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BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 31 REFLECTION (MATTHEW 13 – MARK 6:56)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 31: AUGUST 22

MATTHEW 13 – MARK 6:56

Still can’t shake the feeling that we’ve gone from dark woods into a bright clearing, now that we’ve left the Old Testament behind and are in the new one. Don’t get me wrong – I love the OT. I love everything that has God’s Word in it. But there’s a whole different feeling in the New Testament compared to the old. Maybe it’s just because Jesus is in the building and gives God a reason to be happy for a while. Poor God! He gives us everything, and we still let him down! We should be grateful that at least Jesus gets it right: “Here is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased…. Listen to him.”

I’m going to do the reflections slightly differently for the last ten days of our read-through. The material is just too all-over-the-map to do a summary and it also repeats (in the Gospels). So instead of doing an overall impression, I’ll be cherry-picking chapters and verses here and there from the readings and doing a commentary on them. My focus will remain highlighting scripture that will be useful for us in the difficult months to come.

  • The reading starts with the parable of the seeds. We’re all in that parable, whether we want to see ourselves in it or not. There are four options of who we could be. We’re either 1) the ones who have no time for God’s Word at all, or 2) the ones who accept God’s Word until it tries to push us past our comfort zone and then we let it go, or 3) the ones who would love to spend more time getting to know God and Jesus and putting the Word to work in our lives, but we’re just so slammed by our jobs and studies and family obligations and other things that keep getting in the way, that all we have time for is an hour on Sunday (though maybe not every Sunday….), or 4) the ones who give everything we’ve got to God, making mistakes and falling down but getting back up and keeping on going, and doing our best to do what’s right in God’s eyes, regardless of the personal cost.
  • We’re all one of those four options. Let’s hope we’re the fourth one, and if we’re not, let’s aim to be the fourth. Because if you don’t give God and Jesus everything you have now, you’re not going to make it through the months and years to come. That’s just a spiritual fact of life that we all need to face and get right, before it’s too late.
  • Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth must have been hard for him. These were people he grew up with and had lived among until he’d started his ministry work. His family was there, too. In fact, he was so familiar to these people, that they were blinded by him being the son of Mary and Joseph and couldn’t conceive that he just might also be the son of God. Their inability to make that leap of faith meant that Jesus could not do much beyond heal a few of them. The greater the faith, the greater the miracle.
  • Is your faith strong enough for God to work through? If you suspect it might not be, you need to build your faith. How do you do that? The same way you build your muscles. Step out in faith, and your faith muscles get exercised and grow bigger. Wait for the witness of your eyes to confirm something, and your faith muscles will shrink and grow flabby. I don’t know about you, but I want to be spiritually buff and have six-pack faith abs, like Jesus. We can all have those. We just have to work our spiritual muscles whenever and wherever we can by doing what is right in God’s eyes, not necessarily in ours.
  • The next sections of our reading today form a parade of miracles showing that Jesus was anything but just another prophet. He even outdid the miracles performed by Elijah and Moses, feeding thousands from just a few loaves and fishes and walking on top of the sea rather than having to part it to walk on dry land. I always find it amusing when unbelievers or even so-called Christians try to find a scientific basis for the miracles – that is, they try to explain the supernatural by using laws of nature. It can’t be done. These were miracles – they were beyond the laws of nature.
  • The supernatural realm is the one that God operates in. He can also move things naturally, but moving them supernaturally is his specialty. Everything done supernaturally is done by his power and permission, and nothing can be done supernaturally without his power and permission. All supernatural beings are under his control, and every supernatural act that occurs on Earth has God as its source. The supernatural power may go through different beings (including humans), but there is only one source: God.
  • I’ve had so many miracles happen in my own life that I’ve lost count. The biggest one, of course, was my spiritual rebirth. After I was born-again, God took me on a tour of my life and showed me all the things that had happened to me over the years that I couldn’t explain, and he said to me “I did that”. It all made sense then. Without knowing God, life on Earth doesn’t make much sense. We try to cobble together meanings, but they eventually contradict one another or fail to explain something altogether. When you know God, everything clicks into place. He is the one thread that you pull to unravel all of life’s mysteries.
  • Poor Peter! He was the first of the disciples to be called by Jesus, and also the most headstrong. He assumed a kind of co-pilot position with Jesus, not only because of his strong personality and the fact that he was the first to be called, but also because Jesus was grooming him to take on the leadership role. Peter did, in fact, become the leader after Jesus went home to Heaven. In this reading, we see Jesus, in one verse, commending Peter for knowing by God’s grace that he was the Messiah, and then in the next verse, chewing Peter out for “thinking as man thinks, not as God thinks”. Peter was being groomed to lead, and leaders have a tougher training regime than non-leaders. Think about that the next time you’re going through something you know is straight from God. “Those to whom more is given, more will be expected.”
  • The parable of the rich young ruler continues our theme today of what it takes and what it costs to be a genuine follower of Jesus. You need to follow the Commandments, yes. You need to treat others as you want to be treated, yes. You need to love your enemies, yes. But you also need to be willing to walk away from everything and everyone you love, cherish and value and not look back. This is the one that makes most Christians squirm and go “but, but, but”, like the rich young ruler.
  • It’s all well and good to say “I’m a Christian”, when the only thing that demarcates you from everyone else in the world is that you wear a cross or go to church on Sunday. I’m not telling you that you need to be willing to leave everything and everyone you love; JESUS is telling you that you need to be willing to leave everything and everyone you love, including your spouse and kids. All the disciples left their jobs and houses and families when they were called to follow Jesus. Following Jesus became their full-time occupation. In fact, it was a training time for them, so that when Jesus went home to Heaven, they could take his place and teach others how to follow him. If you’re not either full-time following Jesus or full-time teaching others how to follow Jesus, you need to realign your priorities or you’ll be stuck in the same hole as the rich young ruler.
  • Jesus’ take on marriage, divorce, and adultery is crystal clear. Even so, I have heard preachers defend divorce and remarriage (while the divorced spouse is still alive) by changing the meaning of the terms. Jesus says that fornication is the sole grounds for divorce (an example of this is when his mother fell pregnant prior to the consummation of her marriage). No other reason is considered justified in God’s eyes.  And yet, most allegedly Christian households are now remarriages with the divorced spouses still alive. This goes 100% against Jesus’ teachings on marriage and divorce.
  • If you’re in a situation where you’re living in violation of Jesus’ teachings, you need to take a good hard look at your priorities. You need to consider whether you’re going to continue violating those teachings or do the right thing and follow Jesus’ advice. It’s up to you, but doing the right thing and following Jesus is obviously the better choice. Jesus says those who love husband or wife more than they love him are not worthy of him. Those who are not worthy of him won’t have a shot at Heaven. If you’re in this situation, please choose Jesus. Now is not the time to put things off until later.
  • The parable of the two sons is the story of most born-again believers. We said no to God at first, but were reborn and have since said yes, whereas many who were “born into the faith” said yes as a matter of course, but ended up doing nothing beyond showing up in church every now and then. That’s not to say that all those who grew up as Christians fell away, but many did, and the rest tend only to do the bare minimum (church once a week). It’s the born-agains who started out a mess, but who then ended up saying yes and continue to say yes. That’s the main reason why Jesus said you need to be born-again to enter the Kingdom. If you’re not born-again, Christianity doesn’t make much sense beyond being nice to people (and you don’t need to be a Christian to be nice to people).
  • The marriage dinner of the king, with the invited guests who made excuses, one after the other, of why they couldn’t attend, continues our theme today. What excuse have you made not to do what’s right in God’s eyes, not to give up everything you have in order to follow Jesus? We’ve all made excuses. I don’t stand here separate from you; I’ve made excuses, too. But it’s not what we’ve done before; it’s what we’re willing to do now, knowing what’s right.
  • “Many are called; few are chosen.” If you’ve been called (and if you’re reading this, you likely have been), then you need to be doing everything in your power to be chosen. It’s not enough to be called; you also need to be chosen. The guy who got into the wedding feast but wasn’t wearing the right robe got the boot. You can call yourself a Christian and do “Christian things” (like go to church, wear a cross, feed the poor, go to Bible study, etc.), but if you don’t keep the Commandments as Jesus taught us to keep them (including the one about marriage and divorce), and if you don’t treat others as you want to be treated, and if you don’t love your enemies, and if you’re not genuinely born-again – your chances of being chosen are not great. That doesn’t mean that you can’t up your odds by starting to do today what you know is right in God’s eyes. But if you know you’re doing something that isn’t right and you persist in doing it, good luck being chosen.
  • Heaven is not something so cheap that just anyone gets in. Jesus says it’s for those who are willing to walk away from everything in their lives to follow him. There’s no mystery there; Jesus means exactly what he’s saying. And if you need an example, look at the disciples. Every one of them walked away from who they were to become who they needed to be in order to be chosen. They were called, but they weren’t yet chosen. They had to be proved before they could be chosen. Judas Iscariot was called like the rest of them were called, but he clearly wasn’t chosen.
  • Jesus’ head-buttings with the religious powers-that-be must have been a sight to behold! Remember that the Sadducees and Pharisees, etc., were the highly educated, well-to-do, and well-connected class, and Jesus was (in their eyes) just the son of a carpenter from a have-not part of the country. Their open disdain for him must have been intense. But Jesus not only gave as good as he got, he bested them every time, even up to and including during his mock trial when his silence in the face of their accusations caused them to contradict themselves. I can imagine God looking down on the battles and saying “Good one, son!” whenever Jesus scored a point.
  • We’re all going to have run-ins with the religious ptb (some of us have already had them) if we’re genuinely born-again and genuinely following Jesus, because the religious ptb are as much our enemies as they were Jesus’. Some of the ptb are now openly anti-christ, teaching doctrines that violate every Commandment. The religious ptb today and all their adherents in the worldly church are exactly like those in Jesus’ day, so we can expect the same head-buttings that Jesus experienced and likely the same death as he and his followers endured. This is the price of being not only called, but proved and chosen.
  • The rest of today’s reading concerns the end of the world and Jesus’ crucifixion. The descriptions of these events are more or less the same as those in tomorrow’s reading, so I’m going to end my Sunday sermon (lol) here and pick up tomorrow at Mark’s end-times chapter.

