Friday, December 30, 2016

Malachi 4: Ending On Expectation

Is this the end?  Malachi 4 ends not with finality but rather an expectation that more is to come.

Malachi 3: "My Messenger"

In the penultimate chapter of the Old Testament, we read of a coming penultimate prophet, a messenger who will appear before the Lord Himself arrives: "See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts" (vs. 1).

Malachi 2: Keeping Covenant

The second chapter of Malachi expresses God's displeasure at the persistent covenant unfaithfulness of the Jews.  In three different ways, the nation of Judah is guilty of breaking its promises.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Malachi 1: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

"A son honors his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honor due me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name" (vs. 6).

Nehemiah 13: That Was Fast

Remember the covenant renewed in Nehemiah 10?  While Nehemiah is away to see King Artaxerxes, the people quickly fall into their old habits and break the terms that they had so recently pledged to follow.  When Nehemiah returns, he is NOT happy.

Nehemiah 12: Dedication Of The Wall

With the work of rebuilding the wall completed, the covenant renewed, and the city of Jerusalem on its way to being repopulated, it's time for a party!

Nehemiah 11: The Repopulation Of Jerusalem

Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem; now the city is ready to be repopulated.

Nehemiah 10: The Covenant Renewed

Nehemiah 10 recounts that moment in Israel's history after the exile when the Jews officially re-commit themselves to the covenant between the people and God.  Signing and sealing a document, they "join with their kin, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his ordinances and his statutes" (vs. 29).

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Nehemiah 9: From There To Here

Ezra's speech in Nehemiah 9 is a recap of the chosen people's experience with all its ups and downs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Nehemiah 7: Heavenly Inspiration

"Then my God put it into my mind to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy" (vs. 5).

Nehemiah 6: The Great Wall Of Jerusalem

In spite of continued efforts to frustrate the task of rebuilding and slow down the work of constructing the wall, Nehemiah's efforts met with great success.  The wall was completed in only 52 days (vs. 15).

Nehemiah 5: Taking Advantage?

Nehemiah 5 deals with some of the ethical issues going on in ancient Jerusalem at this point in history.  Was it right to lay interest on fellow Jews who could not afford to pay?  Should Nehemiah as governor exert all the privileges that came with his office?  The answer to both questions was no.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Psalm 150: Praise Him With Everything!

"If you have it, praise God with it" seems to be the thrust of Psalm 150!

Nehemiah 3: Teamwork

"Teamwork makes the dream work" may be a bit of a cliche, but in the case of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, it was true!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Nehemiah 2: An "Arrow Prayer"

Can you pray in a mere instant?  Nehemiah could, and did.

Nehemiah 1: Defenseless

The Book of Nehemiah deals largely with the problems of Jerusalem after the return of the exiles.  Its walls and gates have been left in ruins, and the city lies defenseless.  Nehemiah, however, is not content to let this situation continue!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ezra 10: Separation

In response to the crisis of intermarriage, Ezra urges the Jews to separate from their foreign wives and children.

Ezra 9: A Crisis Of Intermarriage

When Ezra arrives in Jerusalem, he is told that many of the leaders of the people are guilty of a sin: they had taken for themselves and for their sons wives from the surrounding nations.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ezra 8: Praying For Protection

An interesting part of Ezra's journey from Babylonia to Jerusalem involves his feelings about praying to God for protection on the way.

Ezra 7: Introducing Ezra

It took over half the book that bears his name, but in chapter 6 we finally get to meet Ezra!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Psalm 149: Militaristic Praise?

Psalm 149 seems to have two agendas.  Singing songs of praise to God from the throat - and wielding swords of justice from God with their hands!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Esther 10: Second-In-Command

The Book of Esther ends with a report of how Mordecai is on top of the empire, alongside King Ahasuerus.  He was well-regarded, being both powerful and popular, and served as a good second-in-command.  Chapter 10 is only three verses long, and closes out the story of Esther with a happy ending.

Esther 9: Birth Of A Holiday

Ever heard of the Jewish holiday Purim?  Esther 9 describes how that celebration came to be.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Esther 8: The Shoe Is On The Other Foot

After the death of Haman, there is still the little matter of the Jews' pending extermination to clear up.

Esther 7: The Old Switcheroo

Haman was already surprised and humiliated by the sudden elevation of Mordecai in chapter 6.  In chapter 7, he is shocked to discover that Queen Esther is among the Jewish people he had persuaded the king to exterminate!

Esther 6: Mistaken Identity

Who says you can't find humor in the Bible?  The irony of Haman thinking that the king is about to honor him when in fact Mordecai is the intended recipient gives rise to one of the funniest scenes in scripture!

Esther 5: Making Mountains Out Of Molehills

Have you ever seen someone driven to distraction by a minor dissatisfaction?  Then you have an idea of what Haman was like.  He might have been all right if he hadn't insisted on making mountains out of molehills.

Esther 4: For Such A Time As This

As you can imagine, when word gets out about Haman's plans to exterminate the Jews, it naturally causes a great deal of distress!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Esther 3: Haman Vs. Mordecai

Have you ever seen a personal slight or petty offense grow into something much larger and more damaging?  Something like that happened in the days of Queen Esther between her cousin Mordecai and King Ahasuerus' right hand man Haman.

