Day 162: Saved from the Last Day

Jeremiah 7-8; John 14

Key Verses

Jeremiah 8:18-19
My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick within me.
Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”

John 14:26-27
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah grieves over the hard-heartedness of his people.

In the New Testament, the disciples worry when Jesus says he’s going away. Thomas and Philip quiz Jesus. They ask him to show them where He is going. They just don’t understand.

In the Old Testament, God berates the people for worshipping in the temple with hearts void of devotion.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? (Jeremiah 7:9-10)

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches the disciples that obedience is evidence of devotion to the Father:

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him (John 14:21).

In the Old Testament, God promises Judgment: Utter destruction of Jerusalem.

In the New Testament, Jesus prepares to receive the Judgment.

We are no better than the people of Jeremiah’s day. Look no further than Jesus’ crucifixion for evidence that we also deserve Judgement.

One difference is that we have the Helper (John 14:26), the promised Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives in us and convicts us of the Truth and empowers us to repent. We still have the choice to obey or disobey – but the Spirit also works to sanctify our character so that we are better able to obey.

There will be another Judgment. The Final Judgment on the Last Day. A far greater Judgment than Jeremiah wept over in the final verses of Chapter 8… And here’s the truth, I deserve that Judgment. Yet, because of the gracious, loving-kindness of God – He poured out judgment on His Son instead of me. I don’t understand that kind of love, but I’m grateful for it.

Behold the man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulder
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

-2nd verse from “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” by Stuart Townend

How Deep the Father’s Love For Us

Day 161: Motivated by Love

Jeremiah 5-6; John 13:21-38

Key Verses

Jeremiah 5:1
Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
look and take note!
Search her squares to see
if you can find a man,
one who does justice
and seeks truth,
that I may pardon her.

John 13:34-35
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jeremiah 5-6 concludes a series of sermons Jeremiah probably gave during Josiah’s reign (3:6). Chapter 5 opens with God asking Jeremiah to find one man who does justice – one man who seeks truth – so that He might pardon him. And Jeremiah can’t. The people are so absolutely corrupt that not one person could be found. God laments…

How can I pardon you?
Your children have forsaken me
and have sworn by those who are no gods.
When I fed them to the full,
they committed adultery
and trooped to the houses of whores.
They were well-fed, lusty stallions,
each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.
Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the Lord;
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this? (Jeremiah 5:7-9).

God desires to pardon his people – but what good would that serve? When he blesses them, they despise him. Even in judgment, there is grace, for God could never utterly destroy his people. God says twice in these chapters that he would destroy but “not make a full end” (5:10; 18). He will preserve a remnant. A remnant of people from whom the Promised One would come.

The Promised One… Jesus, betrayed by his own disciple. Jesus, abandoned by his closest friends in his darkest hour. Jesus, taking the punishment for our apostate selves, accomplished what Israel could not – perfect obedience motivated by love for the Father.

Not motivated by duty, or self-preservation – but by love.

God sent Babylon to destroy Judah because he loved them. God sent his only son to die on our behalf because he loves us. Even Jeremiah was motivated by love – love for God and love for his brethren.

Jesus – in the face of betrayal – gave his disciples a “new” commandment – a commandment to love as Christ has loved.

How does Jesus love us? Not in a sweet, sentimental way – but in a sacrificial – other seeking – sort of way. This is the sort of love God calls us to. This was the sort of love Jeremiah was called to. And even though we are not called to be prophets as Jeremiah was, we are called to love our neighbor sacrificially… so the world will see – that the world might be saved!

…Now if I could only practice what I write! Lord, help me to love others as you love me. Please pry my eyes off of myself and help me see the broken and lost – and give me compassion – and the grace to love them well.

Day 160: A Humble King

Jeremiah 3-4; John 13:1-20

Key Verses

Jeremiah 3:12-13
“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the Lord;
I will not be angry forever.
Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you rebelled against the Lord your God.'”

John 13:3-5
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Servitude. Is that a characteristic you would expect from God? This is the same God that spoke the world into existence. Are we to expect the mighty, sovereign, all-powerful God to be a servant?

According to traditional Jewish teachings, Jesus, the Messiah, was not supposed to come into the world to wash people’s feet and then die. No. That was a servant’s job. That was a criminal’s job. That was not the Messiah’s job.

But was it? The people didn’t understand this crucial part of God’s character… humble servitude.

What motivated Jesus to wash the dusty feet of his disciples? Humility. It was also humility that motivated God to condescend to the stiff-necked Israelites. In today’s passage from Jeremiah, most of Chapter 3 was God’s invitation to exiled Israel to repent and be forgiven. After all of the Baal worship, child sacrifice, and faithless living, God was still willing to forgive the penitent heart. We do not serve a Haughty God. No! We serve a Humble King.

Where is their room for pride in the presence of this God? His sheer power should cause us to tremble in fear. But his humility causes us to wonder – and to repent – and… to worship.