Hope you’re enjoying the read-through as much as I am and seeing all kinds of new things you hadn’t seen before. God loves feeding his children when they’re hungry!

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 30 REFLECTION (ZECHARIAH – MATTHEW 12:50)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 30: AUGUST 21

ZECHARIAH – MATTHEW 12:50

Today is a very special day in our read-through. Not only are we now officially three-quarters of the way through our Bible journey, we also turn the corner from the Old Testament to the New Testament, and we see the fruit of the labours of all the prophets in the person of Jesus.

But even more important than that (and you ask what could possibly be more important than that?!) – TODAY IS ZACHARY’S BIRTHDAY!

Zachary was named for the prophet Zechariah and is the much loved son of Brian, who sent me a note a while back to say he would be participating in the Bible read-through. Brian let me know that his son Zachary was named after the prophet and that when he, Brian, was mulling whether or not to do the read-through, God showed him that our reading of Zechariah took place exactly on Zachary’s birthday (August 21). Brian knew then and there that the read-through had his name written all over it, and decided to join in. I promised Brian we’d give Zachary a shout-out on his big day, so here it is:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ZACHARY!

I also promised Brian that we’d send some prayers Zachary’s way. We know better than to pray in public and make a show of it, so let’s quietly and in the privacy of our heart include Zachery in our prayers today, asking God to give Zachary a wonderful wonder-filled birthday full of everything and everyone that makes him happy, and to let him know that he is deeply loved by his family and by God.

ALL THE BEST TO YOU, ZACHARY, ON YOUR SPECIAL DAY!

  • Zechariah is a powerhouse among prophets. Like others before him, he warns the Israelites to turn back to God or suffer the consequences of their rebellion. Zechariah prophesied during the years of the Israelites’ return to their land from Babylon, including during the rebuilding of the temple. His visions mostly concern the end-times and the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people. We’ll see some elements of his visions again later in the book of Revelation.
  • The prophet deeply understood that God’s promise was to those who sincerely worshiped God and that it would take the form of a spiritual realm. In one of his visions of Jerusalem, he says that God will be the wall of fire around the city and the glory in the midst of it, so that there will be no need for actual physical walls or a physical temple. This is spiritual Zion, spiritual Jerusalem, the holy mountain and the Kingdom of God – different names for the same place – that is a constant theme of the OT prophets and that finally has its fulfillment in Jesus. The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago heralded the coming of the Kingdom.
  • Malachi’s book ends the Old Testament with a final warning to God’s people. But instead of heeding the warning like the Ninevites heeded Jonah’s warning, the Israelites are defiant against the accusations. They see nothing wrong in how they live their lives or worship God. They think of themselves as ‘good people’, and are resentful of being called out for their sin of hypocrisy.
  • As a contrast, Malachi describes another group of people who “spoke often one to another” about God, and who sincerely worshiped in Spirit and in Truth (as Jesus later describes). These people will be rewarded with the promise of God. Malachi prophesies that God makes a clear division between those who sincerely serve him and those who only appear to serve him. You’ll want to make sure that you’re one of those who sincerely serves God, because the ultimate reward of the hypocrites is the same as that of the wicked.

