presence and His protection.  Was that an expression of faith?  No, it wasn’t.  Jeremiah said, “Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” (Jer. 7:4).

They believed that as long as the physical temple stood, they were in God’s favor, no matter what kind of lives they lived.  Their trust was in external manifestations and representations instead of genuine devotion and service to God.

It’s a common mistake.

Devotional Thought:

Theirs and Ours

A coincidence, I suppose (or not), but within a span of fewer than five minutes I read a Facebook post of a top leader of a major Christian religious group calling the Apostle Paul “mean-spirited and bigoted” and that those who disagree with her are “enemies of the Holy Spirit.”  Then I read the words of Jeremiah, “the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it” (Jer. 6:10).

The problems that plagued Judah and Jerusalem that led to her downfall are alive and well today.

So is God.

If their problems are our problems then their remedy (which they neglected) is our remedy.

If we miss that, like they did, then their end will be our end too.

Through the Bible, May 27

Reading: Jeremiah 30-31

Summary: Though Jeremiah’s message to Judah was one of grave warning, he also looked to the future of Israel and Judah’s restoration.  This act of judgment did not mean God was finished with His people.  Further, Jeremiah looked to the time when God would even establish a brand new covenant relationship with man.

Devotional Thought:

Is This It?

I once interviewed a man who had hit rock bottom in his life.  He’d destroyed his family, career, made a mockery of his faith, embarrassed his church family.  The full reality of his utter foolishness and rebellion and hypocrisy and deceit and failure finally washed over him in a county jail.  He’d eventually spent over a year in a federal penitentiary.  I asked him, now removed from all of that and having rebuilt his life, what advice he had for anyone who also realized they too had hit bottom.  What should they do, right now?

Among other things, he said, “You must know that you are not done, this is not the end for you.”

What a powerful thought.  As bad as this may be right now, as much as it may hurt, as much regret and remorse and shame as I feel right now, this is not the end.

That’s what God wanted His own people to know.  For years Jeremiah had been delivering the message that God was going to punish them.  They would be taken into captivity.  Their beloved city and temple would be destroyed.    They would be exiled and enslaved.  But, that was not the end for them.

God also instructed Jeremiah to write His words in a book, “For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people” (Jer. 30:3).  God was not done with them.

God can and will restore us.

We’ve got to give Him a chance.

Through the Bible, May 26

Reading: Jeremiah 26, 32, 36, 38

Summary: Jeremiah’s message was one not well received.  The people simply refused to believe God would allow the things of which the prophet spoke regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity by Babylon.  Numerous efforts were made to silence this man of God and he underwent some terrible persecutions.  Today’s reading recounts some of those incidents.

Devotional Thought:

You’re Either a Josiah or a Jehoiakim

The different responses to God’s word by Josiah and his son, Jehoiakim, are ironic, and chilling.

When Josiah heard the book of the Law read—which had been “lost” in the temple for many years—he tore his clothes and wept (2 Chron. 34:27).  When Jehoiakim heard the scroll of the prophet Jeremiah read, he did not fear nor tear his clothes (Jer. 36:24; though others had, see v. 16).

Josiah revered God’s word and dedicated himself to “perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book” (2 Chron. 34:31).  Jehoiakim, on the other hand, tried to destroy it, cutting up the scroll with a scribe’s knife and throwing it in the fire (Jer. 36:23).

Josiah heard, feared, humbled himself and obeyed.  Jehoiakim heard, did not fear, and persisted.

The scenario is not unfamiliar.  A person encounters God’s word. His will is made known in it.  The blessings of submission and the consequences of rebellion are spelled out.  No secrets, no hidden agendas, no surprises.  The only question in the equation is my response.  It all turns on me.

So, Josiah or Jehoiakim?

Through the Bible, May 25

Reading: Jeremiah 24-25

Summary: Jeremiah renounced the sin of Judah and Jerusalem and announced the coming judgment of God.  He specified that their captivity would last for seventy years and it was as though Judah must drink the bitter cup filled with the wine of God’s wrath.

Devotional Thought:

All God Has Ever Wanted

Two possible outcomes await God’s people; that’s how it has always been.  Jesus said there are two possible roads, one leading to life, the other to death (Matt. 7:13-14).  In the judgment, all humanity will be divided into two groups, like a shepherd separating sheep and goats (Matt. 25:32). And, to a much-lesser known degree, they will be like one of two baskets of figs; one good and edible, the other completely rotten (Jer. 24).

Though Jeremiah’s depiction is not nearly so well known as Jesus’, he does employ some language that is very well known and dear to God.  In describing the basket of good figs he says, “they shall be my people and I will be their God” (v. 7).  This literary formula has been called the “covenant code”.  In one statement it summarizes all that God has ever wanted with His creation.

