2 Chronicles 25, Revelation 12:1–13:1, Zechariah 8, John 11

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 25, Revelation 12:1–13:1, Zechariah 8, John 11. 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 2 Chronicles 25.

Amaziah followed his father Joash as king of Israel. He also followed his inconsistent spiritual leadership. Verse 2 said, “ He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.” He was obedient to the Law when it came to punishing his father’s assassins (vv. 3-4) and when he was told not to hire soldiers from Israel (vv. 5-10). But he stooped to idolatry after defeating the Edomites and taking their gods even though, as a prophet put it to him, “Why do you consult this people’s gods, which could not save their own people from your hand?”

That question makes the folly of idolatry so clear, doesn’t it? But it is easy for us to fall into the same kinds of traps. We fall for materialism even though God’s word warns us against it and we know from our own experience that new possessions lose their allure quickly. We turn to secular wisdom when we need advice and counsel instead of God’s word. We follow our own desires or our own thinking even though it runs counter to God’s commands and has led us astray before. This is why we need a steady supply of truth in our lives, through daily Bible reading and consistent Bible teaching, to remind us and help guard us against the folly of false gods and unbiblical ideas.

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 24, Revelation 11, Zechariah 7, John 10

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 24, Revelation 11, Zechariah 7, John 10. 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 7.

During the 70 years that Judah was captive to Babylon, the Jewish people began a tradition of fasting in the fifth and seventh month of each year (vv. 3-4). The purpose of this fast was, on the surface at least, to beg the Lord to end the captivity, return his people to the promised land, and restore the temple. But the temple was now being rebuilt and many people were returning to Judah, so this delegation wanted to know if the fasting was still necessary.

Zechariah’s answer was long and did not conclude until chapter 8, but his entire answer challenged the questioners more than it answered the question. The Lord asked the people, “…was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?” (vv. 6-7). A fast of true repentance would have honored the Lord but a mere ritual that everyone observed as a matter of custom meant as little to the Lord as it did to the people observing the fast. Likewise, their “normal” days of eating and drinking were done without any regard for the Lord. They did not give thanks for the food he provided or enjoy it as an act of worship from grateful hearts. Both their religious observance and their daily habits were done for themselves, not as servants of God seeking to please him.

Instead, God wanted his people to live like him daily, showing justice, mercy and compassion by caring for widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor rather than using the vulnerabilities of these groups as levers to exploit them. This is the kind of worship God wants, not because he expected people to work to earn his favor but because these ethics were evidence of a truly changed heart.

Think about your daily choices–to eat or not to eat, to read God’s word and pray or not, to attend church or sleep in, to be kind and helpful to others or to ignore their needs. Does your walk with God drive the decisions you make on these (and other) things or do you choose what you will and won’t do based on your own personal motivations?

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 http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. 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.

2 Chronicles 21, Revelation 9, Zechariah 5, John 8

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 21, Revelation 9, Zechariah 5, John 8. 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 2 Chronicles 21.

For all the good that he did, Jehoshaphat was unable to leave Israel with a godly successor. His son Jehoram got to be king because “he was his firstborn son” (v. 3c). That’s a very good reason for choosing someone to be your successor. Solomon, for instance, was not David’s firstborn son; not even close. Jehoram must have felt some insecurity about his reign because when he had “established himself firmly over his father’s kingdom, he put all his brothers to the sword along with some of the officials of Israel” (v. 4). He also married one of Ahab’s daughters who evidently influenced him toward idol worship (v. 6, 11).

God was gracious to Jehoram, to a point, despite his murder and idolatry, but that was only due to his covenant promise to David (v. 7). Although God did not remove him from being king, he did bring severe trials into Jehoram’s life because of his sins:

  • He faced rebellion from the Edomites (vv. 8-10) “because Jehoram had forsaken the Lord, the God of his ancestors” (v. 10b).
  • He received a stern letter of warning from Elijah (vv. 12-15).
  • He lost when attacked by Philistines and others (vv. 16-17).
  • He contracted an incurable bowel disease (vv. 18-19) and “died in great pain” (v. 19b).

Since Jehoshaphat ran such a tight ship religiously when he was king, one might reason that Israel enjoyed having Jehoram, a fellow idol worshipper, follow him and loosen things up. No such luck, though; when he died, “His people made no funeral fire in his honor, as they had for his predecessors” (v. 19c). Ouch! Verse 20 summed up his eight year reign this way, “He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.”

