Day 213: A Great Purpose & Work

2 Chronicles 1-3; Acts 26

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 2:12
Hiram also said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, who has discretion and understanding, who will build a temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself.”

Acts 26:22-23
To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

A Great Work typically flows from a Great Purpose…

Consider Solomon, ruler of Israel in its most prosperous time. He describes the people of Israel as “numerous as the dust of the earth.” Solomon prays for wisdom to rule such a large people. And then he gets to work building the temple. This is his great purpose – to build a house for God. Solomon understands the weight of the work when he says,

But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him? (2 Chronicles 2:6).

Solomon was given a Great Purpose and the privilege of a Great Work.

In Acts 26, we read of Paul’s testimony to the Palestinian king, Agrippa. How is it that Paul is standing before the king of Palestine?? Two years ago, the Jews created such a riot in the temple that the Roman tribune had to arrest Paul. And to save Paul from their conspiracy to kill him, Paul was sent to the Roman governor (first Felix, and now Festus) who lived on the coast in Caesarea.

Think of how God has used the false charges created by the Jews… Paul has been able to testify to the resurrection of Jesus to a Roman tribune, two Roman governors and now the king of Palestine! This two-year “interruption” has been used to bring the gospel to the highest ranking officials in the land!!

Jesus had given Paul a Great Purpose on the road to Damascus. Listen to His words:

I am sending you [to your people and to the Gentiles] to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Acts 26:17).

His purpose was to open their eyes to the gospel of truth – to testify to the death & resurrection of Jesus. Paul’s great purpose led him to do a great work! Just as Solomon built the temple of God, Paul worked to build the temple of the New Testament… he worked to build the church.

Two men. Two great purposes and Two great works.

Which leads me to ask…. What is your purpose? And what is your great work? Not all of us are called to build the house of God or plant churches in distant lands – but all of us have been given a Great Purpose.

Whether a missionary or a box maker, a CEO or a janitor, we are all called to work in a way that gives God glory. This is our purpose – to glorify the God of the universe in all that we say and do!

We have been given a Great Purpose. We have been given the Holy Spirit to equip us to carry out a Great Work! The question is… are you willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to do the Great Work that God has prepared for you? 

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Day 209: The Substitute

1 Chronicles 20-22

Key Verses

1 Chronicles 21:17
Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.

1 Chronicles 21:26-27
And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.

1 Chronicles 20 continues from the previous two chapters to show how David’s military victories prepared the way for Solomon’s peace and prosperity.

Chapter 21 recounts events from 2 Samuel 24… It’s a powerful story of sin, repentance, and redemption. David sinned by demanding a census and God sent a great plague on Israel as punishment for David’s sin. Then God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem.

Let’s think about this… Didn’t God just promise David that his son would build Him a house and He would establish his rule forever??!! Now God is about to destroy the “City of David.” It seems as if God’s covenant promise is in jeopardy because of David’s pride. 

God gave David the ability to see the angel “standing between heaven and earth and in his hand a sword stretched out over Jerusalem.” David realized that his sin had put all the promises of God at risk. He fell to his face and cried out to God…

Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people (1 Chronicles 21:17).

God did relent and spare Jerusalem…But – there had to be a substitute – something to receive the punishment intended for Jerusalem.

This story harkens back to Abraham lifting the knife over the body of Isaac – just in time, God provided a ram.

In this case, God commanded David to build an altar and offer a sacrifice at a specific place. The sacrifice would be the substitute.

And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath (1 Chronicles 21:26-27).

David’s repentance led to God’s relentance (yes, I just made up that word :)

But consider this detail in the text… In order to build that altar, David had to buy the land on which to build it. This piece of land would be the site of Solomon’s temple. Because of David’s repentance, God orchestrated the circumstances by which David bought the plot of land on which the future temple would be built.

Somehow, God redeemed a genuinely repentant heart and brought about a greater and more powerful good.

This story not only points back to Abraham and Isaac but points forward to God’s only Son. There must be a substitute. Our sin demands it. But thankfully… God’s goodness overrules our sinfulness!

Day 206: A Costly Misstep

1 Chronicles 12-13; Acts 21:1-14

Key Verses

1 Chronicles 13:7-8
And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets.

Acts 21:13
Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Chapter 13 begins the saga of returning the ark to Jerusalem. This act was significant because all Israel agreed to it (continuing the theme from chapters 10-12 of David unifying the nation), and it was an act of spiritual renewal. By bringing the symbol of God’s holy presence back into the assembly of the people, David was acting as both their military and spiritual leader.

The idea was great, but, unfortunately, the execution was poor… David did not ensure the ark was carried according to Mosaic law – that is – carried by the Levites via poles. Instead the ark was transported on a cart – similarly to the way the Philistines transported the ark when it was in their possession.

This was a costly oversight. When the oxen stumbled and the layman, Uzzah, reached out his hand to protect the ark, Uzzah was killed instantly by God.

This has always been a difficult passage for me. Why would God execute such severe judgment for an unintentional breach of the law when it seems He offers grace for far worse offenses? This is a difficult question, but looking at the context for this and other similar instances can shed some light…

God acted in a similar fashion with Aaron’s sons (Leviticus 10) and against Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). In both cases, God was in the process of establishing His people.

  • In the case of Aaron’s sons, the tabernacle had just been built, and Aaron’s first sacrifice had just been accepted. On the same day, his sons “offered unauthorized fire before the Lord” and they were killed instantly. God would not let the impure actions of Aaron’s sons pollute the sacrificial system that had just been established.
  • In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, the church was in its infant stages. The Holy Spirit was working mightily among the people, and God would not tolerate the lies of this couple polluting his earliest congregation.

