The Man Who Stood in the Breach

Those who trust in the Man who stood in the breach should be filled with humility and gratitude which is evidenced by mercy and impartiality toward others.

Today’s Reading

Ezekiel 22-23; James 2

Selected Verses

And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.  Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God.

Ezekiel 22:30-31

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. James 2:1

Reflections

In Ezekiel’s day, invaders broke through the walls of the city. The false prophets did not risk their lives to close these breaches or to stand in them (Ezekiel 13:5). God looked, but there was no one who would do this. My study Bible notes refer to the contrast with Moses who, as a true and faithful leader, stood up in the spiritual breach for Israel when they crafted and worshiped a golden calf. Moses pleaded with God to spare Israel their just punishment and God heard him. [1]  Now the so-called prophets ignored this need. God poured out His wrath on the nation.

Finally, God Himself took on flesh and lived among us to bring atonement for sin and mercy for His people. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Man who stood in the breach against our enemy. He is the Good Shepherd who did not flee when danger came. He bore the pain of death for us. [John 10:7-18]. James calls all who hold the faith in Him to reflect that faith in our actions and attitudes toward others. There should be no partiality based on socioeconomic classes. There should be no favoritism toward the rich nor discrimination against the poor. Those who have received mercy must be merciful or they show they deserve judgment.

Think about it

Be sure your relationships show mercy and not partiality. You have been saved by the Man who stood in the breach for us. Pride and haughtiness have no place in our lives.

[1] Reformation Study Bible p. 1415 note on 22:30-31

The Perfect and Eternal Priest

Fallen humanity needed a priest to intercede before God, but only the perfect and eternal priesthood of the Son of God would prove effective.

Today’s Reading

Lamentations 1-2; Hebrews 7

Selected Verses

He has laid waste his booth like a garden,
laid in ruins his meeting place;
the Lord has made Zion forget
festival and Sabbath,
and in his fierce indignation has spurned king and priest.

The Lord has scorned his altar,
disowned his sanctuary;
he has delivered into the hand of the enemy
the walls of her palaces;
they raised a clamor in the house of the Lord
as on the day of festival. Lamentations 2:6-7

For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. Hebrews 7:28

Reflections

The Book of Lamentations tells the sad, bitter story of the consequences of the sin of Israel and Judah. Despite the law of God which established the priesthood of Aaron, the sacrifices, the worship in the temple, none of this was done without sin. The glories of the past faded away as God sent Babylon to kill and destroy the city known as “the joy of the whole earth” (2:15). The writer of Lamentations was completely clear that this had occurred as a result of the sin of the people. God brought about the wreckage for the gross failures of king and priest and citizenry.

But He had another plan all along. He would send His own Son as a king and priest. The destruction only served to prepare the way for that Messiah who would come. The letter to the Hebrews explains eloquently how the ministry of Jesus Christ, the sinless and eternal High Priest, far exceeds the tarnished and mortal priesthood of the Mosaic law.

Think about it

It was necessary for God to show the world that only Christ could be the High Priest that was needed, One who had no sin to atone for and who would live forever to make intercession for His people. All we need is Christ as our High Priest. His priesthood is after the order of the king of righteousness and the king of peace. In Him we find righteousness and peace forever. Look no further than our Lord Jesus Christ for the path to acceptance before the Holy and Eternal God.

The Longed-For Kingdom

The reign of Jesus Christ, unlike that of Zedekiah, is founded on righteousness and will endure forever–the kingdom to which all God’s people belong.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 38-39; Hebrews 1

Selected Verses

The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah.  He put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. Jeremiah 39:6-7

But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” Hebrews 1:8-9

Reflections

As I write this, it is Election Day in the USA, the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. National Public Radio this morning reported on the rapid decline in religion in this nation. Belief in God is down. Identification with a particular church is down. It appears that hostility and disrespect frequently characterize public conversation about the political, social, and spiritual state of affairs in this country.

