Day 134: The Word

Proverbs 20-21; John 1:1-28

Key Verses

John 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

How did God create the world? He spoke, and it came to be. John teaches us in the first verses of his gospel that it was Jesus, the Word, that made the world. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:3). Doesn’t this make sense? God the Father created the world through Jesus – He created through the WORD.

The book of Proverbs teaches that even the words of men are powerful…

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. 10:11

A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. 15:4

Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits. 18:21

Our words are powerful because we are made in the image of our Creator!!

This is my favorite image of Jesus…The Word. Not just any word – but logos. The source of all things.

Think of words that describe Jesus… kind, humble, truthful, compassionate, gentle, just, powerful.

But Jesus isn’t just powerful – he is the source of all power. And he isn’t just compassionate – his life was the living definition of Compassion. And what about truthful? No, the adjectives are not sufficient – he is the very embodiment of Truth, Humility, Kindness, Justice and Power. He is the Word. He is the source.

As we study John, we see the Word squeeze himself into human form – and walk and live and embody every good word in this world.

Day 108: David and his ragamuffin band

1 Samuel 22:1-5; Psalm 57; Psalm 142; Luke 15

Key Verses

Psalm 57:1
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.

Luke 15:10
“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

In today’s reading from 1 Samuel, David narrowly escaped the Philistine city of Gath and found refuge in a cave. Just think how far David has fallen… The son-in-law of the King is now living in a cave. Listen to his heart cry out to the Lord…

Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me!
Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your name! (Psalm 142:6-7).

But David is not alone in the cave. On the contrary, the outcasts of society have gathered to him…

And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them (1 Samuel 22:2).

This picture of the anointed king surrounded by outcasts reminds me of Jesus. And it correlates beautifully with Jesus’ teaching found in Luke 15.

Who matters to God? The sinner who repents! God will leave 99 righteous to find one lost soul. Jesus says in Luke 15:7, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

And then he tells the well-known story of the prodigal son. You remember the story? How the younger brother squanders his inheritance and returns to his father a humbled man. The father throws him a huge party to celebrate his return while the faithful, older brother is indignant and sulks over the fact that his father never threw him a party.

How many times have you heard it asked, “Do you identify more with the older or younger brother?” That’s an interesting question since they were both sinners in need of repentance. The difference is that the older brother was blind to his self-righteous sin – whereas the younger brother was very much aware of his sin.

Another question might be, “Do you identify with the outcasts that gathered to David in the cave?” Do you know what it feels like to be in distress, in debt, or bitter in soul? I do. Jesus beckons us to come. And as we gather around the Savior, no one can stand – for we know we are sinful. We know we don’t deserve the kindness He offers. And heaven rejoices, for a sinner has repented.

Day 107: David on the Run

1 Samuel 21; Psalm 56; Psalm 34

Key Verses

Psalm 56:3-4
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 34:4; 18
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

David’s life has taken such a drastic turn. He is now fleeing for his life! Where does he run first? He runs to the house of the Lord. He flees to the priestly city of Nob. There he seeks provision from the priest, Ahimelech. Jesus speaks of this scene in Matthew 11 when the Pharisees accuse him and his disciples of working to glean wheat on the Sabbath…

He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 11: 3-4; 7)

Do Jesus’ words sound familiar? They are similar to Samuel’s judgment of Saul in Chapter 15…

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)

David understands that compassion and mercy are more important than the ceremonial law. He ‘gets’ that his life is more important than the symbolic meaning of the bread of presence. Ahimelech, the priest, gets it too. God cares about the heart – not outward conformity.

We can see into the heart of David by reading Psalms 56 & 34. Both of these Psalms were written in response to David’s foolish decision to go to the Philistine city, Gath. Gath was the home of Goliath! Did David really think he could find refuge there???!!! Despite David’s rash judgment, his heart remained focused on his God…

Where do you run when your life seems out of control? What do you look to for comfort? David ran straight to the house of God! God is the refuge for the humble. The broken will find rest in His presence. Seek Him in His sanctuary. He longs to cover you with His peace!

