Day 173: A mighty work

Jeremiah 34-35; Acts 2:1-13

Key Verses

Jeremiah 34:2
“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.”

Acts 2:4
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Today we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise from Acts 1:8… “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

John Piper asserts that this power of the Spirit is “an extraordinary power. The experience promised is beyond the power of the Spirit in new birth and gradual sanctification.” He goes on to explain,

This promise that the disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8) and that they would be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49) was a promise given to sustain the completion of world evangelization, and all the ministry that supports it. The context of both texts makes that plain. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . . to the end of the earth.” (Excerpted from Tongues of Fire and the Fullness of God By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org)

Every now and then throughout the New Testament and church history, the Spirit comes in an unusually powerful way. Even though it manifests itself in different ways (i.e. the building shaking in Acts 4), it typically comes for the purpose of evangelization… In today’s reading, the Spirit comes as tongues of fire and enables the disciples to speak in different languages – all for the purpose of expanding the Kingdom!

This coming of the Spirit at Pentecost signifies the beginning of the New Covenant age.

In Jeremiah 34-35, we see why we need a “New” Covenant. The Old Covenant was dependent on the people’s obedience – which they miserably failed to do. Similarly, our hearts are exceedingly sinful, and it is impossible for us to meet the demands of the Covenant.

So God in His mercy made a New Covenant. A covenant dependent on Jesus’ obedience and Jesus’ sacrifice – and this New Covenant is available to anyone who believes – people from all nations and languages. This was evident at Pentecost as Jews were gathered from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5)…

Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome.

It is fitting that the first converts to Christianity were Jews representing every nation in the world! This work of the Spirit has so affected history that we are still affected by this event 2,000 years later. That’s one, mighty work!

Day 172: When, O Lord?

Jeremiah 32-33; Acts 1

Key Verses

Jeremiah 32:40-41
I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

In the tenth year of Zedekiah, when Nebuchadnezzar had Jerusalem under siege, Zedekiah imprisoned Jeremiah. Then God did something, well, strange. He told Jeremiah to buy a field, which made no sense, but Jeremiah did it anyway.

Then Jeremiah did something smart. After he obeyed, he prayed to God for understanding… “Why would you want me to buy a field when the whole land lies in waste?” And God in his mercy answered Jeremiah.

Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first (Jeremiah 33:6-7).

Jeremiah’s land purchase was a sign that God would restore the land and its people. God promised to make them dwell in safety and restore the fortunes of both Israel and Judah. The promises of good were both thorough and extravagant (just as God’s judgment was thorough and extravagant!)

Were these prophecies fulfilled just 70 years later when the people would return from captivity and rebuild the temple and the wall? Well, partly – but not to the extent that Jeremiah described….The world definitely did not fear and tremble at the good of Jerusalem…

What about when Jesus came? Interestingly, in the beginning of Acts, we read that the disciples wondered this same thing…

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority (Acts 1:6-7).

Jesus basically said, “Sorry, I can’t tell you.”

But He did give insight into how the prophecy would be fulfilled in our present age in Acts 1:8. In other words, Jesus would expand his spiritual Kingdom on earth through the building of the church. But. We live in very dark times. The prophet Joel called this time the “last days.” We live in between the first and second coming of Jesus. We have not seen the fulfillment of all things!

In summary, I believe Jeremiah’s prophecy of the restoration of Israel is one of those “already, not yet” prophecies. It was fulfilled partially after 70 years, and even more so after the first coming of Jesus, but it won’t be completely fulfilled until Jesus comes again and establishes His Kingdom in the New Earth.

Personally… I can’t wait!!!

Day 171: A New Covenant

Jeremiah 30-31; John 21

Key Verses

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Hope. Restoration. Renewal. This is the aroma of Jeremiah 30-31. It is in these verses that we find the promise of a New Covenant – the only time this phrase is used in the Old Testament.

God makes a new covenant through Jesus. The Law that was written on stone tablets and so easily forgotten would now be written on the heart. The Law becomes internal so that it can never be lost or destroyed. It is a permanent, forever-type-of Law – that flows from God forgiving iniquity and choosing to remember our sin no more.

Jeremiah could not have known the far-reaching implications of his words. We know that forgiveness of sins is only possible because of Jesus and His Sacrifice. The gospels and epistles of the New Testament teach that Jesus is the mediator of this New Covenant – a covenant based on grace – not on our ability to keep the covenant demands. Yet the purpose of the New Covenant remains the same as the Old… “I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

In the final chapter of John, we see our God… kneeling on a sandy shore, cooking fish for his friends; restoring Simon Peter and commissioning him to lead the church. Just a typical day in the life of the Master.

I’m going to miss the gospels. I love reading Jesus’ words and picturing his life on the move. The beauty of the New Covenant is that Jesus’ teaching is written on the tablet of our hearts. He is close. And I am grateful.

Day 158: Restoring and Redeeming

Lamentations 3-5; John 12:1-19

Key Verses

Lamentations 3:24-25
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.

