Day 190: Inside the Mind of an Exile

Ezekiel 24-25; Acts 11

Key Verses

Ezekiel 24:21-23
Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul, and your sons and your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword. And you shall do as I have done; […] you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away in your iniquities and groan to one another.

Acts 11:17-18
If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Imagine being captured and sent to a foreign land. You would be separated from your family – your sons, your daughters, your friends. And if you were one of the first exiles to leave Jerusalem, the only news of your homeland would come from a man named, Ezekiel.

You knew He was one of the Lord’s true prophets because he only spoke when God opened his mouth to speak. Otherwise… he was mute (Ezekiel 3:26-27). So each time he spoke, you listened, and hoped for good news – but he only had messages of judgment.

So you ignored him and went about your relatively free existence in a foreign land. You settled down in your own house and built a new family. But one day, in the 9th year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month of king Zedekiah’s reign, God opened Ezekiel’s mouth and he spoke a parable that was so terrifying, so horrible that you couldn’t ignore it. God’s last words would stay with you. And shake you…

I am the Lord. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord God (Ezekiel 24:14).

And you knew, your beloved nation and city and people would be destroyed. And then, something unexpected and strange happened…

Ezekiel’s beloved wife died, the delight of his eyes, and he refused to mourn for her. So you wondered and you asked, “Why are you acting so strangely Ezekiel? Does this have meaning for us exiles?”

And Ezekiel confirmed your worst fears – that Jerusalem and the temple and the people would fall by the sword. And that God commanded that you, too, would not mourn – that you were to not show any outward signs of grief.

And you might wonder your whole life why… Why so much suffering, Lord? Why were we not allowed to grieve? 

Now imagine that after you died, and hundreds of years passed by, you were able to see the Son of God squeeze into human form and show God’s glory to your people. But in a horrible twist, He received an even more severe judgment than that of Jerusalem. Then you would know… that you shared in the sufferings of God.

God suffered as he watched his beloved Jerusalem burn to ashes – and he suffered as he watched his Son endure the shame and agony of a criminal’s cross. And Ezekiel suffered as his wife died and the exiles suffered in a foreign land knowing that their home was lost.

Have you ever wondered… “Why? Why so much suffering Lord?” In many ways, knowing that you share in the sufferings of God – answers the question “Why?” There is purpose for the pain. There always is.

Day 169: …that I may relent

Jeremiah 24-26; John 19:23-42

Key Verses

Jeremiah 26:3
“It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent.”

John 19:30
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

What a heavy passage. This is the fourth time I’ve had to write about Jesus’ death. I think John’s account is the saddest to me because John wrote as an eyewitness. He was the only disciple – that we know for certain – who was there, watching as Jesus died.

John’s description of Jesus’ mother standing by her son’s cross – it’s just heartbreaking. And Jesus’ care for his mother as he entrusts her to John is heart-wrenching.

John sprinkles evidence throughout his eyewitness account that everything happened according to Scripture…the division of Jesus’ garments, the soldiers casting lots, the offering of vinegar, the unbroken bones and the piercing of His side… they were all done in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.

Jeremiah 24-26 goes backward in time… he begins with Nebuchadnezzar taking one of the first groups of exiles back to Babylon. And then in Chapter 26, Jeremiah “flashbacks” to the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign where he stands in the temple and begs the people to repent so that God’s impending judgment might be averted. Listen to the people’s response…

And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

At first, it seems like Jeremiah might be killed by the same type of angry mob as Jesus was… But by God’s grace, the people came to their senses and determined not to kill Jeremiah – so that they might not “bring great disaster upon themselves.”

What is this world that we live in?

Have you ever wondered why God subjected Jeremiah to such hardship? Why did God even bother with the people??? God answers in Jeremiah 26:3, “It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent…”

All God wants is repentance. But the people refused to hear the truth. Their pride blinded them to their need for change.

Jesus died because of this pride – this hatred in every human heart for the truth. But Jesus also died to vanquish this pride and darkness found in every human heart.

Have you ever wondered why God subjected Jesus to such hardship? Why does God even bother with us??? God’s answer is the same as it was in Jer. 26:3:

“It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent.”

Day 168: A Righteous Branch

Jeremiah 21-23; John 19:1-22

Key Verses

Jeremiah 23:5-6
“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.'”

John 19:14-15
Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”

In Jeremiah 21, Jeremiah begins to jump around chronologically. He starts with Zedekiah, Israel’s last king and then goes backward to address Judah’s earlier kings.

Zedekiah was asking Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord, for Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was preparing to invade Jerusalem. It’s almost humorous to think Zedekiah thought God might give him a favorable message, for Jeremiah had been preaching destruction for years… starting in Josiah’s reign, (Judah’s last good king) and continuing through three generations after Josiah. Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz (Shallum), his son, Jehoiakim, and grandson, Jehoiachin (Coniah) were all evil kings. Jeremiah writes in Chapter 22 of all the ways they turned against the Lord.

