Day 174: Two Sermons

Jeremiah 36-37; Acts 2:14-47

Key Verses

Jeremiah 36:3
It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

Acts 2:37-38
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Both of today’s readings contain sermons – which resulted in two very different responses…

In Jeremiah, we learn that Jeremiah had been banned from the temple grounds. So he dictated his message to his faithful friend, Baruch, who wrote down on a scroll God’s message to the people. Baruch went to the temple and read the scroll which gave an account of the people’s sins and called them to repent so that the Lord’s judgment might be averted. God, himself, wanted the message preached so that He “may forgive their iniquity and their sin.

Amazingly, this scroll found its way to the king. Surely, as the scroll was read in his presence, the fear of the Lord would cause him to repent and lead the people back to God! But no. Jehoiakim’s heart was hardened…

As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot (Jeremiah 36:23).

The king had no fear of God. His pride ensured the destruction of Jerusalem.

Now let’s consider Peter’s sermon from Acts 2.

Peter’s sermon was remarkable. The Holy Spirit opened his eyes to see how Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He quoted Joel and David. He used logic to prove that Jesus was the Messiah mentioned in David’s 16th Psalm. And after he proved that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, he accused the people of killing him!

This wasn’t some sweet “come to Jesus” message. No! He accused the crowd of murdering the Son of God! I’m surprised there wasn’t a riot. But the Spirit was at work and the crowd was “cut to the heart.” Amazing. They didn’t make excuses or get defensive. They didn’t try to kill Peter or the other disciples, but they actually took responsibility for their sin and asked, “What shall we do?”

What should they do? What should have the king of Judah done when he heard the warnings in Baruch’s scroll? What should we do when we feel the prick of conviction – when we know we’ve done something offensive to God? What is the one thing that God has desired in every human heart going all the way back to Adam? Repentance. This can only be done through the power of the Spirit. In other words, we need God’s help to repent.

As we turn to God, he is pleased to help. God loves the penitent heart!

What was the result of the people’s repentance after Peter’s sermon? 3,000 people were baptized that day! The first church began and it was characterized by self-sacrifice and generous giving to others. The repentance of the crowd changed the course of human history!

Imagine what God could do through us today – if we humble ourselves, and repent?

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 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 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 156: From death to life

2 Kings 24-25; John 11:18-44

Key Verses

2 Kings 24:11-13
And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to the city while his servants were besieging it, and Jehoiachin the king of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself and his mother and his servants and his officials and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign and carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord, which Solomon king of Israel had made, as the Lord had foretold.

John 11:25-27
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Today we read of the death of Judah. We read of the siege, the hunger that ensured, the slaughter and the exile. We read of the burning of the Temple and the lists of all of the temple furnishings carried away by the Babylonians to be sold as scrap metal.

It was all destroyed… The city of David, Solomon’s Temple – Jerusalem in all its glory was abandoned and smoldering. Would there ever be hope again? All that remained was grief and the hell of living in exile.

What happened to the promise to David made back in 2 Samuel 7:16, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” Did God break his promise?

We know the answer. The author of 2 Kings ends the book with a glimmer of hope – the news that King Jehoiachin still lived – and within him lived the seed of David – the seed of the Promised One – the seed of Jesus.

Jesus came and taught us that the way to life is through death. This is the way of the Kingdom of God… “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). This is God’s work – to defeat the power of sin and to bring life out of death.

Even in Jerusalem’s darkest hour – as she smoldered and sat desolate – there was hope. For “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap” (Psalm 113:7).

Jesus, showed his power over death as he raised Lazarus from the grave. He asks us the same question he asked of Lazarus’ sister, Martha…

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

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, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah
  • 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 149: Prophet, Priest, & King

2 Kings 4-5; John 8:21-36

Key Verses

2 Kings 4:42-44
And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.'” So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

John 8:34, 36
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. …So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

In the Old Testament, God used prophets to communicate His truth and demonstrate His power.

Today we read of Elisha continuing the ministry of Elijah. God worked through Elisha to heal, give provision and bring life from death. Elisha was God’s mouthpiece as he persistently demonstrated that God, alone, was God of Israel.

In the New Testament, God sent His Son to fulfill the role of Prophet, Priest, and King.

As we read through the Pentateuch, we saw how Jesus perfectly fulfilled every point of the Law and the Sacrificial System. He is our High Priest – opening the way to the Father.

In the gospels, we see that Jesus is the ultimate Prophet, communicating truth and demonstrating God’s power. In today’s reading, Jesus continues to speak the words of the Father to the people, and through His words, he reveals that He is also the King.

Only a King has the authority to free slaves, and Jesus has this authority. But once again, as He is speaking, the people misunderstand Him. They interpret him literally and argue that they are not enslaved.

