Archive for : September, 2018

09/30/2018 — the book of Malachi

Of course Malachi is the last of the Old Testament books and while it is not specifically stated most scholars feel that Malachi was written within the time frame of Nehemiah.  As we read Malachi’s condemnation of the unfaithful you can also hear the words from the final chapter in Nehemiah.  The Lord had restored the nation and, yet, quite sadly they very quickly become unfaithful (again.)

Like all of the books of prophecy we have read even throughout his condemnation of the people (particularly the priesthood) hope and God’s promise to His faithful remains. For example in chapter 3

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant,whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.  17 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.

 

09/29/2018 — Nehemiah 11-13

The book of Nehemiah ends with a “from mountaintop to rock-bottom” set of emotions.  In Nehemiah 12:43 we have the residents of Jerusalem rejoicing before the Lord at the dedication of the wall:

43 And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.

Have you ever felt depressed that no matter how hard you tried to minister to someone your efforts seemed to fail?   You can probably recall a bit of sadness, melancholy and, maybe, even a little anger.   Then you can well relate to Nehemiah’s “rock-bottom” experience.

In his concluding chapter you can almost feel Nehemiah’s heart breaking upon his return to the city and he experiences, once again, the people’s failure to remain faithful to the Lord.  Four times he ask the Lord to “remember him/them” for his efforts in restoring the nation:

14 Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.

 22 Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.

29 Remember them, my God, because they defiled the priestly office and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites.

31 I also made provision for contributions of wood at designated times, and for the first-fruits.  Remember me with favor, my God.

09/28/2018 — Nehemiah Chapters 8-10

In today’s reading in Chapter 8 we see Ezra’a reading of the Book of the Law of Moses (Genesis,Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) to “all of the people.”  And in Chapter 9 Nehemiah reviews for the people the history & “roots” of Israel.   In chapter 9:5-6 we have the following marvelous passage of praise:

And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said:

“Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

09/27/2018 — Nehemiah Chapters 6-7

Nehemiah, like Ezra, has to work through the opposition of surrounding nations as he rebuilds the wall of Jerusalem.  And I see Nehemiah give us all one facet of prayer.  Nehemiah 6:9

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”  But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Nehemiah’s example — know our needs and pray specifically that they will be met in accordance with God’s will.

09/26/2018 — Nehemiah Chapters 1-5

Ezra and Nehemiah both deal with the restoration of Jerusalem and in the Hebrew Bible are combined into one book.  But there are certainly differences — one highlighted by Coffman:    As sequel of the book of Ezra the book of Nehemiah reports the third return to Jerusalem in 445 BC. Ezra stresses the religious restoration of the remnant when writing of the erection of the altar, the building of the temple and the law of Jehovah (that is the Word of God). 

 Nehemiah’s task was to rebuild the walls and the gates of the city of Jerusalem. The city pictures the living together of the people of God.

One observation from today’s reading.  Just as Ezra’s mission was approved by the king of Persia we see Nehemiah actually serving in the court of king Artaxerxes — “I was cupbearer to the king.”

So, is Nehemiah’s proximity to the king just a fortunate “coincidence?”  I think not — it is another example of how believers are sometimes “placed” into positions where we can help fulfill His will.   The big question is “Are we looking?”

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect …” — 1 Peter 3:15

09/25/2018 — Ezra Chapters 7-10

So, we see Ezra 7 start with another one of those “geneology sections.”  And I hope you read these section because we see Ezra establish his “credentials” in that he is directly descended from the great high priest, Aaron.  And not only does he have the “heritage” he has has the dedication to understanding and following the Lord’s word.  From Ezra 7:6   this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given.

Upon his return to Jerusalem we certainly see him needing this knowledge as he confronts the intermarriage of the Israelite who have already turned with the “neighboring peoples.”  And this intermarriage continued to plague the nation of Israel well into the time of Jesus’s walk on the earth.

 

 

09/24/2018 — Esther 6-10

2 Samuel 12:4-7  “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Esther 6:6-9  When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?” Now Haman thought to himself, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” So he answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honor,have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’

So, why did I begin today’s reading with these two diverse scriptures?  Because the answers to both teach a valuable lesson — be prepared to examine ourselves before we judge others.  I am certain that neither David nor Haman expected the answers they received — they had not considered the results of their own actions.

 2 Samuel 12:7    Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! …

 Esther 6:10     Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew

 

 

9/23/2018 — Esther Chapters 1-5

Much has, rightly, been written on the Book of Esther and I can think of few secular books that contain all of the elements detailed.  We have love, faith, loyalty and irony all portrayed.

And even as familiar as Esther is, there is always something “new” to me when I read God’s inspired word.  From Esther 3:8  Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. 

The expression “keep themselves separate”  caught my eye.  Strong’s defines the Hebrew word used as meaning  united, alike, alone.  And I was reminded of our roles as believers in the world today:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. – 1 Peter 2:9

We are certainly “in the world” with a mission to perform among all of our neighbors.   Yet, we are not to be “part” of this world.

