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 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 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 153: The Door

2 Kings 15-17; John 10:1-21

Key Verses

2 Kings 17:22-23
The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.

John 10:11
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

2 Kings 17 is the culmination of all of God’s warnings. Samaria was captured, the people were carried away, and Israel fell to Assyria. The people broke the Covenant. They failed to walk in the law outlined in the Pentateuch. And all of the curses described in Deuteronomy 28 came to pass…

The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young. (Deut. 28:49-50).

They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land. And they shall besiege you in all your towns throughout all your land, which the Lord your God has given you (Deut. 28:52).

And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. And among these nations you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the Lord will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul (Deut. 28:64-65).

Israel’s judgment came after hundreds of “second chances.” God longed for his people to repent. They chose to walk away, and they experienced his wrath.

It is true that God is holy and should be feared. But He is also fiercely loving, merciful and kind. We know this because of the person of Jesus. We find him today inviting us into a saving relationship. He is the Door – the only way to a right relationship with God. He is the Good Shepherd, and He cares for his sheep.

God doesn’t require perfect adherence to his laws to enter through the Door. Rather, He requires only that we know that we can’t keep the law perfectly and that the only “work” we can offer Him is our humble need to be saved.

He still longs for repentance. He sent His son to show us the depths of his love for us. He is patient, long-suffering and kind. Yet people continue to walk away. The Door is there – and grace and forgiveness are waiting for those who humbly enter…

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9).

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
  • 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 152: Floods of Mercy

2 Kings 11-14

Key Verses

2 Kings 13:22-23
Now Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence until now.

As I read through these chapters in 2 Kings, I’m struck by the long-suffering patience of God. After almost 300 years of being independent of Judah, there has not been one king of Israel that did “right” in the eyes of the Lord. Even Jehu, who demolished Baal worship, “was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of  Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin” (2 Kings 10:31).

But God continued to show mercy… continued to wait for repentance. Consider the example from today’s Key Verses: “The Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them.” God seemed to give Israel every chance to repent. He waited and waited and interceded and sent Elijah and waited and sent Elisha and waited and waited some more. But in the end, Israel did not repent, and Israel would be destroyed.

God’s mercy to Israel reminds me of a quote from Charles Spurgeon…

Slow to anger. He can be angry, and can deal out righteous indignation upon the guilty, but it is his strange work; he lingers long, with loving pauses, tarrying by the way to give space for repentance and opportunity for accepting his mercy. Thus he deals with the greatest sinners, and with his own children much more so: towards them his anger is short-lived and never reaches into eternity, and when it is shown in fatherly chastisements he does not afflict willingly, and soon pities their sorrows.

From this we should learn to be ourselves slow to anger; if the Lord is longsuffering under out great provocations how much more ought we to endure the errors of our brethren! And plenteous in mercy. Rich in it, quick in it, overflowing with it; and so had he need to be or we should soon be consumed. He is God, and not man, or our sins would soon drown his love; yet above the mountains of our sins the floods of his mercy rise.

– taken from The Treasury of David (Psalm 103:8)

Yet above the mountains of our sins the floods of mercy rise. Beautiful. Both the truth and the words… are beautiful!

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)
  • Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (or Joram, son of Ahab), Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II

Day 147: The River

1 Kings 21-22; John 7:32-53

Key Verses

John 7:37-38
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”

I love today’s New Testament passage. It characterizes the discourses found in John…

Typically, Jesus communicates a spiritual truth, and the people misunderstand Him because they try to apply His words to the physical world. In today’s reading, Jesus is speaking of his death and says, “Where I am, you cannot come.” His audience interprets Him literally. They wonder where he could go that they could never follow. They completely misunderstand. In some ways, it’s humorous. In other ways, it’s tragic.

I wonder if they understood the symbolism when Jesus stood on the last day of the Feast of Booths and declared, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” The Jews celebrated the Feast of Booths to commemorate the way God provided for them in the wilderness after they had been delivered from Egypt. The Israelites would not have survived their desert wanderings without God’s consistent provision of water and food. Consequently, water was a key symbol of the celebration of the Feast of Booths. And here we see Jesus, standing on the last day of the feast, declaring that He is the Living Water – the source of all life. What a powerful picture!

What was the people’s response? Some believed, some did not. It is the same today… Some come humbly and repent and others walk away, unchanged.

As I’ve studied the Bible this year, I’ve been struck by one truth that weaves its way through both the Old and New Testaments. God desires repentance, and when the sinner repents, He forgives.

This forgiveness is offered to anyone. Even to Ahab, the evilest king to ever rule Israel, ever. Seriously, he was The. Most. Evil. King. in all of Israel’s history. In today’s passage from 1 Kings 21, Ahab repents, and God relents…

And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house” (1 Kings 21:28-29).

God’s offer of grace and forgiveness extends beyond our comprehension. He doesn’t just offer to quench our thirst – He offers “rivers of living water.” More grace and forgiveness and life than we could ever imagine! He is the river, and He invites us to come and to drink.

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

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 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 128: Teachable and Gracious

Proverbs 6-7; Luke 22:54-71

Key Verses

Proverbs 7:6-7
For at the window of my house
I have looked out through my lattice,
and I have seen among the simple,
I have perceived among the youths,
a young man lacking sense,

Luke 22:61-62
And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

There is a family in our church that seems especially wise – and accessible. The dad has used Proverbs 7 to teach his boys the dangers of sexual temptation. The chapter begins… “I have seen among the simple…” And the chapter continues to describe the actions of a foolish young man who chooses to seek out the adulteress instead of abiding by the clear instruction of 5:8 to “keep your way from her, and do not go near the door of her house.”

The dad and his boys keep each other accountable with a single phrase… “I have seen among the simple.” And when any of them speak this phrase – they know they are in danger of acting unwisely.

This is the way of community. Transparent accountability to one another with the promise of grace when we fail (because failure is inevitable).

We see this type of relationship between Jesus and Peter. In Luke 22:61, Jesus looks at Peter after he has denied Him for the third time. And Peter knows. He remembers Jesus’ prediction. He remembers his haughty recourse, and Peter crumbles under the weight of his sin. Jesus held Peter accountable for his actions, and Peter was teachable. He did not forsake Jesus’ reproof but wept with a repentant heart.

We know from the end of John, that Jesus forgives and restores Peter. Jesus is able to hold Peter accountable, but when Peter fails, He gives him grace.

We are called to be in this type of relationship. Whether it’s between a father and his sons, or between friends, or between an older and younger woman – we need someone to hold us accountable and to be gracious when we fail.

The obedient life is a difficult road – one we cannot hope to travel alone. Find a traveling companion – and get ready to be teachable and gracious. And rest together in the sufficiency of the Savior!

Day 122: A King’s Prayer

2 Samuel 21-22; Psalm 18

Key Verses

Psalm 18:46-50
The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
who delivered me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you rescued me from the man of violence.
For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.

Psalm 18 is adapted from David’s personal prayer recorded in 2 Samuel 22. Therefore, the two chapters are almost identical.

David’s prayer reveals both a deep personal relationship with God as well as an understanding of God’s character and ways. It is encouraging to note that despite David’s great sin, his repentance and dependence on God have kept him close to the Almighty.

God is merciful and will accept the penitent sinner who calls on Him in faith…just as He accepted David.

David understood that the Kingship was an undeserved gift of God. He was absolutely dependent on God for deliverance from his enemies, and he gave God all the credit for his victories.

David knew that he experienced all of life directly from the hand of God. We are no different. We also must depend on God for all of our earthly successes – and for the will to persevere through our failures. Ultimately, we should cry out with David…

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies (Psalm 18:1-3).