Choosing Sides in the War

Satan is at war with the children of the woman. We are faced with the choice: whose side will we serve? God’s or the dragon’s?

Today’s Reading

 Micah 6-7; Revelation 12

Selected Verses

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.  Revelation 12:17

Reflections

Every human being is born into a war. In that war we are naturally born on the side of Satan. By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we are transferred to His kingdom, and with that transfer we become enemy combatants to the dragon. [John 8:39-47; Colossians 1:12-14].

Revelation 12 gives us a graphic picture of the fury of the dragon that goes out to make war on the offspring of the woman. He rages and will not stop until he finishes or a greater power overcomes him.

How does he recognize these children of the woman? Easy. They “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” In the midst of battle, it takes true faith to keep obeying and trusting the Lord. Some, in recent days as well as over the centuries, have been so severely tested that they had to choose between faith and death. I can only imagine the unleashed wrath of Satan as God’s people defy him in favor of death with peace. I can only imagine the rejoicing in heaven as the saints and angels welcome the homeward procession of victorious martyrs.

Think about it

What does it mean to keep the commandments? Micah gave a simple three-point summary in Micah 6:8. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God. In other words, live out your faith in the midst of the war, but remember the dragon is after you and your faith will light you up on his screen. Be ready to incur his wrath as you bring glory to God.

There’s a War On        

Since the Fall, the cosmic war has been going. Satan and his minions deceive and oppose God’s people, but they triumph through His truth and power.

Today’s Reading

Daniel 9-10; Second John 1

Selected Verses

The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come. Daniel 10:13-14

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

Second John 1:7

Reflections

Daniel was in a time of deep mourning for three weeks. He fasted and prayed. God sent an angel to him, but, at first, he was more frightened than strengthened. The angel addressed him kindly and called him a man greatly loved. Daniel’s prayers had been heard from the first day of that three-week period, but the angel had been opposed by the prince of the kingdom of Persia.

John, in this second epistle, warns his readers about the deceivers in the world. They are identified as those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. The Reformation Study Bible [1] notes explain that a heresy called Docetism taught that Jesus did not have a real human body but was some sort of phantom who only appeared to be human. John declared these false teachers to be of the Antichrist.

Think about it

Once again in these passages, we see the very real nature of the spiritual war going on around us. Satan and his forces wield a certain amount of power, but God does hear His children when they pray. He does send aid. He will judge all the hosts of wickedness and deliver His own safely to glory (Isaiah 24:21; Ephesians 6:11-12; Second Peter 2:4; Revelation 17:8; 20:10).

There’s a war on, but God has all things under His control. Trust Him and obey His truth. As we saw yesterday, His children will be victorious over the world through Jesus Christ.

[1] The Reformation Study Bible, Sanford, FL, Reformation Trust, 2015, p. 2279

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