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  • Reading the opening lines of the New Testament was to me like walking into a bright and sunny clearing after days of wandering through dark woods. I even pored over every word of the genealogy, I was so happy to have finally arrived in Jesus Land! I first read the New Testament of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on the day I was reborn. I’ve since read it so many times I’ve lost count, but each time it’s just as fresh and invigorating as it was the first day I read it. Today was no exception.
  • When Jesus makes his first public appearance as the Messiah and is recognized by John the Baptist as such, I hung on to his every word. Not surprising, Jesus’ first public directives were that he and we should do all that is required of us by God, even if we don’t understand at the time.
  • The first twelve chapters of Matthew’s book cover the birth of Jesus up to the early days of his ministry. He chooses his disciples, who immediately drop everything to follow him, and he lays out the foundation of his doctrine during the so-called sermon on the mount, much like Moses did at Mount Sinai. And already in the first few chapters we see Jesus going head-to-head with his real enemies (the religious powers-that-be) while preaching and teaching the Kingdom of God not only to the children of Israel who had gone astray, but also to those who were too poor to have received a formal education in scripture.
  • A big feature of Jesus’ early ministry years was his miraculous healings. Nothing was beyond his healing powers, which came from God. He gave to his chosen disciples the same ability to heal. That miraculous ability is still with us today, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. No other intervention is required.
  • Jesus also warned his disciples to preach and teach and heal for free. No donations button; no request for ministry support. FOR FREE. Period. Those who are truly God’s people well know and follow this directive. As for those who don’t, “by their fruits shall ye know them”, and God will deal with them in his time.
  • Today’s NT reading is truly too rich to go into every detail, but the overall thrust is that the Kingdom has come in the person of Jesus, that the summation of the law and the prophets is to treat others as we want to be treated (including our enemies!), and that we should put God first in everything we do, even and especially if it involves a complete and total leap of faith.

I hope you’re as thrilled as I am to have finally come out of the OT woods and into the clearing of the New Testament. I love reading about Jesus, and even though he’s all over the OT, he takes center stage in the NT. This is what we’ve all been waiting for. This is our joy and our very great pleasure – to read Jesus’ words, which are God’s Word, straight from the source.

It’s a time for a celebration as we enter the final stretch of our 40-day journey together, and how fitting that it’s also time for a birthday party!

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 29 REFLECTION (JOEL – HAGGAI 2:23)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 29: AUGUST 20

JOEL – HAGGAI 2:23

Today’s reading truly is a parade of prophets! We cover nine books, so obviously we can’t do the justice to each book that it deserves. However, we can touch on specific aspects and note how all nine books share similar themes of warning, punishment, repentance, restoration, and, of course, Jesus and his Kingdom. There are also some horrifying end-times scenarios that are referred to (and in some cases reworked) later in the New Testament. As I mentioned in yesterday’s entry – there are no “minor” prophets in scripture, just some prophets who have shorter books than others. No-one who faithfully speaks God’s Word can be considered minor.

  • In describing his vision of the Day of the Lord (i.e., the day of God’s final vengeance), Joel presents a terrifying scenario. He sees soldiers who are not quite human (or not at all human) and who display super-human or better said supernatural abilities, such as walking up walls and not being wounded by what should be fatal blows. These beings are described as having a horse-like appearance. We’ll read about them in greater detail in the book of Revelation. Here in Joel, we learn that the role of these super-human supernatural beings is to utterly destroy the earth with fire to the point where rebuilding is impossible – before them is an Eden, behind them is a wasteland. Reading about this scenario that is prophesied to come to pass (and it will come to pass), we can only hope that we’re not still around when these beings are set loose on the world, as “nothing shall escape them”.
  • In stark contrast, we also read in Joel about the age when God’s Spirit will be poured out “on all flesh”, not just on prophets from among the tribes of Israel. Remember that during Joel’s time, God’s Spirit visited very few people. It wasn’t until after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension that the Holy Spirit started to be poured out on genuine followers of Jesus through spiritual rebirth. This has continued for the past nearly 2000 years. Most of those who have received God’s Spirit through rebirth are not genetically children of Israel, though spiritually they are. Ever since Jesus, the bloodline has been spiritual, not genetic.
  • After describing a global war scenario, Joel ends his book with a prophecy about Zion, the holy mountain, and spiritual Jerusalem, which we know from previous readings all refer to the same spiritual realm. No “strangers” will pass through this place; in other words, only God’s people are there. It will be a place of peace and plenty, and where there is rest and safety from spiritual enemies. This is a classic description of God’s Kingdom on Earth, as established by Jesus. If you’re genuinely born-again, you live there now. (Thank you, God, and thank you, Jesus!)
  • Amos prophesied during the same time as Isaiah and Hosea, and so saw the same problems as the other prophets. Amos’s book presents a litany of sins committed by the enemies of Israel and Judah, as well as sins committed by Israel and Judah. The prophet warns that the children of Israel are being punished in the form of drought, crop failure, sickness, war, etc., as a wake-up call. If the wake-up call isn’t heeded through genuine repentance, worse will follow in the form of total destruction. Preceding the destruction will be “a famine of hearing the words of the Lord”. This, by far, is the worst form of punishment – to be separated from God. Yet those days are coming, and in some parts of the world are already here.
  • Amos’s book ends with another prophecy of God’s Kingdom on Earth, as does the book of the next prophet in our parade today, Obadiah. However, Obadiah’s main prophecy concerns the vengeance that God will wreak on Edom (that is the children of Esau, Jacob’s brother who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew). The Edomites participated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the surrounding cities. As their reward, and despite their heritage, Obadiah prophesizes that Edom will be allotted the same punishment as the rest of the heathen; God will put no distinction between them. Meanwhile, the children of Esau’s brother Jacob (that is, Israel) will once again be blessed by God after they repent.
  • This is a theme that runs through all of the prophecies in today’s reading – the blessings that will come to God’s people after their repentance. It is made particularly clear in the book of Jonah. Unlike most of the prophets, we’re not given a time frame for this book. Maybe that’s for the better, because it reads somewhat like the book of Job – a timeless cautionary tale of God’s ultimate goodness and mercy to those who do what’s right in his eyes.
  • At first, Jonah runs from doing God’s will, but he ends up causing grief to everyone around him in the form of a storm at sea. Not wanting the others to perish for his own sin, Jonah throws himself into the water and is swallowed by a whale. While in the whale, he repents and prays to God. God hears his prayers, gets the whale to vomit Jonah onto dry land, and off Jonah goes to the do the deed he ran from initially – to warn Nineveh to repent or suffer destruction.
  • To Jonah’s surprise, the people of Nineveh immediately repent in sackcloth, and God changes his mind about destroying the city. But instead of being happy about this outcome, Jonah is angry and depressed, so depressed, in fact, that he wants to die. Jonah believes that Nineveh should have been destroyed for its sins, not spared, but God explains to him that the people of Nineveh are so lacking in perception that they “cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand”. Even so, they repented when warned. If God had destroyed them despite their repentance, it would not have been just. The book doesn’t say, but we can only assume that Jonah eventually comes around to see things as God does. God is merciful to the genuinely penitent. This is good information that we can use.
  • The last five books of today’s reading (Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Haggai) all share similar themes of denouncing the sins of Israel and Judah, calls to repentance, and punishment both to the enemies of the children of Israel and Judah, and to the children of Israel and Judah themselves if they refuse to repent. The rich Jews who mislead and feed off the poor Jews are given a special shout-out in Micah as deserving of particular punishment by God. It’s also worth noting that the book of Haggai reports the beginning of the rebuilding of the second temple and a return to Jerusalem, as inspired by God through the remnant of his penitent people and through the King of Babylon at the time. Through these five prophets, God promises Israel and Judah the same reward he promises through all the other prophets – admission to his holy mount Zion if they repent, stay the course, and do his will.
  • Also, and as with the other books of prophecy we’ve read over the past week, Jesus and God’s Kingdom appear throughout these books as well. Jesus clearly and openly dominates the NT, but he also dominates the OT, though in an indirect and mostly figurative way; God purposely hides him behind veiled speech. Nonetheless, Jesus and his Kingdom are what God’s people are striving for over the more than 2000 years of their journey to the empty cave.

