Merry Christmas! And happy reading finale!! You did it! You’re here! Pat yourself on the back and soak in the excitement of a completed job well done. We pray that this year of reading has nourished you and drawn you much closer to God. Yes, you probably still have questions, but that’s ok. The Bible is God’s living word, so there is always more to learn and understand.
This week, you will finish the Bible, but pay close attention to the end of Revelation. It is the reminder that when we pray and ask God to make our kingdom on earth just like the one he has in heaven, he actually plans to do just that.
God’s plan is to, in the end, restore all things to wholeness and perfection. We will be healed completely and all things will return to how he intended them.
As your reading is completed, let your soul be filled with great hope. God restores us in the end. Hallelujah! Amen!!
All the order and beauty of God’s original creation is about to be turned into opposite day. Zephaniah’s prophecy describes the destruction of Jerusalem, but, like always, there is hope in the end!
This is our second to last week of a year’s worth of Bible readings. That’s pretty incredible! Finish strong, my friends!!
As you’re well aware by now, we’re well into Revelation. Revelation gets a bad reputation for being very doomsday. Honestly, this week’s reading is a big reason why. The seventh seal is broken wreaking havoc on the world. There’s something like a second Passover where those who are not correctly marked are killed. Overall, it’s not a good scene.
But just like we have to remember that this world is not all there is for us, we have to remember that this week’s reading is not the last. There is hope. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but God wins. Because we are in God’s family, we win.
So yes, read Revelation and let yourself feel the discomfort as you read about God’s wrath. But read, understanding God’s wrath should only serve to spur us on towards bringing more people to him.
In today’s Amos reading, we find a sentiment repeated numerous times in Scripture and it’s one we could still stand to hear today. Our rituals and meaningless checkmarks do not please God. God doesn’t care how the package is wrapped, he cares what’s in the package. In other words, he wants our hearts to be devoted to him. That is how faithfulness is determined, not by how many faithfulness boxes we check.
- 4-13 – The prophet lists all the ways God attempted to get the Israelites’ attention and draw them back to him that failed. He follows that with an ominous statement of “prepare to meet your God” and it doesn’t sound like he means in a good way.
- 21-27 – This sentiment is repeated several times in Scripture. God doesn’t care about our rituals and us fulfilling our obligations if our heart is not following him. He wants the rituals and offering to be given out of love and devotion for him.
- 20-23 – Some of the church of Thyatira had begun to engage in sins such as adultery and eating foods offered to idols.
- 24-29 – The vision makes for an allotment for people in the church who had not yet fallen into deep sin. There seems to be great hope for these folks.
- 1-6 – It is clear that God will not condemn whole people groups when there are still faithful people in the midst. Instead he is separating the faithful from the unfaithful while still giving the unfaithful opportunities to repent.
- 1-4 – This is another one of the psalms associated with pilgrimages to Jerusalem. It seems important that those Israelites knew that they could be forgiven if they sought God’s forgiveness.
Many of us hate to be out of control. We hold onto the proverbial reigns with white knuckle grips. We plan and coordinate and when things don’t go our way, or even when we become unsure of whether or not they will go our way, we fall apart. Today’s proverb reminds us that, in certain ways, it’s good to be out of control because that allows us to better see God in control. And he’s way better at it.
- 1-22 – This section describes the glory of the Lord leaving the temple. This, in turn, means that the glory of the Lord left the Israelites.
- 1-13 – Ezekiel is shown those who had counseled Israel away from God. Judgment and punishment begin to be poured out on them.
- 14-25 – In this section, Israel is given a new heart and a new spirit. Verse 19 is similar to several other verses regarding a change of heart, particularly Ezekiel 36:26 and Psalm 51:10.
- 4-8 – In a similar vein to the unforgivable sin mentioned in the gospels, if you are worried that you committed it, your desire for repentance and restoration with God is sign that you are not beyond restoration. Have no fear.
- 9-12 – The author expresses hope for those hearing his words that they are still covered by salvation and should have eternal hope.
- 20 – Melchizedek is mentioned several times in Hebrews. He was a high priest mentioned in Genesis 14:18 as having served a meal similar to communion to Abraham and God when they met. Some groups believed that Melchizedek was a human who lived without sin.
- 16-22 – Joseph’s story of betrayal, rejection, and imprisonment could be encouraging to Israelites, particularly those in exile, that God always rescues his people.
- 23-36 – The psalmist recounts the events that put the Israelites into Egypt and how God ultimately rescued them.
- 1 – This is yet another reminder that we are not in control. This is difficult for most of us, but freeing when we realize that God is!
Just kidding! Do you ever tease someone with something a little bit mean and then cover it up by saying “just kidding”? The thing you said was still mean. And let’s be honest, you at least kind of meant it. Ellen Degeneres says, “if you’re joking, we should both be laughing.” Check out what Proverbs says about it today.
- 54-58 – The Lord declares the total destruction of Babylon.
- 1-11 – This account of Jerusalem’s destruction is actually a recap of the destruction before the exile. This is not another destruction.
- 12-23 – This recounts the destruction of the temple just before exile. This was the most devastating act.