It’s language employed by God when initiating the original covenant with His people at Mt. Sinai (Lev. 26:12).  It’s used frequently by the prophets—ones sometimes called God’s “covenant enforcers” (Isa. 51:16; Jer. 7:23; 30:22; 32:38; Ezek. 14:11; Hos. 2:23; Zech. 8:8; 13:9).  When a new and better covenant is foretold—that which Christ would initiate—not surprisingly, this too is one of its characteristics (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10).

Even in heaven itself, among all the descriptions of the glory and beauty and grandeur of that place, also true of it will the reality of that which God has always wanted, to be among His own, to be their God and they His people (Rev. 21:3).

Here’s a question; is what God has always wanted, what I also want?

Through the Bible, May 24

Reading: Jeremiah1:1-3:5; 5:1-17

Summary: Jeremiah’s prophetic career actually began during the reign of Josiah and continued until after Judah’s deportation to Babylon.  He, therefore, would have been a contemporary of both Habakkuk, Nahum, and Zephaniah.  The book of Jeremiah is second in length in Scripture only to Psalms.  It contains both his prophetic oracles as well as narratives of events and activities from his life.  The material, though, is not arranged chronologically, but rather topically.

Incidentally, the kings of Judah are frequently named in the book and Jeremiah refers to Jehoicachin, the son of Jehoiakim, as Coniah or Jeconiah.   Also, he calls Zedekiah, the last king, Shallum.

The first six chapters are generally regarded as from his early years during Josiah’s reign.  Today we’ll read a sampling of these prophetic words.

Devotional Thought:

God’s Desperate Search

Make no mistake about it, God is actively searching.  He’s looking for a certain person; not an individual, but a type—like Him.

God used Jeremiah in that search:  “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her” (Jer. 5:1).

And this isn’t an isolated incident.  Hanani the seer told a previous king, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chron. 16:9).   Yet another prophet emphasizing the thoroughness of God’s search said He conducts it with seven eyes (Zech. 4:10).

That for which God seeks is a consistent theme: justice and truth and righteousness.  It is what the Lord requires (Micah 6:8).  It is God’s own nature and therefore His delight (Jer. 9:24). It is the foundation of His own throne (Psa. 97:2).  It is of far greater worth to God than sacrifices and worship (Amos 5:24).  It’s the very definition of righteousness (Ezek. 18:5-9).

He wants it.  He seeks it.  He demands it.

One question: will He find it in me?

Through the Bible, May 23

Reading: 2 Kings 23:31-25:30; 2 Chronicles 36:13-21

Summary: After Josiah’s death, the people instated his son Jehoahaz on the throne.  But within three months the Egyptians arrived again, returning from the battle of Carchemish (see the reading introduction for May 20), and Neco took Jehoahaz prisoner and placed his brother, Eliakim, on the throne and changed his name to Jehoiakim.

During Jehoiakim’s reign, the Babylonians come and tribute is shifted from Egypt to Babylon.  After three years Jehoiakim rebels, Nebuchadnezzar returns and takes Jehoiakim as a prisoner to Babylon.  Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim’s son, rules in his stead.

During Jehoiachin’s reign, Babylon comes again and this time takes captives from among the nobles and princes, including the king.  This would have been the time that Daniel, Ezekiel, Mordecai and Esther were taken captive.  Jehoiachin’s uncle, Josiah’s son, Mattaniah, takes the throne and Nebuchadnezzar changes his name to Zedekiah.   When Zedekiah rebels against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar returns one last time and destroys Jerusalem and takes all Judah captive.

During this entire time, Jeremiah has been prophesying telling the people of the upcoming captivity and to prepare themselves for it.   He actually is not taken captive and remains with a small group in Jerusalem ruled by a governor, Gedaliah.

Devotional Thought:

Problems God Can’t Fix

God can do anything, right?  Wrong.  Not that He lacks in any ability or power or that any other force exists that can defeat Him.  There have been some wrongs He could not right and some problems He could not fix.

For instance, when He finally brought the Babylonians to Jerusalem to destroy the city and take His people in captivity, it was only after “they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy” (2 Chron. 36:16).

Did you catch that; “…until there was no remedy”?

A vital part of the “remedy” was the response of the people to God’s messengers and message.  They refused.  God couldn’t fix that.

Our problems, including our biggest problem, sin, is quite fixable by God.  He has made it absolutely and incomprehensibly possible.  But if we won’t respond, there is no remedy.  None.

The critical issue and the big question, after all that God has done, has everything to do with me.