 

09/22/2018 — Zechariah Chapters 10-14

In reading commentaries on these four chapters there is general agreement that the remainder of Zechariah’s prophesy applies to the final establishment of the kingdom, or church, of Jesus Christ our Lord.

And we see references to the “cornerstone” (10:4;) “thirty pieces of silver” (11:13;)  a “sin cleansing fountain of water” (13:1;) and the “coming of a new day” (14:6-7.)

I also notes the tense of the verbs in Chapter 10:3:  “My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leadersfor the Lord Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah, and make them like a proud horse in battle.

 

 

 

09/21/2018 — Zechariah Chapters 5-9

From Luke 19:29  29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.

I begin these verses because they are the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy made roughly 500 years before Christ’s arrival.  And to fulfill the prophecy Christ knew that he “needed” the colt.  From Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

9/20/2018 — Zechariah Chapters 1-4

A bit of background — Zechariah is one of the three “post-exile” prophets along with Haggai and Malachi.  He was also a contemporary of Haggai and Zechariah’s first prophecy came only two months after Haggai’s first message.

Personally, like the last chapters of Ezekiel, I find that I have to refer to Biblical scholars to help me understand the understanding of Zechariah’s prophecies.  This is certainly not a reflection on the inspired nature of God’s word – just my own need to reflect more.

But in Chapter 1:5-6 I did not have to study – the word spoke very directly and repeats a reassuring promise:  Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors?

The men who rejected the word of God through the prophets are now gone but the Word of the Lord endures.  I was reminded of the promise of 1 Peter 1:24-25  and Isaiah 40:7-8

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
    Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.

 

 

 

 

09/19/2018 — the book of Haggai

As you read Chapter 2:3-4 did you pick up on a critical point that certainly applies to the church today?

‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.

The physical building is not the important aspect of God’s plan — it is His presence among  His followers.

 

09/18/2018 — Ezra Chapters 4-6 & Psalm Chapter 137

Maybe it is because for the last 4 years or so Liz and I have been living in DC and I am a “tad” jaded.  But I could not read these chapters without thinking how little has changed politically since the days of Ezra.  We see Israel’s enemies take several modern-type political steps to stop work on the temple:

Deception — Chapter 4:2  they ask to “help

Using lobbyist — Chapter 5:5 “they hired counselors to work against them”

Selective Historical Memory — Chapter 4:12 “… are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city.”  Of course the omitted the fact that King Cyrus had authorized & even helped finance  the re-building

And in this case we see that the answer to ensure that God’s will was fulfilled finalized by a great bureaucratic record keeping system.

Chapter 6:1-2  King Darius then issued an order, and they searched in the archives stored in the treasury at Babylon. A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana in the province of Media, and this was written on it:   Memorandum:  In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be sixty cubits[a] high and sixty cubits wide

Of course we know that the will of God will prevail — He is omnipotent.  But I do find it interesting that he sometimes even fulfills His will by using our human processes.

 

 

 

09/17/2018 — Ezra Chapters 1-3

We return from books of prophecy to, now, a book of history.  Ezra’s narrative picks up right after 2 Chronicles ends.  And having just read Daniel you can see how Daniel and Ezra fit into the chronology of the nation of Israel.  Daniel Chapter 10 refers to the “third year of Cyrus, king of Persia.”  The events in Ezra’s book begins in the “first year of Cyrus, king of Persia.”  Coffman summarizes the sequence of events of the Israelites return to Jerusalem, as follows:

Historically, the Bible tells us of three groups of Jews returning to Jerusalem. The first return happened around the year 536 BC. Zerubbabel, a descendant of King David, and Jeshua a descendant of Aaron the high priest were the ones to lead the first Jews on their return (Ezra 1; Ezra 2; Ezra 3; Ezra 4; Ezra 5; Ezra 6). 

The second group came with Ezra the priest and scribe in 458 BC (Ezra 7). 

The third group came in 445 BC with Nehemiah. These events are described in the book of Nehemiah. 

 

With this background behind us in today’s reading I first had mixed emotions when I read Ezra 3:12

12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.

My first thought — these priests and Levites were being so ungrateful for all that the Lord had done in planning & coordinating via Cyrus their return them to the city & re-build their temple.

Then, as sometimes happens I was reminded of a personal event.  Liz and I were fortunate to go to the “911 Memorial” on the site of the former World Trade Center Towers.  The current Memorial is beautiful and meaningful.  Yet, through the beauty there is an abiding sadness at reflecting on the original towers that had soared on that spot and the reality of the tragic loss of so many lives and the families impacted.  And we wept …

 

09/16/2018 — Daniel Chapters 10-12

In reading these prophetic scriptures and reviewing several related commentaries I am reassured by Daniels own words in Chapter 12:8-9 and then a promise in v. 13.

I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end.

13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.

