Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Daniel's vision of King Jesus

"The Glory of the Lamb" by David van der Plaats - Revelation 5:13
"The Glory of the Lamb" by David van der Plaats (Revelation 5:13)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 7-9Psalm  57

"TO CHEW ON: … behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom one
Which shall not be destroyed." Daniel 7:13,14

Who of us, familiar with the Bible, can read Daniel's description of the king in his vision and not get it? This is Jesus Daniel is seeing—Jesus whose kingdom he is describing.

He is "One like the Son of man" i.e. recognizable as a person. And how many times haven't we seen His coming described a "coming with the clouds of heaven"? Listen to Matthew's recall of Jesus' words:

"'Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven … and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory'" - Matthew 24:30 (see also Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 24:27; Revelation 1:7; 14:14).

Daniel goes on to describe how the Son of Man's dominion, glory, and kingdom encompass all the kingdoms of earth. All peoples, nations, and languages will serve Him. And His kingdom will be indestructible and last forever.

Though Jesus rebuffed any attempts to install Him as an earthly king,  He talked often about His kingdom (e.g. John 3:35-36).

Paul understood His ruler role as well as anyone and explained it to the early church and to us in passages like 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22 and how about this from Philippians:

"Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father "- Philippians 2:9-11

I love how the Bible's message reverberates from the Old Testament to the New in such a consistent way. As we see Daniel's picture of Jesus the king, let's allow our hearts to soar in admiration, awe and worship.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I so readily picture You as a wise but meek teacher, striding around Judea and Galilee telling stories and doing miracles. May the image of You as King be planted as firmly in my imagination. Amen.



The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Civil servant with an excellent spirit

Daniel praying by G.C.H. - Daniel 6:10
Daniel praying (Daniel 6:10)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 4-6; Psalm 56

TO CHEW ON: "'I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.
For He is the living God,
And steadfast forever;
His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed,
And His dominion shall endure to the end.'" Daniel 6:26

Daniel in the lion's den—what a gripping story. It has all the elements of a good read: a noble hero, jealous villains, a naive king, and an insurmountable problem. But it is so much more than just entertainment.

Three things stand out for me in this incident.
1. The description of Daniel having an "excellent spirit" (Daniel 6:3).  That tells me he had a reputation for good things—good work, making wise decisions, perhaps a pleasing manner.

2. Daniel's unshakeable, even stubborn devotion to God (Daniel 6:10). When it came down to choosing between faith in God or his life, he chose God with not even a flicker of hesitation.

3. The incident resulted in praise and glory going to God, not Daniel, shown by Darius's prayer at the end of the chapter (Daniel 6:25-27).

We can draw three lessons for our own lives:
1. We can make it our goal to have an "excellent spirit." What would that look like? Perhaps a heart of service, a cheerful attitude, a considerate manner, a reputation for fairness... Leslyn Musch in her Truth-In-Action Through Daniel article, calls it "godliness" ("Try to reflect godliness in all you do" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1140). That would imply the that the attributes we see in God would make up an excellent spirit in us.

2. We can stay loyal to God no matter what the consequences. In our time that may or may not be reason for civil disobedience, as it was for Daniel.

3. The goal of all this is the only worth one: that glory goes to God, not us.

Dear God, please help me to cooperate with You in developing an excellent spirit within me. May it be the goal of my life to bring glory to You, no matter what the cost. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Yielded bodies

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 1-3; Psalm 55

TO CHEW ON: "Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, 'Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego,  who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God." - Daniel 3:28

I love the way Nebuchadnezzar spells out what these three rebellious officials have done this day. He says, in effect, 'You thumbed your noses at my law, yielding your very bodies in order to obey God, whom I now see is greater than I am.' Not only had these men  faced the possibility of giving up their positions and reputations but their physical lives to stay loyal to God.

Similar sacrifice is found throughout scripture. In the Old Testament
  • Caleb and Joshua followed the Lord to the extent that their fellow Israelites were about to stone them when when they defended Moses after their spy mission - Numbers 14:10; 32:12.
  • King Josiah promised and then made good on his promise to follow God with all his heart, soul and might - 2 Kings 23:3,25.
  • In the New Testament Paul models that kind of surrender, facing stoning, riots, and imprisonments to spread the gospel.

Surrender to the point of physical pain—even death—is foreign to us, or to me at least. I wonder how I would have done under the pressures of Nebuchadnezzar's edict or the hounding that the first Christians lived with. No doubt the spirits of these stalwarts were first steeled in the mental, emotional and spiritual way Paul talks about in:

Romans 12:1
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Galatians 5:24
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

2 Timothy 2:21
Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

PRAYER: Dear God, you are not asking me to yield my body to a fiery furnace, but to honour You and achieve Your purposes in my own setting. Help me to discern what Your purposes are, and to give myself, soul, spirit and body, to You. Amen.

The Bible Project VIDEO: DANIEL - (Read Scripture Series)


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 28, 2018


The king extends his sceptre to Esther - Artist unknown
The king extends his sceptre to Esther - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Esther 6-10; Psalm 54

TO CHEW ON: "The Jews gathered together in their cities …. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people." Esther 9:2

Here we read again what we've read before—of God coming to the aid of His helpless and outnumbered people, the Jews, using the psychological weapon of fear in their enemies.

This fear of the Jews is an old theme from when God promised to help the Israelites conquer Canaan. Moses reminded the Israelites of this repeatedly in passages like Numbers 14:9, Deuteronomy 7:24, 11:25; 28:7; 32:30.