But they were enslaved. Everyone is a slave, spiritually. We are slaves to sin. And we need the King, not just of this world, but the King of Heaven and Earth to set us free from the bondage of sin.

Jesus, our Prophet, Priest, and King, gives us freedom. And we are free indeed!

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

Day 143: Give me Jesus

1 Kings 12-13; John 6:1-21

Key Verses

1 Kings 12:16
And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.”

John 6:21
But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

Today we read of the division of Israel into two separate nations: Judah and Israel. Israel rejects king Solomon’s son Rehoboam so Judah splits away from Israel and becomes a separate nation. The line of David stands alone in Judah with his own kinsmen.

There is a stark contrast between the kings described in 1 Kings – and The King depicted in John…

First, we read of Rehoboam, Son of Solomon and king of Judah, threatening “a heavier yoke” and “discipline of scorpions” to the people. Whereas we see Jesus being followed by large numbers because of his kindness to the sick. Jesus doesn’t “lord over” the crowds with cruelty, rather He feeds them, generously, and blesses them.

Then there is Jeroboam, king of Israel, who created his own religion to further separate Israel from Judah. God sends a prophet to destroy his new altars as a sign of His Power. Jesus… walks on water and shows his power over creation as he calms the storm in John 6:16-21.

Who are these kings? Besides having names that rhyme, they are power-hungry fools. They are the very antithesis of Jesus – and their arrogant cruelty brings God’s judgment on the people. My response to reading about these kings is… “Give me Jesus.” -Fernando Ortega

In the morning, when I rise… give me Jesus.
You can have all this world. Give me Jesus.

And when I am alone…give me Jesus.
You can have all this world. Give me Jesus.

And when I come to die…give me Jesus.
You can have all this world. Give me Jesus. -Fernando Ortega

Day 140: Glory Over All the Earth

1 Kings 5-7; John 4:31-54

Key Verses

1 Kings 5:5
“And so I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to David my father, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.'”

John 4:
They said to the [Samaritan] woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

The last time we read of Solomon in 1 Kings, he had been given incomparable wisdom, so much so that “people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard his wisdom” (1 Kings 4:34).

Solomon’s treaty with King Hiram of Tyre is another example of how Solomon’s wisdom affected the world. And the world would watch as Solomon used the finest material to build two houses… one for God and one for himself.

Solomon’s glorious temple may have made the people wonder… Is Solomon the promised King that will establish God’s Kingdom on the earth forever? It is true that the glory and power of Israel were at its highest under King Solomon’s rule, but Solomon was not to be the Forever King. Solomon’s heart was divided (1 Kings 7:1). And ultimately, his divided heart would bring about the division of Israel.

We know that it was the humble carpenter’s son that was destined to be the Forever King – not just of Israel – but of the world. Remember John 3:16? How God so loved the world? We see Jesus blessing the world in these last few chapters of John…

In John 3, we saw Jesus teach a Jewish leader how to be born again to gain eternal life. In the beginning of John 4, we saw Jesus teach a Samaritan woman how to “never thirst again” through the living water. He stayed two more days and many more Samaritans believed in Him. In the final verses of John 4, we see Jesus heal a Gentile centurion’s son.

Jesus started with the Jewish nation, and then reached out to the surrounding areas – and then finally stretched his blessing to all the earth.

Although Solomon’s temple was glorious, it was only temporary. Jesus is forever.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

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 137: Hope for the Sinner

Proverbs 26-27; John 3:1-21

Key Verses

Proverbs 26:12
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Nicodemus. If any man were to be wise in his own eyes, it could have been him. Firstly, he was a Pharisee. Pharisees were the respected religious leaders of the Jews. They were notoriously pious. Jesus was constantly berating them for their hypocrisy.

If being a Pharisee wasn’t enough, Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin… the elite ruling body of the Jews. In other words, he was the elite of the elite.

But Nicodemus wasn’t a fool. He was smart enough to recognize that Jesus possessed power and knowledge that he did not have. Nicodemus humbled himself and sought Jesus by night.

It is in this context that we find the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16. It is one of the clearest statements of the gospel in all of Scripture. But to whom was Jesus speaking? He was speaking to a religious man who knew he didn’t have all the answers. He was speaking to a respected man who knew the darkness of his own heart. Nicodemus was not wise in his own eyes. He sought the Savior. In John 7:51, we read how he defended the Savior and at the end, Nicodemus helped to bury the Savior (19:39).

Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus, the Pharisee, what His purpose was… Whereas the Pharisees acted the role of a judge to the Jews – creating rules and handing out condemnation – “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Jesus came into the world to save a man like Nicodemus – not because he was religious – but in spite of it. He saved Nicodemus because Nicodemus knew he needed to be saved! 

John 3:16 is for the humble. John 3:16 is for the lowly. John 3:16 is for the sinner.