I hope you enjoyed the parade today! It can be a bit frustrating at times if you want to stop and mull over a particular chapter or verse, but the purpose of the read-through is to grab what you can and keep moving. When we finish our 40-day journey, we’ll have time then to return to whatever is calling to us in some special way.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 28 REFLECTION (EZEKIEL 44 – HOSEA 14:9)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 28: AUGUST 19

EZEKIEL 44 – HOSEA 14:9

Over the next few days, we’ll be plowing through multiple prophets during our daily readings. The timeline of each prophet is important, as their prophecies directly concern what is going on with the Israelites at any given time. Some of the prophets start their prophecies by stating which king(s) they prophesied under, while other don’t. If you have time, it might be helpful to do some background reading to find out the dates (and the relevant kings) of the prophets who don’t mention a king. Note that some of them don’t mention a king because there wasn’t one (i.e., during the Babylonian exile).

We’ll be bouncing back and forth in the timeline over the next few days. Some of the upcoming prophets prophesied before the exile, some during, and some after, but they don’t appear in the Bible in chronological order. This is where knowing which king(s) the prophets prophesied under is important. It provides context and a sense of where you are, time-wise.

  • The final section of Ezekiel provides more details toward the building of the second temple. Remember that this is all still prophecy and many years must pass before the rebuilding begins. There are also details about the sacrifices that will be required and who is (and who isn’t) allowed access to certain parts of the temple, and why. Ezekiel also presents a vision of a river flowing out from the temple, with trees on either side that are always in bloom. The fruit of the trees is for food and the leaves are for medicine. We’ll see these trees again in the book of Revelation.
  • Along with instructions on what the temple should look like, what should be done there, and who is allowed to serve (and in what capacity), the final section of the book of Ezekiel sets forth instructions on the division of land when the Israelites return to the Promised Land. Again, this is all prophecy; the Israelites during the time of Ezekiel’s prophecies are still in exile with no apparent end in sight. I haven’t looked at the details of the land division, so I’m not sure how much they differ from the pre-exile division. If you have time, it might be helpful to do some background reading on this as well, since I’m guessing the land division in Ezekiel’s prophecy forms the blueprint for the expansion plans of the current geopolitical state of Israel. It’s always good to know what your enemy is up to.

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  • Daniel’s is another thunderous voice among God’s prophets. Like Joseph in Egypt, Daniel lived his adult life under the authority of heathen rulers and was given an important position in the governing of the foreign kingdom. Also like Joseph, Daniel continued to put God first in everything he did, even if it meant spending a night in a lion’s den.
  • Both Joseph and Daniel earned favor with their respective rulers through their God-given ability to interpret dreams. If you remember, Joseph’s interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dream concerned an upcoming seven-year famine. Heeding Joseph’s warning and following his advice made Pharaoh even richer after the famine than before it. Daniel’s talent initially enabled him to keep his head (literally), and then earned him progressively more important positions in the foreign kingdom. In some cases, Daniel declined to take any reward for his interpretations, but they were given to him, anyway.
  • Daniel’s end-times visions form the basis for our understanding of the tribulation under what Paul calls the “man of perdition”, or what is more popularly known as the anti-christ. In fact, many of Daniel’s prophecies appear again in the book of Revelation. Jesus also mentions them in the Gospels and Paul in his letters. There is nothing positive about the man of perdition or the times he is prophesied to rule over. Whenever he’s mentioned in prophecy, he is described as warring against God’s people and killing them. He is the ultimate ruler who “does that which is evil in the sight of the Lord”. Nonetheless, he, too, despite his seeming infinite power, gets what’s coming to him. As Daniel prophesies: “he shall come to his end, and none shall help him”.
  • It’s worth noting that the anti-christ kingdom in Daniel’s prophecy is also equated with the end of the world. Nothing good comes after it. There is no 1000-year golden rule with a benevolent ruler and everyone living in peace and harmony. There is only terror and destruction that marks the physical end of the planet. However, Daniel does mention an eternal kingdom that comes to fruition during and amidst the reigns of other kings preceding this one. This eternal kingdom is, of course, God’s Kingdom on Earth that we’re now living in, if we’re born-again. It’s the one established by Jesus and is briefly described in Daniel 2:44.
  • What happened to King Nebuchadnezzar is a very curious cautionary tale. Despite being warned by Daniel’s interpretation of his dream about what was going to happen to him, Nebuchadnezzar continues in his delusion that all his wealth and power came from his own efforts. Because of his pride, the former “servant of the Lord” is then brought down as low as he can go this side of death. The seven years of his insanity find him sleeping rough in open fields and eating grass like an animal. But at some point the penny drops for him that God is the one who gives people their wealth and power; these things do not come from the people’s own efforts. (Jesus says more or less the same to the authorities during his trial.) When he finally acknowledges God’s supremacy, Nebuchadnezzar is reinstated as king and receives his kingdom back. This story has a bit of the feel of Job about it, although Job wasn’t operating in pride, just assumption.

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  • The book of Hosea begins the parade of what are referred to in the literature as “minor prophets”, though I personally don’t like that designation. The books of these prophets are shorter than those of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, but it doesn’t mean that their prophecies are minor. All prophecies from God carry the same weight, as they’re all God’s Word.
  • Hosea’s prophecies were more or less concurrent with those of Isaiah. As we saw in Isaiah, things were going from bad to worse for the children of Israel at that time, but there was still some hope that they could avert the full disaster of losing their kingdom. Hosea prophesied against the ongoing backslidings of the Israelites, even going so far as to marry, upon God’s advice, a non-Jew as a symbol of the “whorings” of the children of Israel, in giving their devotion to demon gods and the people who serve them. These whorings are later given a twist, when God himself promises through the prophet: “I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” So God shows that he isn’t against non-Jews per se; he’s against those who choose sin, as reflected in their desire to serve demon gods.
  • Most of Hosea is a litany of all the things that Israel does to defy God, along with God’s urgings to turn back to him. This is a recurrent theme throughout the books of the prophets in the OT. The role of prophets was/is to advise the ruling class as well as people in general, but few people took/take their advice. We all see some mention in Hosea of the eternal Kingdom, such as “ye are the sons of the living God” / “I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely, and I will betroth thee unto me forever” / “and [they] shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days”. He also makes a prophecy about Jesus: “after two days he will revive us: in the third day he will raise us up.”

