From a Cloud to a Kingdom

No fallen human being is able to merit favor with God, but He, by the work of His Son, changed His elect people from a cloud to a kingdom.

Today’s Reading

Hosea 5-8; Revelation 1

Selected Verses

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:4-6

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1: 5-6

Reflections

Hosea expresses God’s view of His people. He laments their instability. Their unstable love is like a morning cloud or dew. It melts away rapidly. Their sacrifices and burnt offerings were unacceptable for they were not done out of steadfast love or from knowledge of God. They went through the motions. What? Did they think God could be fooled? So the Lord, through Hosea, says “What shall I do with you?”

God Himself answered the question. What He did was to send His Son to free us from our sins by His blood. Why? Because He loves us. His love is unchangeable and unstoppable. Not only that, He desired a kingdom for His glory. His purposes are wise and good. Although Israel failed to become what He called them to be, through Jesus Christ, all the nations have been called to be a kingdom and priests to Him. And He is glorified and has dominion forever and ever.

Think about it

Unregenerate man attempts to please God with fleeting love and phony sacrifices, but God graciously acts to redeem a people who know God, who are freed from their sins and made a kingdom. A cloud vs. a kingdom, what a contrast! Give praise to God for His love and wisdom

Fellowship with God

Whatever else we may say about salvation and the eternal state of believers, it centers on fellowship with God. What glory it will be!

Today’s Reading

 Ezekiel 47-48; First John 1

Selected Verses

And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There. Ezekiel 48:35

That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. First John 1:3

Reflections

Ezekiel concludes the long description of the temple, the city, and the land with redistributed territories for the twelve tribes with the simple words, “And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” What more can anyone desire than that the Lord should be there? Knowing that God is with us gives confidence in the face of huge danger and the threat of death itself (Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Joshua 1:4-6; Psalm 23). Several Old Testament figures learned the devastating impact of being abandoned by God (Exodus 33:3, 15; First Samuel 4:21-22; Judges 16:20). Not that they could actually ever be totally away from His presence, but they could be, and sometimes were, under His wrath and judgment and without His blessing and favor (Psalm 139:7-12).

The Apostle John also refers to the blessing of fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. God came to dwell among us, he says, and we saw Him. We touched Him. He came to give us eternal life and fellowship with the Father and the Son. [See also John 1:14-17;17:3].

Think about it

To know Him in truth and to be forgiven and accepted, that is what eternal life is about. The city which Ezekiel described points to that heavenly city, the New Jerusalem where God dwells and where His people live with Him. As John would write later: ” And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3).

So whatever else we may say about the eternal state of believers, it will be unclouded, undiminished fellowship with God. Be faithful as you wait for His coming.

All Things Made New

More to Come

Today we reach the final page of the Bible.  The book ends but the story is not over.  We yet await the fulfillment of all things when we enter our eternal home.  God’s redemption culminates in the glorification of His people.  Jesus prayed for it in these words:

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  John 17:24

Today’s reading: 

Revelation 19:1-22:21

My selection:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Revelation 21:5-7

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.  Revelation 22:21

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Join me here tomorrow as we begin a New Year reading through the Bible using an alternate reading plan that will take us into the Old and New Testaments each day starting with Genesis and Matthew on January 1 and ending with Malachi and Revelation on December 31.

 

For more reflections on this passage, 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.

Weeping and Shouting

There was a strange mixture of responses as construction began on the temple.  Why this weeping and shouting over the same event?

Today’s reading: Ezra 2:1-3:13

The elderly who had seen the original temple wept as they realized how much smaller and less glorious would be the new one.  The younger people shouted for joy not knowing what they had lost.

In this world we are never completely free from tears.  But God promises that in the New Jerusalem “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 ESV). I long for that day, don’t you?

[For daily reflections on every book of the Bible get my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Properly Placed Hope

There are moments of hope in history, when there is widely held anticipation of being at the start of something big and glorious.  But is expectation ever matched by reality?

Today’s reading: 1 Chronicles 21:1-23:32

The transition of power from David to Solomon in the united kingdom of Israel and Judah was the first and last time that transition occurred fairly smoothly.  David made careful plans for the temple and Solomon would execute them well.  But dark days were coming.  We, too, may live to see good days and bad but in the eternal kingdom of the Son of David, Jesus Christ, there will be no sin, no death, and no tears.  That is where our hope should be placed. {See Revelation 21:1-4].

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

The Danger of Settling for First Place

Here’s why being first can be a sure path to mediocrity.

Today’s reading:  2 Kings 10:18-13:25

Jehu was a king who got mixed reviews.  He did better than other kings but did not serve God fully.  You could say he came in first.  But first was not good enough.  Maybe he compared himself to others and felt he had done enough.  His scale of values was distorted by human failings.

God made us to be His image bearers, to reflect His glory.  As fallen creatures we do not achieve that perfectly.  Only Jesus Christ lived a sinless, completely God-honoring life.  Yet we will be like Him (I John 3:1-3).  That is our destiny.  Do not settle for first place, like Jehu,  but seek to grow in Christlikeness.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

All Things New

Those who believe God’s word live today in the light of a day to come when He makes all things new.

