The Day of the Lord

On the day of the Lord, those who know Him will worship taking refuge in Him, but those who refused Him will tremble in terror. In which group will you be?

Today’s Reading

 Joel 1-3; Revelation 4

Selected Verses

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,

“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 4:10, 11

Reflections

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 also quake 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 receives 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 adoration 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, 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.

The Sufferings of Christ

The sufferings of Christ on the cross brought an end to the elaborate (but futile) Old Covenant sacrifices for sin and guilt. And they bring sinners to God.

Today’s Reading

Ezekiel 40; First Peter 5

Selected Verses

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

So 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.  First Peter 5:1

Reflections

In Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple, God took him 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 He commanded the sacrifices to be 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 witnessed that deliverance 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 (First 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 counted himself as one of those unrighteous people graciously brought to God.  He lived out the rest of his life and ministry 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.

Think about it

Have you grasped the meaning of the sufferings of Christ?  Leave aside any 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.

Why the Good News is so Good

The gospel teaches us that we can draw near to God confidently because Jesus Christ bore the punishment for our sins. That’s why the good news so good.

Today’s Reading

Ezekiel 4-6; Hebrews 10:1-25

Selected Verses

Then lie upon your left side, and I will lay the punishment of the house of Israel upon you; for the number of the days that you lie upon it, you shall bear their punishment. Ezekiel 4:4

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22

Reflections

Ezekiel portrayed both the heinousness of the sin committed by Israel and Judah and also the means of atonement which God would make for them. Sin is as disgusting to God as eating contaminated food would be to us, bread cooked over a fire of human feces. Ugh! The punishment for sin is as painful and costly as laying for 390 days on one side. But notice that Ezekiel had done nothing to deserve this suffering. He was symbolically bearing the punishment for Israel and Judah, a picture of what Jesus Christ would do in reality several centuries later.

What Jesus did on the cross was to bring an end to the shadow of Old Testament sacrifices for sin. Jesus actually did bear the sins of His people in a way that Ezekiel could only act out. As Peter wrote, “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” (I Peter 3:18). Those sacrifices pointed to Him and to the need for better sacrifices than those of bulls and goats. Indeed, His single sacrifice was better, so much better that it satisfied for all time the need for a sacrifice for sin.

Think about it

This is why the good news of the gospel is so good. We are forgiven in Him, but it does not end there. We are called to draw near to God, to enter the “holy places” of heaven “by the new and living way which He opened for us” not in fear and trembling but with confidence. That confidence is based on His faithfulness, not on our own.

Draw near, believing friend. Draw near to God with confidence for He is faithful. That gospel news is true and it is good.

The Everlasting Covenant

Jesus Christ is the High Priest of a new, everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.  His ministry brings eternal salvation to all who obey Him.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 49-50; Hebrews 5

Selected Verses

In those days and in that time, declares the Lord, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the Lord their God.  They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, “Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.”  Jeremiah 50:4-5

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.  Hebrews 5:7-10

Reflections

Jeremiah watched while Judah followed Israel into ruins.  God had decreed severe discipline upon His people who shamefully broke His covenant.  Clearly, the old covenant and the old priesthood were not sufficient to save the nation.  But God showed Jeremiah that there would be a new covenant–one that would never fail.  What covenant?  The one made with the sacrifice of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who paid the ransom for all the sins of all who would obey Him.

The Aaronic priesthood could not save sinners, although (as we can now see) it was meant only to reveal the need for a better priesthood and a better covenant.  The old covenant was not a failure.  It actually fulfilled its limited and designated function.  It pointed to the Messiah, the Holy One of Israel, who alone could make atonement for sins as He had none of His own for which to atone.  The old covenant was not a failed experiment on God’s part but a plan to reveal the greater glory that would come through the eternal never-to-be-forgotten covenant with Jesus Christ.

Think about it

The failures of Judah and Israel to obey the old covenant mirror our own failures to live in perfect holiness.  Like Ancient Israel, we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  But by faith in Christ, we have a high priest, appointed by God, who will minister forever not under the weakness of Aaron’s priesthood but after the order of Melchizedek.  Be sure you are not dull of hearing but firmly and clearly grasp the basis of your salvation.  Eternal life or death depends on it.