This BIBLE READ-THROUGH is intended for people to get as much of God’s Word into them as they can for what lies ahead. How much time you spend each day on the readings is up to you; obviously, the more time you spend, the more you’ll get out of it. But even a quick read-through will benefit you. God will show you what’s important to you and what you need to focus on in the increasingly despotic weeks and months to come.

All of the upcoming readings are incredibly rich. We’re now nearly three-quarters of the way through the Bible, which means the home stretch will be starting just around the bend. It would be good for you to spend as much time as you can on the rest of the readings, especially the Gospels. They are definitely not “fly-over scripture”. None of what’s coming is. But again, how much time you choose to invest in God’s Word is up to you. Even the fact that you’ve been reading the Bible every day already separates you from most Christians. That you’re reading it from cover to cover puts you in a very tiny minority.

God blesses and protects those who take the time to read and study his Word not for gain or credit or out of personal or professional obligation, but because they want to read it and it’s the right thing to do.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below:

William Blake’s “Nebuchadnezzar”

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 27 REFLECTION (EZEKIEL 20 – 43:27)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 27: AUGUST 18

EZEKIEL 20 43:27

Our reading today features three main messages. The first one is the revenge that God will take against the enemies of Israel, particularly those who took part in the destruction of Jerusalem or who gloated over it afterwards. The second message is God telling the Israelites that they will not hear from him or be protected by him as long as they continue to live sinful lives (that is, as long as they do the same things as the heathen around them). And the third message involves more prophecies about Jesus, who is referred to either as David or a shepherd.

  • Remember that Ezekiel is still living in exile from the Promised Land. Remember that God is still punishing most of his people, while comforting the penitent remnant with hope of an eventual return to their ancestral land and a rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. In fact, this reading includes God giving Ezekiel plans for the second temple to be built over the ruins of the first.
  • The children of Israel had a lot of enemies. We see some of them here on God’s black list and read about what will be done to them, but these are just a few of them. There is seemingly no end to the list of their enemies. The children of Israel were even enemies with each other. Essentially, at that time, the whole world was against Israel. They had no friends. They couldn’t even count God as their friend. This is the ultimate reward for those who were once in God’s favour but fall away through sin and pride. References to the fallen cherub (Lucifer) are also mentioned here as a comparison to Israel’s fall. You know things are bad when you start being compared to Lucifer.
  • The nation of Israel is also likened to a prostitute, in that it prostituted itself with the “uncircumcised” heathens around it by taking on the ways of the world, particularly with regard to belief systems and relationships. There’s an interesting line in today’s reading about God giving the rebellious children of Israel (during the time of Moses) “statutes that were not good and judgements whereby they should not live”. Basically, he gave them what they wanted, even though it wasn’t good for them. Jesus mentions this in his teachings about reasons for ending a marriage, namely that God gave Moses directives regarding bills of divorce. Jesus says that God gave the option for divorce to the Israelites not because it was right in God’s eyes, but because of the Israelite’s rebellion against God. “All things are possible, but not all things are good.” God shows us the right way forward, but he also permits us to go the wrong way, if that’s what we want. Unlike most of the world’s governments today, which have descended into de facto medical tyrannies, God is no tyrant.
  • God is also not a pushover. Sinners who refuse to repent don’t get the privilege of hearing from God. Ezekiel also explains that sinners who repent and spend the rest of their days doing right will be rewarded with life, whereas those who start out doing right but end up in unrepentant sin will be punished with death. In other words, the reward of life is not based on a balance of good and evil. So if you do 10 measures of good and 5 measures of evil, you don’t automatically get rewarded with life for all the good that you did. You only get rewarded with life if you end your life on a righteous note. Same with doing evil – if your “balance sheet” shows you did more evil in your life than good, but you end your days in God’s grace, you will be rewarded with life. It’s not a numbers game with God. He’s a living God, not a computer. The relationship we have with him at our last breath determines whether or not we get to spend eternity with him. That makes sense to me as a born-again believer, and also gives me hope.
  • As mentioned above, today’s reading also includes a few chapters about Jesus and the Kingdom. Always love reading those prophecies! One of the first things Jesus did after his resurrection was show his followers where he and his Kingdom are mentioned in scripture. These prophecies are important to us because they were important to Jesus and prove that he was in fact the prophesied Messiah and King, and that his Kingdom was up and running.
  • I’m not going to go into in detail here, but it’s crucial for us to understand that God’s Kingdom on Earth was established by Jesus and that the prophesied Kingdom exists here and now as a spiritual realm. This understanding is crucial, because otherwise you’ll fall for the lie that the geopolitical state is the Israel prophesied in the OT. This is what the world believes and what is pushed in some Christian circles, but scripture doesn’t back it up. Zion is a spiritual realm made up of born-again followers of Jesus. The lineage goes from David through his descendants to Jesus and ends there. Since the time of Jesus, the genetic children of Israel are no longer David’s lineage, so the geopolitical state of Israel formed in the late 1940s is not the Israel mentioned in scripture. The lineage is spiritual and ends in Jesus, who is the prophesied eternal King over all of God’s creation, both seen and unseen.
  • Lots of déjà vu in today’s reading. Ezekiel repeats numerous verses, which, as I mentioned in previous reflections, is an excellent teaching and learning tool. There are several ways that we’ve been hard-wired by God to learn best. One is to learn what appeals to us or attracts us, as we will learn willingly and eagerly. Another way is to learn via shock methods such as “baptism by fire” or “sink or swim”, where we have to learn something very quickly in order to survive whatever crisis we’re experiencing. And then, of course, there’s repetition, which we’ve seen a lot of in scripture so far, particularly with regard to the exodus story. God uses these and other methods to teach his children through his Spirit. He also teaches some of his children by private revelation; the closer we grow to God, the more he’ll reveal to us.

What jumped out at you in today’s reading? What do you think differs Ezekiel from Isaiah and Jeremiah? Do you feel a kinship with these men? Which one of the three would you most like to have a beer with? And which one will you be hanging out with in Heaven?