Day 93: Absolute Power

Judges 9:1-10:5; Luke 8:22-9:9

Key Verses

Judges 9:6
The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him.

Luke 8:25
He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

In these two passages, we see God’s absolute rule and power over all… Luke demonstrates through short narratives Jesus’ control over nature (vs. 22-25), demons (vs. 26-39), disease (vs. 40-48), and even over death (vs. 41-56). In each scene, Jesus is moved by compassion.

In Judges, we read of evil, pure and fearsome evil. God brings judgment by commanding an evil spirit to cause discord between the two evil players, Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem. Consequently, they turn on one another – and they both come to ruin…

Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal (Judges 9:56-57).

Both accounts are narratives of God at work. He is both compassion and judge. He rules over all. Even the demon He keeps on a leash. It is only a fool who would not fear this God – this wonderfully awful and loving God!

Consider then how terribly far He has stooped to rescue you. We must not belittle the Sacrifice.

Day 75: King and Servant

Deuteronomy 23:15-26:19; Mark 15:1-20

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 26:18-19
And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.”

Mark 15:17-19
And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him.

Today’s passage in Deuteronomy concludes Moses’ detailing of the specific laws… Most of the laws are miscellaneous but can still be loosely categorized by the 10 commandments…

  • Deuteronomy 23:19-24:22: 8th commandment (Do not steal)
  • Deuteronomy 25:1-16: 9th commandment (Do not bear false witness)
  • Deuteronomy 26: 10th commandment (Do not covet) + conclusion

Now that this section of Deuteronomy is complete, let’s take a wide-angle view of chapters 12-26. Specifically… how is God’s character revealed through this section of Scripture?

First, consider this: The following phrase is found eight times in chapters 12-26: “So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” It usually follows a command of capital punishment.

Conversely, Moses mentions the “sojourner” twelve times. And each time, the context is how to show compassion and is usually grouped with laws describing how to care for the fatherless and widow as well.

What does this teach us?

First, God is severely holy and perfectly just. But. He is also compassionate.

There is no greater illustration of the coupling of these two character traits than in the death of Jesus. In today’s passage in Mark, we see the conclusion of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. We read that Jesus was cruelly scourged and mocked. WHY? Why did Jesus allow himself to be so cruelly treated? Why did He submit himself to the treacherous authorities? Why? Why?

Because of his perfect justice and compassion. There had to be shedding of blood for the payment of our sin. But because of his compassion, he offers a substitute for the offering of our own blood as payment. He offers his blood. He is both the righteous judge and the bearer of iniquity – both the King and the Servant – both the Lion and the Lamb. He is both just and compassionate. He is our God!!

Day 57: The Judge & The Healer

Numbers 15-17; Mark 6:30-56

Key Verses

Numbers 15:37-41
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”

The people needed a reminder… a daily, visual cue – to obey the Lord. Their hearts were prone to wander – to lust after lesser gods. We see it in Numbers 16-17 – how the people didn’t trust Moses, how the people rose up against the priesthood – how they wanted to be their own god.

God didn’t care much for the rebels. They died in a public display of power as the earth swallowed them whole. They obviously didn’t remember to regard their tassels that day! ;)

The tradition of wearing tassels continued into Jesus’ day. We read in Mark 6…

And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well (Mark 6:56).

The Greek word for fringe is the equivalent of the Hebrew word for tassel. Jesus wears the tassels – but instead of being a reminder to obey, they were a source of healing.

God is both the Holy Judge and the Tender Healer. So, Come… Bow to touch the fringe of his garment and rest in the arms of your Savior.

Day 39: Our Compassionate God

Leviticus 4-6:7; Matthew 25:31-46

Key Verses

Leviticus 5:17-18
“If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity. He shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him for the mistake that he made unintentionally, and he shall be forgiven.

Matthew 25:34
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'”

The parable of the sheep and the goats has always scared me. I’m just not “sheep” material. I don’t visit prisons or volunteer in soup kitchens. I’m totally a goat… Right?