That phrase, ““He passed away, to no one’s regret” has been on my mind today. I read this passage earlier in the day and that description has stuck with me. It is foolish to live so that others regret your death. You’ll spend your life trying to please everyone and it is difficult to do that and please God at the same time since God wants you to be holy and everyone else wants to be unholy. But look at Jehoshaphat. He made some dumb decisions, but he lived for the glory of God to the best of his ability and he is remembered for that. Proverbs 28:12 says, “When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.” The way to be remembered well at your funeral is to live a righteous life and be the best manager for the Lord of whatever power and influence he gives you. People may be repelled by your high standards, your ethics, and your morals but over time they will respect the steady leadership you have provided.

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 19–20, Revelation 8, Zechariah 4, John 7

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 19–20, Revelation 8, Zechariah 4, John 7 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 2 Chronicles 19-20.

We read yesterday about the foolish alliance that the godly king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, made with the ungodly king of Israel, Ahab. God saved Jehoshaphat even though he went into battle dressed like a target (see 18:29-31) and he caused Ahab to be killed even though he was trying to avoid detection (18:33-34). Here in chapter 19, a prophet named Jehu rebuked Jehoshaphat for his alliance with Ahab (vv. 1-2). Although “the wrath of the Lord” was on Jehoshaphat (v. 2b) he was still man who set his “heart on seeking God” (v. 3b). What were the evidences of that his heart was set on seeking God?

First, he turned others to seeking God. Chapter 19 verse 4 told us that he reached out to the people “from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim.” This is a large area around Jerusalem, where Jehoshaphat lived. Beersheba was far to the south of Jerusalem, encompassing all of Judah and Simeon as well as a number of Israel’s enemies. “The hill country of Ephraim” was the area due north of Jerusalem, including the tribes of Benjamin and Dan. These are areas that belonged to the Northern Kingdom of Israel but Jehoshaphat travelled around these places “and turned them back to the Lord, the God of their ancestors” (19:4b).

Second, he delegated justice to others but charged them to judge in the fear of God (19:5-11). One man cannot do all that needs to be done, but a godly leader both delegates the work and urges those responsible to do the work in a way that pleases God because they fear God.

Third, he trusted God to keep His covenant (20:6-7) and defend His people (20:1-13), looking to God in prayer for these promises. Because of his faith God answered his prayers and miraculously delivered Judah from their attackers (20:14-26).

Fourth, he gave thanks and praise to God in worship when God delivered Judah from her enemies (20:27-28).

Jehoshaphat did some really stupid things (see 18:29-32 again. Sheesh). His obedience was imperfect (20:33) and failed to learn his lesson at times (20:35-36). God even disciplined him for some of these things (20:37). But because his heart was set on seeking God (19:3), God was merciful to him when he disciplined him and God blessed the areas where he was wise and faithful to the Lord.

Isn’t that encouraging? Even though he messed up a lot, his efforts to do right were blessed and praised by God because they came from a sincere heart of obedience. I hope this gives you some comfort and encouragement to keep seeking the Lord and striving to do what’s right. I hope it helps you not to be discouraged when the Lord’s discipline comes into your life but to keep seeking him for as long as you live.

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 18, Revelation 7, Zechariah 3, John 6

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 18, Revelation 7, Zechariah 3, John 6. 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 3.

One of the most important truths people need to grasp in order to understand our salvation is the concept of “imputation.” Imputation is a theological name for the truth that our salvation is given to us–imputed to us or credited to us–by God. God declares us to be not guilty and righteous in his sight even though we are actually guilty and unrighteous. 

Zechariah 3 gives us a clear picture to help us understand imputation. In verse 1 a man named Joshua is facing the angel of the Lord but Satan is standing next to Joshua also. Verse 1 tells us that Joshua is “the high priest.” This indicates that he represents the whole nation; that’s what the high priest does when he goes to offer the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. 

Satan stood next to Joshua “to accuse him.” He was ready to bring up every sin he’d ever committed in order to show that he was not a holy man but one who deserved God’s punishment. In verse 2, however, the Lord rebuked Satan and then said this, “Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” That statement indicates that Joshua has been saved. He was in the fire, about to be consumed for his sins, but the Lord snatched him from that judgment.