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is posted below.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 26 REFLECTION (JEREMIAH 50 – EZEKIEL 19:14)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 26: AUGUST 17

JEREMIAH 50 – EZEKIEL 19:14

Today we say goodbye to Jeremiah and hello to Ezekiel. Theirs are thunderous voices. Both prophets lived during a time when God’s mercy came to an end and his judgement began. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, God is patient, but when time is up, it’s up. There’s no wiggle-room after that. God’s judgement is without mercy. We will not be standing before him on Judgement Day expecting mercy, because there will be none. The time for mercy will be over, just as it was for the children of Israel during the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

  • The final chapters of Jeremiah talk about the prophecy against Babylon. Remember that Jeremiah had earlier prophesied that the Israelites should surrender to the Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and live in Babylon as captives. Now we see the prophet foretelling the punishment that God will mete out to Babylon for destroying his people. God used the resources of Babylon to punish his people but also to care for them during their 70 years of exile; but that doesn’t mean that Babylon gets off the hook and is free to loot, sack and slaughter with impunity. Nor does it mean that Babylon can sin with impunity. All are punished according to the measure of their sins, even the people God uses to punish others.
  • So when God tells you to flee to Babylon, however morally repugnant it is to you, flee there. But when he tells you to get out of Babylon or get caught up in the punishment due it, get out. We’ll read more about Babylon in the books of Daniel and Revelation. For us born-agains living in the Kingdom, Babylon is the earthly realm of sin and plenty that sadly also includes churches. God will support us and sustain us with Babylon’s plenty for a time, but he expects us to keep ourselves separate from its sin and to flee before he finally destroys it.
  • The book of Lamentations was written during Jeremiah’s exile from the Promised Land. Remember that Jeremiah, too, was in exile. The whole remnant was in exile. Even so, God fed them and provided for them physically and spiritually, giving them hope of returning to their home if they turned back to him with their whole heart.

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  • Ezekiel picks up where Jeremiah leaves off. He is also in exile. But unlike Jeremiah, he is not embedded within the powers-that-be in Jerusalem, because the powers-that-be have all been slaughtered and Jerusalem has been all but destroyed. Instead, Ezekiel prophesizes through visions.
  • Ezekiel heard first-hand the horrors that were inflicted on the unrepentant Israelites, particularly during the siege of Jerusalem. Out of starvation, fathers ate their sons, sons ate their fathers, and mothers cooked their own babies. How far from God would you have to be to do those things? THESE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE GOD’S PEOPLE, and yet they were indistinguishable from the demon-worshipers around them; in fact, they did worse than them. When those who are genuinely God’s people are hungry, God provides for them, as he did for Jeremiah and Elijah and David. God always finds workarounds and resources for those who are genuinely his people. The rest are left to take matters into their own hands, and what we get are fathers eating their sons, sons eating their fathers, and mothers cooking their own babies.
  • How indistinguishable are Christians today from the demon-worshipers around them? All those who worship anything but God and follow anyone but Jesus are demon-worshipers. This is the world. How indistinguishable are most Christians today from the world? It’s hard not to see, in the description of the lead-up to the destruction of those who definitively turned from God, exactly what is happening in former Christian nations today: “Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to cease; and their holy places shall be defiled. Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none” (Ezekiel 7:24-25).
  • I met a man the other day who introduced himself as a born-again Christian. He then went on to say that God had asked him to preach but he had said no, and that he hadn’t read the Bible in years – HE’D DEFIED GOD AND HADN’T READ THE BIBLE IN YEARS, AND YET HAD NO PROBLEM INTRODUCING HIMSELF AS A BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN! This is the absolute state of where we are as a people – Christians today are no different than the Israelites just before the destruction of Jerusalem. They are indistinguishable from the heathens around them.
  • As Ezekiel repeats several times: “Neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have pity.” God’s judgement is without mercy and perfect. During the time of mercy, God’s judgement is mitigated. That means he doesn’t give us the full measure of what we have coming; he softens it, taking into consideration all the factors that made us do what we did or say what we said. But at some point, time is up. And when time is up, mercy is removed from judgement; all that remains is an eye for an eye. May you never experience God’s judgement without mercy, because if you do, you are condemned. There is no longer any hope for you. There is no Paradise. There is only the hell of your own making, forever.
  • God doesn’t want us to end up in Hell. He wants us to go to Heaven. He takes no pleasure in punishing us or in our condemnation. In Ezekiel 18:32, God says: “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth… wherefore turn, and live ye.” Until time is up, God is constantly extending his invitation to turn back to him and live. A few chapters earlier, God describes through the prophet how he will bring the dead back to life: “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh; that they may walk in my statutes and keep mine ordinances, and do them; and they shall be my people, and I shall be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
  • I don’t know about you, but every time I read the words “and they shall be my people, and I shall be their God”, I hear such longing in God’s voice as well as a promise and a statement of fact. He wants to give us everything, if we would only do those things that are right in his eyes. He’s longing for us to do those things. He’s saying: Here, I have everything waiting for you. Everything that you’ve ever wanted. It’s all right here. All you have to do is say “yes” to me and then keep your promise, and I will keep my promise to you.

One of the early chapters in Ezekiel describes a mark that is given to those who are horrified by the rampant sin they see around them. The mark identifies them as God’s people. All those who don’t have the mark are later slaughtered without pity.

Do you think you have that mark? Do you think that God identifies you as one of his, or is the identification only coming from you? Do you claim to be a Christian but live indistinguishable from the world? Do you claim the blood of Jesus as your justification, even while you continue to do what you know isn’t right in God’s eyes? There are many such Christians, even self-professed born-again Christians, just as there were many such Israelites who considered themselves God’s people simply because they were Israelites.

A label is just a label. You can call yourself whatever you want. But a mark is a mark. Better pray that you have God’s.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 25 REFLECTION (JEREMIAH 23 – 49:39)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 25: AUGUST 16

JEREMIAH 23 – 49:39

From a 21st century perspective, Jeremiah was like an embedded journalist in war-torn Jerusalem. He was always in the thick of things when reporting God’s Word, but few wanted to hear what God had to say. They preferred tuning into the fake news from the false prophets, as they promised continued prosperity and peace. As we see in today’s reading, only those who heeded Jeremiah’s warnings survived.