At the end of Chapter 22, God says through Jeremiah,

“Write [Jehoiachin] down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days, for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah” (Jeremiah 22:30).

This presents a severe problem: Would God keep his promise of 2 Sam. 7:16, that David’s throne would endure forever? And if so, how?

God answers this question in today’s Key Verses, Jeremiah 23:5-6, where he promises that a “Branch” would save Judah. He would be called, “The Lord is our righteousness.”

This is one of several Messianic prophecies that promised a future king. It was these prophecies that the disciples misinterpreted to mean that the Messiah would rule as a political king. Imagine their confusion and despair as they heard the crowds chant, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” and saw the inscription on the cross that read, “King of the Jews.”

The irony was cruel. They couldn’t understand that Jesus came to be so much more than just a Jewish political king. He came as King of Heaven, establishing a new spiritual Kingdom over the entire earth.

Eventually, Jeremiah’s prophecy of a righteous Branch will be fulfilled in the new heaven and the new earth, when the Kingdom of God is established in the new earth forever! Until then, we live in the times between the “now” and “not yet” of prophecy. We have the benefit of hindsight combined with the mystery of the future. Just like the disciples, I’m sure God will fulfill His word in ways so wonderful that we could never imagine!!!

Day 132: Understanding

Proverbs 16-17; Luke 24:1-35

Key Verses

Luke 24:32
They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

Proverbs 16:16
How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.

Understanding. Jesus’ followers needed it. They needed it during the darkness of the Crucifixion and during the darkness of His burial. They needed understanding during the hours that passed – with all hope lost – in utter despair.

Understanding. The women didn’t understand when they came to the tomb Sunday morning. The angel asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Could it be? They didn’t understand. Not yet…

And Jesus – walking with the men on the road to Emmaus. Luke tells us that He opened the Scriptures to them – revealing from the Law and the Prophets that the Christ had to suffer and die. And then – their eyes were opened. And they understood.

Understanding. True understanding of the Scriptures – how Jesus is the culmination of all redemptive history – is a gift from God. A gift that should be valued over all this world can offer!

Day 131: Among the Crowds

Proverbs 13-15; Luke 23:44-56

Key Verses

Luke 23:48-49 (The Message)
All who had come around as spectators to watch the show, when they saw what actually happened, were overcome with grief and headed home. Those who knew Jesus well, along with the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a respectful distance and kept vigil.

What did the crowds see that caused them so much grief? Wasn’t this the same man about whom the crowds were shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” just a few hours before? It seems like they would have been pleased to see Him die. But instead, they went home, “beating their breasts (ESV).”

Imagine yourself there…in complete (inexplicable) darkness – with rumors circulating that the 4-inch-thick veil that guarded the Holy of Holies in the Temple had split in two. Impossible. That was impossible. And then your eyes would look on the man and you would know – just know that this man must have been innocent. And then the centurion said what you were thinking, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And hearing the words said aloud – you realize that they are absolutely, and horribly – true. And you think, “I have just killed an innocent man.”

I have just killed an innocent man. You don’t have to be a bystander in the crowd watching the crucifixion to relate to that statement. It’s true for all of us. Jesus died in the sinner’s place. Jesus died because of me. It’s a sobering fact. One that should be life changing…

Day 130: The Path of the Righteous

Proverbs 10-12; Luke 23:26-43

Key Verses

Luke 23:32, 40-43
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. The [criminal said,] “…we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Two convicts hung on either side of Jesus – one mocked and the other was accepted. Why? Proverbs gives us the answers…

The wise of heart will receive commandments,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin. 10:8

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
but he who rejects reproof leads others astray. 10:17

What the wicked dreads will come upon him,
but the desire of the righteous will be granted. 10:24

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom. 11:2

With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
but by knowledge the righteous are delivered. 11:9

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid. 12:1

The thoughts of the righteous are just;
the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. 12:5

In the path of righteousness is life,
and in its pathway there is no death. 12:28

There were two men dying next to Jesus. But one took responsibility for his sins and accepted his punishment as just. He was humble and teachable of heart. This man was counted righteous – not because of his gleaming record (he was a criminal!) but because of the humble state of his heart and his trust in the person of Jesus. God declared him righteous by His GRACE. The righteous man would live with Jesus in Paradise.

The book of Proverbs consistently teaches that those who receive reproof with teachable hearts are considered righteous – but those who despise reproof are fools. And so it is with the gospel, you have to know you’re a sinner to recognize your need for a Savior. Those righteous in their own eyes will perish.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).

Day 129: Wisdom and Folly

Proverbs 8-9; Luke 23:1-25

Key Verses

Proverbs 9:10
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

Luke 23:20-22
Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death.”