Thankfully, Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 can’t be interpreted in a vacuum. We know from New Testament teaching that salvation can not be earned. You could be the most altruistic person on the planet – but you would still far short of admittance to heaven. The standard is perfection. None of us can reach it.

So we know that the sheep are those made righteous by faith alone. But Matthew 25 does reveal what the definitive characteristic of a Christian should be… Compassion.

Why compassion? Because the Lord is compassionate.

What motivated God to set apart the Israelite people, to give them rituals and laws? Why did He deal with their grumbling and stubbornness? Compassion.

Today’s reading in Leviticus is a bright, full-colored picture of His compassion toward His people. First, we see that sin is serious. It can’t be overlooked. It provokes the wrath of our holy God, and his wrath must be appeased. But God, knowing that we are by nature, sinful, provides a way to deal with sin. The sin and guilt offerings are pictures of making atonement for the sin – and ultimately they point forward to the Savior, who will offer the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin.

God is holy; therefore, His wrath is justified. God is holy; therefore, His compassion is sufficient. Compassion for others comes from a correct view of oneself: I am tainted by sin. Therefore, I am in desperate need of compassion! And having received the abundant, flowing compassion from God, I should be compelled to let that compassion overflow into others’ lives. That is the mark of a “sheep.” That is the mark of Christ!

Day 18: Grain and Grief

Genesis 42-43; Matthew 14:1-21

Key Verses

Genesis 41:53-54
The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.

Matthew 14:19-20
Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.

Genesis 42 begins with an abrupt change of scene. After four chapters devoted to Joseph’s life in Egypt, we suddenly are back in Canaan, and guess what? There is no food. Jacob sends all of his sons to Egypt to buy grain, but he keeps Benjamin at home – for fear that he should lose him just as he lost Joseph. Joseph and Benjamin were Rachel’s only sons. Jacob’s love for Rachel extends beyond her grave to her sons…

The dreams that Joseph had as a young boy in Canaan (Genesis 37:5-11) begin to come to pass. As his brothers come to Joseph, the governor of Egypt, to buy grain, they bow before him with their faces to the ground. The text says, “And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them” (Genesis 42:8).

These two chapters begin the dramatic story of reconciliation. Joseph cautiously conceals his identity from his brothers, and he chooses to speak with them through an interpreter. He understands them when they talk of remorse over what they had done to him years earlier, and he must turn away so they do not see him weeping. Moved with compassion he sends his brothers away with grain but devises a plan for them to return with his younger brother, Benjamin. And much to Jacob’s distress, the brothers return to Egypt a 2nd time with Benjamin in tow.

This story is tense with emotion as it builds to Joseph revealing himself to his brothers in Chapter 45. Today’s reading in Matthew is also wrought with emotion. Jesus, having just learned that John the Baptist was beheaded, seeks to grieve and pray alone… But the crowds won’t let him, and continue to follow him. The familiar story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 takes on a new light when you read it in the context of Jesus’ grief over John the Baptist. The time that Jesus spends with the crowds amid his difficult circumstances only serves to magnify His compassion.

Both readings end in the middle of a story… So, until tomorrow… :-)

Day 353: God’s compassion on the Nations

Jonah 1-4Revelation 10

Yesterday’s reading in Revelation ended with the heralding of the 6th trumpet. Today’s reading contains an interlude before the final judgment that the 7th trumpet brings – very similar to the one before the opening of the 7th seal in which John was shown things concerning the church.

Today, we also read the book of Jonah in its entirety, which stands in stark contrast to what we read yesterday. In the book of Obadiah, God proclaimed judgment against the nations, specifically to Judah’s southeastern neighbor, Edom. Conversely, in Jonah, God’s compassion for the nations is on full display as he instructs his servant Jonah to warn the city of Nineveh to repent in order to avert impending destruction!

