More Biblical Irony

Today’s reading:

Matthew 2:1-5:20

My Selection:

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

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

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

 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:2-5

Irony according to my Google search is “a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.”

The Bible is full of ironies.  In the Scriptures we find statements like “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16).  That is biblical irony.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit.  Other blessings like comfort, inheriting the earth, satisfaction, mercy, and being called God’s sons all go to those who seek them according to the ways Jesus lays out.

Our Ultimate Goal

It is not that our desires are completely wrong but that our means to achieve them so often are.  Think about your goals and how you are seeking to reach them.  Biblical irony will enlighten you to God’s ways of achieving His goals.  If you seek His goals by His means, you will be using God’s wisdom to bring glory to Him.  His glory, after all, is our ultimate goal.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

 

The Best News Ever

Today’s reading:

Malachi 1:1-Matthew 1:25

My Selection:

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. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:20-21

 How would you describe this news?

The message from the angel to Joseph was the best news ever.  The Son of Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit, would save His people from their sins.  How would you describe this news?  All these adjectives apply:

  • Authoritative- the messenger was no mere human but the angel of the Lord
  • Supernatural- the baby had no human father but was conceived by God’s Spirit
  • Anticipated- the prophets had foretold His coming for centuries
  • Gracious- this child would save sinful people

Today’s news is usually none of the above.  But praise God because His news is good and unfading.  Good tidings of great joy to the entire world. Resist the depressing sensationalism of the media and focus instead on the best news ever.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The Cleansing Fountain

Today’s reading:

Zechariah 9:9-14:21

My Selection:

“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.  Zechariah 13:1

Today’s reading and selection reminds me of the old hymn:

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

According to the cyber hymnal website, William Cowper wrote this hymn after suffering deep depression and attempting suicide several times.  God in His mercy spared Cowper and he left us a wonderful testimony to the power of our Lord Jesus Christ to cleanse the most wicked sinner.

Trust the One whose blood was shed to redeem, forgive, and cleanse hopeless rebels.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The Day of Small Things

Today’s reading:

Zechariah 4:1-9:8

My Selection:

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “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.  For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.   Zechariah 4:8-10

In this selection, there is a wonderful reminder that God is not limited to what Man can do.  He can bring much glory out of that which we see as a small thing.  The purpose of life and the universe is the glory of the Holy, Omnipotent Creator God.  Small things reveal His greatness.  He delights in showing His power through weakness, as Paul discovered.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Have you discovered this truth in your life?

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

A Taste of Heaven

Today’s reading:

Haggai 1:1-Zechariah 3:10

My Selection:

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.  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.  Zechariah 3:9-10

The prophet Zechariah, like many of the prophets in the Bible, paints a wonderful, vivid picture of the age to come when all sin is forgiven, all suffering is gone, and there is prosperity, unity, and love among all people.  We are not there yet, clearly.

Can we get a taste of heaven today?

Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was near (Mark 1:14,15).  By His death and resurrection, cleansing has been purchased for all who believe in Him.  We get a taste of heaven when we walk in the light and have fellowship with one another (I John 1:7).

Enjoy that taste today, living the truth, trusting the gospel of Jesus Christ, and showing love to others.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

 

Weekend Readings

Saturday, September 24, 2016  “Who Else?”

Reading: Micah 7:8-Habakkuk 2:1

My selection:

The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might;
they shall lay their hands on their mouths;
    their ears shall be deaf;
 they shall lick the dust like a serpent,
    like the crawling things of the earth;
they shall come trembling out of their strongholds;
    they shall turn in dread to the Lord our God,
    and they shall be in fear of you. Micah 7:18-19

Sunday, September 25, 2016   “The Safe Place”

Reading: Habakkuk 2:2-Zephaniah 3:20

My selection:

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 LordZephaniah 2:3

See you again on Monday.

[For reflections on these passages, see the corresponding readings in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

A Xenophobia-free Kingdom

Today’s reading:

Micah 1:1-7:7

My Selection:

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,
     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.    Micah 4:1-2

Xenophobia is defined as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” [1]  Those strange and foreign things may include language, dress, food, and customs.  At the heart of this attitude is the idea that one’s own way of doing things is the best or only right way.

A Worldwide Kingdom

The Church of Jesus Christ has spread to every nation of the world as foretold in Scripture.  Jesus sent His followers to make disciples of all nations and so they did.  The gospel unites us across national and cultural lines but it does not obliterate cultural differences, at least, not entirely. So there is no place among God’s people for xenophobia.  We ought to welcome those of other cultures and be careful about imposing our culture on them unless a violation of God’s word is at stake.

No culture is without sin, but there are vast areas of culture which are left to our discretion.  For example, from the Bible we understand that polygamy is sin.  Some cultures allow or even promote it.  As the gospel enters those cultures it impacts practices like polygamy and those who come to believe will seek to conform to Scripture, despite their culture.  There is no reason to expect that every area of every culture will be changed by the Bible.  Modest dress is a principle but western dress is not.

Enjoy the beauty

The kingdom of God is global, encompassing many nations and cultures.  Enjoy the beauty of this diversity that has already begun and let there not be found xenophobia among us.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/xenophobia

A Warning about Piling On

Today’s reading:

Obadiah 1- Jonah 4:11

My Selection:

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?”
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.    Obadiah 3-4

The prophet Obadiah issued a warning to the Edomites.  Judgment loomed for their merciless treatment of the refugees from Judah who fled from the invading Babylonian army.  Instead of protecting them, the Edomites captured those refugees and turned them over to the invaders.  They used the Jews as hostages to be traded to Nebuchadnezzar’s forces.

God’s Ways

God’s ways are complex.  Think about it. He sent the invading army to carry out His discipline against Judah.  But He did not condone Edom’s piling on His people who were under His discipline.  Instead, He sent a prophet to confront them for their pride and heartlessness.

James also warned against the failure to show mercy. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment”  James 2:13.

Pride can blind a person to the suffering of others. That kind of blindness can lead to hardness of heart and failure to show love and compassion to those who are in trouble.  Beware of piling on those who are suffering, even when they suffer for their own failures.  A day of judgment is coming.  God will bring down the proud and those who failed to show mercy.  How can you show mercy today?

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Amaziah, Priest not King

Today’s reading:

Amos 5:1-9:15

My Selection:

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

 Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was[g] no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.  But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 Now therefore hear the word of the LordAmos 7:12-15

One of the things you learn when you publish a book is that perfection is impossible.  My comments on today’s passage need a correction.  I misidentified Amaziah as the king of Israel.  He was a priest in Bethel, not a king.  Jeroboam II was the king of Israel at that time. [See Amos 7:10].  I apologize for this error.

In spite of this, my point is still true that Amos models a confidence in God and God’s calling for him to be a bold prophet.  Amaziah was not receptive to the prophet and attempted to deport him.  Amos stood firm.  May we do the same.

[For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

Prepare to Meet Your God

Today’s reading:

Joel 2:28-Amos 4:13

My Selection:

“I overthrew some of you,
as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord.

 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”  Amos 4:11-12

Contrary to logic, people who are placed under God’s discipline and judgment do not always respond positively.  God sent a series of plagues and trials on Israel.  Did they return to the Lord?  No!  So Amos tells them to prepare to meet their God.

It is not always easy to understand if trials and difficulties we experience are God’s way of disciplining us or if they are merely the result of living in a fallen world.  It is important to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5).  Pray for the ability to respond to whatever discipline that God may send with an open heart eager to learn and grow in Him.  Israel failed to do that and suffered for it.

[For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]