Christ, Our Righteousness

In Jesus Christ there is sure salvation. Why? Because those of us whom He saves do not depend on our own merits. Rather, He is our righteousness.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 23-24; Second Timothy 2

Selected Verses

 Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”  Jeremiah 23:5-6

 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,  for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. Second Timothy 2:8-10

Reflections

The prophet Jeremiah had the uncomfortable, but important, task of denouncing the failed, rebellious kings and prophets of Judah. God promised to punish them, but He also gave hope to the faithful among the people. Here we have a clear promise of a future king from David’s line who would deal wisely, execute justice and righteousness, and bring salvation to Judah and Israel. This and other prophecies kept the believing remnant of Israel hopeful until Jesus Christ, the Messiah, came. [See Luke 2:25-38]. Jeremiah and his contemporaries probably could not have imagined in their wildest dreams the extent of this prophecy. God did everything He promised and far more by calling to Himself through Christ people from every tribe, nation, and tongue, all His elect down through history who in one voice confess, “The Lord is our righteousness.” [First Corinthians 1:30].

Paul was concerned that the Church, which was beginning to reflect this global, cross-cultural composition, would be faithful to the gospel and to her head, Jesus Christ. He gives instructions to Timothy about preaching the word, appointing qualified godly leaders (First Timothy 3:1-13), and insuring that the truths taught by the apostles to men like Timothy be passed on from generation to generation. Timothy needed to be careful about his own life, being watchful to avoid distracting worldly entanglements and foolish, ignorant controversies. He must do his best in handling the word of God. To do these things he will always need to keep Jesus Christ central in his mind.

Think about it

God’s word proclaims that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  But God declares all who call upon Him righteous before God. They confess that  “The Lord is our righteousness.” Be sure that is your confession and hope, even while you seek to be faithful in your service for Him.

Sin–Why We Can’t See God

Sin is what blocks us from seeing and hearing God. He calls us to holiness, but we disobey especially in the area of sexual purity and love toward others.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 59-61; 1 Thessalonians 4

Selected Verses

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.  Isaiah 59:1-2

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

Reflections

Sin has been the problem since our first parents listened to the serpent and ate of the forbidden fruit. What did they get? They got the knowledge of good and evil and with it death! We all find sin attractive, even irresistible. It may be as subtle as a snarky put-down or as grotesque as murderous rage, as imperceptible as a flirtatious glance or as devastating as serial adultery. Sin comes in many colors and shapes, all of them tempting and soul-killing but none of them truly satisfying. Worst of all, it results in our not seeing or hearing God. We tend to conclude He is not there.

Isaiah wrote to ancient Israel telling them that their sin was what was blocking their eyes and ears from seeing and hearing God. It was not God who was hiding from them. He is there in plain sight, seen and heard in His acts of Creation and Providence and in His revealed Word.

Paul admonished the church in Thessalonica with the words, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (vs. 3a). He then specifically mentions abstinence from sexual immorality for the next five verses, topped off with a paragraph about brotherly love.

In case they don’t see the urgency of this, he turns to the subject of the return of Christ, His descent from heaven, the cry of command, the sound of the trumpet, and the resurrection of the dead. When Christ returns, all eyes will see Him. There will be no vacillating. We will be exposed at last. The shouts of rejoicing will mix with the cries of remorse.

Think about it

Is there hope for sinners? Yes, indeed! For God has done what no human being could do. “His own arm brought him salvation” writes the prophet (Isaiah 59:16). In the end, “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:3). The dead in Christ will rise first followed by those who are still alive and “so we will always be with the Lord.” But the time is now. Do not assume there is no God. Assume that it is your sin that blinds your eyes. But He may be found because “all who call upon the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:8-13). Call on Him, today.

