Bringing Delight to God

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 30:1-32:47

Parents (as well as other authority figures in our lives, like teachers) can be hard task masters, difficult to please. God is not so. Although He is perfect and His law demands perfection, He is delighted with obedience in His children. Our obedience begins with repentance and faith in His Son who died for our sins and lives for our sanctification.

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

Daily Offerings: Then and Now

Today’s reading: Numbers 27:1-29:40

Old Testament sacrifices, repeated as they were every day, pointed to the need for a better sacrifice. That sacrifice was the Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Through Him, we are made acceptable sacrifices to God.

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

The Day of Atonement

Today’s reading: Leviticus 15:1-17:16

As you read about the Day of Atonement today, consider how that annual holy day in Ancient Israel depicted Christ’s ministry of redemption for His people. What a great salvation we have in Him!

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

NOTE: Your thoughtful comments and respectful criticisms are welcome below. Please allow a day or two for approval to see your reply on-line.

The Offering that Pleases God

Today’s reading: Leviticus 1:1-5:13

Today we begin Leviticus. If you think the instructions for the various offerings is complicated and, well, tedious, then consider that once again we see how the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, brought such a disastrous burden on mankind. Consider, too, the graciousness of God to provide offerings to His people, Israel, which pointed to our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, we are justified by grace through faith.

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

NOTE: Your thoughtful comments and respectful criticisms are welcome below. Please allow a day or two for approval to see your reply on-line.

The Key and the Book

While Bible scholars and students disagree over the interpretation of certain prophetic passages, the absolute sovereignty of God over all the affairs of human history is never in doubt.

Today’s reading: Zechariah 10-12; Revelation 20

16 For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.

17 “Woe to my worthless shepherd,
who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm
and his right eye!
Let his arm be wholly withered,
his right eye utterly blinded!” Zechariah 11:16-17

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. Revelation 20:1

When the Bible addresses the final events of time, not every detail is clear, but what is clear is that God reigns over all and that every person will stand in judgment before Him. There are three possible responses to these passages: comfort, terror, or ridicule. For those who believe in the Triune God revealed in Scripture, there is great reassurance that, for us, all will be well. For those who do not believe, their attitude may be to dismiss the assertions with ridicule or to ponder with terror the possibility that they may be true.

Zechariah shows us that God is the One raising up leaders, even evil ones. He is the One who is also judging them and putting them down. God doesn’t merely permit some wicked to gain power. He actually controls their ascendance and uses it for His purposes, in some cases to discipline His own people. In the end, He brings judgment on these ungodly powers.

In Revelation 20, God’s control of the cosmos is demonstrated by the key and the book. The key, entrusted to an angel, is the key to the bottomless pit, the place where Satan is cast and held impotent. Satan is completely wicked but he is not in control, not even of his own actions and destiny. There is also a book, the book of life, in which are written the names of those chosen to live and not be condemned to the lake of fire.

Those who consider these claims to God’s sovereignty over all things and of a final judgment to be mere myths are left, it seems to me, with the alternatives of a universe which is out-of-control and human existence which is without purpose. I don’t find this comforting or reassuring at all, do you? Praise God for His sovereignty and wisdom. He holds the key and the book.

The Day of Wrath

The day of wrath is coming, and no one will be spared.

Today’s reading: Amos 4-6; Revelation 6

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

13 For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
and declares to man what is his thought,
who makes the morning darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth—
the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name! Amos 4:12-13

15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Revelation 6:15-17

If God poured out His terrible judgment on Israel, how much more will He pour out wrath on the whole earth which has rebelled against Him?

Amos continues to lay out for Israel how they have failed God. Repeatedly, he tells them that they ignored all of God’s judgments. “Yet you did not return to me!” he says. Looking at Israel’s history from a distance, it appears inexplicable. How could they not get the message? But they did not. But then, do we?

So Amos tells them to “prepare to meet [their] God.”

John’s vision reveals the contents of the scroll with the seven seals. One by one they are opened. All are frightening, but the sixth drives all the people great and small who are under the condemnation of the wrath of God and the Lamb to cry out for the mountains and rocks to fall upon them. Anything, they think, is better than to experience the full judgment of God.

Here we have a picture of what is to come. The day of wrath of the One who is on the throne is before us. Will we prepare to meet our God, as Amos urged? There is a way to prepare. Bow before the Lamb who was slain for sinners and repent of your sins. Ask for His mercy and forgiveness. By His grace, you will stand in the day of wrath.

Fellowship with God

Whatever else we may say about salvation and the eternal state of believers, it centers around fellowship with God.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 47-48; 1 John 1

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

3 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. 1 John 1:3

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; 1 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].

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.

