Day 27: Crossing the Red Sea

Exodus 13-15; Matthew 19:1-15

Key Verses

Exodus 15:13
“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

Matthew 19:14
…but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

 Today’s text is rich in detail. We learn about the faith of Joseph and the maturing leadership of Moses. God’s holiness is revealed as he calls Israel to consecrate all of the firstborn. We observe the weak, grumbling faith of the Israelites. And we are awestruck by the sheer power of God to control the Sea and destroy Pharaoh and his hosts.

If you skim to the end of today’s reading… past the crossing of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptians, and the beautiful praise Song of Moses to verses 15:22-27, you will read of the people grumbling against their faithful God.

The people had just witnessed the most amazing display of power as God parted the Red Sea. This was the dramatic finale to the orchestra of the 10 plagues – each designed to mock the Egyptians’ gods, and to clamor that the God of Israel is supreme over all. Can you imagine the elation, the absolute relief, and happiness that the Israelite people must have felt in their deliverance? Their joy is expressed beautifully in verses 15:1-18. Hear just a few…

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them.

“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode (Exodus 15:11-13).

But after three days, only three days… The people’s faith is tested. They have no water and they come to Marah, where the water is bitter. The people grumble against Moses. Do they think God is that fickle? Do they think God would bend the waters of nature for a people just to let them die of thirst three days later? We know that God doesn’t let them die. He shows Moses how to make the water sweet and the people have their fill…

But I wonder…. Read these words of God spoken to the Israelites just three short days prior…

“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13-14).

How would your life be different if you believed these words…I mean really believed these words? Who or what are the “Egyptians” in your life?

For me, it’s my daughter’s brain injury – and all the baggage that comes along with it. Will she ever walk again? Will she be able to read? Will she ever be independent? The uncertainty can drive me to panic. But. My faith in God’s goodness and faithfulness keeps my anxieties quiet. I choose to trust that God will work for my daughter. He will fight for her.  And I will pray and watch for the Lord’s salvation – for His work to unfold in her life.

Know that God works for you. Just as he welcomed the children in Matthew 19, he welcomes all who look to Him in childlike faith. He is mighty to save and tender in his dealings with you. Amen? Amen.

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Day 365: Grace

Malachi 1-4Revelation 22

And we are left with one.

One last day.

One last book.

One last chapter.

The book of Malachi makes me uncomfortable. Malachi wrote to the uninspired Jewish exiles. They had returned from captivity and rebuilt their temple and city – yet God seemed to not come back with them. There was no evidence of His Presence. And all of the promises of the grand restoration seemed to go unmet. The people doubted God’s goodness so they slipped into complacency. 

The sins of the exiles hit too close to home…Malachi accused the people of half-hearted devotion. Whether it be the sin of not giving God their best (1:8), compromising God’s holy standards (2:11), or bitter disappointment with difficult circumstances (3:14-15), God was displeased with their lack of faith. He challenged the people to trust him – to test His faithfulness (3:10)!

Which leads me to: One last question.

Are you willing to take God at His Word?

Despite your difficult circumstances or unanswered prayer – or the fact that God seems distant. Maybe you’ve sinned so greatly, you don’t believe God could forgive you. Or maybe you’ve strived to live a holy life, yet your world seems to be crumbling beneath you. Whatever this temporal and visible world might be screaming at you, are you willing to take God at His Word?

Do you believe that the curse will be reversed (Rev. 22:3) and God will create a new earth where there will be no more sin and no more pain? Do you believe as one who is redeemed in Christ, that you will one day see Him face to face and reign with Him forever (Rev. 22:4)?

Well…believe it! For Jesus said, “These words are trustworthy and true.”

You might wonder (like me)…How? How could this be true? How could the God of the universe stoop so low to grant His children such a glorious inheritance?”

The answer is one word: grace

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates (Revelation 22:14).

Can we wash our own robes? Can we scrub the mire of our sins away? No. The blood of the Lamb washes away our sins. He clothes us with HIS righteousness so that we might come into the presence of a Holy God. We stand by His grace, alone.

What is the last sentence in the revealed Word of God? The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen!

(Tune in January 1, for my last post – summarizing the greatest lesson I’ve learned from our year through the Bible.)