Unquenchable Joy

Joy–not dependent on circumstances–springs up in the life of those who have God’s Spirit. Nothing and no one can steal that joy from us. It is unquenchable.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 10-12; Galatians 5

Selected Verses

You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.  Isaiah 12:1-3

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.   Galatians 5:22-23

Reflections

Judah and Israel were concerned about national security and relief from the oppressing nations.  Isaiah came to them to speak of a Holy God Whom they had offended.  He was justly angry with them.  Assyria would defeat Israel.  Judah was on probation.  But Isaiah also gave them hope of a future in which they would know God’s salvation.  They would be comforted in the knowledge that His just anger was turned away.

The sweet promise “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation,” brings to mind Jesus’ words in John 7:38, Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Jesus was describing the Spirit that all who believed in Him would receive.

Paul tells the Galatians that in Christ they have freedom: freedom from their sin, guilt, and condemnation under the law.  They have the Spirit of God and He bears fruit in their lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Think about it

There can be nothing to compare with the comfort which comes from being totally forgiven by God–that He holds no more anger against us.  If the Spirit of God lives in us, how can we not have a deep joy that springs up like water from a well?  Let the joy of your salvation fill you today. The joy He gives is unquenchable.

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!

Following Christ without Distraction

God calls people to avoid distractions and focus on following Christ through careful study and applying of His Word. But when we fail is there any hope?

Today’s Reading

Ezra 6-8; John 21

Selected Verses

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.  Ezra 7:10

When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”  John 21:21-22

Reflections

Peter was by nature an impulsive and fickle person. This is obvious from the various stories we read about him in the gospels. Remember his nervous response to the transfiguration of Jesus? On another occasion, He confessed Jesus as the Son of God, but moments later Jesus rebuked him for contradicting the Lord’s  prophecy about His death and resurrection.  Peter promised to be loyal to Jesus to death, if necessary, and followed that up with multiple denials that he knew Him.

Now Jesus speaks to him personally giving him the opportunity to confess three times his love for Christ. Jesus charges Peter three times: “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep.” Jesus then makes a reference to Peter’s future martyrdom and says, “Follow me.” But Peter, true to form, notices another disciple nearby (John) and asks what will come of him. Jesus gently tells him it’s none of his business and repeats His earlier command, “You follow me.”

Peter needed to take a lesson from Ezra, who “set his heart” to study, do, and teach the Law of God. Ezra focused on what God had given him to do and would not be distracted from it. Peter did indeed learn this lesson as we can tell from accounts of his later life in the New Testament about his service for Christ in the gospel.

Think about it

How about you? Have you set your heart to study, do, and teach God’s word? Are you single-mindedly following Christ? We can all improve in this. But the same Lord who was gracious, merciful, and patient with the Apostle Peter is the same toward us who struggle to be faithful to Him. Pray that you will be undistracted in your devotion to the Lord and His word.

 

Why Mercy Triumphs over Judgment

To know God is the supreme privilege and responsibility of mankind. But what if we fail? Can there be mercy greater than judgment?

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 28-29; John 11:47-57

Selected Verses

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. 1 Chronicles 28:9

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”  He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. John 11:49-52

Reflections

David, in turning over the kingdom to his son, Solomon, charged him to know and serve God.  This was not merely good advice but an urgent mandate.  Solomon would rule over people, but they were God’s people not his.  His leadership would affect the population and be either a credit or discredit to their God.  The God that Solomon needed to know and serve is One who “searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.”  He cannot be manipulated or fooled.  He knows not only the actions of all people but their hearts and thoughts as well.  To fail in this mandate is to incur eternal judgment.

Caiaphas was high priest of Israel in the final days of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  He stood as the highest authority among the Jews who lived under a Roman governor in that day.  Like Solomon, Caiaphas held an obligation to know and serve God, but he failed to see that the Son of God was among them making the Father known (John 1:18).  So the high priest proposed Jesus’ execution  and unwittingly decreed the offering of the true Passover Lamb who would die for God’s elect people both in Israel and throughout the earth. His words had one meaning to him but another in reality.

Think about it

Solomon did fail to fully serve God and so have we. We all deserve to die. But “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  God gives the promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him.  Praise Him that the promise of mercy triumphs over the warning of judgment because Jesus died in our place (James 2:13).