  • Like Isaiah and other prophets before him, Jeremiah was also given a word from God about Jesus. Through the prophet, God called Jesus a “righteous Branch” of the house of David, a King who would not only reign but prosper (unlike evil kings) and be known as “The Lord Our Righteousness”. During his reign, Israel will be safe from all its enemies. This, of course, is yet another reference to God’s Kingdom on Earth, which exists here and now and is currently being ruled over by none other than The Lord Our Righteousness himself – Jesus. If you’re genuinely born-again, you’re a citizen of that Kingdom and The Lord Our Righteousness is your King. Amen!
  • Lovely line a few chapters later, also in reference to the Kingdom: “I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel….” If any of you have spent time walking by a river, you’ll know that the lushest greenery is next to it, the freshest air is next to it, and a natural pathway is next to it, forged by erosion over the centuries. God promises to be a father to us, protecting and guiding us, fighting off our enemies, and correcting us through appropriate punishment when we need it. Note that Jeremiah says that God will “cause” us to walk by the river. That means he’ll make it so that we end up there; it will be his doing – not ours – that we walk along this naturally-forged path in the freshest of air and lushest of greenery, with abundant fresh water for the taking. This is life in the Kingdom for the converted. God always delivers on his promises.
  • Much of today’s reading centers on the political intrigues and behind-the-scenes plots involving the kings that immediately succeeded Josiah and also on the problems caused by the false prophets. Recall that Josiah was the only king during Jeremiah’s time that “did right in the sight of the Lord”; all the rest did evil. (Check out 2 Chronicles, last page, for a run-down of the final kings before the 70-year exile to Babylon.) We read about Jeremiah getting arrested and imprisoned in various places, his papers confiscated and burned, and his reputation dragged through the mud, all for speaking God’s Word to God’s people. God doesn’t promise his servants an easy time of it, but he does promise them that they will be renewed and refreshed by his Word and protected by his Spirit. We see this in Jeremiah, in that he continually gets rescued from whatever’s thrown at him. Even the enemies of the Israelites rescue him. God uses every resource he has at hand to protect and support those who are loyal to him.
  • Jeremiah told the people that God wanted them to leave Jerusalem and the surrounding cities, go to Babylon, and put themselves under the authority of Nebuchadnezzar, whom God called his “servant”. To the Jews in positions of power in Judah and Israel, this was treason. In their view, Jeremiah was aiding and abetting the enemy by telling the Israelites to cut their losses and surrender to the Chaldeans and Babylonians. Why would God tell his people to desert Jerusalem, knowing that when they did that, the temple would be looted and the city destroyed?
  • Jeremiah is very clear that God needs to punish Judah and Israel for their centuries of sins. The punishment is to live in Babylon as captives for a period of 70 years, after which, if they repented and turned back to God with all their hearts, they could return to their lands. God would then punish Babylon. God always has a plan, and God’s plan is always best. Too bad that so few people go along with it.
  • The remainder of today’s reading shows that those who refused to obey God’s guidance, as given by Jeremiah, either died in Jerusalem, died fleeing Jerusalem, or died shortly after if they went to Egypt instead of Babylon. God is always very clear about his directives; he doesn’t leave room for misinterpretation. The people were told to surrender and go to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar’s authority and all would be reasonably well with them. However, they chose not to heed the advice. They saw surrender as losing face, and they couldn’t conceive that God wanted them to live as captives under their enemies. They took a position of pride and refused to budge, and it was their downfall. Jeremiah survived and actually thrived as a stranger in a strange land.
  • The story of the machinations of the evil kings and their princes, priests, advisors, and false prophets is meant for us to learn from. It is a cautionary tale. Sometimes the right way forward is directly into the arms of the enemy, if that’s where God tells you to go. Always go where God tells you to go, not where human reasoning or pride dictate. God makes use of all the world’s resources to support his children, including resources belonging to enemies. What’s theirs, in some cases, is also ours, if God says so.

The book of Jeremiah shows us the day-to-day life of a prophet of God in ancient Israel. Of all the OT prophets, it probably provides the most details, other than for the book of Daniel. The NT, on the other hand, is full of intimate day-to-day details of lives lived in accordance with God’s will, as we’ll see starting next week. The details are important not only to flesh out the people being described and draw us deeper into their story, but to serve as a guide for what to do (or not to do) under different situations.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.

ARE YOU GIVING EVERYTHING TO GOD, OR ARE YOU HOLDING SOMETHING BACK?

(I touched on this subject in yesterday’s BIBLE READ-THROUGH #23 reflection, but it deserves a separate entry of its own.)

Are you giving everything you’ve got to God, or are you holding something back? What are you still giving to the world that you know you should be giving to God?

When I was reading Isaiah yesterday, I saw someone standing before God on Judgement Day and God asking the person: “Why did you hold back on me? When you knew you should give me everything, why did you hold back?” His tone wasn’t angry. He wasn’t upset. If anything, he was sad, and he was listening intently to hear the person’s response.

Jesus says that by our words we are justified and by our words we are condemned. If we know that we should do something and choose not to do it, we have no-one but ourselves to blame. When we stand before God on Judgement Day and he asks us why we held back a part of ourselves from him even though we knew we shouldn’t, we will have no option but to tell him the Truth. You cannot lie to God. It is impossible to stand before God and lie. You can’t lie, you can’t doubt, you can’t dissemble, you can’t even argue. Any form of communication that is shades of gray rather than plain black or white is disabled when you stand before God.

So what are YOU holding back from God? If you die tonight and the next thing you know you’re standing before God on Judgement Day, what will you say to him when he asks you why you didn’t give him everything?

What will you say?

Will you tell him you were too busy? You didn’t have time? You were working two jobs and trying to pay off your debts? That you wanted to think about it for a while? That you’d planned on giving him everything, but you were waiting until the time was right?

That you were waiting until the time was right?

If you’re reading this now and you haven’t yet given everything to God, the time is right. The time will never be more right than it is right here and right now. You will not survive what’s coming unless you are fully under God’s protection as a born-again follower of Jesus, and that means giving everything you have to God, holding nothing back.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 24 REFLECTION (ISAIAH 55 – JEREMIAH 22:30)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 24: AUGUST 15

ISAIAH 55 – JEREMIAH 22:30

The book of Isaiah, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly over the past few days, has Jesus written all over it. Most of the book is about Jesus as God’s servant. The final few chapters of Isaiah in today’s reading are more about the fruit of Jesus’ labours, which is God’s Kingdom on Earth, otherwise known as spiritual Zion, the holy mountain, and spiritual Israel. These are all the same place, and their establishment was foretold in scripture, including and foremost in Isaiah.

If you’re born-again, you live in God’s Kingdom on Earth (i.e., spiritual Zion, the holy mountain, spiritual Israel). Establishing this Kingdom is what Jesus came to accomplish by offering himself as the final and perfect redeeming sacrifice. He aced it, and is now seated at the right hand of God, ruling over us born-agains as our King and High Priest. Being redeemed enables us, as Jesus’ followers, to have the same relationship with God as he had, and as Adam once had (before the fall), and as all true prophets have had throughout the ages.

  • Isaiah 61:1-2 is the famous verse that Jesus quoted in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth when he came out as the Messiah. In case anyone in the synagogue was dozing off that day, Jesus forcefully and unequivocally stated that he was the fulfillment of that scripture. He left no room for misinterpretation.  Then he went on to castigate the hometown crowd for their spiritual blindness and lack of faith, and in so doing incited a lynch mob against him. But Jesus just calmly walked through the midst of them and left.
  • In this reading, the “Great Invitation” that was initially given only to the children of Israel is being extended to everyone else who chooses God’s way over the world’s way. What we essentially see here is God petitioning for new believers outside the 12 tribes of Israel. At the same time, Isaiah gives us a run-down of why God is looking for new spiritual blood – the spiritual leaders are blind and greedy and leading the people astray, and the people themselves are unrepentantly following the demon-worshiping practices of the heathens around them. This, as we’ve seen in previous readings, is nothing new for the children of Israel, but God has reached the end of his patience. If his chosen don’t want what he’s offering, maybe someone else will. As for his children who reject him, “the Lord God shall slay [them] and call his servants by another name”.
  • Hence, “Christians”.
  • I’m sad to see the last of Isaiah in this read-through. I could scour that book every day, never tiring of it and still finding something I hadn’t noticed before, still hearing an echo from something written elsewhere in the Bible. Jesus, I suspect, knew Isaiah by heart. It was, after all, his script. Note that it even mentions the kings, the shepherds, and the angels (Isaiah 60:1, 2 and 3, respectively) coming to worship him. God laid it all out for Isaiah, and Jesus soaked it up.