And while I certainly do not understand all of Daniel’s visions I am reassured by the promise given him.  Coffman’s commentary captures my thoughts:

Young’s beautiful comment on this is, “Daniel himself is assured of his salvation, and that he shall stand in his lot at the end of the days.  May this same destination be that of all who read these words![

09/15/2018 — Daniel Chapters 7-9

As we mentioned as part of our first reading in Daniel we now enter a recording of Daniel’s prophecies.  And I will rely heavily from some notes I took during a series of lessons Artie taught.

In chapters 7-9 we are blessed to have Daniel’s vision and his prophesy regarding the four great beasts, representing (per most Biblical scholars) the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persians, Greece, and Rome.  And we in Chapter 7:9-10 we see an image of the “final judgement.”

But as marvelous and overpowering as these visions are one short verse from Daniel’s prayer for the Nation in Chapter 9 stood-out to me.  From Daniel 9:18

18 Give ear, our God, and hear;open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 

A vivid reminder that there is nothing we can do to  “earn” salvation.  We can only obey and accept God’s love and mercy.  — And be thankful.

 

 

 

09/14/2018 — Daniel Chapters 4-6

These chapters are marvelous reading and contain Nebuchadnezzar’s madness as a result of his pride, David serving a new king, Belshazzar and the “writing on the wall,” the of course Daniel in the lions den as a result of his faithfulness.   Again, as I read I saw several verses of praise — but this time from pagan kings.

First, Nebuchadnezzar in Chapter 4:34-35  At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
    his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?

And in 6:26-27 King Darius following Daniel’s salvation from the lion’s den:   26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

“For he is the living God
    and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
    his dominion will never end.
27 He rescues and he saves;
    he performs signs and wonders
    in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
    from the power of the lions.”

09/13/2018 — Daniel Chapters 1-3

So, after the short book of Joel we enter into another of the “minor prophets” whose book is filled with familiar history — the book of Daniel.  Daniel is pretty much divided into tow parts.  Chapters 1-6 are a history of Daniel and his comrades in Babylon.  The remainder of the book is prophesy.

While Daniel is a book of history and prophecy I also found today’s reading rightly filled with praise.     From Daniel 2:19-23

19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
    You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

09/12/2018 — the book of Joel

I find it interesting that the developer of our study plan placed the book of Joel at this point.  Since no historical reference points (e.g., the king, other historical events, etc.) are referenced the exact time of the writing is unknown.   Some commentators write that the book was, perhaps, written during the reign of Joash (a.k.a Jehoash), some 300 years earlier.

Over 15 years ago we shared a study of the Minor Prophets and saw that the major theme of Joel’s prophecy is the “Day of the Lord.”  This is mentioned 5 times and Joel highlights that this is/will be is a time of judgement, and the need for God’s people to be prepared.

As we read the chapters maybe you noticed that Joel spoke of three period of judgement.  The:

  • Current Plague of locusts – “Immediate Day of the Lord”                               Joel 1:1-20
  • Prophecy of the Invasion of Judah – “Imminent Day of the Lord”               Joel Chapter 2
  • Prophecy of the final judgment – “Ultimate Day of the Lord                           Joel 2:28 – end

I hope you did note that even during all of the times of the prophecy of coming judgement the Lord compassion never ceased:

Joel 2:12-13

Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity.

09/11/2018 — Ezekiel Chapters 46-48

In these concluding chapters we read the instructions for sacrifice and worship and the division of the lands for each of the tribes.

I certainly do not claim to understand the purpose/reality of Ezekiel’s’ prophetic temple but I did do a bit of reading to see if I could at least come to a bit more of an understanding.  And I was a bit reassured that it is not just I who have no complete understanding — Biblical scholars also differ.  The following are some of the theories as summarized by John B. Taylor — each can be well-debated:

  • Literal prophetic: Ezekiel 40-48 describes a temple that he expected would be built by the returning exiles in their restoration to the land.  The temple was described as an encouragement to the exiles that they would in fact be restored to Jerusalem and the temple would be rebuilt.
  • Symbolic Christian: Ezekiel 40-48 symbolically describes the Christian church.  God would provide for his people a Temple, a priesthood and a worship system related to, but different from, that which they had formerly known. A united people, including Gentiles, would occupy the inheritance which God had promised to their forefathers.”
  • Disepensationalist: Ezekiel 40-48 describes a temple of features of a coming millennial age. This future temple belongs not so much to the eternal age (as in Revelation 21:22) but to the period of a literal thousand-year reign of Jesus over this earth.
  • Apocalyptic:  Ezekiel 40-48 present symbolic and fantastic images of a coming age, connected to images and ideas popular in the pagan world of that day.

So, personally, I just do not know this answer.  But then, again, there are many other specific questions that I have.  But none  impact my faith in the fundamental truth of God’s inspired Word & His plans for the salvation of all believers.

Regarding this section I am reassured by Coffman’s final comments on these chapters:  “This whole section of Ezekiel forms an ideal picture which was never actually to be realized, but which strikingly embodies the conception of the abiding presence of God with his people, and of their perfect fellowship with him.