When Joshua became their leader, God promised to help him in the same way - Joshua 1:5; 10:8. We read of the results of this fear in places like Joshua 12:1; 21:44; 23:9.

The Old Testament prophets continued to predict fear in the enemies of the Jews. God was intent on preserving the people out of which His Son would be born to bring salvation for the world  - Isaiah 19:17; Jeremiah 15:20; Daniel 11:16; Zechariah 9:13.  This incident in Persia is an example of this fear in action.

When Jesus walked the earth, we recall the many times during his life when the scribes and Pharisees, who were intent on killing him, were mysteriously hindered from harming Him by fear of one kind or another - Matthew 21:26,46; Mark 12:12; Luke 5:26; 20:19.

And the wonderful thing is that the promise of invincibility comes down to us.

Jesus promised about the church that the "... gates of hell shall not prevail against it" - Matthew 16:18.

Paul tells Christians to put on the armor of God, take up the shield of faith and in this way they would be able to "... quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one" - Ephesians 6:16.

No wonder the demons believe and "... tremble" - James 2:19.

When we feel small, insignificant, and badly outnumbered in an unbelieving world, let's not lose sight of the fact that God is still at work in the enemy's ranks. And He still has the weapon of fear in His arsenal.

Dear God, please help me to live with confidence that Your plans and purposes for this world will never be thwarted. Amen.


MORE: Modern fear of the Jews
When former KGB spy Jack Barsky (a Soviet spy in the U.S. during the Cold War years) recently talked to Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, he said that the Jews were one of three things the Soviets feared most during those years. (The others were AIDS and Ronald Reagan).

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 27, 2018


Esther crowned by Ahasuerus
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Esther 1-5; Psalm 53

TO CHEW ON: "So the young woman pleased him, and she obtained his favor; so he readily gave beauty preparations to her besides her allowance .... And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her .... The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins." Esther 2:9,15,17

Exit Vashti; enter Esther. Esther rose, it seems effortlessly, to the top of the group of beautiful women assembled for the king and from which he would choose his next queen.

Several times we read that she had favor.

[The Hebrew word used for favor here is nasa which means to lift up, to be lifted up, to cause to be lifted up. Our English word favor is defined as a friendly regard shown toward another, especially by a superior; approving consideration or attention.]

We don't read that Esther made any effort to curry that favor. It just inexplicably came to her (because of her beauty, perhaps, or her pleasing personality). Or maybe there is an explanation. The writer of a sidebar article in my Bible says:

"Recognize that favour is given for a purpose. For Esther God's favour led to provision and protection for His people." - Leslyn Musch, Truth-In-Action through Esther, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 642.

I'm sure the same principle is true in our lives. If we find or are given favor, let's realize that God has a larger purpose for it than our good feelings. Perhaps we could pray for insight into how God wants to use that favor. Of course we don't have to know what His plans are. The realization that this favor is, in the end, about His cause and glory being advanced and not our own, will help keep us from getting swelled heads and egos.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this story of You working in the background to accomplish Your plans and purposes by giving Esther favor. Help me to acknowledge Your behind-the-scenes action in my life in a similar way. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: Esther (Read Scripture Series) 

MORE: More favor

"For his anger lasts only a moment,
 but His favor lasts a lifetime!
 Weeping may last through the night,
 but joy comes with the morning"- Psalm 30:5 (New Living Translation).
A good man obtains favor from the Lord,
    but the Lord condemns a crafty man. -
Proverbs 12:2 (NIV 1984).
"And Jesus increased in wisdom (in broad and full understanding) and in stature and years, and in favor with God and man." - Luke 2:52 (AMP).

Said of the early church: "... praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" - Acts 2:47.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible,
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Real change is an inside job

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Nehemiah 12-13; Psalm 52

“Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.” Nehemiah 12:43

Nehemiah completed the task he got leave from his job to do. Nehemiah 12 describes the dedication of the finished wall. It was a great celebration with  music, instruments, choirs and  sacrifices. Then Nehemiah went back to Babylon to work for Artaxerxes.

Sometime later, when Nehemiah returned to visit Jerusalem, he found, to his great dismay, that a lot of people had slipped back into their old ways.
  • Some of Israel’s enemies and critics had infiltrated the temple and leadership (Nehemiah 13:7,8; 28).
  • Since offerings were no longer being collected and stored for the Levites, they had to go back to farming to make a living (Nehemiah 13:10).
  • People were working on the Sabbath day (Nehemiah 13:15).
  • Gentile merchants were allowed into the city to set up markets on the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:16).
  • The people were again intermarrying with their idol-worshiping neighbours and forgetting or not even learning the language of Israel (Israel 13:23,24).

And so Nehemiah had to clean up again (Nehemiah 13:30,31). His zeal for obedience and holiness is a testimony of how much he feared and respected God and cared for the well-being of the people.

This passage leaves us with some thoughts to apply to our lives.
1. The rebuilt wall that was meant to set Jerusalem apart from its pagan neighbours was ineffective because the people’s hearts, from the religious and political leaders down, had not changed. Real change is effective only when it starts from inside.

2. Nehemiah’s zeal in building the wall in the first place and then his coming back and putting things right shows a respect and fear of God that we seem to have lost in our after-the-cross church era. Though we don’t fear God’s judgment as Old Testament people of faith did, God hasn’t changed. I sometimes wonder whether our casual attitude toward sin might be putting us on a more dangerous path than we realize.