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  • Jeremiah is considered by some Jewish historians as a “failed prophet” solely because his warnings failed to turn the children of Israel (particularly Judah) back to God. But that’s not the job of a prophet, to force people to worship God. A prophet speaks God’s Word; he/she doesn’t twist arms and coerce people into doing what they don’t want to do. Even God doesn’t do that. Is God, then, by the measure of these same Jewish historians, a failed God?
  • Jeremiah is anything but a failed prophet (and God is anything but a failed God!). On the contrary, and even despite being imprisoned for preaching God’s Word, Jeremiah never swerved from speaking God’s Truth. There were other prophets also prophesying at the time who lied to the people and told them “everything’s going to be OK”, but Jeremiah warned the Israelites that unless they turned back to God wholeheartedly, “OK” was the last thing everything was going to be.
  • For me, Jeremiah’s is the voice of this present age. I think the times we’re in now, with so-called formerly Christian nations collectively turning their backs on God and adopting demonic lifestyles and laws, is much like Israel just before the destruction of Jerusalem and their captivity in Babylon. Jeremiah was singular in his message, but pretty much universally ignored, as are all people who speak God’s Truth today. In fact, speaking God’s Truth today can get you arrested, just like in Jeremiah’s day.
  • I particularly relate to Jeremiah’s lack of a bedside manner. When there’s plenty of time, you can be soft-spoken, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya; but when time is almost up, you speak plainly and bark orders. Those who want what God is offering will gratefully accept it; those who object to how the message is being delivered are lost anyway, so don’t waste your time on them. Let them go.
  • It might be helpful to take note of the kings under which both Isaiah and Jeremiah were prophesying (you can check the list of kings in 2 Chronicles, towards the end of the book). Isaiah prophesied mostly under kings who “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord”, whereas Jeremiah was stuck with the short stick, except for Josiah. After Josiah, all the kings Jeremiah endured “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord”. This in large part explains both the trouble Jeremiah had (arrests, imprisonment, etc.) and also the spiritual disaster state that was the children of Israel. We get the leaders we’ve earned through our thoughts and actions, and the Israelites at that time had earned some real doozies. So have we.

What are your thoughts about the final chapter of Isaiah and the opening chapters of Jeremiah? Do you object to Jeremy’s lack of bedside manner, or do you find it refreshing? He certainly doesn’t mince his words, and those who prefer to see themselves as victims rather than as getting back what they put out would obviously object. This is so much like today’s society, where perceived (that is, false) victimhood has been elevated to a new form of secular sainthood by the social justice crowd. Don’t give into them and don’t go along with them. Be like Jeremiah, who stood alone on God’s Truth

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For a full schedule of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH, click on the links below.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 23 REFLECTION (ISAIAH 17 – 54:17)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 23: AUGUST 14

ISAIAH 17 – 54:17

I mentioned a few days ago, when we were doing the Solomon readings, that I had to skim through most of the proverbs because the material was so dense. Each line really required a study in itself, which isn’t suited to our current “quick ‘n’ dirty” read-through mode.

Today’s reading is likewise dense, but O Mama! There was no way I wasn’t going to slow down and savour every morsel of what God is feeding us through Isaiah. So instead of the anticipated few hours I’d scheduled for this reading, I took the whole day. Sometimes you just gotta.

  • Jesus, as I said before, is all over Isaiah. We can see from today’s reading why Jesus favoured this prophet and also why he chose to read a passage from Isaiah at the synagogue in Nazareth when he outed himself as the Messiah. God revealed to Isaiah more about Jesus and the Kingdom than he did to anyone else, and Isaiah also wrote more eloquently about Jesus and the Kingdom than did anyone else. Even in a translation of a translation of a translation, the power of God’s Word is so forceful, it’s at times overwhelming. I always come away from a reading of Isaiah completely exhilarated and with a deeper insight into Jesus and spiritual Zion.
  • Along with descriptions of Jesus and the role he would play as Messiah, Isaiah also gives us a run-down of what will happen to those who either fight against Israel or defy God. It isn’t pretty. Reading the passages about what will ultimately happen to Israel’s enemies (even though in the interim they seem to prosper in their evil and get away with it), I couldn’t help but think of those who say they believe in God and yet give only part of themselves to him, holding the rest back. I couldn’t help thinking that these people, by holding part of themselves back, are essentially defying God and are enemies of spiritual Israel. Do you think that people who hold part of themselves back from God, giving it to the world instead, will secure a place in Heaven? That is not a rhetorical question; that is actually a “yes” or “no” question, and the answer is a resounding “NO!”. We’ll read later in Acts what happens to people who claim to love God and follow Jesus but hold part of themselves back. They end up no different than God’s enemies.
  • God told Isaiah to get naked and barefoot and walk that way FOR THREE YEARS as a sign against Israel’s enemies, and he did it. We need to be as willing as Isaiah to do whatever God tells us and for whatever length of time. The alternative is losing our place in Heaven. If it means getting naked and walking barefoot for three years, we get naked and walk barefoot for three years, but only if GOD tells us to do it. Personally, I don’t think God will ask any of us to do that. Just before I was reborn, God gave me the choice to forgive or not to forgive, making it very clear that choosing to forgive was the right choice and would lead to the better outcome. What I’m saying is that God didn’t ask me to walk naked and barefoot for three years. That was just for Isaiah. But God might give you the “to forgive or not to forgive” choice, because God doesn’t answer the prayers of people whose hearts are hardened by resentment.
  • I’m looking forward to the Isaiah grand finale tomorrow and the start of the book of Jeremiah. Jesus also quoted extensively from “Jeremy”, as you’ll see as we make our way through the book over the next few days.

So what are your thoughts on Isaiah? Do you find the scripture exhilarating, or are you stuck thinking what’s up with God that he made Isaiah walk naked and barefoot for three years? God made his prophets do a few bizarre things (wait until we get to Ezekiel!), but everything was for a purpose and a sign, and was meant either to get his people back on track or to warn their enemies, or both. God knew the more outrageous the sign, the more impactful it would be.

Has God made you do anything crazy yet? If not, watch out for it. The more you say you want to give everything to God, the more he’ll test you to see if you really mean it. As Mary, at the wedding in Cana, said of Jesus: “Whatever he says to you, do it”. Just make sure it’s God you’re hearing from, not some other spirit.

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