Esther 2: Esther Becomes Queen

One thing to notice about the story of Esther is how God quietly moves behind the scenes of this drama, steering events to happen in a way that will ultimately lead to the benefit of His people.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Esther 1: Nipping It In The Bud

The Book of Esther begins with a royal banquet given by King Ahasuerus.  At one point during the proceedings, Ahasuerus summons his wife, Queen Vashti, to appear at the party because he wants to show off her beauty before his officials.  When she refuses to come at the king's bidding, she triggers a social crisis.

Psalm 148: Praise, Praise, Praise

As the Book of Psalms nears its end, the emphasis is on praise.

Zechariah 14: Cataclysm!

Zechariah 14 describes a dramatic final battle between the Lord and the forces of evil, one which greatly affects the natural world and landscape around Jerusalem.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Zechariah 13: There Is A Fountain

"There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains."

Zechariah 12: Glimpses Of Jesus?

How many indirect glimpses of Jesus can you find in Zechariah 12?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Zechariah 11: A Bad Shepherd

Jesus referred to Himself as "the good shepherd."  Zechariah 11 presents us with a picture of one who could only be described as "a bad shepherd!"

Zechariah 10: Chosen Again

Israel's relationship with the Lord has certainly seen its share of ups (exodus, conquest, David, godly kings) and downs (wilderness wanderings, civil war, idolatry, exile).  After losing everything to the Babylonians, the people naturally wondered, "Is that it?  Is our special relationship with God over?"

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Zechariah 9: Zechariah's Most Famous Verse

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!  Lo, your king comes to 
you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (vs. 9).

Zechariah 8: From Fasting To Feasting

In chapter 8, Zechariah is talking about what national restoration is going to look like for Judah.  God is planning to take them from misery to joy, from near death to rebirth, from fasting to feasting.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Zechariah 7: Fair Play

"Just as, when I called, they would not hear, so, when they called, I would not hear, says the Lord of hosts" (vs. 13).

Psalm 147: Action And Reaction

Psalm 147 calls for actions on our part which are really reactions to God's original work in His creation.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Zechariah 4: Zerubbabel's Mission

In Zechariah's day, the remnant that had returned from Babylon was wondering when the Messiah would appear.  Some thought that promised leader to restore the people to God might be Zerubbabel.

Zechariah 3: A Brand Plucked From The Fire

Zechariah 3 gives us an unusual peek behind the spiritual curtain where angels argue with Satan.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Zechariah 2: God's Plan For Jerusalem

The Book of Zechariah includes prophetic visions and direct exhortations to the people.  In chapter 2, we find an example of both.

Zechariah 1: A Second Chance

Zechariah is a prophet who tells the people that God is giving them a second chance.

Haggai 2: Happy Days Are Here Again

With the Temple work restarted, the people's concern for the Lord has been demonstrably renewed.  As a result, Haggai's words are encouraging.  He looks to the future and sees blessing ahead for Judah.

Haggai 1: Kickstarter

The prophet Haggai's calling seems short and sweet.  He was given a word for a specific time and place: Get to work on rebuilding the Temple of the Lord!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Psalm 146: Our Help And Our Hope

"Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God" (vs. 5).

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ezra 6: We're Going To Build A Temple And Make The Gentiles Pay For It

In their quest to make Judah great again, the Jews got to work on rebuilding the Temple.  While not huge like Solomon's Temple, it was still pretty respectable as the central focus of worship.  When questioned about it by their enemies, they held a trump card: permission from Cyrus had been given them many years earlier.  Darius researched the Jews' contention and found that it was just like they had said.  In fact, Darius agreed that not only was the Temple to be rebuilt, but the cost for doing so was to come out of the royal revenues (vs. 8).  The opposition melted away, and the construction was finally completed.  A service of dedication was held, followed by a Passover celebration (vs. 16 and 19).  The Jews were back, and so was the Temple.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Ezra 5: Under Construction

Thanks to the prodding of two prophets (Haggai and Zechariah), the temple construction resumes.  As the work gets going again, however, so does the opposition.  The governor Tattenai comes along to ask the Jews what they think they are doing.  When he doesn't get a satisfactory answer from them, the governor pens a letter to Darius the king asking for guidance.  In the meantime, the work continues and the rebuilding project goes forward.  As the Jews said to Tattenai, "Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem; and from that time until now it has been under construction, and it is not yet finished" (vs. 16).  The chapter ends with the expectation of a reply from Darius in this matter.  Will the rebuilding be allowed to continue, or will it be put to a stop once again?

Ezra 4: Work Stoppage

The reconstruction of the Temple did not go smoothly.  It wasn't like the days of Solomon where David had prepared everything beforehand.  Instead, Zerubbabel actually had to face down political opposition from some of Judah's hostile neighbors who were successful in interrupting the work of rebuilding.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ezra 3: Mixed Emotions

Imagine a tumultuous crowd where people are simultaneously shouting with joy and weeping for grief.  That's what took place at the laying of the foundation of the second Temple, sometimes called Zerubbabel's Temple.  

Ezra 2: The Remnant

Ezra 2 reads like some of the other census records we see in the Bible.  Here the ones enumerated are those returning from exile.  They are the remnant of God's people that were spared and now have the responsibility of restoring the nation.