Dear Father, change me from the inside so that my heart is to do Your will, because I love You and regard You with a realistic respect and fear. Amen.
Psalm 52

  Change Me on the Inside

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

I'm sorry. Please forgive me

"David Asking Forgiveness" by Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld (1851-60)

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Nehemiah 10-11; Psalm 51

TO CHEW ON: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17

Psalm 51 is David's eloquent prayer of repentance, prayed after the prophet Nathan confronted him with God's reaction to his role in the Bathsheba affair. I wonder, had he been avoiding God in the interim? Or had he carried on as usual, pretending everything was fine between them? Now that he knew things weren't fine, a lot of seemingly pent-up realizations came bubbling to the surface:

  • He's been feeling dirty: "wash me thoroughly ... purge me with hyssop ... wash me..." (Psalm 51:2, 7, 10). My Bible's footnotes explain, "The Hebrew word for wash (vs. 10)  is not the one used for the simple cleansing of a dish in water but rather the washing of clothes by beating and pounding them" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 727.
  • His sin has been bothering him—even if he squelched it down pretending it was no big deal: "...my sin is always before me..." (Psalm 51:3,4).
  • He admits that he deceived himself and needs God's help for that not to happen again: "Behold You desire truth in the inward parts / And in the hidden part you will make me know wisdom" (Psalm 51:6).
  • His sin has sucked the joy out of life: "Make me hear joy and gladness .... Restore to me the joy of Your salvation" (Psalm 51:8,12).
  • It has silenced his praise: "O Lord, open my lips / And my mouth shall sing aloud of Your righteousness" (Psalm 51:15).
  • He fears God's Spirit has left or will leave him: "Do not cast me away from Your presence / And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:11).
  • He has a renewed realization that God is holy and not someone with whom to toy: "Have mercy upon me, O God ... Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed" (Psalm 51:1, 14).
  • No bargaining, he gives God carte blanche to deal with him over this sin: "Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion" (Psalm 51:18).

I would suggest that David's reactions to his uncovered sin are frequently ours as well. That's why Psalm 51 is often our destination when we've sinned and we're needing to confess and repent.

May our words be as sincere, our spirits as broken, our hearts as contrite as David's appear to be when we read or recite this sacrifice of confession and repentance.

PRAYER: Dear God, You know how easily and often I sin and feel the same emotions as David expresses here. Help me to be as repentant as he was. May I learn from these times so that "truth in the inner parts" and wisdom in the "hidden part" become my lifestyle. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Weep at the Word

Reading the law - Artist unknown
Reading the Law - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Nehemiah 7-9; Psalm 50

TO CHEW ON: "And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, 'This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.' For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law." Nehemiah 8:9

If you are familiar with Moses' law—that part of the Bible we find in sections of Exodus and Leviticus—you may well be surprised to see people weeping when it is read. Why would they weep on hearing a bunch of rules?

On thinking about it, I can come up with several reasons;
  • It may have been the emotion they felt as they again connected with their religious and cultural roots. It seems that these people were unschooled in the law. We can assume that because of the way they needed a lot of explanation when it was read (Nehemiah 8:7). Even so, they probably had glimmerings of it, passed down through generations. But on this momentous day, as they respectfully stood for its reading, they were hearing the real thing for the first time in their lives. No wonder they got choked up.
  • They were saddened by how far they had strayed from the law's requirements. But their teachers urged them—don't look at yourselves; focus on God. Make this day holy or separate to God. Let the joy of who God is and what He is doing now, energize you (Nehemiah 8:9-10).
  • They were under conviction and their tears were evidence that God was at work in their lives. I love how this incident is the climax of their wall-repair project—an experience that had been both exhilarating and stressful. But they had completed it
Fresh from the victory of re-establishing the integrity of their city, they were primed for the victory of returning to God in spirit. Their sensitivity to God's will and eagerness to obey is on display as they jumped to obey the instructions to keep the Feast of Booths—something that had apparently not been done since the time of Joshua (Nehemiah 8:13-18).

What is our reaction to God's word? We have not only the Law, but the stories, the prophets, the New Testament, much of it plain and easy to understand.
  • Do we respect it (to the extent of willingly standing for its reading when our pastors instruct us to, of course) as these people did?
  • Do we hear it with the sense that it applies to us personally?
  • Do we focus on how badly we've messed up, or on God and His goodness to us, His plan of salvation, and the hopeful outlook that trust in Him brings?
  • Are we quick to change our ways when we see where we have been disobedient?
May our lives be evidence of us going from one obedience to the next (like these people did), as we let the hammer / fire / lamp / sword of God's word do its work.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your word which tells me about You and educates me in Your ways. May I take it as personally as these people who, on hearing, wept, repented, and obeyed. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 23, 2018

An ancient complaint

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Nehemiah 4-6; Psalm 49

TO CHEW ON: "I also with my brethren and my servants am lending them money and grain. Please let us stop this usury!" Nehemiah 5:10

The complaints of the people to Nehemiah in today's reading remind me of the modern Occupy Movement of 2011. It was a protest against unfairness in society. Rooted in the financial collapse of 2008, people were protesting many things including the use of tax money to bail out big businesses and banks. While executives of the companies (who many perceived to be the cause of the problem) got huge bonuses and severance packages, the little guy lost his job and then his house because he could no longer pay his debts.

It appears that an economic crisis had also hit Jerusalem and its surroundings just prior to Nehemiah's arrival. A footnote in my Bible explains, "A famine along with the need to pay taxes had forced many families into insolvency. Nehemiah's presence emboldened the dispossessed to cry out for justice" - Study notes, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 618.