Wisdom and Folly…they are on full display in both of today’s passages. The contrast between Wisdom and Folly is a main theme of Proverbs. Listen to Wisdom…

Hear, for I will speak noble things,
and from my lips will come what is right,
for my mouth will utter truth;
wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are righteous;
there is nothing twisted or crooked in them (Proverbs 8:6-8).

Wisdom was with Jesus in the beginning as He created the world, and Wisdom was with Jesus as he endured Folly. This passage from Luke is filled with Folly. False accusations, gross injustice, cowardly leaders, and even “insurrection and murder.” Wisdom was found in only One person… His speech was noble and He only spoke the truth – and it was this Truth – that He was the Son of God, that incited the people to crucify Him. We see Him stand silently before his accusers, and we know that Wisdom was with Him.

Isn’t it beyond comprehension that God offers this same wisdom to us?

I, wisdom, love those who love me,
and those who seek me diligently find me.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 8:12,17 ,35)

We must seek diligently to find Wisdom. Where do we seek? We look to God’s Word and to Jesus. He is the embodiment of Wisdom, and it is Him we must seek.

Day 76: Blessings and Curses

Deuteronomy 27-28; Mark 15:21-47

Key Verses

Deuteronomy 28:3-6
Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

Mark 15:37-39
And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Blessings for obedience; Curses for disobedience. And the span between the two is wide.

Reading through Deuteronomy 28, I notice that the curses far outweigh the blessings. It’s like God knew that the people would one day walk away from Him. The curses seem to hit too close to home… the fruitlessness of labor, the fear of enemies, the battle with sickness and disease, the sense of purposelessness and anxiety.

We live in a fallen world. We desperately need a Savior. Someone to lift us up out of the mire and give us a purpose and hope. Someone to make sense of our suffering and pain. We need our minds opened to see life through an eternal lens – to know deeply – that our lives count for something – that we are worth something… that we are valuable.

Have you considered how Jesus’ death proves your worth to God? Read through today’s passage in Mark – and meditate on the death of our Lord – and know that He endured the cross to ransom a people. He endured the cross to save you from eternal curses.

His death guarantees that those who believe in His name –  to those that have been given the right to be called children of God – that they will receive eternal blessings! Read the first paragraph of Deuteronomy 28 and consider that these blessings are just a foretaste of the eternal blessings awaiting the believer in heaven!!

Day 45: The Deep, Deep Love of God

Leviticus 18-20; Matthew 27:32-66

Key Verses

Leviticus 20:26
You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

Matthew 27:50
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

I see God’s character ringing loudly through these chapters. I see the goal of restoring the world to its original creation design. I see compassion for the poor, reasonable dealings with others, jealousy for the worship of His people, a passion for purity and the grand plan to distinguish a people for His glory. And then we see the ultimate sacrifice… As God, himself dies to redeem his oh-so-lost-children.

And to think that I’ve doubted His goodness. And I’ve dared to doubt His love. Oh Lord, forgive me.

Day 303: The final chapters

Psalms 20-222 Timothy 1

All of today’s passages are so full and rich with God’s truths. Today is a day that I wish I had more time to explore these beautiful texts – but our goal is to read through the bible in a year – so we must soar through them. But as we soar, we can gain a bird’s-eye view – and amazingly, the entire scope of God’s redemptive history is revealed…

Psalms 20-21 are a pair of Psalms that celebrate the kingdom of Israel. The people offer prayers and praise in Psalm 20 for their king. And in Psalm 21, king David responds with thanksgiving to God for answering the prayers of the people.

Israel…she was the initial fulfillment of God’s Covenant promises to Abraham – that he would establish a nation through which all the nations of the earth would be blessed. David was God’s chosen king, a man after His own heart – that pointed forward to the Forever King, the promised descendent of David – who would usher in God’s eternal Kingdom on earth.

The lives of David and Jesus overlap in a most poignant way in Psalm 22. David’s Psalm describes an “innocent sufferer” and somehow, Jesus fulfills every detail of this Psalm in His crucifixion. Matthew’s crucifixion account, especially, makes special reference to this Psalm…

For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots (Psalm 22:16-18).

Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, our salvation has been secured. Jesus is the promised seed of Abraham through which all the nations will be blessed. And Jesus is the prophesied “Branch of Jesse” that will restore God’s Kingdom on the earth.

Which leads us to 2 Timothy. The setting for 2 Timothy is a prison where Paul is awaiting execution. Commentators believe that Paul was imprisoned in Rome after a 4th missionary journey not recorded in Acts. 2 Timothy is Paul’s last known letter before he was martyred.

The tone of 2 Timothy is warm and fatherly as he gives Timothy final instructions and encouragement before he dies. What a treasure! Paul writes…

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:8-9).

This is our calling as well. As we wait for the return of our Lord to usher in the final fulfillment of all God’s Covenant promises, we are to share in the suffering of Christ for the gospel! Our lives are part of God’s redemptive history. We are living in the final chapters before the return of Christ!

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:6-7).