Ezra 1: Return From Exile

Thus far in the Old Testament, we have witnessed the incredible story of the people of Israel.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Psalm 145: Forever And Ever

Psalm 145 really brings home the idea of God's everlasting nature, as well as the hope of eternal life spent worshiping in His presence.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Daniel 12: Prophetic Even For A Prophet!

One of the things you notice as you read Daniel 12 is how many elements of his prophecy are incorporated into New Testament prophecy.  Even for a biblical prophet, Daniel was pretty prophetic!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Daniel 11: You Can't Tell The Players Without A Scorecard!

Everything about Daniel 11 is obvious, so there's no need for me to blog about it.  You understand this clearly, right?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Daniel 10: Touched By An Angel

What do you think a visit by an angel would be like?  If the biblical encounters are any indication, they would be awesome, overpowering events!

Daniel 9: Weak Weeks Interpretations

Daniel 9 represents one of the most contentious and difficult areas of prophecy in the Bible.

Daniel 8: Horns Aplenty

In Daniel's second vision, recounted in chapter 8, he sees a couple of animals with very interesting horn patterns - each representing something specific in addition to the regular symbolism of horns to indicate power.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Daniel 7: Daniel's Dream

The book of Daniel consists of two parts.  The first six chapters are narratives describing events that happened to Daniel and his friends.  The last six chapters detail visions that were given to Daniel, along with his prophetic interpretations.  As we enter into the second half of Daniel, buckle your seatbelts for some pretty wild images!

Psalm 144: God Of War

Psalm 144 contains a few verses about wars and battles that modern readers may find disquieting, but that ancient people would have sung gladly.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Daniel 6: God Is My Judge

When the time came for Debbie and I to name our first child, we chose Daniel.  Chapter 6 demonstrates why Daniel was such a fitting name for the prophet, and why it continues to be a good choice today.

Daniel 5: God's Graffiti

"Mene Mene Tekel Parsin."  When a mysterious, disembodied hand suddenly appears during a royal banquet and writes these words on a wall, King Belshazzar (son of Nebuchadnezzar) turns to Belteshazzar (Daniel) for an explanation.

Daniel 4: Goin' Out Of My Head

Daniel 4 comes to us in the form of a letter written by Nebuchadnezzar himself, recounting a royal dream and its interpretation of impending madness and restoration that came to pass.

Daniel 3: Into The Fire

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3 is pretty straightforward.  They are required to either fall down and worship the statue that Nebuchadnezzar has set up, or be thrown into a fiery furnace.  Unfortunately, what the king was asking the Jews to do was idolatry - something forbidden for them by God.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Daniel 2: Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

Dream interpretation is hard enough.  Imagine being asked to not only interpret a dream, but to do so without being told what the dream was in the first place!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Psalm 143: Helpless

Say what you want about David and his errors.  The man had a right understanding of our proper posture before the Lord!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Daniel 1: Strangers In A Strange Land

Can you imagine being conquered by another country and then taken away from your homeland to live in exile?  For young Daniel and his three friends, this fate was their reality.  Their lives were completely upended when they were removed from all that was familiar and brought to the foreign nation of Babylon.

Joel 3: God's Address

In one sense, Christians believe that God does not dwell on the earth.  Even the highest heavens cannot contain Him, as Solomon observed at the dedication of the temple (II Chronicles 6:18).  However, from another point of view, God does indeed have an earthly "address" where He has chosen to make His dwelling place known: Zion!

Joel 2: Seeds

For a brief Old Testament book concerned primarily with a swarm of locusts, Joel contains some startling passages of prophecy that will bear fruit in the New Testament!

Joel 1: First World Problems

People today joke about the modern-day annoyances and aggravations we face in life.  These are called "first world problems": things like not having enough storage space for all our stuff or the time it takes for our web pages to load.  But if we go back to the experiences of people who lived thousands of years ago, we might get a whole new appreciation for how devastating real "first world" problems could be.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ezekiel 48: The Lord Is There

The Book of Ezekiel ends with the prophet's fantastic vision of the city of God.  The Lord's sanctuary is in the middle of the tribes of Israel (vs. 10) and God's presence is there with His people.  In fact, the very name of the city shall be "The Lord Is There."  After years of struggle against the destruction that sin wreaks in our relationship with God, finally we have peace.  Just as Jesus, the One whose name Emmanuel means "God with us" signifies God's presence with His people, so, too, does this holy city reflect that truth.  Despite its many chapters of gloom and doom, the book ends on an incredibly positive note.  The final verse of Ezekiel reads: "The circumference of the city shall be eighteen thousand cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord is There" (vs. 35).  Amen!  Hallelujah!

Ezekiel 47: Leaves For Healing

"On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing" (vs. 12).  Now, doesn't this sound familiar?  Where else have we heard something like this?

Psalm 142: When God Is The Only One In Your Corner...

...He's the only one you need!

Ezekiel 46: What Might Have Been?

One final theory to consider about Ezekiel's temple vision is that it was only meant to be a conditional prophecy, one that hinged on Israel's repentance and future obedience upon their return from exile.  If the people failed this test, the proposed temple would be left as an unfulfilled plan reminding them of "what might have been".

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ezekiel 45: We Are The Temple?

