Blessing: Ends and Means

Today’s reading: Matthew 2:1-5:20

My selection: Matthew 5:2-5

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

My reflections: In the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches that blessing comes to those who have the kingdom of heaven, are comforted, inherit the earth, are satisfied, receive mercy, see God, are called His sons, and are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. These are, in large measure, the things that many, if not all, humans desire. What Jesus says that is new and different is how these things are obtained.

The kingdom of heaven is not for those who are proud, arrogant, and have enormous self-esteem. It is for those who are “poor in spirit”, who recognize their sin, need, and unworthiness. Comfort is not for those who have hardened themselves against pain but for those who “mourn”. The earth will be inherited not by the powerful who use every means to cheat and steal, but by the “meek” who faithfully do what is right. Satisfaction will not come to those who seek every imaginable pleasure, but by those who seek righteousness. And so on, the Lord goes.

My challenge: Our problem is not so much that we desire the wrong things, but that we pursue them in the wrong ways. Why all the restlessness in us? Begin by examining the things you long for. Are these what Jesus holds up as the most important? How are you seeking them? Seek them by the means He has indicated. You may even find yourself longing for more persecution.

Tomorrow’s reading: Matthew 5:21-7:23

The Best News Ever

Today’s reading: Malachi 1:1- Matthew 1:25

My selection: Matthew 1:20-21

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

My reflections: There is no passage in the Bible that thrills me more than this one. The message was authoritative: from an angel of the Lord. The message was supernatural: a virgin was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. The message was anticipated: the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. The message was gracious: He would save His people from their sins.

Joseph needed this reassurance. He would not have put Mary to the shame normally reserved for those who break their marriage vows. But neither would he forgive, accept, and support her. He would divorce her, quietly. And Joseph not only obeyed, he obeyed immediately.

My challenge: This was arguably the best news ever spoken to anyone. Jesus would be born and He would save His people from their sins. If you are a believer in Him, you trust Him for forgiveness of your sins. Rejoice in Him. Praise God for His mercy to His people, including you.

Tomorrow’s reading: Matthew 2:1-5:20

The Cleansing Fountain

Today’s reading: Zechariah 9:9-14:21

My selection: Zechariah 13:1

“On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.

My reflections:What a picture of the mercy and grace of God toward His sinful, filthy people! The fountain, gushing continuously, would be a reminder of the ongoing need for cleansing. Our problem is not only sin, those individual acts of rebellion against a holy God, but also the residual stains it leaves on our souls, the uncleanness it leaves behind. We need a fountain that cleanses and that never runs dry. That fountain is Jesus Christ, in whom alone we find forgiveness and cleansing. He washes His people by regeneration, a new spiritual birth, and He renews them by His Holy Spirit resulting in an inheritance of hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).

My challenge: If your sin weighs heavily upon you, if you are painfully aware of the corruption of sin on your soul, come to the fountain flowing abundantly to rid you of every stain. Rejoice in the truth that this fountain will never run dry. God poured out His Spirit richly so that being declared righteous you would become an heir to the hope of eternal life.

Tomorrow’s reading: Malachi 1:1-Matthew 1:25

The Day of Small Things

Today’s reading: Zechariah 4:1-9:8

My selection: Zechariah 4:8-10

8 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

My reflections: When the rebuilding of the temple began, there were many who thought that nothing would come of it, that it would be insignificant, a pale shadow of the original temple. They thought it would be a “small thing” and they despised that “day of small things.”  But God delights in working in unpromising situations and through weak human instruments effecting His will by His Spirit (4:6). God shows His power in small things and small people so that the glory goes to Him alone. Zerubbabel would be the general contractor to rebuild the temple but the glory would go to God, not Zerubbabel.

My challenge: What kinds of apparently small things are you despising today? Be faithful in the small things in your life that seem unimportant, mundane, tedious, and unpromising. They may be like a mustard seed that will grow and overwhelm the more impressive “big things” you see.

As Jesus said,

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. Luke 16:10 (ESV)

Tomorrow’s reading: Zechariah 9:9-14:21

A Taste of Heaven

Today’s reading: Haggai 1:1-Zechariah 3:10

My selection: Zechariah 3:9-10

9 For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. 10 In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”

My reflections: After picturing the state of God’s people as represented by a high priest in filthy garments who must receive new, clean clothes, the Lord promises a day of cleansing and restoration. The removal of iniquity occurs in a single day. This is the work of God, not man. How does that renewal look?  ” In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.” There will be prosperity and unity among the people.

My challenge: When God’s kingdom comes in its fulness, none will suffer want and all will extend hospitality. What a picture of joyful and peaceful life together. Today, in the church, we should see the beginnings of this expected life. Does your fellowship with other believers show that you have been cleansed of sin? Do you freely share what you have with others in anticipation of a day when peace will reign in the new heavens and earth? Think about how you can give a taste of heaven to others.

Tomorrow’s reading: Zechariah 4:1-9:8

The Safe Place

Today’s reading: Habakkuk 2:2-Zephaniah 3:20

My selection: Zephaniah 2:3

3 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.

My reflections: How should God’s people respond to the announcement of the coming day of the anger of the Lord? Here they are commanded to seek righteousness and to seek humility. One would think that righteousness would include humility, but experience shows that people can be outwardly righteous while lacking inward humility. We can be proud of our humility, so to speak. This ruins everything.