The Sufferings of Christ

The sufferings of Christ not only ended the elaborate but futile Old Covenant sacrifices but actually bring sinners to God.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 40; 1 Peter 5

39 And in the vestibule of the gate were two tables on either side, on which the burnt offering and the sin offering and the guilt offering were to be slaughtered. Ezekiel 40:39

1So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 1 Peter 5:1

In Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple, he is taken into the inner chamber where there are tables for the washing and slaughter of the various kinds of sacrifices: burnt, guilt, and sin offerings. Such was the enormity of the sin of God’s chosen people that the sacrifices were repeated over and over with no seeming conclusion. Sin and sacrifices were the way of life on a daily basis. Talk about life on an endless treadmill!

Would there be no deliverance from the sin or the futility of the animal sacrifices? Yes, indeed, there would.

Peter was a witness to that deliverance which was accomplished by the sufferings of Christ. The Apostle knew what those sufferings meant. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…” he wrote (I Peter 3:18). Christ’s sufferings meant that a sufficient offering had finally been made. Christ suffered once for sins. His one offering was sufficient because He was righteous. No other person and no sacrificial animal could accomplish what His sufferings accomplished which was to bring unrighteous people to God.

Peter knew that he was one of those unrighteous people who had been brought to God. [See Luke 5:8]. The rest of his life and ministry was lived and executed in the light of the cross of Christ. When he appealed to the elders among his readers to be faithful and humble shepherds of God’s flock, he did so as one who had never lost sight of the reason for Jesus’ sufferings.

Have you grasped the meaning of the sufferings of Christ? Lay aside every effort to earn forgiveness through any merit of your own, or any feeble offerings to God. They cannot suffice. Only the One who suffered for His people on the cross can bring us to God. Trust in the sufferings of Christ.

Two Traits of True Believers

Christians, although never perfect in this life, will necessarily find sweetness in God’s Word and wait eagerly for the return of their Lord Jesus Christ. Are these traits yours?

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 1-3; Hebrews 9

1 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it; and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.                      Ezekiel 3:1

27 And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.           Hebrews 9:27-28

Ezekiel was called by God to be a prophet to His people during the time of the Babylonian Captivity. Like Jeremiah, he would get a cold reception from his hearers, the exiled Jews.   The Lord commissioned Ezekiel to deliver a message, but with the assurance that he would not be successful in changing their hearts and minds. All who are called to serve God, are called first of all, to be faithful. Success is up to God.

The prophet embraced his calling. He was told to “eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” He obeyed and found that, although the scroll contained a message of “lamentation and mourning and woe” in his mouth it was “as sweet as honey.” But would his hearers agree? No, not at all.  God had already warned him that they were a rebellious people, impudent and stubborn (2:3-7).

The Hebrews, faced with pressures and trials, needed reassurance of the sweetness of the gospel of Christ, which is superior in every way to the Old Testament priesthood. Jesus Christ’s High Priestly ministry resulted in a once-for-all dealing with sin, and His exaltation into  heaven where He intercedes before God on their behalf.  They also needed reassurance that Christ would appear to them a second time to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.  The writer of the epistle gave them both of these reassurances.

Distinguishing traits of believers are: diligent intake of God’s word which they find sweet, and eager anticipation of Christ’s return which overrides the trials, distractions, and seductions of this world. We are not fully sanctified, but pray earnestly that these traits will describe you more and more.

God’s Love

Two things are true of those who find God’s forgiveness and restoration, they recognize their sinful unworthiness, and they recognize God’s goodness and loving kindness.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 33-35; Titus 3

“‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
for the Lord is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!’ Jeremiah 33:11b

3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us… Titus 3:3-5a

Jeremiah’s prophecy is peppered with indictments for Judah’s persistent rebellion against God, His Law, and His prophets. But these lists of failures are also accompanied by reassurances that God will ultimately restore the people He has chosen for Himself. They will be blessed and they will be filled with praise and thanks to the Lord.

Paul wrote to Titus who had the unenviable task of organizing and teaching the congregation in Crete, a society known for being “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” Indeed, Paul identifies himself with a list of vices and character flaws that rivals that of the infamous Cretans. He says he and others who have now been saved could be described as “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” It is not a flattering resume, to say the least.

Then God intervened. Everything changed. God the Savior came with His goodness and loving kindness and saved Paul and all upon whom He set His love.

Many, like me, will agree that the more we know of God and of ourselves the more amazed we are of the goodness and loving kindness of the Lord. Words cannot describe the relief of sins forgiven, of salvation assured, of adoption as God’s son, and of purpose and calling to serve God. Days spent in malice and envy are now filled with gratefulness and service. No, none who know Him would claim to be sinless or perfect, far from it. But it is all of God’s grace and He will complete what He has begun.

Be sure you know the goodness and loving kindness of God who saves. If you do, lift up His praises today in all you do.