John 12:12-13
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

Lamentations 3 is a poem whose main character has suffered greatly. Listen to some of the words he uses to describe his afflictions…
“rod of his wrath, darkness, broken bones, besieged, bitterness, walled me in, heavy chains, shuts out my prayer, cower in ashes…”

He attributes his suffering and afflictions to God. He names God as his judge. And then he says this:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

How in the world could a man who has suffered so grievously under the hand of God speak of his mercies and steadfast love?

These are probably the most well-known verses in Lamentations. But rarely do we consider the context. Just before these verses, the man speaks of the humility of his heart. His soul is “bowed down.” The suffering has changed his heart. He is humble and penitent. There was a purpose for the pain.

Also, through his changed heart, he is able to understand and trust more deeply in God’s Covenant promises. Listen to what he writes later in the chapter:

For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men (Lamentations 3:31-33).

This man is encouraging the suffering exiles of Judah to remember God’s Covenant promises. God has only punished the people because his patience did not result in repentance. As suffering works in their hearts to produce repentance and humble dependence upon their God, God will both restore and redeem the nation!

We see the Eternal King of this nation in today’s New Testament reading… riding into the restored Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. He, too, would suffer – giving his life to redeem His people. And He too would rise to say…

His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning!

Somehow the man depicted in the poem of Lamentations 3 found a way to remember both the pain of suffering and God’s faithfulness. We must trust that God has a purpose for our pain… His purposes involve restoring and redeeming!

Day 155: Gracious Delay

2 Kings 21-23; John 11:1-17

Key Verses

2 Kings 22:17-20
My wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. But to the king of Judah, [king Josiah], …because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, […] I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’”

John 11:4-6
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

2 Kings 21 is filled with the atrocious actions of  Judah’s most evil king. Manasseh rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah had torn down, offered his son as a child sacrifice, and consulted evil spirits for counsel. Manasseh’s complete apostasy brought an end to God’s patience with Judah; consequently, He declared that judgment would rain down upon the city of David.

Then Manasseh’s grandson, King Josiah, discovered the books of the Law and realized that destruction was exactly what Judah deserved. He mourned his country’s apostasy and humbled himself before God. What did God do in the presence of a truly repentant heart? He did as he always does – God relented!

Seriously?! God delayed the judgment because one man repented. How could I ever doubt God’s goodness and kindness and His overwhelming desire for repentance in his people? Repentance always brings blessing. Lack of repentance ultimately leads to judgment.

Josiah’s response to God’s grace was obedience. Josiah’s reforms were such that he exceeded David in observance of the Law – observing Passover in a way that had not been done since the days of the Judges, surpassing both Hezekiah and even David in faithfulness to God’s law!

But it was not enough to undo the evils of the earlier generations. God’s Covenant was broken, and his judgment – though delayed – was set.

In John, we read of a different sort of delay. Instead of delaying judgment, Jesus delayed healing – and his beloved friend, Lazarus, died as a result. But as we’ll read tomorrow, the suffering caused by the delay, only served to magnify God’s power and goodness.

Both stories of God’s “delays” are stories of grace. How often do I grumble when God delays to answer my prayer or change my circumstances? Chances are, His delay is for my good. His delay is a work of grace!

Keeping up with the Kings

  • Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat), Ahaziah (killed by Jehu), Queen Athaliah, Jehoash (only surviving son of Ahaziah: good), Amaziah (good), Azariah (Uzziah, good), Jotham (good), Ahaz, Hezekiah (good), Manasseh, Amon, Josiah (good), Jehoahaz, Eliakim/Jehoiakim
  • Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (or Joram, son of Ahab), Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, Hoshea

Day 144: All Who are Thirsty

1 Kings 14-16; John 6:22-44

Key Verses

1 Kings 15:4
Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave [the evil king, Abijam] a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem (1 Kings 15:4).

John 6:35
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Asa ruled Judah after Abijam, and did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. There are few “good” kings after David, but all of them reigned in Judah. The author makes a stark contrast between the kings of Israel and Judah as he lists all of the evil kings that reigned in Israel during the reign of Asa. God’s blessing remains on Judah only for the sake of David and the fulfillment of His promise.

The Davidic line must be preserved for the Promised One. the Bread of Life, who died to give life to the world.

We are all hungry. The question is… what are we hungry for? The satisfaction that the world offers is fleeting. Only Jesus satisfies the deep longing in our souls for life and purpose. He is the bread of life!

All who are thirsty…

Keeping up with the Kings
Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat
Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab

Day 125: The motivation for obedience

1 Kings 3-4; Luke 22:1-30

Key Verses

1 Kings 3:12-14
“Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

Luke 22:25-27
And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”

Solomon loves the Lord, and the Lord gives him great wisdom, but Solomon falters in the nitty-gritty daily-ness of his faith. He doesn’t obey God in all areas of his life, and eventually, his missteps lead him further and further away from God and God’s blessings. Specifically, we read of Solomon acquiring many horses (4:26) and turning back to Egypt to find a wife (3:1). These actions are in direct opposition to the laws for Kings written in Deuteronomy:

Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you,‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:16-17).