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 363: God is the Victor

Zechariah 9-11Revelation 20

Passages of Scripture – like those we are reading today – remind me of my limited human understanding. Faithful and sound biblical scholars disagree over how to interpret the first 10 verses of Revelation 20. Zechariah 11 is probably one of the least understandable chapters in all of the Bible! But in spite of my limitations, by God’s grace, I see Him in these chapters…

I see His promise to judge His enemies and protect His people (Zech. 9:1-8).

I see His promise to send a peaceful King – one who rides on a donkey – to save His people (Zech. 9:9-17).

I know (from our privileged perspective of living in the church age) that when Christ came, He destroyed the power of Satan and has absolute authority over the earth (Luke 10:18; Matthew 28:18; Revelation 20:1-3).

And I know from the book of Revelation that God is the victor. Satan is restrained (20:1-3), he will surely be defeated (20:7-10), and the redeemed rule with Christ (20:4)!!

All the other details of when and how I will leave for the scholars to debate. I will choose to rest in the goodness and sovereignty of our Lord. I will thank Him for dying in my stead. And I will pray for the grace to be a light to the unbeliever.

I can’t imagine what it will be like on that final day when the books are opened. I pray that my children’s names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. I pray for the strength and grace to overcome and be welcomed into the Lamb’s presence. I know that I have done nothing to merit salvation. Most of all, I’m thankful for His grace.

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, Come!

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 357: The Redeemed and The Adversaries

Nahum 1-3Revelation 14

We tackle the book of Nahum today :)

Nahum is a judgment oracle written to proclaim absolute and irrevocable judgment against Nineveh, the great capital city of Assyria. In many ways, Nahum is a tragic sequel to Jonah, for after the Ninevites listened to Jonah’s message and repented, they reverted back to their idolatrous and violent ways – ultimately destroying the Northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. Nahum was probably written after the fall of the Northern Kingdom and during the height of the Assyrian empire. Revealing God’s absolute sovereignty, Nahum foretells Nineveh’s inevitable destruction which occurred when Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 612 BC.

Listen to Nahum’s timeless words…

The Lord is good,
a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.
But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,
and will pursue his enemies into darkness (Nahum 1:7-8).

These words are graphically depicted in today’s reading from Revelation.

We see how the Lord protects His people as the 144,000, representing the total number of redeemed from all ages, surround the throne with loud and glorious worship. They are sealed by the name of the Father written on their foreheads, which is in direct contrast to those who have the mark of the beast (13:16-17). The redeemed are seen as being pure and celibate – but celibacy is a figurative term for not chasing after other gods (not committing adultery with idols).

Surely… The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him (Nahum 1:7).

In stark contrast to the glorious picture of the redeemed worshiping before the throne is the scene of the angels harvesting the earth. For the unrighteous are harvested and thrown into the great winepress. With gruesome imagery we read of the blood flowing from the winepress of the wrath of God.

Surely… He will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness (Nahum 1:8).

In the middle of these graphic images is a brief, but oh-so-important exhortation!

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (Revelation 14:12).

Perseverance is the evidence of an internal saving faith. God gives us grace for both salvation and sanctification. But we must strive to enter his rest! “To be judged by the Almighty God and to be without rest for ever is a worse fate than we can imagine, and we are to be warned and to warn others. In contrast with this, how glorious is the rest and joy and blessedness of those who die in the Lord” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg. 198).

Almighty God, please grant us the strength to persevere to the end. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on the glorious rest awaiting your children. Help us “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you, God,” with great endurance and faith!! (Micah 6:8) Amen.

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 351: The 7th seal and the 7 trumpets

Amos 7-9Revelation 8

Amos 7 opens with a conversation…Amos is pleading for God to show mercy and withhold judgment from Israel. Amos seems to make headway as God relents twice, but then God shows Amos a third vision which reveals how far Israel has fallen away from the “plumb-line of God’s law.” When Amos sees the depravity of Israel as compared to the holiness of God, he stops pleading. Amos knows that there is nothing that can avert God’s judgment.

“The end has come upon my people Israel;
I will never again pass by them.
The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”
declares the Lord God.
“So many dead bodies!”
“They are thrown everywhere!”
“Silence!” (Amos 8:2-3)

God’s judgment on Israel through the Assyrian army is a precursor of His judgment to come in the final day. This final judgment is depicted in the opening of the 7th and final seal in Revelation 8.