The confidence of the poor people in Nehemiah was well placed. Outraged by conditions, he took up their cause. He assembled the nobles and rulers and:

  • Rebuked them (Nehemiah 5:7).
  • Reasoned with them, showing how it didn't make sense that they had freed Jewish citizens held captives by other nations but were holding their own people to ransom with debt (Nehemiah 5:8).
  • Told them to stop charging interest (Nehemiah 5:10). Actually what they were doing to their brothers was against Moses' law (Leviticus 25:35-38).
  • Commanded them to restore absconded property along with some of the interest that had been paid to them (Nehemiah 5:11).
He himself was a good example, in that he lent the poor people money and grain (Nehemiah 5:10) and refused to live the customary high lifestyle of a governor himself (Nehemiah 5:15).

There is a place for us to be champions of justice in our society too. Though I don't suggest aligning oneself with any particular modern cause, there are things we can do. As a start, we can treat others fairly, lend or give money when we see a need, and live modestly and within our means, like Nehemiah did.

PRAYER: Dear God, please grow in me an attitude of justice for the poor and the generosity and willingness to help when I can with what I have. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The prayer that changed a nation's story

Nehemiah praying - Nehemiah 1
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Nehemiah 1-3; Psalm 48

"And so it was, when I heard these words that I sat down and wept and mourned for many days' I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven." - Nehemiah 1:4

The word economy of the Bible quickly gets us to the crux of the matter in this story that takes place at the end of the Old Testament time. The described state of his fellow Hebrews in Jerusalem distresses Nehemiah (who is a servant of Persian King Artaxerxes) immensely. So he does what we should all do when we're distressed—goes to the One who can help.

Nehemiah 1:5-11 is Nehemiah's heartfelt prayer. Let's look closely at it to see what we can learn about prayer from it.

1. Nehemiah begins by addressing God: "Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God..." His beginning puts him in his place and vaults God to His. By saying these faith-building words (Nehemiah 1:5) Nehemiah also reminds himself of God's power and ability to answer.

2. Nehemiah includes himself with the people (Nehemiah 1:6-7).  Though he is many miles away and probably hasn't participated personally in the sins he confesses, he stands in solidarity with his countrymen. His identification with them also shows his understanding of how God works in and through nations.

3. He prays God's words back to Him.
Nehemiah 1:8-9 are a paraphrase a Moses' words in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, recalling words of warning and blessing to Israel from centuries earlier (see Leviticus 26:33 and Deuteronomy 4:25-27, 29-30; 28:63-67; 30:4).

4. He names his request. He reminds God of the investment He has already made in Israel (Nehemiah 1:10) and pleads for mercy, for himself (from his boss, the King of Persia; 'would God move the heart of a king to give him favor?') and in that, also for all of Israel (Nehemiah 1:11).

The rest of the book of Nehemiah tells the story of how King Artaxerxes releases Nehemiah from his duties, finances and equips his trip to Jerusalem, and then how Nehemiah leads the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall and eventually a spiritual revival.

What large and small things are troubling us today? Let's pray about them. Let's pray remembering how big and capable God is in contrast to our own neediness, frailty, and unworthiness. Let's pray God's words—His promises—back to Him, naming our requests with all the passion and emotion they bring up in his.

Dear God, thank You for prayer. Help me to realize that a burden about a situation or person is also an invitation to pray about it. Help me to pray from my heart,  with faith in You and Your power. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Ezra's prayer of 'Here is how it is...'

Ezra in Prayer by Gustave Dore
Ezra in Prayer - Gustave Dore

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ezra 8-10; Psalm 47

"And I said, 'O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown to the heavens.'" Ezra 9:6

Ezra was terribly distressed. His body language—torn clothes, pulled out hair, abject posture—tells us that, even before we read the first words that come out of his mouth.

The reason? It's because the Jewish citizens of Jerusalem, indeed even their leaders, had intermarried with the idol-worshiping women of the surrounding nations. And in general the people were arranging marriages for their sons and daughters with pagan neighbours.

There was a strong tradition of marital exclusivity among the Jews:
  • Abraham insisted Isaac not marry a Canaanite women (Genesis 24:3,37).
  • Rebekah insisted Jacob not take a wife from the Canaanites (Genesis 28:1) though Esau did, much to his parents' chagrin (Genesis 27:46).
  • When the Israelites were about to enter Canaan, Moses spoke the ban clearly:
"When the Lord your God brings you into the land...you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them (the "many nations" that inhabit it) ....Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from Me to serve other gods so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly" (Deuteronomy 7:1-4).

But intermarrying with Gentiles had happened over and over already in Israel's history with predictable results. A notable example was Solomon (1 Kings 3:1; 11:1-11).

Now Ezra was witnessing the old compromise, and he was clearly terrified that God would make good on His threat to destroy them. His prayer isn't  a direct request at all, but an implied call for mercy. We could paraphrase the end of his prayer: 'Here we are God; this is how it is.'

I wonder what Ezra would think about the marriages of our time. I know it isn't our custom to arrange marriages for our kids and when they fall in love with non-believers we look on helplessly. Well, not exactly helplessly, because we pray that they won't make unwise choices and give them as much guidance as they'll take.

Oh, I know stories abound of how the Christian partner leads the non-Christian to God. But I have also heard too many stories of heartbreak when spouses don't have the same beliefs and values. There is disagreement about how to raise the kids, how to spend money, and on and on. Way too often the unbelieving spouse leads the believing one off the "straight and narrow." There is a reason for Paul's words to the Corinthians to "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers..." - 2 Corinthians 6:14.