Another possibility that has been advanced regarding Ezekiel's temple vision is that he is speaking spiritually of the Church or perhaps individual Christians, known as the Temple for the Spirit of the Lord in the New Testament age.

Ezekiel 44: A Temple To Be Named Later?

If the temple seen by Ezekiel in a vision in chapters 40 through 47 is not any of the historic temples built or remodeled by Solomon, Zerubbabel, or Herod, could it be a prophecy of a structure yet to come?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ezekiel 43: Herod's Temple?

If Ezekiel's vision cannot properly be understood to apply to Solomon's Temple or to Zerubbabel's Temple, is it possible that it refers to Herod's?

Ezekiel 42: Zerubbabel's Temple?

If Ezekiel was not thinking back to Solomon's Temple in his vision, perhaps he was looking forward and seeing a glimpse of the "second Temple" that would be built by the returning exiles from Babylon?  This rebuilt structure is often called Zerubbabel's Temple as Zerubbabel was a leader among the captives allowed to return to Jerusalem.  Zerubbabel was a grandson of Jehoichin and thus a descendant of David.  He was eventually appointed governor by Darius.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ezekiel 41: Solomon's Temple?

One theory about what Ezekiel was seeing in his final vision is that he was remembering Solomon's Temple from his youth before his captivity in exile.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ezekiel 40: Ezekiel's Problematic Vision

In researching this section of the Book of Ezekiel, I have found it described as one of the most hotly debated and troublesome passages of scripture!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Psalm 141: A Different Kind Of Protection

Many of the psalms cry out to God for rescue and deliverance from one's enemies.  Psalm 141 appeals to Him to provide a different kind of protection.

Ezekiel 39: Still Standing

Ezekiel 39 tells of a time coming when the forces of Gog of Magog will oppose Israel.  His army will be defeated, however, and his horde buried in the Valley of the Travelers.  When this happens, Gog will join the long list of those who attacked the people of Israel and ultimately lost: Egyptians, Midianites, Canaanites, Edomites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Seleucids, Romans, Spanish Inquisitors, Nazis, etc.  Many of these groups succeeded for a short time but subsequently faded into history.  Israel, however, is still standing. 

It doesn't pay to oppose Israel!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ezekiel 38: Who Is Gog Of Magog?

Prophecies can get complicated quickly.  In chapter 38, Ezekiel starts looking further down the road and speaks of a coming enemy of God that will threaten Israel.  He speaks of "Gog, of the land of Magog" (vs. 2).  But just who and where is that?

Ezekiel 37: Sticks And Bones

Restoration is the name of the game in Ezekiel 37.  Employing bones and sticks, the prophet uses props to demonstrate that God is going to reverse time's arrow of entropy to build things up rather than break things down.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Ezekiel 36: Israel Is A Sign

Ezekiel 36 represents a dramatic switch in God's messages through His prophet.  No longer is the word one of doom and gloom, invasion and exile.  Instead, Ezekiel reveals that Israel is soon to be blessed with the return of the exiles and a repopulation of the Promised Land - but he takes pains to point out that this is not because of her own doing.  It is the Lord's will out of concern for His name.  Just as Israel's punishment was a sign of His holiness, her flowering will be a sign of His grace.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ezekiel 35: Wickedness Does Not Pay

Ezekiel 35 contains God's word of judgment against Mount Seir (Edom) for their contemptuous treatment of Israel in its hour of need.

Ezekiel 34: The Good Shepherd

Sometimes it can be hard to tell just what is Old Testament and what is New!  Ezekiel 34 would be right at home in the teachings of Jesus.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Ezekiel 33: The Preacher's Nightmare

A preacher (or, more specifically, a prophet in this instance) has to deal with both heavy responsibility and great discouragement.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Psalm 140: Selah, Say Wha?

Psalm 140 is a very typical psalm in many respects.  It is a psalm of David, who is credited with 73 psalms, just under half the total of 150.  It is slightly briefer than most, containing only thirteen verses; the average psalm consists of about sixteen verses.  Its main focus is on God's deliverance from one's evil enemies, a frequent theme found among the psalms.  In addition, Psalm 140 contains three instances of the word "Selah."

Friday, October 7, 2016

Ezekiel 32: The Ash Heap Of History

Ezekiel's dismal message to Pharaoh continues in chapter 32: The nation of Egypt is going down!

Ezekiel 31: The Lessons Of History

You may be wondering what all these ancient prophecies from Ezekiel have to do with us today.  Many of them are about specific situations in the sixth century before Christ to nations that no longer even exist.  For instance, in chapter 31, Ezekiel is sharing a message from the Lord to Egypt using a parable about the long-dead empire of Assyria.  While it may have been "God's Word" 2600 years ago, is it really still God's Word to us today?  How is it relevant?

Ezekiel 30: God's Motivation

Again and again in the book of Ezekiel, you may notice that one phrase in particular is repeated: "Then they shall know that I am the Lord."  This phrase really stands out when you are looking for it.  What if we were to consider this to be God's ultimate motivation for His acts of judgment upon the nations?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ezekiel 29: The Broken Reed

After excoriating Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre and Sidon, it is Egypt's turn to come under the withering glare of the prophet.

Ezekiel 28: The Sin Of Pride

Ezekiel 28 reminds us that one of the chief sins we can commit is pride.