Humble King

Day 159: The Final Prophet

Jeremiah 1-2; John 12:20-50

Key Verses

Jeremiah 1:18-19
“And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”

John 12:23-25
And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

We begin Jeremiah today and will spend the next 23 days in this book, the longest book in the Bible!

Jeremiah prophesied during the most tumultuous period of Judah’s history. He began his ministry halfway through the reign of Judah’s last good king, Josiah. Jeremiah continued prophesying through the reigns of Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. These last evil kings of Judah looked to Egypt and Assyria to save them from the dominant Babylon. We know from our readings from 2 Kings, that God gave them over to the Babylonians as his judgment for their apostasy. Jeremiah was God’s mouthpiece during this grievous period.

We read of Jeremiah’s calling in Chapter 1… God’s sovereignty is center stage as he tells Jeremiah in vs. 5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Consider the weight of Jeremiah’s calling. He was to preach against sin to a hard-hearted people. He was to warn of the impending judgment. And mixed throughout the prophecies of judgment, were promises of hope and renewal.

In his role as a prophet, Jeremiah was a precursor to Christ.

In John 12, Jesus was not delivering messages of judgment – but preparing to receive the judgment on our behalf…a judgment so great that he asked to be saved from it…

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? (John 12:27)

He endured the cross willingly for our sake! He rescues us from the judgment of the last day. His great love compels us toward obedience, and He is our hope and source of renewal! He is the Final Prophet – setting us free from the power of sin and death!

Day 154: Secure

2 Kings 18-20; John 10:22-42

Key Verses

2 Kings 19:15, 19
And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. […] So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.”

John 10:27-29
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

As believers in Christ, our eternity with God is secure. This is a Truth that makes me marvel… Jesus promises in today’s New Testament passage that no one can snatch us out of His hand!

Today’s Key Verse from the book of John is dripping with theology. The source of understanding, faith, and eternal life is God himself. We are powerless to gain eternal life – it is God’s gift to His sheep. If we are powerless to earn it, we are also powerless to lose it. God is our assurance of life eternal!

Hezekiah’s story in 2 Kings illustrates the theology of Jesus’ words.

Where was Hezekiah’s security? As Jerusalem was surrounded by the great Assyrian army and King Sennacherib shouted his threats of destruction, where did Hezekiah turn? Did he trust in his own strength or wisdom? No. He humbled himself and went to the house of the Lord.

The Lord delivered Hezekiah and the city of Jerusalem from the hand of the Assyrian king.

God also delivers his children from the snares of sin and sets them safely upon the rock of salvation! He has delivered me, and I am beyond grateful!

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)
  • 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 138: Increasing & Decreasing

Proverbs 28-29; John 3:22-36

Key Verses

Proverbs 29:23
One’s pride will bring him low,
but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

John 3:36
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

John the Baptist was not a prideful man. He didn’t aspire to greatness. He didn’t want accolades. He lived in the wilderness, dressed strangely, and ate a poor man’s diet. He understood his role. He was to prepare the way for the King.

When Jesus came, John knew. He must decrease so that the Son might increase. His role was complete. He fulfilled his mission, and God was honored.

John the Baptist was honored because of his place in the redemptive story of Jesus. He had no idea that millions of people would learn of his humble obedience through the gospels. In the same way, we have a place in God’s redemptive story. We have been adopted as His children. We are part of His family.

This is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is where we find the strength to decrease so that He might increase… This is our hope. This is our life!

Day 133: Disbelieving for Joy!

Proverbs 18-19; Luke 24:36-53

Key Verses

Luke 24:39-41
And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”

Jesus appears to his disciples and proves to them that he is flesh and blood – not a spirit. They touch him. He eats. And they marvel.

“Disbelieved for joy.” Imagine if someone told you that you had just won $5 million? Or if you or your wife had been infertile for years, and at a regular checkup, she learns that she’s pregnant? You would wonder if it could really be true. It would just seem too good to be true! …Or if a man offered to take the punishment for your sins by dying in your place – and then rose from the dead??!!

Sometimes I think the gospel is too good to be true. And the idea that God will make a new heaven and a new earth and we will get to live in perfect communion with God and each other for all eternity. Well… that seems too good to be true, too! I understand how the disciples felt. I resonate with “Disbelieving for joy.”

But it is this hope that gives us the strength to persevere through this difficult world. And it is God’s grace that gives our hearts and minds understanding into the gospel – and all the joy that it contains…and we dare to hope that it’s true. And we marvel. :)

Day 364: The Goal of Prophecy

Zechariah 12-14Revelation 21

As I have read (and read and read) in daily preparation for this blog, one statement about the purpose of prophecy resonated with me. It resonated so deeply that I copied and pasted it (in bold) in a place on my computer that I see everyday. So, each day I am reminded of this goal of prophecy… Unfortunately, I have no idea from where I copied it, and for fear of plagiarizing, I have never shared it. But I think I will today:

The goal of prophecy, more than simply telling the future, is the moral formation of God’s people (Source unknown).