Dear God, Ezra's shock and grief at Israel's mixed marriages makes me look at our customs through a different lens. Please help us to raise our kids and grandkids by Your wise principles. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The help of enemies

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ezra 4-7; Psalm 46

TO CHEW ON: "And they kept the feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord made them joyful and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel." Ezra 6:22

"When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him," says Proverbs 16:7.

Our reading today is an example of this. Through a decree of Darius king of Babylon, a search was made that turned up another decree issued by Cyrus years earlier. He had commanded that the Jerusalem temple be rebuilt. The cost of this rebuild was to be charged to his royal treasury and the gold and silver accessories (utensils and dishes) were to be restored and returned to the Jerusalem temple (Ezra 6:2-5).

In fact, an additional decree by Darius went on to command that certain provincial leaders "keep away" or "keep yourselves far from there" (Ezra 6:6) and refrain from hindering the project. Instead of causing problems they were to help by supplying tribute money and animals for the sacrifice. The penalty for altering Darius's decree was — well, barbaric (see Ezra 6:12).

When we are serving God, and life (circumstances, and people) comes against us in all kinds of opposition, we can take comfort from this example of God's sovereignty over even the highest rulers. I love the verse: "The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord;
 he guides it wherever he pleases" - Proverbs 21:1 (NLT). There is no situation or person that God can't change or use to achieve His purposes.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your sovereignty over all mankind. Help me to be involved in Your purposes, living in sync with Your ways, and in a place where I can expect Your help. Amen.


MORE: The rebuilding of the temple
Gustave Doré's engraving "The Rebuilding of the Temple" gives us an idea of what a big, labor-intensive job this construction project must have been.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

God can make a way

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezra 1-3; Psalm 45

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing saying 

‘… Who is among you of His people? May his God be with him and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (He is God) which is in Jerusalem’” - Ezra 1:1,3

Pinch me, is this really happening?! the Jewish exiles in Babylon may have thought when Cyrus’s proclamation to rebuild the temple came down. However, when God decrees a thing, it will happen, no matter how unlikely it seems.

Ezra notes that Jeremiah’s words were fulfilled. Jeremiah did predict a 70-year exile in Jeremiah 25:12 and Jeremiah 29:10. But even earlier, Isaiah prophesied that the temple would be rebuilt and even named the king (Cyrus) who would rebuild it in Isaiah 44:28.

I love the conclusions of my Bible’s study notes about this:

That the word of the LORD … might be fulfilled” is the underlying explanation of the historical events of this time” - Gary Matsdorf, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 599.


“God is able to accomplish His plans and purposes on behalf of His people either through or in spite of ungodly or even hostile government authorities. Our faith walk often requires that we trust and rely on God to make a way where there is no way … Have faith even when things seem impossible” - Leslyn Musch, Truth-In-Action-Through-Ezra, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 611.

This is a challenge to me to look at the things in my world that seem impossible (personally, family-wise, politically in my country and even internationally) and to keep bringing them to God in prayer. Perhaps even my (and yours too) ongoing concern is His Spirit reminding us about these things so we will keep praying and looking for His answers.

Paul: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” - Romans 8:26.
Jesus: And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing you will receive” - Matthew 21:22.

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for this story of Your purpose accomplished through unlikely Cyrus. I trust You to work similarly in my time through likely and unlikely people and circumstances. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: Ezra & Nehemiah (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What flows out of you?

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 45-48; Psalm 44

“He told me, ‘This river flows east through the desert and the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea, where it will heal the salty waters and make them fresh and pure. Everything touching the water of this river shall live…’” Ezekiel 47:8,9 TLB

What a lovely picture Ezekiel’s vision paints, of life returning and springing up as a result of living water flowing from the temple!  Ezekiel was not the only one who spoke of this.

Joel saw a similar vision:
“… water will fill the dry stream beds of Judah and a fountain will burst forth from the temple of the Lord to water Acacia Valley” - Joel 3:18.

So did Zechariah:
“Life-giving waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half toward the Dead Sea and half toward the Mediterranean, flowing continuously both in winter and summer” - Zechariah 14:8.

John in Revelation saw it too:
“And he pointed out to me a river of pure Water of Life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, coursing down the center of the main street (of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem - Revelation 21:1). On each side of the river grew Trees of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month; the leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations” - Revelation 22:1,2 (compare Ezekiel 47:12).

The beautiful thing is, Jesus also mentioned this life-giving water, but in an even more personal and present way. In John 4, He offered living water to the thirsty Samaritan woman:
“He (Jesus) replied, ‘If only you knew what a wonderful gift God has for you, and who I am, you would ask me for some living water … But the water I give them,’ he said, ‘becomes a perpetual spring within them, watering them forever with eternal life.’” John 4:10,13.

Then, in the temple, preaching to the crowd Jesus said:
‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who believes in me'" (John 7:37,38, quoting Isaiah 55:1).

John interprets this pouring out as the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (John 7:39). Isaiah spoke of it this way:
“For I will give you abundant water for your thirst and for your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit and my blessings on your children” - Isaiah 44:3.

As those who cling to Jesus’ death and resurrection for our salvation, and who have surrendered ourselves to the Holy Spirit, this life-giving flow can be, should be flowing in and through us to others.