There is silence before the opening of the final seal and the final judgment of the earth. In this silence, the prayers of all the church, both living and before the throne of God are received by God. And He answers the prayers of the saints…their prayers for relief, for comfort, for justice, for help, for vindication, for salvation with the opening of the final seal when fire from God’s altar is thrown upon the earth in the absolute, final judgment.

John’s vision then moves to watch seven angels herald seven trumpets. The trumpets are essentially a repeating of the same judgment described in the seven seals, but according to P. Gardner, the trumpets describe the judgment from the perspective of the unbeliever. The trumpet is used as a symbol of judgment and the final coming of Christ throughout Scripture, so “this helps us understand this trumpet sound that issues from the seven angels. God is declaring holy war on Satan and those who follow him. He summons people to repentance, and announces the final judgment day and the coming of Christ.” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg, 127).

The plagues of Egypt form the backdrop for the seven trumpets – further supporting the position that the trumpets are from the perspective of the unbeliever. With the plagues in mind, we must remember that God preserved the Israelites through the plagues. And so he will preserve His church through the tribulations of these last days!

Also important to note is that the devastation brought by the heralding trumpets is limited to “one-third.” God restrains his wrath so that all are given an opportunity to repent!! For… His judgment is revealed in the context of His faithfulness to redeem his people. 

We see this at the end of Amos…after God judges Israel, he promises to preserve a remnant and restore “the booth of David” (Amos 9:11-12). And then God describes a future where His people will enjoy a land that is fruitful beyond imagination (Amos 9:13-15). He describes our future in the New Heaven and the New Earth!!

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 350: Temporal vs. Eternal treasures

Amos 4-6Revelation 7

Revelation 6 ended with the question: Who can stand? For the 7th seal represented the final judgment – the Day of the return of Christ. But before the 7th seal is opened, there is an interlude in which John is shown how the saints are protected in the opening of the seals… In essence, Revelation 7 answers the question raised in the previous chapter…

Who can stand under Christ’s judgment? Only those sealed by His grace.

Revelation 7 gives us a glimpse of both the past and future for the believer. John is shown a scene from the past when God seals His servants. This does not remove them from the suffering to be inflicted on the earth – but preserves them as God’s own for the final day. The 144,000 who were sealed is a symbol for completeness. In other words, “everyone who will be saved and who will persevere through the trials and tribulations of this age is protected by God. Not a single one can be harmed spiritually. What amazing comfort this must have been for those suffering already within the seven churches!” (P. Gardner, Revelation, pg 109). And this is a comfort to us who live in the midst of suffering and evil in today’s world.

Once the complete number of God’s servants is sealed by God, the scene switches to show their glorious future…our future before the throne of God!

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).

John goes on to describe our glorious future in Christ!

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17).

When you consider the future that awaits the believer, the stern warnings in Amos toward Israel become more meaningful. For Israel was trading the true God for powerless idols. They were offering the true God their bare minimum while oppressing the poor to become rich. They chose the fleeting treasures of this world over the glory of an eternity spent with God.

Because of God’s love for Israel, he sends trial and strife in order to turn their hearts back to Him (Amos 4:6-11). But they refuse Him. They refuse His grace. They refuse His love, and they are left unprotected from the four winds of judgment who bring calamity upon the earth.

What treasure do you seek? Temporal or eternal? Forsake the idols of this age and return to the True God!!

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 329: An Imperishable Story

Psalms 111-113; 1 Peter 1

Psalms 111 & 112 are both acrostic poems that are meant to be read together. Psalm 111 presents the overarching “big story” of God’s character and salvation plan. While Psalm 112 presents the effects of God’s saving power on the individual – resulting in a “little story” that brings glory and honor to Him.

This is the same pattern that Peter uses in his opening chapter of his letter to the dispersed Gentile Christians.

Peter uses beautiful, graphic language to paint the glorious big picture of salvation for the believer…

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

With the larger story in mind, Peter then encourages these suffering Christians to live out a “smaller story” in a manner that will bring glory to God!

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct (1 Peter 1:13-15).

Likewise, we are to keep the sweeping  big story of redemption – from creation to our heavenly future – always before us as we struggle as spiritual exiles in this dark and difficult world. This eternal perspective enables us to live our individual stories with passion and zeal for our Savior!