1 Chronicles 1-2, Zechariah 1, John 16

Read 1 Chronicles 1-2, Zechariah 1, and John 16 today. This devotional is about Zechariah 1.

When Zechariah wrote these words (v. 1) there were still 18 years or so to go in Judah’s 70 year exile. The end was not yet in sight but it was much closer than it was at 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 predictions of 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” (v. 6d). 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.

2 Samuel 21, Daniel 11, 1 Timothy 3

Read 2 Samuel 21, Daniel 11, and 1 Timothy 3 today. This devotional is about 2 Samuel 21.

Today’s reading in Daniel 11 continued the interpretation of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10.

The speaker in this chapter was 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; some worshipped the gods of the Greeks and others 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.” That statement 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.

2 Samuel 2, Ezekiel 42, Psalms 108-110

Read 2 Samuel 2, Ezekiel 42, and Psalms 108-110. This devotional is about Psalm 110.

This is a brief Psalm with mighty implications. It began with a superscript that says, “Of David. A psalm.” That could mean, “about David,” “by David,” or “for David” but it must mean “by David” for two reasons:

  1. The same wording, of David, in Hebrew is used before other Psalms, like Psalm 3: “A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.” The clear meaning is that David wrote Psalm 3 and, therefore, he wrote Psalm 110 as well.
  2. Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1 in Matthew 22:43-45 and clearly specified David as the author: “He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him “Lord”? For he says, ‘”The LORD said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.'” If then David calls him “Lord,” how can he be his son?'”

This is important because of what Psalm 110:1 says which is, “YHWH (translated “the LORD”) said unto my lord.” If someone else, not David, wrote Psalm 110, then the meaning is, “YHWY said unto my Lord, David….”

But, since David wrote Psalm 110, who is his “lord”? Who was David writing about when he wrote, “YHWH said to my lord”?

Jesus explained that the Psalm should be read this way: “YHWH said unto David’s lord….” But who is lord over King David except for God himself?

That question suggests the important answer. Although the doctrine that we call the Trinity had not been revealed yet, David recognized that there was a coming king–Messiah–who would be distinct from YHWH in some sense but yet would still be Lord over David.

This Psalm describes Jesus in his current state: sitting at God the Father’s right hand until YHWH makes his “enemies a footstool for” his “feet” (v. 1).

At that point, YHWH will “extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of your enemies!'” (v. 2). Christ will “crush kings on the day of his wrath” (v. 5b), and “will judge nations” (v. 6a).

These are God’s promises to David’s greatest son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is already serving as “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (v. 4, Hebrews 5:6, 10, 6:20, etc.). At the time of God the Father’s choosing, Christ will become the human king on earth over all the earth. This is when the kingdom age–what we call the Millennium and beyond–will be fully established.

Until then, Christ has called us to be citizens of his kingdom by grace. When we proclaim the gospel, we are calling people out of their sins, yes, but also out from under serving the kings of this world to pledge allegiance to Jesus, the coming king.

As we worship together this morning, think about these things. Over 1000 years before Christ, David was writing about him and about events that are still future to us. He did this “by the Spirit” (Matt 22:43).

God’s word has revealed what God is doing in the world (v. 1) and what he will do when the time comes (vv. 2-7). This is what we are waiting for. Are we living like were waiting for it?

Judges 13, Ezekiel 2, Acts 21

Read Judges 13, Ezekiel 2, and Acts 21 today. This devotional is about Ezekiel 2.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel lived and prophesied during much of the same era of time. It was the time when the Northern Kingdom (Israel) had been displaced by the Assyrians and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) was in decline and would eventually be taken captive by the Babylonians.

Jeremiah prophesied both before and after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. But Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry began only after Jerusalem fell.

Jeremiah was left in Jerusalem where he continued to speak for God. Ezekiel was taken to Babylon along with the other exiles (1:1). 

The Babylonian invasion changed the course of everyone’s life in Judah and Ezekiel was no exception. Instead of serving God as a priest, which he would have by birth (1:2), Ezekiel was called by God to see visions (chapter 1) and to prophesy to God’s people in exile.

Here in Ezekiel 2 he received a direct message from God himself, a message that commissioned him to call the rebellious people of Israel to repent. Jeremiah had faithfully proclaimed the word of the Lord, even when he was imprisoned for his message and when the Lord’s enemies plotted to take his life. Ezekiel, too, was told to be faithful with the message the Lord gave him (vv. 4-8) regardless of whether people responded in repentance and obedience or not. The reason God sent Ezekiel and told him to keep prophesying even when there were no results was that “they will know that a prophet has been among them” (v. 5c). God’s people may have rejected his message, but God would not withhold that message from them.

What purpose was served by sending prophets to people who would not listen and repent? God’s purpose was to remove their excuses and render them guilty before him (see Rom 3:19). While it is hard to keep speaking truth in a hard-hearted world, God has a purpose for his word going out even when there is no response to it.

Messengers like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and us are not held accountable for how people respond to the message. Only God can cause someone to respond to his word by transforming a heart that his hard to his message through the power of the Spirit.

