Fleeing to Satan? Really?

Who would flee to Satan?  If you think no one would ever consciously do that, read on.  It is done every day by those who reject the Incarnate Son of God.

Today’s Reading

Second Chronicles 34-36; John 19:1-22

Selected Verses

And they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its palaces with fire and destroyed all its precious vessels.  He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia,  to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.   2 Chronicles 36:19-21

They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”  So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.  John 19:15-16

Reflections

When people attempt to flee from God, they always flee to something else.

The margin notes in the Reformation Study Bible helpfully point out that at Jesus’ trial, the chief priests in their eagerness to rid themselves of Jesus Christ confessed to being loyal to Caesar.  In other words, they forsook their professed allegiance to the Lord God as their ruler (Psalms 24; 47).  God alone is ruler over all the nations and peoples of the earth.  He alone is worthy of worship and praise.  But the chief priests, in rejecting Christ, enthroned Caesar in their hearts and minds.  Such was the level of their sin.

The people of Judah had also forsaken their God, despite the brief return to some level of faithfulness under the reign of Josiah.  In fleeing from God, even by failing to honor one of His laws like the keeping of the Sabbath, they turned to other gods and other laws.  God through Jeremiah told them they would pay for their negligence of the Sabbaths.  They would have forced Sabbath-keeping during their seventy years of exile.  This was the indictment against Judah that resulted in their captivity in Babylon.

Think about it

Keep your heart with all vigilance (Proverbs 4:23) for those who abandon the Lord do not move to a neutral position spiritually and theologically, but they actually flee into the arms of Satan.

Battle Lines Drawn

Today’s reading:

Genesis 3-5; Matthew 2

Select Verses

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”  Genesis 3:15

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.  Matthew 2:16

Reflections

In Genesis 3, temptation and sin enter the human experience.  By listening to the serpent and eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve fail the test of trust in and obedience to God.  They are confronted, exposed, convicted, and sentenced, but even here there is hope of ultimate salvation (Genesis 3:15) while the conflict with the serpent continues down through the ages.

Indeed that conflict plays out in the lives of the first siblings, Cain and Abel, culminating in murder.  It continues through subsequent generations leading up to a judgment on all mankind which we will read about tomorrow.

God would have been just to execute the sinning first couple immediately, but instead He promises an ongoing conflict in which the serpent’s head will be crushed by the offspring of the woman, whom we will later learn is none other than Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:14,15).  More about that later.

In Matthew 2, the birth of Jesus is met with both international recognition and royal rejection.  King Herod’s scheme to kill the infant is thwarted and prophecies are fulfilled through that heinous action.  Here the serpent, through the king, strikes at the heel of the woman’s offspring (figuratively speaking).

In these readings, God’s holiness, sovereignty, and mercy are clearly seen as He rules over the earth, blessing those who believe in Him, and using evil to work out His plans and purposes for good (Romans 8:28) .

Think about it

The battle lines are drawn in Genesis 3.  That battle continues in our time but the victory has been secured through Jesus Christ. Do you trust in Him, the woman’s offspring who crushed the serpent’s head by His death and resurrection? Are you relying upon Him as your Savior?  Think about that.

 

Missing the Obvious

Why is it so easy to miss the obvious?  For an example of this see today’s reading:  2 Chronicles 35:1-Ezra 1:11

The enemy of our souls masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).  No wonder, without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we miss the obvious, mistaking truth for error and error for truth.  Don’t be fooled today.

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

The Sovereignty of God in Repentance

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 1:21-4:22

Eli’s sons, though priests, were under the control of Satan, a liar and deceiver.  He blinds the minds of those who will not believe God (2 Corinthians 4:4).  He poses as an angel of light so that his captives do not perceive their true condition (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Pray for those who are in this state, that God, who is sovereign even over Satan,  may grant them faith and repentance.

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

Temptation, Sin, and Judgment

Today’s reading: Numbers 24:15-26:65

Satan is a crafty enemy. If a frontal attack won’t work, he will find a weak point and penetrate there. Balaam, as an instrument of Satan, found Israel’s weak point and defeated them. Keep up your guard for he will harass us wherever he can.

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

God Created Man

Today’s reading: Genesis 1-3

As I think about God’s grace and power to mankind in creation, I am convicted by my lack of thankfulness and praise to Him. As I suggested in Cover to Cover, we can gain insight into the source of many problems of society by looking at how we have deviated from God’s original design for us and for creation.

But on the other hand, I would not want to dwell exclusively on all the things wrong with the world. We can miss the praise that is due God who has been so good to us. We must not become a bunch of sourpusses.

What is the cure for such a pessimistic outlook?

Is it not to praise Him more? To thank Him for big and little things that He has given us so that we may exist, flourish, and expect God’s final triumph over the serpent? Even in these opening chapters of the Bible, where the stage is set for human history, we have the certain glimmer of a final, definitive victory over the serpent.

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

The fact that God said he would put enmity between the woman and the serpent and between her seed and his seed is a tip-off to how human history will unfold. If we see the battle raging, it should not surprise us. It should not even discourage us. For the offspring of the woman, we will learn, is Jesus Christ[1]. He has bruised the serpent’s head.

Let us begin this year with praise and thanksgiving. May it flow from our hearts, minds, and lips throughout the year ahead.