But we, reformed, evangelical Christians, do share some common dreams and longings even with those who do not agree with our theology. I think it is fair to say, we all long for a government led by honorable, just leaders, with laws that facilitate the flourishing of every person. Can anyone doubt that, if we somehow could achieve this utopia, we would want it to endure till the end of time?

Israel was not that utopia. The kingdom first established under King Saul benefited from the reigns of David and Solomon, but split in two, under foolish King Rehoboam. Neither the populace nor many of the rulers loved righteousness. Captivity devastated both kingdoms ending with the shameful capture and blinding of King Zedekiah.

But there was a promise. That promise was that a righteous king would rule on an eternal throne. That promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. His kingdom is forever!

Think about it

The readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews were painfully aware of the failure of their nation to establish a permanent, just kingdom. We, too, should know that our nation is not the fulfillment of the promised kingdom. The writer points us to the Only One who could fulfill it, the One who is the Son of God, the radiance of His glory and the exact imprint of his nature. I long for His return and the final fulfillment of the promise. Do you? If so, pray that we will be faithful until that day, and that it may be soon.

Complete in Him

Do you feel incomplete in yourself?  We should, because God’s full deity is in Christ and only in Him are we complete having all we could ever need.

Today’s Reading

 Isaiah 43-44; Colossians 2

Selected Verses

But you have burdened me with your sins;
you have wearied me with your iniquities.

I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:24b-25

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,  and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Colossians 2:9-10

Reflections

Isaiah describes the sorry spiritual state of Israel.  He expresses God’s weariness with their empty religiosity but also the Lord’s mercy towards them. Yes, He has had enough of their hypocrisy. They have demonstrated again and again that they only go through the motions of repentance as they offer sacrifices. Their best is worthless. But God will not let them go. He will do for them what they cannot do for themselves. He will not blot them out. No! Instead, He will blot out their sins, the sins which have burdened Him. This is the grace and mercy of God.

But how will He do that?  Later, Isaiah will explain how God will do this, without compromising His holiness and justice (Isaiah 53).

Fast forward to Paul’s letter to the Colossians. We find the Apostle laying out for his readers the glories that are found in Jesus Christ. All the deity of God is in Christ. God is fully and completely with us in Christ. Christ is God incarnate, Deity in human flesh. He is filled with wisdom so we need never seek other philosophies. He died and was raised from the dead so that in Him we are raised to life. In Him we are complete, filled, with nothing more to need or long for.

Think about it

This plan of God revealed partially and progressively in the Old Testament and fully and finally in the New brings God all glory and His believing people salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life.   Let nothing and no one delude you, says Paul. Keep walking with Him deeply rooted and built up in Him (2:6-7). Resist the attraction of anything that promises to fill you apart from Christ.  In Him alone we are complete.

Wait till you hear this!

The story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is amazing and inspiring, but it’s nothing compared to what God did next. Wait till you hear this!

Today’s Reading

Psalm 78; Romans 7

Selected Verses

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.  Psalm 78:4

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. Romans 4:4

Reflections

With the perspective of the New Testament and the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, we could say “Wait till you hear this!” to the Psalmist who reveled in God’s mighty works to Israel. God had done for Israel something unthinkable, unimaginable. He brought ten plagues on Egypt, delivered an enslaved people from that world powerhouse, led them out of the land loaded with spoils, opened up the Red Sea for them to cross, and drowned the pursuing army in the water behind them. This is a story that needs to be told generation after generation.  Pass it on!

But wait till you hear this!

In the New Testament we learn that God took on human flesh and lived on earth. We know Him as Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Christ, God’s Anointed One, the Messiah. His people rejected Him and crucified Him, but His death bought redemption from the guilt of sin under the law.  His death was not a terrible tragedy but the greatest victory ever accomplished.

How do we know?

He rose again from the dead. Since that time millions have believed in Him. They trust Him, not their own good works, for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life. These millions understand themselves to have died with Him so that His death for sin serves as their death for sin.  They are free from any remaining condemnation because their debt was fully paid by Jesus. As a result, these believers from every nation and language in the world belong to Him and live to bear fruit for God.