Ezekiel 27: The First World Trade Center


Before New York City, before London, before Rome - there was one ancient city that was regarded as a center of world trade: Tyre.  "When your wares came from the seas, you satisfied many peoples; with your abundant wealth and merchandise you enriched the kings of the earth" (vs. 33).

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ezekiel 26: Tyre Down

Ezekiel has a simple message to the proud city of Tyre, currently exulting in Judah's downfall: You're next.

Ezekiel 25: Pulpit Fiction?

You may remember an iconic, very R-rated scene from the 1994 movie, "Pulp Fiction."  One of the lead characters, a hit man named Jules Winnfield played by Samuel L. Jackson, launches into a fiery speech quoting the Bible.  He says, "There's a passage I got memorized.  Ezekiel 25:17.  The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you."  

There's only one problem.  That is NOT Ezekiel 25:17!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Ezekiel 23: Idolatry = Adultery

"For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands; with their idols they have committed adultery; and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they had borne to me" (vs. 37).

Ezekiel 22: Three In One

There are three different pronouncements from the Lord (each marked by the phrase "the word of the Lord came to me") shared by Ezekiel in chapter 22.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ezekiel 21: Terrible Swift Sword

If you find the idea of a wrathful God too frightening to imagine, just try adding a sword to the picture!

Ezekiel 20: Name Sake

Ezekiel 20 reveals that God has acted throughout much of history for the sake of His name, especially in His discharge of mercy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ezekiel 19: Reading Between The Lions

Ezekiel 19 introduces a story about lions and one about a vine to explain what is happening to God's people during the prophet's moment in history.

Ezekiel 18: To Each His Own

When I served as an associate pastor, there was one particular hypothetical question that really bothered the Bible study gang.  "Suppose Adolf Hitler - right before he died - repented and became a Christian.  Would he go to heaven?  And what if someone who has led a long and saintly life like Billy Graham commits a single sin and dies before he has the opportunity to repent?  Would he go to hell?"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Psalm 138: God And The Little Guy

"For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away" (vs. 6).

Ezekiel 17: Israel's Story In Allegory

In chapter 17, the prophet Ezekiel is given a parable to share with God's people - an allegory that reveals the spiritual truths underpinning the geopolitical realities of their day.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ezekiel 16: A Scorcher!

Ezekiel 16 borders on PG-13.  It contains a long, detailed analogy of Jerusalem as a whore - actually, worse than a whore because she pays her lovers instead of charging them!

Ezekiel 15: Fuel For The Fire

God, speaking through Ezekiel, draws a very threatening analogy between the inhabitants of Jerusalem and a worthless vine found in the forest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ezekiel 14: Four Deadly Acts Of Judgment

God reveals to Ezekiel that four deadly acts of judgment are coming upon Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild animals, and pestilence (vs. 21).  Moreover, even if three righteous persons like Noah, Daniel, and Job were in the land, they would only be able to save themselves through their righteousness.  Salvation would extend to no one else, not even their sons and daughters.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ezekiel 13: The False Prophets Who Cried "Peace"

You probably have heard the cautionary tale of the little boy who cried wolf.  In the end, he paid dearly for his misbehavior.  In the days leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, there were false prophets who were crying, "Peace!"  They, too, paid dearly for their lies.

Ezekiel 12: Heaven Standard Time

God's people frequently struggle with His sense of timing.  Whether it's the 400 years that the Hebrews travailed in Egypt, or the "How long?" questions in Psalm 13, or the disciples itchy for God's kingdom to come at last, we have a patience problem.  So did the Jews of Ezekiel's era.

Ezekiel 11: Who Is The True Israel?

Ezekiel 11 points to a serious rift that was developing between the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the exiled community in Babylon.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Ezekiel 10: The Lord Has Left The Building!

Another grand vision of God's glory, complete with the four living creatures and the "wheels within wheels", takes place in Ezekiel 10.  The same elements are present as were seen in chapter 1, but this time the setting is the Temple in Jerusalem.  Ezekiel hears a voice from the sapphire throne at the top of the vision commanding a man dressed in white linen to take some of the fiery coals from the wheelwork and scatter them over the city.  After he does that, the whole image itself lifts up and leaves the Temple!  "The cherubim rose up" (vs. 15).   The wheelwork, too, lifts up and ascends with the four living creatures (vs. 16).  "Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house and stopped above the cherubim" (vs. 18).  In one of the most devastating scenes of judgment upon the nation, God's presence vacates the Temple.  Just like Elvis, the Lord has left the building!

Psalm 137: Ouch.

Psalm 137 is rather infamous in Christian circles for its bloodthirsty final verse: "Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!" (vs. 9)  Is this really an appropriate sentiment to be included in the Bible?  Is this truly God's Word?

Ezekiel 9: Saved By A Mark

In Ezekiel 9, we see the biblical motif of being saved through a special mark placed upon God's people.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ezekiel 6: Preaching To The Land

Has God given up on reaching the people?  He instructs His prophet Ezekiel not to address the nation, but the land instead.  "O mortal, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, and say, You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God! Thus says the Lord God to the mountains and the hills, to the ravines and the valleys: I, I myself will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places" (vs. 2 and 3).  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ezekiel 5: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

In chapter 5, Ezekiel receives the call to another prophetic enactment.  He is instructed to shave off his hair and beard and meticulously divide the hairs into three equal piles.  One grouping goes into the fire, another is beaten with a sword, and the third is scattered to the wind (vs. 1 and 2).