Today’s reading: Zechariah 13-14; Revelation 21

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. Zechariah 14:9

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5a

The Urban Dictionary defines the “now generation” as “People who want instant gratification.” By definition Bible believers are not members of that group. We live for a day when His kingdom will come and the will of God will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Zechariah’s prophecy and the vision of John in Revelation intersect in today’s readings. Here we can see:

  1. God exercises authority over all things. He sits on the throne and there is no one who can compete with Him.
  2. All come to Him in worship.
  3. All things are made new. The fallen world with sickness, sorrow, tears, and death give way to a new heavens and earth where all is renewed.

Flee from the foolishness of the “now generation.” They want what they want and they want it now. Don’t fall for that illusion. Cling to the promises of God for a day when all things will be made new. The new year which is about to begin gives us an opportunity to consider how to make necessary changes to live more fully in the light of that day to come. How will you invest the year ahead to reflect an attitude of expectancy and faith in the day when the Lord makes all things new?

The Bride’s Dress

The true worship of the saints is more than merely acceptable. It is the glorious attire of the Church, the Bride’s dress.

Today’s reading: Zechariah 7-9; Revelation 19

5 “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? 6 And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? Zechariah 7:5-6

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. Revelation 19:6-8

Do our good deeds, done for God on earth, matter in heaven? The answer may surprise you.

Zechariah was sent to confront Judah about her unacceptable service to God. Oh, she had fasted and mourned. She had put on an outward show of brokenness and repentance, but the Lord saw through the phoniness and hypocrisy. True service to God is performed with fear of Him, not some kind of self-serving motivation. It is done by “small and great” since no one is exempt from responsibility before Him (Revelation 19:4). It is futile to attempt to perform outward acts of service to God that are not matched by inward piety.

John relates his vision of the marriage supper of the Lamb. What a joyous occasion it is! There is nothing quite like a wedding celebration where bride and groom are filled with love and hope for their future. They commit themselves fully to one another “till death do us part.”   But no matter how splendid the ceremony, the banquet, or the couple, nothing compares to the marriage of the Lamb to His bride, the Church.

At weddings, the big question is always, “how will the bride look? What will she wear?” Through John’s vision we are allowed the rare privilege of seeing the bride before the ceremony. Are you, like me, surprised by her attire? We expect it to be fine linen, bright and pure, but on closer examination we see that this linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. That is what she is wearing.

Fellow disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, never underestimate the eternal significance of your righteous deeds done in fear of and love for Him. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). You and I are creating the bride’s dress.

Final Victory

God will bring final victory over all the forces of evil, therefore He calls His people to separate themselves from those who are doomed.

Today’s reading: Zechariah 4-6; Revelation 18

6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”  Zechariah 4:6-7

4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,

“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities. Revelation 18:4-5

There have been many moments in history when it appeared that God’s people had no hope of final victory. The Lord always sent messengers to reassure the Church that she would not be ultimately defeated.

In Zechariah’s day, the temple was in ruins and God commanded its rebuilding. It seemed impossible and, in fact, it was. But it did not depend on the strength or might of human beings, even of those who loved the Lord and longed to see worship restored. Through the vision, the prophet understood that it would be successful through the Spirit of the Lord of hosts. God commands all the armies of angels and He does His will which no one can thwart.

John was permitted to see the fall of Babylon. She had commanded the world, economically and culturally, and seemed invincible. All who dealt with her enjoyed wealth and pleasure. But her end is assured. She will be brought down to nothing. Her ruin will be mourned by those who depended on her. God called His people to come out and not to go down with her in judgment.

What is your view of the dominant culture of our day? Are you optimistic that God’s truth will ultimately triumph? If you are one who has been bought by the blood of the Lamb, flee either pessimism or compromise. Final victory is  assured.

 

 

The Day of the Lord

On the day of the Lord, those who know Him will worship and take refuge in Him, but those who refused Him will find Him terrifying.

Today’s reading: Joel 1-3; Revelation 4

16 The Lord roars from Zion,
and utters his voice from Jerusalem,
and the heavens and the earth quake.
But the Lord is a refuge to his people,
a stronghold to the people of Israel. Joel 3:16

They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:10b, 11

Joel mentions or alludes to the “day of the Lord” repeatedly (1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:1, 14, 18). He says it is near. It is great and very awesome. “Who can endure it?” the prophet asks. It is a day in which the heavens and earth quake. Should we be terrified at the thought of this day?

It depends. Joel says “the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.” Those who are His people will find Him a refuge to run to, not a terrifying figure to run from. He is the only safe place for those who trust Him.

John is given a vision of what is to come. The door of heaven is opened and he looks inside. What does he see? He sees the One who is seated on the throne. He sees creatures and elders worshiping Him. These twenty four elders cast their crowns before His throne in an act of worship which signifies that they have nothing which He has not given them. Nothing they have can be withheld from Him. He is worthy of every possible honor. They cry out to Him of His worthiness. They are enthralled with His presence. They find Him majestic, glorious, honorable, and powerful.

Think about it. The day of the Lord is coming. Do you long for it or dread it? It depends on whether you will meet Him as your Refuge and Creator or your Judge. Be ready.