Think about it

God delivered a nation of a million people out of Egypt, some 3500 years ago, but in the past 2000 years, right down to today, He has been delivering untold millions of people from spiritual death and slavery to become His fruitful people. Tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He is doing. Pass it on! Wait till they hear that!

Wanted: Celestial Mediator

The dilemma of fallen man since the Garden of Eden is to learn how to be right before God.  Job called in agony for a celestial mediator. And God answered.

Today’s Reading

Job 7-9; Acts 7:44-60

Selected Verses

Then Job answered and said: “Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times.” Job 9:1-3

Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.

Acts 7:52-53

Reflections

Job struggles with the reason for his suffering while his would-be comforters heap accusations on him in an effort to explain the frowning providence of God in his life.  Job does not claim to be perfect, but he does not understand how his suffering is punishment that fits the crime.  He recognizes that a man cannot be right before God on his own terms.  But destitution, poverty, bereavement, and relentless pain seems over the top.  “There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both,” moans Job (9:33).  So here God is showing us through Job that there must be a mediator between God and man in order for reconciliation to take place.  That can only be God Himself, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, God Incarnate.

As Stephen closes his defense, which could also be called a sermon, he indicts the Jewish authorities for their killing of that Mediator.  They have continued in the footsteps of their forebears, resisting the Holy Spirit, persecuting the prophets, and, now, executing the Righteous One, the arbiter that Job longed for.  They prove Stephen’s point by immediately stoning him to death.

Think about it

Two men, Stephen and Job, suffer for their faith.  One is delivered by death almost immediately and the other is made to stagger on in suffering a while longer before experiencing relief.

God has different paths for each of His children to trod, but in the end, those who are His trust Him, do not justify themselves but seek the Arbiter whom the Lord has appointed, Jesus, the Righteous One, who alone can mediate between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5; Acts 4:12).  Walk on trusting Him, my fellow disciple.

Life in Christ: More than a Temple

The temple was glorious but when God took on flesh and dwelt among us in His Son, He gave us more than a building. He gave us Himself. He gave us life.

Today’s Reading

Ezra 3-5; John 20

Selected Verses

But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.  Ezra 3:12-13

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  John 20:30-31

Reflections

The presence of God among His people, Israel, in Old Testament times was symbolized by the tabernacle and later the temple.  Because of persistent, unrepentant sin, God sent Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army to conquer Judah, capture the king, and destroy the temple.  Now, in our reading, God allows the returned Jewish exiles to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem under a grant by Cyrus, king of Persia, but their joy is mixed with bitter sorrow when the elders see how small the new temple is going to be.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He fulfilled His prophecy to do so and to do so in three days.   “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” He told the Jews (John 2:19).  He showed Himself again and again to the bewildered disciples and they began to understand and to believe.  “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” He said to Thomas, the famous doubter.  John says to all the world that he wrote his gospel so that we “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing [we] may have life in his name.”

Think about it

The temple brought temporary joy mixed with disappointment. But it was never meant to be more than a symbol of God’s dwelling place with us.  God took on flesh and dwelt among us in His Son, Jesus (John 1:14).  In Him, we have life by faith.  It is real life that lasts forever because He finished the work of atoning for the sins of His people.  Believe and live!  We are nearing home.

Forgiveness for the Fickle

Here  we meet the contrasting examples of the fickle King Joash and the triumphant King Jesus.  We can trust in the One who overcame the world.

Today’s Reading

Second Chronicles 23-25; John 16:16-33

Selected Verses

Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.  2 Chronicles 24:17-19

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.  John 16:32-33

Reflections

We humans are fickle creatures, easily swayed from apparently firm convictions by the changing circumstances of the world around us. But Jesus, unlike us, did not waver in the face of enormous opposition.  He overcame the world.

King Joash of Judah barely survived the assassinations committed by the wicked Athaliah. At age seven, after being hidden almost his entire life, the priest Jehoiada made an elaborate plan to install the rightful king. Jehoiada was a good and wise counselor to Joash, and Joash held to the priest’s advice. Then Jehoiada died. Joash did an about-face and abandoned the Lord for idolatry. He even killed Jehoiada’s son for attempting to correct his decisions.