We do well to ask ourselves, am I a clear channel of living water? Does my presence bring God’s life, health and wholeness? Or have I become a muddled stream, the sort of which James speaks:
“And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth … Dear brothers, surely this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble first with fresh water and then with bitter water?” James 3:10,11.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, through the work of Your Spirit please flush all that is bitter, stale, and putrid from me. May only living water flow through my thoughts, words, and actions.
PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 44.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from The Living Bible (or TLB) copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. The Living Bible, TLB, and the The Living Bible logo are registered trademarks of Tyndale House Publishers.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

When life turns out the lights

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 40-44;  Psalm 43


“Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your tabernacle.” Psalm 43:3

Have you ever tried to walk a footpath—even one you know well—in the dark? Without the benefit of light how easy it is to stumble on subtle unevenesses, to miss obstacles, to run into things, or “see” things that aren’t even there!

Such walking in darkness is bad enough in the physical, but we can also experience it spiritually. That’s what the psalmist seems to be going through in today’s reading.

His distress has several sources. In the verses preceding our focus verse he speaks of an “ungodly nation” and an “unjust man” who trouble him. In Psalm 42 (which commenters believe was originally joined to Psalm 43 as one psalm—note the common refrain in Psalm 42:5,11; 43:5) he speaks of cynics who mock him in his grief (Psalm 42:3) and a personal sense of depression and loss of hope (Psalm 42:5,6; 43:5).

And so he prays for light—a light that will lead him back to God and His house (“Your Tabernacle”), where he dreams of joining others in worship (Psalm 42:4).

It’s easy to identify with the psalmist in his cry for light. Life throws many surprises at us too. Loved ones get sick, or we get a bad diagnosis. Natural disasters wreak havoc with our surroundings and our lives. Money problems are the wreckage of marketplace storms. We often find ourselves asking why, what next, where to from here? We may feel left in the dark, as if God has abandoned us.

At these times, let’s pray, with the psalmist, to get back to Him:
“Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me”

For He is the source of light (“… God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” - 1 John 1:5). With our hand in His, we can walk any dark path.


Dear Father, uncertainty is so much a part of the human condition—of my condition. Help me not to stew about what I can’t see ahead, but to seek You, to join other believers in Your house, and in faith to enter into praise and worship no matter what my circumstances. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The breath of hope

Bambus in the wind
Image from RGB Stock Photos
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 37-39; Psalm 42

"Thus says the Lord God to these bones: 'Surely I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live.' " Ezekiel 37:5

The people with whom Ezekiel would have first shared this vision were far from home. Their beautiful Jerusalem had been ravaged and they were living in Babylon amongst those who spoke a different language, ate different food, had differed customs, and worshiped a different God than they did. Ezekiel's vision would have filled them with hope.

The hope begins with the action in verse Ezekiel 37:5 - God causing breath to enter those bones.

[Breath - ruach is breath, wind, spirit  of living breath in man and animals, spirit as the seat of emotions and mental acts, and the Spirit of God.]

Ezekiel's vision has various interpretations. According to my Bible's study notes,* this vision may be:
- a prophecy of the post-exile return of the exiled Jews from Babylon.
- an Old Testament picture of bodily resurrection.
- an analogy for spiritual regeneration and the birth of the church.
- a prophecy of national Israel being restored in end times.

If we take it as an analogy for spiritual regeneration and apply it to our own lives, it can also give hope to us.

Spiritual life in the Bible begins with that birth / wind of the Spirit. Jesus, talking to Nicodemus about being born again, used the picture of wind: "' Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again." The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes form and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit' " - John 3:7,8.

Spiritual work continues with the Spirit's enabling. After His resurrection, Jesus came to the disciples before He commissioned them and "He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.' " - John 20:22.

Spiritual work takes off by the power of the Spirit. Jesus told the disciples to wait for the Spirit's empowering and when He came on the Day of Pentecost and baptized them all, He came with "… a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind…" - Acts 2:2.

Whatever that pile of dead bones is in our situation, God can also revive it with His life-giving breath. Like the exiles of Ezekiel's time found hope in this picture of breath coming into the dead bones of their situation, may the thought that the Spirit can breathe spiritual life into what seems dead to us also fill us with hope today.

PRAYER: Dear God, please come into the discouraging things, the disappointments and areas of my life that are dead with Spirit breath of life. And we remind You of our loved ones that appear spiritually dead. Please revive them with Your breath of spiritual life. Amen.
* New Spirit-Filled Life Bible study notes on Ezekiel authored by Howard M. Ervin, p. 1098.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 15, 2018


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 34-36; Psalm 41

TO CHEW ON: "I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment." Ezekiel 34:16

The book, Journey on the Hard Side of Miracles by Dr. Steven Stiles is an account of one California church's youth group during the Hippie era.

Stiles, the youth pastor at a small church in Santa Cruz, had a heart for youth, the homeless, street people, and the addicted. His passion for street ministry led to the purchase of several old school buses that the youth used for outreach. Under his leadership the youth department grew till it rivaled the size of the main congregation. Not surprisingly, though, the edginess of the ministry led to conflict.

Eventually the senior pastor who was solidly behind Stiles and his evangelistic style was replaced by a man who was much more traditional. He had the ear of the old guard.  One day a board meeting changed everything for Stiles and his band of Jesus People. Here's what happened in Stiles' own words:

"As the end game developed, a final squeeze was put on the youth group. A formal demand was made requiring change in the ministry's basic identity. 'Too Christ-centered,' some critics said. Others voiced their opinions as well: 'Too much time doing worship and devotions, and not enough recreation.' 'Too much use of the Bible and not enough use of denominational material.' 'Too much time together.' 'There's a problem with undesirables.'

Having been unable to jettison the flood of young people that were arriving for help and fellowship, the new church board decided to let us know with final clarity that the youth ministry as it then existed was not wanted" -  Steven Stiles, Journey on the Hard Side of Miracles, p. 90.