Again, we are reminded that God’s judgment is exercised in the context of His faithfulness to redeem His people!! And as the story of God’s redemptive history unfolds, we learn (and experience first-hand) that His people are not limited to the physical Israel – rather, His people are represented by ALL nations, tribes and tongues!!

In today’s reading from Revelation, we see Christ’s angelic representative come to earth to deliver a message to His people, the church. Yet, John is not to write its message down. Rather, John was instructed to eat the scroll, and as odd as this instruction sounds, this is not the first time a prophet has been asked to eat a scroll! Ezekiel ate a scroll in Ezekiel 2:9-3:3. As he ate, he took the scroll’s contents to heart. Similarly, John, before he could proclaim God’s message to others, had to take to heart the message for himself.

In verse 7, we can glean a hint of the angel’s message… “The mystery of God will be fulfilled”  includes both judgment and salvation – as is represented by the taste of the scroll… “It tasted sweet, for it was a message about the fulfillment of prophecy and about the return of Christ and the protections of God’s people. Yet the message was also sour, for along with the covenant blessings of Christ’s second coming, come all the horrors of judgment and wrath and covenant curses on those who have not repented. John’s task will be to tell about the glory of the second coming and the new heavens and the new earth, but it will include also prophesying about the events heralded by the seventh trumpet.” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 147).

John’s prophetic call would be difficult – just like it was for Jeremiah (Jer. 15:16Lam. 3:14-15). And it will be difficult for all Christians in these last days.

Comparatively, Jonah had an easier calling. For unlike other prophets, Jonah was able to see the fruit of his message in the dramatic repentance of the Ninevites. In the face of their repentance, God relented and did not send the promised destruction. You would think that Jonah would have been glad, but he did not share God’s compassionate heart for the nations.

The book of Jonah ends with God questioning him, for Jonah cared more about the destruction of a plant than he did the destruction of hundreds of thousands of people (Jonah 4:10-11). God’s compassion is in stark contrast to the hard-hearted Jonah. 

So often we are quick to assume God’s judgment is harsh and unfair, but God’s compassion is far-greater than our own. God delays His return because of His compassion!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 244: My procrastinating…

Isaiah 40; 1 Corinthians 7

I confess that I’ve procrastinated in writing this post. Paul addresses marriage, singleness and divorce in this chapter, and frankly, I don’t want to write about those topics. Especially since Paul’s teaching isn’t crystal clear, and there is a myriad of views of exactly what Paul means – especially concerning divorce. He is also misunderstood regarding his dealings with marriage and singleness, and I don’t even want to go near the section about servitude in the middle of the chapter!

Now I’m exaggerating a bit. But there is quite a theological stir created by Paul’s teachings in this chapter.

I’ll say this… Divorce is painful – both before and after. I understand why God hates it so much. It’s a ripping of flesh, a tearing apart, and it hurts. But sometimes I think the church can judge too harshly when someone has been through this painful experience. The church should be there to offer God’s truths in a supportive and comforting way – not to condemn.

And regarding Paul’s comments on marriage and singleness. Some can misinterpret him and conclude that marriage is bad. ABSOLUTELY NOT! Marriage reflects the unity and diversity of the trinity itself! It was ordained by God in the very beginning as the foundation for all of civilization. Marriage is one of God’s primary tools for sanctification in the believer! Some are better equipped to spread the gospel because of their spouse’s support and influence. But others are not, and Paul falls into the single camp. God uses both singleness and marriage to purify His people and glorify His name. They are both good.

Now what about Isaiah? :)

Today’s reading in Isaiah is the beginning of a 15-chapter section that addresses the future exiles in Babylon. It is a period in Israel’s history where God’s wrath has (partially) been satisfied and God is working to rebuild and restore his people.There are many familiar verses in these chapters of Isaiah, for they speak of God’s comfort and grace.

It is easy to translate these chapters to the church, today – because we, too, live in a time where God’s wrath has been satisfied and He is working to build and strengthen his people. We can look to these chapters for comfort and strength as we, citizens of God’s spiritual Kingdom, live as exiles on this earth.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:1).