However, he was still burning because the Lord said, “Is not this man a burning stick….” So he had been rescued for the moment, but was still deserving of punishment. Verse 3 changes the imagery and notes that Joshua was “dressed in filthy clothes.” This was another way of conveying his guilt. In verse 4, the angel of the Lord decreed that his filthy clothes be exchanged for “fine garments” that the Lord would put on him. The meaning of this exchange: “I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” God imputed righteousness to him as symbolized by his rescue from the fire and the exchange of his robes.

After completing the clothing change for Joshua (v. 5) and charging him to live obediently to the Lord (vv. 6-7), the Lord explained the meaning of this vision. First, he told them that this was about things in the future: “…who are men symbolic of things to come…” (v. 8). In the future, then, the Lord promised, “I am going to bring my servant, the Branch…. and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day” (vv. 8-9).

This is what God has done for us in Christ. He rescued us from certain destruction and exchanged our guilt for his righteousness. And this is prophesied in the Old Testament because this is what God always intended. Israel never kept his laws because sinners are incapable of keeping the law of God without God’s gracious work in our lives. If you’ve come to know Jesus, “the Branch,” by faith, then no matter what you’ve done in your life or how guilty you feel, God silences the accusations of Satan against you and you stand before him perfect. This perfection came to you by imputation, when God credited to filthy sinners like you and me the perfect righteousness of Christ. 

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 17, Revelation 6, Zechariah 2, John 5

Thanks for reading along with me this year. If you’d like to continue this practice in 2017, click here for details about NT17, my devotional plan for next year. You can sign up on that page; the mailing list you’re on now will be discontinued on December 31 after the last 66 in 16 devotional goes out.

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 17, Revelation 6, Zechariah 2, John 5 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 2.

In this chapter Zechariah learned what life would be like in the future city of Jerusalem. In verse 1 he met a man who was on his way to measure Jerusalem but by verse 3 the man had been stopped by an angel because the city would be beyond measure. According to verse 4 it would be “a city without walls,” full of people and animals, guarded and illuminated by the Lord himself (v. 5). This describes Jerusalem as it will be during Christ’s earthly kingdom–the Millennium (v. 10). Although Israel, God’s covenant people, are gathered into this city (vv. 6-9), they are not the only ones who will enjoy this amazing life. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you” (v. 11). This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abram that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:3b). This is why the gospel was for the Gentiles just as much as it was for the Jews. Our presence there in Jesus’ kingdom was part of God’s plan all along and it shows God’s love and grace to us regardless of who we are or where we came from. There is a bright future ahead for the human race but it will arrive through the fulfillment of Christ’s promises, not through technological breakthroughs, political planning, or military conquest. When the cares and problems of this life drag us down, a passage like this can return our gaze to God and his plan. Great things await those who trust in Jesus!

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 16, Revelation 5, Zechariah 1, John 4

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 16, Revelation 5, Zechariah 1, John 4. 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 2 Chronicles 16.

Asa began well as a spiritual leader but, as we read today in 2 Chronicles 16, he changed for the worse as he grew older. Verses 7-10 told us that Asa was rebuked by Hanani, a prophet, for trusting in Ben-Hadad the king of Aram instead of God for diplomatic success. Although his alliance with Ben-Hadad worked (vv. 4-6), the Lord was not consulted or trusted for success. Likewise, when Asa faced a “severe” foot disease, “he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians” (v. 12). He had forgotten how the Lord encouraged him and strengthened him to remove the idols from Israel as we read yesterday in chapter 15. Now, in his older years, he was satisfied with living and ruling based on his own wisdom and cunning. This was both dishonoring to God and foolish for Asa because, as verse 9 said, “…the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” God was there for Asa and would have rewarded his faith with strength and skill and wisdom to face these problems but Asa refused God’s grace and chose to live by his own insight.

It is easy to see how foolish this was for Asa but to miss how often we make the same kind of choice. We can be tempted to live our daily lives as if God did not exist, making decisions without asking for his help, his wisdom, or his blessing on us. Blessed is the one who learns to rely on the Lord throughout all of his life and even more so as he gets older.

One more lesson from this passage. Verse 10 records that “Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison.” All this prophet did was bring truth to Asa, truth that would have surrounded the king in God’s grace if he had chosen to believe it and obey it. Instead of receiving the Lord’s rebuke, however, Asa “was angry with the seer.” This happens to us sometimes, too, doesn’t it? How often does someone bring truth into our lives to help us change and we resist their words and become angry with the messenger rather than receiving the truth in the message. May we learn to always receive truth for what it is–the gracious gift of God to us. It may hurt us in the moment, but that wound will keep us from the long-term damage that unaddressed sin will certainly bring in the future.