I see this story as a cautionary tale. It's easy to give verbal support to reaching the lost. But if your church has ever had a ministry to street people, addicts, and those in recovery, you will know that it is messy and does threaten the status quo.

How do we react when we find derelicts, former or current addicts, and those living in halfway houses sitting next to us in church, sometimes in loud conversation during the service, taking numerous trips outside for smokes, ourselves aware that we have to watch our purses because valuables have been known to go missing?

These things have happened in our church. I can understand the reaction of those California traditionalists trying to take back control. However, it is so against the heart of the Good Shepherd as Ezekiel describes him:

"I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment." Ezekiel 34:16

PRAYER: Dear God, please preserve me from being such a stuffy, self-righteous, self-protective anti-shepherd. I need Your compassionate shepherd-heart for the lost, hurting, bruised and sick. Amen.

MORE: Parking lot sadness
"On the night of the church board's final meeting to decide the fate of the youth ministry, a large group of young people came and waited patiently in the darkness outside. Standing in the parking lot of the church where they had come to know Jesus, they prayed and struggled to understand what was going on.

The decision of the board was finally passed on to those outside, and when the group heard the news that they were not wanted, they stood and wept. Their tears were not of rejection but of loss, for they deeply loved that church" - Steven Stiles, Journey on the Hard Side of Miracles, p. 91.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Story of a proud tree

Tree hit by lightning (Photo - RGB stock)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 31-33; Psalm 40

"Therefore thus says the Lord God: 'Because you have increased in height, and it set its top among the thick boughs, and its heart was lifted up in its height, therefore I will deliver it into the hand of the mighty one of the nations, and he shall shurely deal with it; I have driven it out for its wickedness.' " Ezekiel 31:10,11

The fault of the great tree in Ezekiel's prophecy was not that it was so magnificent and towered over all the other trees in the forest—but that its "heart was lifted up in its height" - Ezekiel 31:10.

This chapter is a prophetic warning to Egypt. In it, Ezekiel recalls magnificent Assyria, the great tree in our reading. Ezekiel says that just as God allowed Assyria to be cut down by "…aliens the most terrible of nations" (thought to be Babylon), so Egypt is on notice:

 " 'To which of the trees in Eden will you then be likened in glory and greatness? Yet you shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the depths of the earth …. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude,' says the Lord God" - Ezekiel 31:18.

I find this passage both a warning and a comfort.

It's a warning against pride—exalting oneself. And this is certainly not the only place in the Bible we are warned. We cautioned against pride by:
  • The example of the angel Lucifer—the father of pride - Isaiah 14:13,14.
  • The stories of those who were proud, like Pharaoh (Exodus 9:17); Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16); Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:25), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30) and Belshazzar (Daniel 5:23).
  • The Bible's proverbs and wisdom - Proverbs 17:19; 25:6,7,27; 27:2.
  • Jesus Himself - Matthew 23:12; Mark 9:33-36.
  • Paul - Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 10:5,17.
  • Peter - 1 Peter 5:3.
  • James - James 3:16; 4:10.
  • John - 3 John 1:9

It's also a comfort to know that God has the kings and kingdoms of earth under His control
(Proverbs 21:1). Any dynasty or regime can be toppled at His bidding (Isaiah 40:23; Ezekiel 17:20; 29:4).

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to be wary of the sin of pride in my life and of how foolish any self-exaltation is in the face of Your sovereignty. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: Ezekiel - Part 2 (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 13, 2018

A Cautionary Tale

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 28-30; Psalm 39

TO CHEW ON: “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.” Ezekiel 28:15

This part of the “Proclamation Against the King of Tyre” (the title given this chapter in my Bible) sounds a lot like a description of Satan and his fall. Like Lucifer’s (Satan’s) fall is described within the prophecy against the King of Babylon in Isaiah (Isaiah 14:12-21), so it seems to be described here in the prophecy against the King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:2-19).

We can learn several things about Satan from this passage:

1. He was beautiful, gifted and favoured:
“You were the seal of perfection
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” - Ezekiel 28:11,12.

2. He was created for a special purpose and assignment:

“The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes
Was prepared for you on the day you were created.
You were the anointed cherub who covers’
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God” - Ezekiel 28:13,14.
My Bible’s study notes explain:
'Anointed cherub who covers' indicates high office with authority and responsibility to protect and defend 'the holy mountain of God,' an illusion to God’s throne. The high order and specific placement of Lucifer prior to his fall afforded unique opportunity to bring glory to God. Verse 13 suggests his role included leading heaven’s choirs in worship of the Most HIgh” -  Howard M. Ervin, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1086.

3. His fall came because of pride, unchecked ambition and self-will:
“How you have fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!…
For you have said in your heart:
I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit on the mount of the congregation…
I will… I will…” Isaiah 14:12-14.
“By the abundance of your trading
You became filled with violence within
And you sinned;
Therefore I cast you as a profane thing
Out of the mountain of God
And I destroyed you, O covering cherub …
Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor
I cast you to the ground…” Ezekiel 28:16,17.

The sobering part of this is that the sins that caused Lucifer to be expelled from God’s presence and thrown out of heaven—pride, ambition, self-will—are no strangers to us. They are what drive many in our society and so easily and readily infect us. Can you say that you are a stranger to them? Neither can I!

Let’s take this sobering account of Lucifer’s fall as a cautionary tale, a warning about the end of pride, personal ambition, and self-will (Isaiah 14:15; Ezekiel 28:17-19; Revelation 12:7-9).