Ezekiel 4: A Model Prophet

"And you, O mortal, take a brick and set it before you. On it portray a city, Jerusalem; and put siegeworks against it, and build a siege wall against it, and cast up a ramp against it; set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it all around.  Then take an iron plate and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; set your face toward it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it. This is a sign for the house of Israel" (vs. 1-3).

Ezekiel 3: The Heavy Responsibility Of A Prophet

Being a "man of God" comes with a difficult responsibility.  The words that the Lord lays upon His servant's heart must be dispensed.  To withhold saying something that we know God has given us makes us culpable in others' sin and liable for their spiritual health.  So, even if we face rejection by man, it is better to offend people than God!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ezekiel 2: Bad News On The Doorstep

"I looked, and a hand was stretched out to me, and a written scroll was in it.  He spread it before me; it had writing on the front and on the back, and written on it were words of lamentation and mourning and woe" (vs. 9 and 10).  

Ezekiel 1: Be Thou My Vision

A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew pictures.  Occasionally, she would walk around the room to see each child's work.

"What are you drawing?" she asked one little girl who was working diligently at her desk.

The little girl replied, "I'm drawing God."

The teacher paused and said, "But no one know what God looks like."

The little girl replied, "They will in a minute!"

Psalm 136: For His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

There are 26 occurrences of "For His steadfast love endures forever" in Psalm 136, one for each verse (vs. 1-26).  Intermixed within a telling of Israel's history, this phrase stands out as a consistent response to the works of God.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Lamentations 5: What Despair Looks Like

I have found that a great deal of wisdom comes from learning the lessons of others.  Why suffer the hard knocks and painful experiences that result from bad decisions yourself - when you can instead benefit by applying the truths that others have discovered to your own situation?  Such is the case when it comes to the horrible circumstances endured by the residents of Judah when God's judgment falls by the hand of the Babylonians.  We can stand in their shoes vicariously and appreciate the salvation that God provides through the grace of His Son Jesus Christ.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Lamentations 4: How The Tables Have Turned

Lamentations 4 bemoans the reversal of fortune that has occurred throughout Judah: "How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed!  The sacred stones lie scattered at the head of every street" (vs. 1).

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Lamentations 3: A Rose Among Thorns

In the middle of an otherwise bleak message, a few powerful notes of grace and hope manage to shine forth from the darkness of Lamentations 3.

Lamentations 2: Active God

When Christians attempt to explain the problem of evil and suffering in the world, we often paint God as passive, merely permitting or allowing bad things to take place.  Jeremiah describes God in starkly different terms: as the primary actor who Himself purposes and directs the tragedy that befalls Judah.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Lamentations 1: Hitting Bottom

As joyful as the Exodus and the Conquest were in representing the birth of the nation and its inheritance of the Promised Land, the Exile and Captivity mark the opposite end of the emotional spectrum.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Psalm 135: Omnipotence And Impotence

In Psalm 135, the Psalmist draws a stark contrast between the omnipotent God of Israel and the impotent idols of the Gentiles.

Friday, September 2, 2016

II Chronicles 36: Disappearing Kings

The decline of Judah leading up to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. was marked with increasing stress and turmoil as well as the forced removal of several kings.

II Chronicles 35: Laments For A Good King

When King Josiah died, the nation mourned and lamented for him.  "All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.  Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah, and all the singing men and singing women have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. They made these a custom in Israel; they are recorded in the Laments" (vs. 24 and 25).  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

II Chronicles 34: Who Ya Gonna Call?

When a book of the law is found in the Temple during a remodeling project, the good king Josiah desperately needs an audience with the Lord.  The question is, where can he turn to find someone speaking the very words of God?  Who is the prophet that the Lord will provide to be His mouthpiece?

II Chronicles 33: Generation Gaps

When I was younger, it always used to blow my mind how quickly things could turn from one reign to the next in the Bible.  At this point in II Chronicles, we have one of the most righteous kings, Hezekiah, who fathered one of the most evil, Manasseh.  How does that happen?  What of their ancestor Solomon's wise counsel about training up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

II Chronicles 32: Faith For The Fight

Many times people "get religion" as soon as trouble comes knocking on their door.  A refreshing story from II Chronicles 32 shows us that when trouble arrived in the guise of Assyrian king Sennacherib and his army massing outside the gates of Jerusalem, faith had already found a home there.

Psalm 134: A Mess Of Blessings

Psalm 134 is three verses long and contains three references to blessing, two from the people toward the Lord and one from the Lord toward His people.  Verse 1 states, "Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!"  These night watchmen are called upon to bless the Lord with their prayers and praises, as verse 2 makes clear: "Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord."  Finally, the expected response from God is also one of blessing.  "May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion" (vs. 3).  That's a whole mess of blessings in one short psalm!

Monday, August 29, 2016

II Chronicles 31: The Reforms Take Root

After cleansing the Temple, restoring worship, and celebrating the Passover, Hezekiah continues his program of spiritual reforms by eradicating pagan worship, encouraging offerings to the Lord, and reorganizing the priesthood.