Jesus told His disciples that there was trouble ahead. They continued to profess their allegiance, but He warned them that they would fall away and abandon Him. That would not be the end of the story for Jesus would remain steadfast and overcome the world not only for Himself but for all His elect people, flaky disciples and all.

Think about it

Do you struggle with falling prey to the circumstances of life, either being seduced by the glory of this world like Joash or terrified by powerful forces that threaten your life, like the disciples? There is forgiveness for the fickle, struggling believer in Jesus Christ. He overcame the world for you.

 

Two Kings in Contrast

Today we meet two kings: Solomon and Jesus. Though kings they could not be more different in their lives and in their deaths.

Today’s Reading

Second Chronicles 7-9; John 13:1-17

Selected Verses

Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.  And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.  2 Chronicles 9:22

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  John 13:12-14

Reflections

Solomon was endowed by God with great wisdom. With that came the honor of being consulted by all the other kings and queens of the earth, and of gathering wealth beyond comparison. Although the writer of Chronicles does not focus on it, Solomon was a victim of his own earthly success, being tripped up by the paganism of his many wives and concubines (I Kings 11:1-40). We read that he died and was buried quietly with his forefathers. Humanly speaking, his reign was successful and peaceful.

Jesus had just been received in Jerusalem and acclaimed king of Israel (John 12:12-15). But where do we find Jesus on the night of the Passover? Washing the disciples’ feet and wiping them with a towel. He had no recognized earthly power or position. He was not wealthy. Jesus was hunted by the elite, not sought by them for advice. He was merely Teacher and Lord for twelve disciples.  Did He die quietly after a long reign? No. He died in agony on a cross. Unlike Solomon, He would not be buried with his fathers but in a borrowed tomb. Yet, most importantly, neither would Christ Jesus rot in a grave, but rise triumphantly to life as the Conqueror of death and the Savior of His people.

Think about it

Truly Solomon’s reign is antithetical to Jesus’ life and ministry at His first coming, and only a pale reflection of the glory of the Kingdom of God which Jesus proclaimed and which is still to come completely.  Jesus is the King of Israel, the chosen people of God from all the earth who are blessed to be His. Pray that His kingdom may come in fullness soon. Meanwhile, let us follow our Teacher and Lord in humble obedience and loving service.

A Different Kind of Shepherd

God raised a shepherd boy to king in Israel, but that was only a faint picture of what He would ultimately do–give the world the greatest Shepherd King.

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 17-19; John 10:1-21

Selected Verses

Now, therefore, thus shall you say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be prince over my people Israel,  and I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.

1 Chronicles 17:7-8

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  John 10:14-15

Reflections

David’s life started out very simply. He was the youngest son of his family. He was assigned the unenviable task of taking care of the sheep, dirty, dumb sheep who could not take care of themselves, nor be left alone. His work meant hot days and cold nights. We wouldn’t have imagined that he would one day sit on the throne of Israel. Much less, would we have imagined that his dynasty would be guaranteed by God Himself through the prophet Nathan. The Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, would be of David’s lineage.

As Jesus revealed Who He is through His teaching, He presented Himself as the Good Shepherd. He is good because, unlike mere hired shepherds He would pay the ultimate price of death to save His sheep. The relationship He has with His sheep is intimate and unique. He knows His sheep and they know Him. They flee from a stranger. They do not recognize the stranger’s voice.

Sure enough, the people who heard Him make these claims and promises revealed their identity as either trusting Him or doubting Him. You could tell who His sheep were by their response to His voice.

Think about it

How amazing the beauty and intricacy of God’s plan is! He painted a picture in the Old Testament through the history of Israel, and He fulfilled it in the advent of the Son of David, Jesus Christ, who will reign forever and ever. Flee other voices. Trust Him, my fellow sheep, we need Him who died and rose for us, dirty, dumb, and unworthy as we are.