Solomon’s mistakes are a familiar road for many of us. Compromising obedience in daily life can slowly turn us completely away from our faith. Many times, apostasy is a slow burn and not a quick blaze.

In order to keep ourselves from falling away, we must cling to the hip of our Savior. His grace and help are our lifeline to an obedient life. The sacrament of communion (instituted in today’s passage from Luke) is a gift to us to help us remember the great Sacrifice of our Savior. His death is the evidence of His incomprehensible love for us! It is this love that should motivate us to obey…

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NIV).

Day 124: David’s Dynasty

1 Kings 1-2; Luke 21:20-38

Key Verses

1 Kings 2:1-4
When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2″I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'”

Luke 21:33
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Today we begin 1 Kings which is the story of the continuation of David’s dynasty. David’s oldest remaining son, Adonijah, plotted to make himself King apart from his father’s knowledge. But God, and therefore, David had chosen Solomon to succeed David as king. 1 Kings 1-2 is the story of David establishing his dynasty through Solomon.

David’s dynasty echoes the promise of Genesis 3 – that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. And then the rest of the Old Testament plays out as a mystery novel as we try to determine… out of which family line the Promised One would come.

The seed passed from Adam to Seth – on down to Noah and through Shem to Abraham – through Isaac, Jacob, and Judah – through Boaz, Jesse and then to David.

The Davidic covenant narrows the search for the promised seed. The covenant reveals that the Promised One would be descended from David, and He would establish David’s throne forever! But who would it be? Would Solomon be the promised King? Or would it be Solomon’s son, Rehoboam?

With each subsequent king, the author of 1 & 2 Kings builds the tension of waiting for the revelation of the Promised Eternal King. 2 Kings ends with the fall of Jerusalem and the capture of Judah. Was all hope for the King lost? Would the King ever come? Was God’s word just not true??

We know who the seed of the woman is. And we know who the promised King is. Jesus. And in today’s reading in Luke, we find him in Jerusalem – warning of its destruction – and promising that he will return.

Jesus’ words are permanent – the forever kind of permanent. When he says he will come again – there is 100% chance that he will come again. Even though the story seems hopeless at times – we must never stop waiting for His return. He tells us to be ready. When he comes, not if, but when he comes, will he find us faithful? Oh God, I hope so – but only by Your grace!

Day 123: David’s Eternal Throne

2 Samuel 23-24; Luke 21:1-19

Key Verses

Luke 21:5-6
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

2 Samuel 23:5
“For does not my house stand so with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things and secure.”

2 Samuel ends in today’s reading. Chapter 23 begins with “David’s last words,” a poem reaffirming the Davidic covenant, the promise that his throne would be established forever.

The book ends with David purchasing the threshing floor on which the temple would one day be built…

So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. And David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings (2 Samuel 24:24-25).

Fast forward to today’s reading in Luke – and there we find Jesus – in the temple – teaching the values of the Kingdom.

Jesus is the son of David standing in the city of David in the temple that was rebuilt on the very site that David sacrificed to the Lord. How amazing is that?

And what was Jesus teaching? That the temple would be destroyed. Consider this… What was the purpose of the temple? The temple was where the priests led the people in worship through the sacrificial system. And the temple was where the presence of God dwelled.

Can you see how Jesus’ final sacrifice and resurrection made the need for the temple obsolete? Do you think David could have imagined the future? The splendor of Solomon’s temple being destroyed and rebuilt and then desecrated by the moneychangers of Jesus’ day and then ultimately, David’s heir would sit on the eternal throne and because of His suffering and atoning death – open the way to the Holy of Holies to all people from all nations?

Never could David have imagined anything so terrible and wonderful! And neither can we imagine the wonder of the end of the age when Jesus will come again and make all things new!!! There will be no sun, for his glory will give light to the world. There will be no temple because the dwelling place of God will be with man. There will be one King – who will reign in peace forever!

Yes, David’s throne is established forever… in Jesus!!!!

Day 116: The Glory Days!

2 Samuel 7-9; Psalm 60

Key Verses

2 Samuel 7:8-10; 12-13; 16
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. …I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.

The Davidic Covenant. It is the promise that God will establish David’s throne forever. It does not replace the Abrahamic covenant – but only clarifies it!

David’s response to God’s promises was overwhelming gratitude. David’s prayer recorded in the last half of Chapter 7 is a model of humility and praise. And then we read of the glory of David’s reign…. Chapter 8 chronicles his victories in battle (and we surmise from Psalm 60 that David never presumed upon the Lord’s blessing – but stayed humble and dependent on His help). Chapter 9 describes his respect for Saul’s house as he treats Jonathan’s son as his own.

This is the epitome of godly leadership. David’s attributes of complete dependence on God plus true humility somehow combine to create a fierce warrior and a just leader. His person has been remarkable so far, but, unfortunately, we are about to see a sad turn in David.

Remember how God used the crucible of hardship to mold David’s character? Now that David is enjoying the benefits of blessing, he will be tempted to fall – and fall he does. But we’ll talk about that tomorrow!