Similarly, the context of Uzzah’s death was during an essential “establishment period.” David was bringing the ark into his city to be the centerpiece of worship, attempting to unify the people around the Mosaic law. God would not tolerate impurity. Especially not in the beginning stages of re-establishing His people under the rule of David.

Finding a pattern to make sense of God’s actions might be helpful, but I think the bigger issue lies within my own heart. When I react to God’s actions in a toddler-type fashion, (i.e. “That’s not fair!”), I know that my perspective is askew. God has every right in his holiness to kill any of us in our sinfulness at any time. But because he is gracious and doesn’t do it very often, I can slip into an attitude of entitlement.

I need to be more like Paul… His perspective is more in line with reality. He knew he had no claim on his life (Acts 21:13)…that his life belonged totally to Jesus. Why has God granted us the privilege of life? To bring him glory in all that we do! Our lives were bought with the precious blood of the Lamb. Who am I to clutch my life tightly as if it were mine to lose? The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Day 198: A Little Goes a Long Way

Ezekiel 41-42; Acts 16:16-40

Key Verses

Acts 16:30-33
Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Ezekiel 41-42 continues the detailed description of the rebuilt, restored temple of Ezekiel’s vision. (For interpretations of these chapters, see yesterday’s post).

If you watched the 3D visualization of Ezekiel 40, the makers of that video have two additional videos that depict Ezekiel 41-43. Again, they are very helpful, but not authoritative in their interpretation.

For Ezekiel 41, click here.
For Ezekiel 42-43, click here.

Yesterday in Acts, we read of Lydia, the first convert of the Philippian church. Today, we read of another convert… the jailer. He and his entire household were saved.

What is so fascinating about this entire chapter – is how obvious it is that God is the one at work. Paul, Silas, and Luke are faithful to preach the gospel, but they cannot open hearts to understand the truth or replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. God is the one who does that… in both Lydia and the jailer.

This little Philippian church is a miraculous work of the Spirit. And don’t think that because they were small in number, that they had little impact on the world. On the contrary, Paul later testifies to the generosity of this church to the Corinthians…

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).

We can infer from this passage that after Paul left Philippi, the church suffered through affliction and poverty. Yet, they had “abundance of joy” and it “overflowed in a wealth of generosity.”

They stand as an example to us today. Whatever our circumstances, we are called to care for the poor and needy around us. As a Christian, we are to pattern our lives after Christ – which means we are to live life sacrificially. This is impossible apart from the work of the Spirit in our lives!

God, help me take my eyes off of my own suffering and open my eyes to see how I might enter into someone else’s world. Help me live a life of sacrifice… wholly devoted to you. Amen.

Day 167: Hope in a Broken Flask

Jeremiah 19-20; John 18

Key Verses

Jeremiah 20:11
But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble;
they will not overcome me.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.

John 18:12
So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him.

Picture the scene… Jeremiah acquires a clay vessel, a flask of some kind, and assembles all of Jerusalem’s civic and religious leaders to meet him at… the dumping ground. It would be like an unpopular preacher asking the mayor to meet him at the dump! And what was Jeremiah’s message? He holds up his flask and breaks it – and says that Jerusalem will be reduced to pieces and thrown away – like the piles of broken vessels that surrounded them. Great message, eh?

Hidden in the message of brokenness is a message of hope. For Israel points forward to Jesus. Yes, Israel would be broken – but only to bring forth repentance and restoration. Jesus is the true Israel. And he was broken for our sakes…

We also read of Jeremiah’s brokenness in Jeremiah 20. He was broken by his circumstances as he was captured and beaten. We read of his sorrow and anguish as he doubts his call and he doubts his God. Jeremiah’s struggle is but a whisper compared to Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane – as the synoptic gospels say he prayed so fervently that blood dripped from his brow.

In today’s reading, we see the results of those prayers as Jesus stands – strong and sovereign – in the face of arrest. The soldiers can only approach him when He allows it. Even throughout Jesus’ multiple trials, He seems calm and determined. His purpose was to die, His purpose was to be broken.

Just as Jeremiah broke the flask, and Jerusalem was destroyed – so would Jesus be broken and destroyed so that we might be repent and be restored! There is hope in a broken flask. There is hope in Jesus!

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 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 135: The Lamb of God

Proverbs 22-23; John 1:29-51

Key Verses

Proverbs 22:17-19
Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my knowledge,
for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
if all of them are ready on your lips.
That your trust may be in the Lord,
I have made them known to you today, even to you.

John 1:32; 34
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. …And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

In today’s New Testament reading, John, the disciple, gives us gives us an insider’s view of Jesus’ first meeting with himself and the other future disciples, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael.

When Nathanael first meets Jesus, he says to Him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Nathanael’s calling Jesus “King” reveals his expectations that Jesus would overthrow the Roman government and make Israel the most powerful nation on earth. All of the disciples expected this.

But John the Baptist saw something different in Jesus. He says twice in this passage, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” This is an astonishing statement!  By calling Jesus, “The Lamb of God,” John the Baptist was connecting Jesus to the Passover Lamb, which automatically conjured up images of sacrifice and death. Somehow, John the Baptist knew Jesus would be sacrificed as the final Passover Lamb. How else would He “take away the sins of the world” (vs. 29)?

Jesus was not what the Jewish nation expected. We have the luxury of hindsight and know why the Messiah had to suffer and die. We know that He is both the Lion and the Lamb! He established his spiritual Kingdom on earth through his humble Sacrifice. And because He is our King, He deserves our worship and praise!

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…