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.

Light or Darkness? Which will you choose?

Everyone is faced with a choice of two paths: light or darkness.  You must take one but only one. In which one will you walk?

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 3-5; John 8:1-20

Selected Verses

But they broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day.  1 Chronicles 5:25-26

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Reflections

The half-tribe of Manasseh included a large population, mighty warriors, famous men, and heads of their fathers’ houses (1 Chronicles 5:23-24).  But they did not walk in the light of the truth of God.  They served other gods who had shown their inability to deliver the nations that served them in the past.  Despite the long list of accolades mentioned about this half-tribe they failed in the most important matter, to remain faithful to the God of Israel.  They were in “Who’s Who” as far as their contemporary society was concerned, but they got only scorn and judgment from the Lord.

Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Light of the world.  Those who follow Him have the light of life.  Those who do not must walk in darkness, like the half-tribe of Manasseh.

Think about it

The fame and acclaim of this world can contribute nothing to one who is walking in darkness.  Have you determined to walk in the light?  Better to walk in the light and be in societal obscurity than the reverse.  The Apostle John wrote: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Seek to walk in the light of Christ today.  Your steps may not be easy, but they will be sure.  You will walk in freedom from guilt and in the great fellowship of all those who walk in the light.

A Humble King

Fools seek power that is not theirs through conspiracy and murder, but there is a humble king who did not grasp the power that was rightfully His.

Today’s reading

Second Kings 15-17; John 6:1-21

 Selected Verses

Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him and struck him down at Ibleam and put him to death and reigned in his place. 2 Kings 15:10

 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. John 6:14-15

Reflections

Shallum held one in a line of short-lived reigns on the throne of Israel. He came to the throne through conspiracy and the assassination of Zechariah. But his reign lasted only a month before he, too, was assassinated. The prophet Hosea would later indict Israel for their failure to seek God’s direction for their kingdom which contributed to all that instability (Hosea 8:4).

What a contrast to Jesus! He relinquished the glories of His heavenly status and came to earth. He began announcing the kingdom of God, healing the sick, and feeding the hungry. The fickle crowds wanted to make Him king, but they had the wrong reasons and the wrong methods.  So Jesus disappeared to avoid that happening. He knew their hearts. They were only responding to the signs He did and wanted a king who could take care of their health and their hunger (John 2:23-25; 6:2). They thought of an earthly kingdom, but His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).

Although Jesus was the rightful king of all Creation, His goal was not to be merely a king in this world. He would redeem  His people and be established as the Lord of lords and King of kings at the right hand of God the Father in His eternal kingdom (Philippians 2:5-11; Revelation 19:16).

Think about it

See how glorious and worthy is our King, the Lord Jesus Christ whose every action and decision showed love, grace, humility, and justice! Give Him, the humble King, the praise He deserves and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength today.

Two Kings; Two Offerings

Today we read about two kings in Jerusalem.  Both made offerings for sin.  But one offered animals and the other offered Himself.

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 6-7; Luke 23:27-38

Selected Verses

Thus all the work that King Solomon did on the house of the Lord was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, the silver, the gold, and the vessels, and stored them in the treasuries of the house of the Lord. I Kings 7:51

There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” Luke 23:38

Reflections

Solomon spared no expense in building and furnishing the temple of God in Jerusalem. As you read the details of the construction, the quality of the materials, and the description of the workmanship, you have to marvel at the care that was taken. The building was not for common use nor for a common person. It was to be for the God of glory and majesty. It was to be the permanent site of the sacrifices offered to Him and the home of the Ark of the Covenant where God would meet the high priest on the Day of Atonement.

The dedication of the completed temple was undoubtedly the finest hour in the golden age of the United Kingdom of Israel. So it comes as a jolt to turn to Luke and read about the crucifixion of the King of the Jews, Jesus Christ. It also occurred in Jerusalem, not far from the second temple (Solomon’s temple was burned during the Babylonian captivity 2 Kings 25:9).

The sinfulness of mankind and the mercy of God stand here side by side in stark contrast. On that most awful day, the crowd gawked at Jesus. The rulers scoffed at Him. The soldiers mocked Him.  Meanwhile, He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Above His head, they hung a sign, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Solomon and his temple had not failed. That building met all expectations. But it wasn’t enough.   The offerings in the temples pointed to the true Offering that would be made not by a king but of the King, Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, the perfect offering for sin.

Think about it

If you are a believer, your King offered Himself that day in your place. Be amazed.

His Kingdom is Forever

No king and no kingdom have lasted for long.  But we now know the identity of the King whose reign will last forever. Do you know Him?

Today’s Reading

I Samuel 30-31; Luke 17:20-37

Selected Verses

Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together.  I Samuel 31:6

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed,  nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Luke 17:20-21

Reflections

The king is dead! Long live the king!  The cry goes out from the subjects who are either grieved or relieved depending on the nature of the king’s reign.  It happened in Israel on the day of Saul’s death.

Saul, the first king of Israel, had a miserable reign thanks to his own foolishness.  He failed to obey God,  to trust God, and to recognize his sin.  He never sought forgiveness.  God’s Spirit departed from him.  He became paranoid and obsessively chased David around for years trying to kill him. His reign wreaked with his foolish decisions and dissolved in defeat and shame.

What are we to make of this?  The then-new kingdom that had started out with some optimism and hope that Israel would be stable and successful ended in failure.  A better king was desperately needed if a better realm was to be established.  A kingdom will never be better than its king.

God raised up a new king and a new dynasty under David as we shall see in II Samuel.   The kingdom of God would come with the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ of the line of David.  That is the true and final kingdom, but it would not come immediately during Jesus’ earthly ministry which ended in His crucifixion, death, and resurrection.

Think about it

We still await the culmination of the kingdom.  But we already know the identity of the King.  We know that He is the perfect Son of God.  We know much about His kingdom.  His rule will be perfect.  The people of His realm have been forgiven and will be made perfect when that kingdom comes in its fullness.  His kingdom will be eternal.

Let us live for that day, announcing the true King Jesus Christ.  His Kingdom is forever!