What we are responsible for is to be faithful—faithful in speaking what God said without subtractions, additions, or apologies and faithful in living the truth in our own lives.

Maybe you’ve been praying for someone and witnessing to them when you can or maybe you’ve been praying about witnessing to someone but feel like it will be useless to do because you’re sure they won’t respond in faith. Let God’s word to Ezekiel in this chapter speak to you, too. God put us where he put us for a purpose and he commanded us to be faithful in speaking his word for his purposes.

Success in evangelism is always encouraging, but lack of success isn’t an indictment of you as a messenger.

The only time we ever fail to serve God in evangelism is when we have failed to speak for God when we have the chance. Let’s learn to trust the Lord’s word and his purposes and just be faithful in giving the message—as clearly, compassionately, and convincingly as we can, yes. But none of those is as important as speaking faithfully.

Judges 8, Lamentations 2, Romans 14

Read Judges 8, Lamentations 2, and Romans 14. This devotional is about Lamentations 2.

The book of Lamentations records the poetic but mournful outburst of the prophet Jeremiah to the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. All the devastation that God had warned about through Jeremiah happened in his lifetime, before his own eyes.

Jeremiah’s lament described the toll that the Babylonians exacted from Judah. Their pride as God’s people (vv. 1-4), their city and its magnificent temple (vv. 5-9), and the death of many people (vv. 10-22) were all causes for weeping by Jeremiah and the survivors of this battle. But why would God allow such devastation to fall on the people to whom he had promised so much? Of course the answer is their sin and rebellion against him, but Jeremiah speaks of that in a particular way in verse 14: “The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The prophecies they gave you were false and misleading.” It was a lack of truth by those who claimed to be prophets that lead to this judgment of God. The key phrase in verse 14 is, “…they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.” If the people had only repented of their sin, they could have received a great deliverance like David’s deliverance over Goliath. But many people did not know how angry the Lord was with them for their sin and those who did (because they heard Jeremiah and other true prophets like him) chose to believe the lies of the false prophets.

So we see in this passage how much damage false teaching can do. It gives false assurance to people who need to repent. It tells people that God loves them and is pleased with them instead of calling them to look to God in faith to find their acceptance in the merits of Christ. We live in an era where enormous masses of people have been assembled into churches, yet there is little hunger for truth there. The message they hear may talk of salvation in Christ, but it is salvation from guilt, from financial hardship, from divorce, from childhood wounds, from addictions, from a meaningless life or whatever. Yes, Christ has the truth for all of these things, but that was not the core message he gave us to proclaim. Our message is not primarily about how to feel better and perform better; it is to bow in reverence and repentance before a holy God, loving him for his perfections, thanking him for his grace and mercy, desiring to become like him in our moral choices and in our attitudes toward others, and hoping for his kingdom over anything this life can deliver.

When people say that God’s judgment will come to America, I wonder what they think that means. Do they think that we will be conquered by some foreign government? If the USA were the “new Israel” then maybe a passage like this one would lend itself to that. But God is not working with nations these days; he’s calling out of the nations a people for himself (Titus 2:14) whom he will bring into his kingdom at his appointed time.

What we should be telling people to fear is not a political or military conquest but the final judgment, where God will punish each person—individually—who did not know him. Our message, then, is geared to do what Jeremiah condemned the false prophets for not doing: “they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.” While preaching against sin is unwelcome and considered unloving in our world, it is what God uses to turn people in faith and repentance to himself.

Joshua 3, Jeremiah 28, 2 Corinthians 10

Read Joshua 3, Jeremiah 28, and 2 Corinthians 10 today. This devotional is about Jeremiah 28.

In Jeremiah 27, 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).

Numbers 31, Isaiah 54, 2 Thessalonians 2

Read Numbers 31, Isaiah 54, and 2 Thessalonians 2 today. This devotional is about 2 Thessalonians 2.

Paul continued to discuss end time events in this chapter, telling the Thessalonians (and us) that “the day of the Lord” will not come until the “man of lawlessness” comes first, proclaiming himself to be God (v. 4), displaying great powers that will deceive many people into following him (vv. 9-12). Those who believe him will face God’s judgment because “they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (v. 10).

By contrast, those who trust in Christ do so because we have been set apart by the Holy Spirit and “through belief in the truth” (v. 13). These statements remind us again how important truth is to the Christian life. While faith in Christ is a supernatural gift of God’s grace given to us when we hear the gospel through the new birth, part of that conversion process is a desire to receive the truth. This means receiving the truth about ourselves–that we are sinners deserving God’s punishment and the truth about God–that he is just and will punish sinners but also loving so that he came in the person of Christ to take away our sins.

These truths were the means God used to save us; in addition to these truths, however, God gave us a love for all of his truth. That “love” breaks down our hostility toward believing in the supernatural or in doctrines that we find difficult to accept. Since God has removed our hostility to the truth, then, Paul commands believers to “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (v. 15).

Doctrine is important and those who love Jesus love doctrine, too. While there are some disagreements among believers about how to interpret the scriptures in some areas, we should keep looking together at the scriptures and seeking to find the correct interpretation because we are people who love truth.