II Chronicles 30: Restoring The Passover

Imagine what it would be like if Christians stopped celebrating Christmas and Easter.  The faith would continue, but something would definitely be missing.  There would be less joy and celebration to share among family and friends, and valuable aspects of our faith would go unpracticed.  As Hezekiah is renewing Judah's spiritual commitment to the Lord, he realizes that an important annual tradition has fallen by the wayside: Passover!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

II Chronicles 29: Coming Around Again

There is a kind of rhythm to the spiritual life of the nation of Judah.  Good king, good king, bad king, bad king, and then restoration with the return of a good king!  And with restoration comes a time of ritualistic cleansing, rededication, and renewal.

II Chronicles 28: The Good Samaritans

Tucked away in II Chronicles 28 is a little story of God's grace being shown to captives from Judah, filtered through some good Samaritans, who were actually their conquerors.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

II Chronicles 27: Tribute

When a nation is strong, it can demand tribute from its neighbors as a form of "protection money."  When a nation is weak, it usually serves as the one paying tribute to a stronger regional power.  There were times in Judah's history where it played both roles.

II Chronicles 26: Of Leaps And Lepers

II Chronicles 26 contains a glimpse of technological progress slowly underway in the kingdom of Judah.  Sometimes, as the Bible stories move forward in history, we occasionally spy hints of technological leaps.  And, in this chapter, we also find leprosy, as it breaks out upon the forehead of an overly proud king.

II Chronicles 25: Many Wrongs Don't Make A Right

For a "good king" (vs. 2), Amaziah sure made a lot of serious mistakes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

II Chronicles 24: The Joy Of Giving

Here's something new - God's people actually looked forward to paying the temple tax and gave it joyfully!  

Monday, August 22, 2016

Psalm 133: The Beauty Of Unity

Poetic forms like we find in the Psalms often use the literary device of imagery to convey the language of meaning.  

II Chronicles 23: Levites To The Rescue

The Davidic monarchy is restored in II Chronicles 23 thanks to Jehoida the priest and the tribe of Levi.

Friday, August 19, 2016

II Chronicles 22: The Hope Of "Buried Treasure"

Can you imagine how depressing it would be to live in Judah during those six long years when Athaliah reigned as queen?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

II Chronicles 19: Jehoshaphat's Judges in Jerusalem and Judah

As a good ruler, Jehoshaphat was concerned about the quality of justice in his kingdom.  He instituted legal reforms to this end.

II Chronicles 18: Argumentum Ad Populum

How do you decide what is right?  Do you simply go with the majority opinion?  Do you follow the wisdom of the crowd?  II Chronicles 18 reveals that the majority is not always right.  Like your mother used to say, if everyone else jumped off a bridge, does that make it right?  Would you do it, too?

II Chronicles 17: A Teaching Ministry

Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!  Something new takes place in II Chronicles 17.

Monday, August 15, 2016

II Chronicles 16: Forgetting One's Lessons

I have always considered a mark of wisdom to be the ability to learn through the mistakes of others.  The epitome of foolishness, then, would be forgetting the lessons you have already been taught through your own experience.  Unfortunately for King Asa, he disregarded the lessons of his earlier reign, forgetting that his trust ought to rest in the Lord rather than men.

II Chronicles 15: Seek God - Or Else!

"But you, take courage!  Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded" (vs. 7).

Sunday, August 14, 2016

II Chronicles 14: The Power Of A King

"Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the Lord his God" (vs. 2)

II Chronicles 13: Judah Vs. Israel

The Chronicler takes a decidedly pro-Judah viewpoint in his historical record.  This comes through loud and clear in such places as II Chronicles 13 which highlights a stirring speech that King Abijah of Judah makes against King Jeroboam of Israel.  In it, he accuses the Israelites of abandoning the Lord and turning to idols, as well as forsaking the covenant instituting the priests and sacrifices.  We don't hear this same information in the I Kings 15 account of Abijah, where the king is simply described as a sinner whose heart was not true to the Lord.  It is helpful to have another perspective of the conflict between the nations of Judah and Israel to see what each author includes and emphasizes in their report. Certainly it is clear from this chapter that the feud between these countries could be severe at times.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Psalm 132: Two Vows

A theme that runs through the Old Testament is the connection between the Temple erected in Jerusalem and the Lord's commitment to David that one of his sons would always be on the throne.  We see both of these promises reflected in Psalm 132 with David and the Lord making vows to one another.

Monday, August 8, 2016

II Chronicles 12: The Power Of A Prophet

Ever heard of the prophet Shemaiah?  He was a man of God who was very influential in the southern kingdom of Judah during the generation after the reign of Solomon.

II Chronicles 11: All The Tribes?

People are fond of talking about "the ten lost tribes" of Israel, as if every trace of their bloodlines have been lost forever.  But II Chronicles 11 reveals that many came to Judah from the northern kingdom to support Rehoboam's reign, thus continuing their representation in the southern kingdom.  In addition to the Levites, who left their property in the north to come to Judah, we read, "Those who had set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came after them from all the tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord, the God of their ancestors" (vs. 16).  This brings up another point about II Chronicles from here on out: unlike I and II Kings, this book focuses exclusively on the southern kingdom of Judah and David's descendants.