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 14–15, Revelation 4, Haggai 2, John 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 14–15, Revelation 4, Haggai 2, John 3. 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 2 Chronicles 14-15.

We read about King Asa back in 1 Kings 15 and I wrote about him here. Today’s passage here in 2 Chronicles 14-15 is a lengthier account of Asa’s life with more detail than we saw in 1 Kings 15. 2 Chronicles 15 told us that a prophet spoke to Asa which encouraged the king to begin the reforms that he is known for. In the middle of verse 2 we read these words, “The Lord is with you when you are with him.” How often do we use that kind of language in our prayers: “Be with me, Lord, as I….” This passage (and plenty of others) teach us that the answer to that prayer depends a lot on what follows the words, “…as I….” Often such prayers are asking God to bless and prosper what we want to do. “Be with me, Lord, as I drive to Atlanta.” “Be with me, Lord, as I ask for a raise.” “Be with me, Lord, as I get this biopsy.” There is nothing wrong with these prayers but they are somewhat misguided. What God is about is saving people and making them holy. So God may see your request differently than you do. When we ask God to “be with” us, we are asking him to give us the outcome we want–a safe trip to Atlanta, the raise in pay we’re asking for, a negative biopsy. But God may want to use the opposite of what you expect when you ask him to “be with” you to make you holy. Or, he may use something different than what you expect to bring someone else to faith in him.

Far more important than asking God to be with us is to understand that “The Lord is with you when you are with him” (v. 2). He’s already promised his presence with us and that will work all things together for our good. What we should look for, then, is where we are out of alignment with what God wants and get into alignment. In other words, instead of asking God to be on our side, we should ask God to show us where his side is so that we can get on it. That’s the encouragement Asa received. He knew that God wanted him to remove idolatry from Israel. This verse was spoken to him by the prophet to get him to move; that is, so that he would start cleansing the idolatry just as God wanted him to do.

Have you been asking God just to be with you in anything and everything you want to do? Isn’t it more honoring to God when we look for what he is already doing and get on that side?

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 http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. 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 13, Revelation 3, Haggai 1, John 2

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 13, Revelation 3, Haggai 1, John 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 Haggai 1.

As you no doubt have noticed, most of the prophets we’ve read prophesied judgment was coming for Israel or Judah or both. Haggai was one of the prophets who spoke the Lord’s word after his people were returned from exile. 

Here in chapter 1, the Lord challenged the people through Haggai for returning to the land and building their own houses (v. 4) but doing nothing to rebuild the temple (v. 2, 4). Their reasoning for this was, “’The time has not yet come….’” Undoubtedly there was still a lot of work to be done in Jerusalem. A city that has been destroyed by the Babylonians would take a long time to rebuild. Their plan, however, suggested wrong priorities. Instead of understanding that their security and prosperity were consequences of faith in and obedience to God, they believed that taking care of business was most important and then, “we’ll get to the Lord’s work when things are humming along nicely again.” 

Verses 5-11 explained the outcome of their misplaced priorities. Though they had worked hard (“planted much”) they were struggling to make ends meet (“harvest little… earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it” (v. 6)). This was all the Lord’s doing as he explained in verses 9-10: “‘What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.’” Through Haggai, then, the Lord taught his people to change their priorities and see worship as far more important by rebuilding the temple (v. 8). 

Unlike the past, God’s people at this time received the message of the Lord’s prophet (v. 12). Their resolve to rebuild the temple and their obedience to that intention (v. 14) was met with the Lord’s favor: “I am with you” (v. 13b). 

What struggles are you facing now? Work problems or business struggles? Rebellious children? Strained friendships? A too-tight budget at home? Maybe this is just the Lord’s will for you now to teach you patience and strengthen your faith. But, have you considered that maybe the Lord is holding too low a priority in your life? You’re working harder than ever but that leaves less time for prayer and Bible reading. You’re trying to spend more time with your kids but that means you’re choosing recreation over church attendance frequently. Consider the frustrations you face in your life might be the Lord’s discipline in your life and that this passage is calling you to reassess your priorities and put more attention into your walk with God. Then, do what it takes to give the Lord his proper place. It may seem tough to find time to rebuild your walk with God but remember the Lord’s encouraging promise: “‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord.”

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.