Zechariah’s prophecies are astounding.

  • He predicts with precision Jesus’ regal entrance to Jerusalem on a donkey (9:9).
  • He predicts the piercing of the Messiah and the depth of the mourning after His death (12:10-14).
  • He predicts that from the blood of the cross, there would come forgiveness for sins (13:1).
  • He predicts the scattering of the disciples upon Jesus’ arrest and trial (13:7).
  • He predicts the refining of the church through the means of persecution (13:9).
  • He predicts the great number of Gentiles who would turn to Christ in repentance and faith (14:16).
  • And finally, he looks forward to the day when the restoration of Israel should be so complete that even common goods are deemed holy and nothing can be defiled (14:20-21).

Wow. Could the people of Zechariah’s day have predicted the future based on Zechariah’s prophecies? I don’t think so. It’s much easier for us to interpret his words with the luxury of hindsight! So what was the purpose of Zechariah’s prophecies for his contemporaries? Zechariah spoke for the “moral formation of God’s people.” The exiles would have been comforted that God was sovereign and would judge the nations, and they would be challenged to live their lives in a manner worthy of their coming King.

Similarly, the book of Revelation is written for our “moral formation.” John is instructed to record the vision in order to encourage the suffering church to “overcome.” We learn through visions that God is in complete control. He has “sealed” his people so we are protected from His judgment! We see the final defeat of evil and we are encouraged by the future that awaits!

Are we supposed to be able to predict the future with precise detail using the book of Revelation? Absolutely not! But we can read it with the anticipation of our future home and let it motivate us to overcome the trials and temptations of this world. Why? Because we can be sure of our GLORIOUS inheritance recorded in Revelation 21!

Savor the images of this chapter! Notice that the sea of separation has been removed! The Lord Jesus, himself, is the temple and the source of light! See the beauty of Jerusalem – which is symbolic of God’s people – perfectly measured and protected for that day. This is our inheritance! Don’t let the purpose of John’s visions fall on deaf ears.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! 

May John’s visions transform us and propel us toward Christ. May they motivate us to persevere, endure and overcome!!!

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 348: The Scroll & The Lamb

Joel 1-3Revelation 5

Revelation 5 opens with a question…

Who has the authority to open the scroll??

Jesus is the only one who can open the scroll. He is the Lion of Judah (Gen 49:9) and the Root of David (Isa. 11:1,10; Jer. 23:5-6). He is slain lamb who was foreshadowed by both the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12) and Isaiah’s suffering servant (Isaiah 53). Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, came and stood in the center of the throne and took the scroll from God.

What is the importance of the scroll??

Dr. Paul Gardner gives this answer, “As we shall see later, the content of the scroll concerns God’s whole plan of salvation and judgment for this earth from the cross through to the final culmination of his purposes in the new heavens and the new earth.”

He goes on to say,

“This lamb, with all the marks of his death upon him, is in fact standing and has the great figures of heaven in attendance. The lamb has horns indicating his strength and power, and his eyes are looking everywhere as his Spirit searches out his people, saving them and protecting them.” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 84).

John’s description of Jesus in the throne room of God is a visual representation of the gospel!! And if John’s descriptions of Jesus weren’t enough to convince you of His divinity, the response of those within the heavenly throne room prove without a doubt, that Jesus is Divine. For as Revelation 4 culminated in the worship of the Father, so does Revelation 5 end with the worship of both the Father and the Son.

This is the backdrop of the appalling judgment to be described in the scrolls. Judgment comes only to those who refuse the sacrifice of the Lamb – who was judged in our stead. Judgment comes to vindicate the suffering church – who suffers for the glory of the Son!

The book of Joel describes a final judgment day, “the day of the Lord,” when Jesus will come to judge the earth (Joel 2:1-11). Joel describes God’s judgment in all its terror and pleads with the people to repent – for God relents when His people repent!!

For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome;
who can endure it?

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster (Joel 2:11-13).

Joel ends his book with the promise that God will use the final judgment upon the earth to avenge the blood of His Son and His people (Joel 3:21). Woe to the one who is not covered by the blood of the Lamb! Although we long for Christ’s return, we take comfort in His delay and pray earnestly for those we love to enter the fold of Christ!

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 333: The Trustworthiness of God’s Word

Psalm 119:105-176; 1 Peter 5

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:10).

Consider the magnitude of this promise…

God will restore you.

God will confirm you.

God will strengthen you.

God will establish you.

These are huge promises. God always keeps his promises. These things will happen. When will they happen? After we have suffered a little while and God has called us to eternal glory. Delayed gratification…this is the life of faith!

But as we’ve studied God’s word every day for almost a year, one thing is clear. God is trustworthy. His word is trustworthy. His prophesies are true. His word is true. Our job is to trust and wait and obey!

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to keep your righteous rules.
I incline my heart to perform your statutes
forever, to the end (Psalm 119:105-106; 112).