Instead of being captive to these things, let's give ourselves to lifting up and making big the One who is truly praiseworthy and good. Not ourselves but our creator God and all HIs works and ways.

PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to detect all whiffs of pride, selfish ambition, and self-will within me. I know their origin and I want no part of them in my life and destiny. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Path to desolation

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 25-27; Psalm 38

TO CHEW ON: “For thus says the LORD God: ‘When I make you a desolate city like the cities that are not inhabited, when I bring the deep upon you, and great waters cover you, then I will bring you down into the Pit, to the people of old and I will make you dwell in the lowest part of the earth, in places desolate from antiquity with those who go down to the Pit, so that you may never be inhabited; and I shall establish glory in the land’” Ezekiel 26:19,20

Part of our reading today is a prophecy against Tyre. Some facts about the history and setting (gleaned from my Bible’s study notes):
  • Tyre was an important Phonician seaport along the northern coast of the Mediterranean. It was in present-day Lebanon.
  • Tyre was a city of two sections, one on the mainland and the other on an island half a mile offshore.
  • Tyre’s destruction is prophesied in other places: Amos condemned Tyre for selling the Israelites to the Edomites (Amos 1:9), and Jeremiah prophesied their destruction by Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah 27:1-6.
  • The destruction of Tyre happened in two parts. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the mainland city in the siege of 585-572 BC. The island city was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. The prophecies in Ezekiel 26:4,12,14 came true when Alexander captured the city by building a causeway using the debris from the city on the mainland.

Ezekiel describes Tyre as a wealthy, diverse, established, bustling and proud seaport. People hearing his prophecy may have thought, how can his words ever come true? And yet Tyre fell as predicted.

As citizens of wealthy, diverse, established, bustling, and proud towns and cities on a continent of similar communities, we may also feel secure and certain that nothing can take our society down. However, even now in our developed democracies cracks are appearing.

Note, for example, the polarization of the people holding to left-leaning (liberal / progressive) and right-leaning (conservative / traditional) thought and lifestyle in the U.S., illustrated by an ad developed for the Republican party, that plays back threats and calls to action by their left-leaning opponents.

The Left in 2018: Unhinged

 As pressure mounts between the two sides, political watchers predict a blow-up. One can see how the nation could explode and implode in civil conflict.

In Canada the conflict is not as overt. Yet if one listens to talk shows and follows comments on Twitter and social media, one can see the same polarization developing.

Let’s not be smug and secure in our own society's outer beauty, sturdiness, wealth, knowledge, and systems of defense, like the citizens of Tyre were (Ezekiel 27:3-11),  when God sees rot and we’re also marked for destruction.

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me as a citizen of a wealthy peaceful nation to resist putting my confidence in possessions and government, especially when that government turns its back on You and urges me to go along with the breaking of Your laws for right living in the areas of accepting, even celebrating sexual perversion and confusion. Help me to cling to Your word as the standard by which I live no matter what my society and government tell me. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Do not fret

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ezekiel  22-24; Psalm 37

TO CHEW ON: "Cease from anger and forsake wrath
Do not fret — it only causes harm (it only leads to evildoing - NASB)." Psalm 37:8

So much of our frame of mind and sense of well-being depends on our thoughts. In Psalm 37 David gives us some good thought guidelines. He begins by telling us some thought patterns to shun: anger, wrath, and fretting. In fact, he warns against fretting three times (vs. 1, vs. 7, vs. 8).

"Fret" in Hebrew is charah, a primitive root also translated angry, and kindled. Its English definitions are so telling for our context:
1] to be vexed, annoyed, troubled.
2] to become worn, chafed or corroded.
3] to bite away bit after bit of something with or as with the teeth.
4] to eat through something by or as if by corrosion.
5] to rankle, fester.
6] to become rough or agitated, as water.
Synonyms are irritate, vexation, annoyance, uneasiness.

Do you tend to fret? I know I do. When something troubles me I am like a dog with a bone, biting, chewing, gnawing, then burying but always coming back to uncover my worry so that I can bite, chew and gnaw some more.

David doesn't leave us to fend for ourselves against the negative thoughts  of anger, envy and fretting. Psalm 37 is full of good thought options. We can instead:

"Trust in the Lord" (Psalm 37:3). This is putting the weight of ourselves - our past histories, present circumstances, and future hopes, dreams, expectations, and fears - on God.

"Dwell in the land" (Psalm 37:3). Though not a thought per se, dwelling connotes a rooted, settled, contented existence.

"Delight yourself in the Lord" (Psalm 37:4). We need to focus on God's good character and gifts to us and not on our lacks as compared to what someone else has.

"Commit your way to the Lord" (Psalm 37:5).  Literally, we roll ourselves and our way onto God. We let God take the wheel of life, not fixated on the route we take but giving Him the right to move us here or there,

"Rest in the Lord" (Psalm 37:7).  We are silent, still, at ease, relaxed.

"...wait patiently" (Psalm 37:7).  We aren't in a hurry to see things completed. We live by God's timetable.

"Cease from anger" (Psalm 37:8). We refrain from, let go of, withdraw from anger. This is something we can do — a willful action on our part.

We don't need to be at the whim of negative thinking. But to avoid the tyranny of our destructive thoughts we need to first recognize, then put the brakes on angry, anxious, fretful ones, and finally replace them with thoughts of trust, contentment, delight, commitment, rest, and patience.

PRAYER: Dear God, in the days ahead, even today I'm sure I'll be tempted to fret. Help me to replace fretting with constructive thoughts of You and Your goodness to me. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 37 

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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