 

[1] See Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:34-35; Galatians 4:4

God: Patient and Powerful

God’s slowness to anger must not be confused with any weakness or ambivalence. [1]

Today’s reading: Nahum 1-3; Revelation 13

2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
and keeps wrath for his enemies.
3 The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
and the clouds are the dust of his feet. Nahum 1:2,3

7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Revelation 13:7-8

If there is anything we can learn from reading the Bible carefully from cover to cover, it is that God is firmly in control of all of human history. Nothing escapes His knowledge, His presence, or His power. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. That does not mean that He accepts everything that happens with no further action. He will act in His time to reward faithfulness and punish all evil.

In Nahum’s day, the nation of Assyria was imposing her power on the surrounding nations. Israel had already fallen to her, and Judah, under King Manasseh, was a vassal state. Nahum proclaimed the power of God in the midst of this difficult situation.   Assyria would fall, he assured them. God is slow to anger but not weak in power. He would pour out His wrath. Meanwhile, Nahum, whose name means comfort, reminded Judah that “ The Lord is good,  a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him” (1:7).

In John’s vision, he sees two beasts, one from the sea and one from the earth. These are united with the dragon and they wreak havoc on God’s people, who do not take the mark of the beast which gives access to commerce. It seems like a hopeless situation, yet there is a limit on the time allotted to these beasts. There is a reassurance to those who refuse to worship the beast. Their names were recorded before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Let this bring comfort to us who believe but warning to all who confuse God’s patience with any kind of weakness.

[1] The Reformation Study Bible, introductory notes to Nahum, p. 1587

The Man Who Stood in the Breach

Those who trust in the Man who stood in the breach must show mercy and not partiality toward others.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 22-23; James 2

30 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. 31 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

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

In Ezekiel’s day, the walls of the city were broken open to invaders. 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 to God’s 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.

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 has no place in our lives.

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

Ending Well

While there’s life, there’s hope, but there’s also danger. Will you be ending well?

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 17-19; Hebrews 13

The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. 21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.                                                    Ezekiel 18:20b-21

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.                 Hebrews 13:7

In Ezekiel’s day, the people had a saying ‘‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (18:2). The Lord told them that this proverb was going to be eliminated from their discourse. God said that each person held responsibility for himself as to his obedience or disobedience. Whatever path a person chose, righteousness or sin, was his own and he would enjoy the blessings or suffer the consequences. A parent’s sin could not make his child incur guilt, nor could a parent’s obedience merit forgiveness to a sinful child. Each one stands alone before God with his own record.

But change is possible. No one is locked into a lifestyle of sin or righteousness based on choices in his youth. It’s how you end up that matters. The repentant thief on the cross pleaded for mercy and found forgiveness at death’s door after a life of crime (Luke 23:39-43). It is also possible that one might prove to be unfaithful at the end of life. It’s how you end up that counts. It is never too late to repent, but it’s also never too late to rebel.

The writer to the Hebrews gives his readers an assortment of commands in light of all he has written. Several of them have to do with their relationship with their spiritual leaders, those who had taught them God’s Word (vs. 7, 17). They must observe the outcome of those godly lives and imitate their faith. How did those men’s lives turn out? If they were faithful to the end, the outcome was good. If not, one ought to be forewarned that even those who at one time show some signs of true faith and obedience to God can veer off and prove to be unbelievers. This does not mean that anyone can lose his salvation. It does mean that anyone can act like a Christian for a time and then fail to endure to the end [See Matthew 7:21-23; 13:1-23; 2 Timothy 4:10a; 1 John 2:19].

Be on guard against the schemes of Satan. Do not be presumptuous of your ability to resist every temptation and trap. We all know some who have not. May you and I endure faithfully and finish by ending well. [For more on this subject click here.]

 

The Confusing Faces of Sin

Good defensive units in football confuse their opponents by showing many different lineups, leaving the offense wondering what to expect. Satan is just as devious in hiding the true nature of sin, so that we confuse evil with good and good with evil.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 43-45; Hebrews 3

“You are telling a lie. The Lord our God did not send you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to live there,’ 3 but Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may kill us or take us into exile in Babylon.” Jeremiah 43:2b-3

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.                                                                                                     Hebrews 3:12-14

Sin is deceitful. It appears to be good when it is really evil. The deceitfulness of sin produces a hardened heart that is less, not more, sensitive to temptation.

When Jeremiah gave the remnant of Judah the message from God that they should not seek protection and security by going into Egypt, the leaders responded by accusing Jeremiah of lying. They even furnished him a motive for lying, that Baruch had pressured or bribed him into giving a false prophecy from God. Thus, those who were preparing to disobey God attacked the messenger, rejecting the message and impugning his motives. They deflected their own guilt by accusing the faithful prophet. So they marched themselves down to Egypt filled with self-assurance and indignation towards Jeremiah.

The writer to the Hebrews warns his readers, whom he calls “brothers”, to “take care.” He is concerned that they are about to fall away from the living God as a result of evil, unbelieving hearts, hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. In today’s reading he describes various “faces” of sin: evil, unbelief, hardness of heart, rebellion, and disobedience. Our enemy does not want us to detect our own sin, but to see it as a good thing. God, however,  calls sin by all those negative descriptors.

Are you taking care to not be deceived by sin? Let us “exhort one another every day” but begin by exhorting ourselves through listening to God’s Word. Take care. Do not be hardened by the deceitful and confusing faces of sin.