II Chronicles 10: Behind The Scenes

One of the tensions in Christian theology is that of human free will versus divine sovereignty.  When something happens, who is more responsible?  God or man?  II Chronicles 10 indicates that, in a pivotal moment in Israelite history, God works through human decision-making.

Friday, August 5, 2016

II Chronicles 9: The Splendor Of Solomon

Jesus once referred to Solomon in the Gospels.  He said, "And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these" (Matthew 6:28-29).  Although as the pre-existing Son of God, Jesus could certainly testify about the appearance of Solomon firsthand, He might also have had in mind II Chronicles 9 which describes Solomon's glory and splendor.

II Chronicles 8: Plan Your Work, Then Work Your Plan

Some of Solomon's wisdom can be seen in the way he governed the kingdom after the passing of his father David.  So much of what had been laid up and prepared for him, Solomon put to good use.  He faithfully followed the plan.

II Chronicles 7: The "If" Clause

II Chronicles 7 contains a very famous scripture that is typically invoked around the time of the National Day of Prayer: "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (vs. 14).  It's a beautiful verse, but we must always take care to remember the pivotal "if" statement that God uses!

II Chronicles 6: The Promise - And Danger - Of The Temple

The king kneels in verse 13 and dedicates the house he has built for the Lord.  His prayer reveals both the promise and the danger of the Temple.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

II Chronicles 5: The Ark Finds A Home

What a day!

II Chronicles 4: Temple Talk

If you are reading the Bible straight through, you may wonder why so much time is spent on the construction of the Temple.  For instance, II Chronicles 4 goes into great detail concerning the Temple furnishings.  Why does the Bible dwell on this topic?

II Chronicles 3:The Location Of The Temple

For the house of the Lord, not just any old location would do.  It had to be appropriate, and the one that was chosen for the Temple was special for a number of reasons.

Psalm 131: A Psalm Of Humility

Imagine if this psalm read the opposite of its statements: "O Lord, my heart is lifted up,  my eyes are raised too high; I occupy my myself with things too great and too marvelous for me" (inverse of vs. 1).  This would be the picture of a spiritually proud person.

II Chronicles 2: Up To Jerusalem

Because of our modern maps, we have a tendency to say "up" when we speak of the north, and "down" when we talk about going south.  In scripture, however, it is almost always "up to Jerusalem" - even though Jerusalem lies toward the southern end of the Holy Land.

II Chronicles 1: Solomon's Wisdom

If given the chance to ask for anything - anything at all - from God, what would you request?

I Chronicles 29: Giving [Back] To God

When we give gifts to the Lord, such as tithes and offerings, we often do so under the illusion that God is benefiting by receiving the fruit of our generosity.  Yet the reality is that we are the ones who received God's generosity in the first place.  We can only ever give back to God.

Monday, August 1, 2016

I Chronicles 28: Solomon's Charge

David makes an impassioned speech in I Chronicles 28 before all of his officials and commanders.  He publicly charges his son Solomon to construct the Temple that David has prepared.  The king gives precise instructions about how the Temple and its furnishings should look, as directed by God, and makes it clear that the people are to support Solomon in this endeavor.  David includes a promise that Solomon will enjoy the favor of God for as long as he faithfully follows the Lord's instructions.  He says, "And you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve him with single mind and willing heart; for the Lord searches every mind, and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will abandon you forever" (vs. 9).

I Chronicles 27: David's Administration

I Chronicles 27 lists those who held important positions of leadership and service in David's kingdom. The chapter begins with the military then continues on through tribal leaders, agricultural overseers, counselors, and the commander of the king'd army.  It is clear that it takes a lot of organized people to be able to manage a kingdom - no less three thousand years ago than today!

I Chronicles 26: Temple Positions

I Chronicles 26 continues the look at David's organization of jobs and duties at the temple.  There were to be gatekeepers and treasurers for the house of God, along with officers and judges for the people.  Everything was detailed for the affairs of the temple to flow smoothly.

I Chronicles 25: I'm With The Band

Think worship bands are a recent innovation?  Think again!  Those churches which employ bands are really harking back to an ancient tradition.  The organization of musical teams for worship is found in I Chronicles 25.  "David and the officers of the army also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with lyres, harps, and cymbals" (vs. 1).  As you can see from the rest of this chapter, the organization was very detailed!

Friday, July 29, 2016

I Chronicles 24: Aaron's Long Shadow

Many generations had come and gone between Moses and David (exactly how many is still a bit of a conjecture).  Yet the precedents established in the law under Moses concerning the ritual worship of God with his brother Aaron serving as the high priest had continued, or were at least re-instituted, under David.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I Chronicles 23: Born This Way

It wasn't just anyone who could serve as a worship leader in ancient Israel.  The administration of the temple functions and the leadership of the sacrifices was given to one tribe in particular.  You had to be born a Levite in order to be one of the professional religious leaders.

I Chronicles 22: Equipping The Next Generation

David serves as a role model for us in many ways: courageous warrior, humble worshiper, repentant sinner, gracious king, and true friend.  He also demonstrates the beauty of equipping the next generation for their role in God's plan.

I Chronicles 21: Good Out Of Evil

I Chronicles 21 starts with something evil and ends with something good.