Zephaniah tells them that by seeking righteousness and humility, they may be hidden on the day of the Lord’s anger. In spite of seeking righteousness and humility, they will still need to be hidden when the wrath of God is unleashed. All their seeking will not suffice to protect them from His justice.

Nor will ours.

My challenge: It is good to hunger and thirst after righteousness. It is good to be humble but, from the New Testament, we learn that this is not enough to save us from the just wrath of God:

2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:2-4

Ultimately our only safe place from the wrath of God is the hiding place with Christ in God. He is our life. Lay aside any trust in your own righteousness. It is all of Him. Seek righteousness and humility, but trust in Christ’s righteousness and humility. That is the safe place.

Tomorrow’s reading: Haggai 1:1-Zechariah 3:10

Who else?

Today’s reading: Micah 7:8-Habakkuk 2:1

My selection: Micah 7:18-20

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity

and passing over transgression

for the remnant of his inheritance?

He does not retain his anger forever,

because he delights in steadfast love.

19 He will again have compassion on us;

he will tread our iniquities under foot.

You will cast all our sins

into the depths of the sea.

20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob

and steadfast love to Abraham,

as you have sworn to our fathers

from the days of old.

My reflections: I echo Micah’s cry, “who is a God like You?” This God is holy so He would be completely just to bring to judgment all mankind for its sin. But He has a remnant to whom He shows forgiveness. He does not remain angry because He delights to show steadfast love. He is the one who will take our sins from us and cast them into the depths of the sea.

When men conceive of god they tend to think either of a god who has failures and sin much like their own and so cannot rightly judge man, or one who is morally perfect but wrathful and unrelenting in judgment. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is neither of these. He is holy but also compassionate. He judges justly but shows forgiveness to those who turn to Him in faith and repentance. This is not a god conceived by man but rather One who reveals Himself to man through His Son, born in the obscure town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

My challenge: Praise God for His infinite wisdom in saving the believing remnant of His people. Praise God for His compassion, for casting your sins into the depths of the sea because of His steadfast love. Who else? No one else. There is no god like Him!

Tomorrow’s reading: Habakkuk 2:2-Zephaniah 3:20

Thy Kingdom Come

Today’s reading: Micah 1:1-7:7

My selection: Micah 4:1-2

It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the Lord

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and it shall be lifted up above the hills;

and peoples shall flow to it,

2 and many nations shall come, and say:

“ Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

My reflections: Once again we see the worldwide scope of God’s covenant with Israel. Although the times of Micah are bleak, a better day is coming, a day in which many nations will be drawn to worship the true God in sincerity. They will come to Jerusalem seeking to know the Lord’s ways so that they may walk in them.

Some of us who love the Lord and believe the Bible will disagree as to when this will take place, whether in a literal millennial kingdom or in a figurative sense in the present age but we will not disagree that this is a glorious description of the victory of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

My challenge: Whatever is going on in the world today, God rules and will ultimately be vindicated in His truth. God will have a people of His own from every tribe, tongue, and nation, a people zealous for good works. Do not despair as you await that moment of revelation. That glory to come far outweighs this present momentary affliction. Meanwhile, keep praying “Thy kingdom come.”

Tomorrow’s reading: Micah 7:8-Habakkuk 2:1

The Deceitfulness of Pride

Today’s reading: Obadiah 1-Jonah 4:11

My selection: Obadiah 3-4

3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,

you who live in the clefts of the rock,

in your lofty dwelling,

who say in your heart,

“ Who will bring me down to the ground?”

4 Though you soar aloft like the eagle,

though your nest is set among the stars,

from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord.

My reflections: Edom took advantage of Judah’s invasion by Babylon. They mercilessly captured those fleeing from Nebuchadnezzar and turned them over to him. How could they be so heartless? Easy. They were deceived by their own pride. Like Amaziah in yesterday’s reading, they felt secure in their kingdom and willing to use their position to win favor with the Babylonians.

My challenge: Nothing is more deceptive than pride. Beware of false security which leads to pride and can make you hard-hearted toward the suffering of others Keep humble before a holy, sovereign God. You are not invincible.

Tomorrow’s reading: Micah 1:1-7:7

The Undaunted Prophet

Today’s reading: Amos 5:1-9:15

My selection: Amos 7:12-15

12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

14 Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. 15 But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

My reflections: King Amaziah of Israel felt secure in his own kingdom, secure enough to send the prophet of God out of the land. He foolishly believed his own press reports, that he ruled a land that was his forever. He called it his sanctuary. So he attempted to deport Amos to Judah.

Amos, though admittedly a farmer and herdsman, not a member of the professional prophets’ guild, did not back down. He had been commissioned by God, and he did not flinch in the face of royal opposition.

My challenge: Like Amaziah, we are not sovereign over the property we think we own or the people we think we manage. Our positions are precarious at best. Although the land I live on has been in our family for 70 years, one day I will leave it behind. God is eternal. Only He controls completely all there is. Walk before Him in humility. Know His commands and calling, as Amos did, and be undaunted to do God’s will.

Tomorrow’s reading: Obadiah 1-Jonah 4:11