- 24-30 – This is a recap of the people being taken into exile.
- 31-34 – This ending is the same way 2 Kings ended when we see a slight glimmer that there’s hope even in the face of devastating exile.
- 3-7 – A powerful testimony of the transformation brought on by God’s powerful grace.
- 8-11 – Clearly there were people struggling with all these things Titus is being warned against. Genealogies may have been bad because people were relying on their heritage for salvation instead of relying on Christ.
- A beautiful, easy to memorize psalm. This psalm is encouraging and reminds us how much God cares for us and that he is worthy of praise.
- A word of warning to all those who use the guise of joking to say hateful things to others.
The destruction and terror Jeremiah has been preaching for so long is now impending. This would be terrifying! But God promised to protect Jeremiah and those who had been good to him. So does he? Yes! Of course! Even when things look terrifying, we can trust that God will stay true to his promises. If he’s promised protection, he’ll protect us. If he’s promised healing, we’ll receive healing. We can trust that his promises are true. We see it over and over in Scripture.
- 1-10 – The impending destruction of Jerusalem has finally come. The Babylonians, as prophesied, overtake the Israelites.
- 11-18 – Amidst the destruction, God still takes care of Jeremiah and has King Nebuchadnezzar protect him. God also promises to protect Ebed-melech, the Ethiopian who rescued Jeremiah from the cistern.
- 1-6 – Jeremiah is given the option of where he wants to be. He chooses to stay in Judah.
- 1-10 – Ishmael, a member of the royal house of Judah, kills Gedaliah, the governor Babylon had placed over all that remained in Judah. This was a very dangerous act by Ishmael.
2 Timothy 1:1-18:
- 1-2 – Timothy was a protégé of Paul’s.
- 6-7 – Faith can be taught to us, like it was to Timothy, but we still have to claim it for ourselves, as Paul is encouraging Timothy to do.
- 8-14 – Paul teaches Timothy to cherish the faith and testimony he’s been given and to be willing to suffer for it.
- 12-17 – Having already established the power of God, the psalmist asks God to provide for and sustain him and to bless the work that he does.
- 1-16 – The psalmist encourages others that God will protect them. Even when it looks hopeless and when others around them are being killed, God is in control.
- 2 – If a curse is cast but has no cause, it will not come to fruition.
How many times this year has Scripture revisited God rescuing the Israelites from Egypt? It is their constant pillar reminding and assuring them of God’s faithfulness. What is yours? What event or circumstance do you look back on when you struggle to trust? A particular time God provided for you in a specific way? A time when you were rescued from a bad situation? A miracle that can’t be explained in any way but God? Think about that today, particularly if you’re facing a trial.
- 31-34 – God declares a new covenant with the Israelites since the last one was broken and forgotten.
- 1-5 – Zedekiah was the king of Judah appointed by the king of Babylon.
- 6-15 – Jeremiah’s opportunity to buy the field was proof sent from God that he would fulfill his promises of restoration.
- 16-23 – Note how many times God’s rescuing Israel from Egypt is revisited in order to offer hope of God’s faithfulness in the future.
- 26-35 – Judah’s sin had greatly grieved God. They worshipped idols offered sacrifices to other gods just like the foreign nations.
- 36-41 – God’s anger morphs into abiding love as he describes drawing his people back to himself and making them his own again.
1 Timothy 3:1-16:
- 1-7 – Overseers (or leaders in the faith) have higher standards they must live up to.
- 8-13 – Deacons, a different level in church leadership, also had a higher standard to live by. Their wives were also held to an elevated standard.
- 1 – Here, and then again in verse 13, the psalmist declares that he is faithful in prayer despite feeling left and forsaken by God. That kind of commitment can only stem from knowing that God will eventually come through.
- 20 – Know your audience. A heavy heart needs you to mourn with it. Don’t make it worse.
- 21-22 – Kill them with kindness.
As we wrap up Isaiah, it is incredible to think back on the month or so it has taken us to get through this powerful book. Isaiah rejects and then accepts his call, preaches destruction and exile for the Israelites, preaches eventual restoration for the Israelites, and sprinkles little hints of what to look for in a Messiah throughout. And while it is, at times, a difficult book to trudge through, A) you did it! and B) it offers both immediate and eternal hope.
- 6-12 – God continues to paint the picture of Jerusalem’s coming salvation. He speaks of preparations for that day and makes promises that the Israelites will no longer be defeated.
- 1-6 – God speaks of how he took vengeance on his enemies.
- 7-19 – The speaker changes to someone who is remembering how merciful God has been and then asking for more of that mercy.
- 1-12 – They continue to ask to see God’s power in saving them and bringing them out of trouble.
- 1-16 – God juxtaposes the treatment of his servants with that of those who choose not to serve him. God’s servants will receive great blessing while the others will receive great pain.
- 19-24 – Timothy was a young man Paul had taken under his wing. Paul commissioned him to spread the gospel as well.
- 2-4 – Once again Paul explains that living by the Spirit is far more necessary than circumcision. He reminds his readers that he, as a Jew, is circumcised so he can say this out of truth and not jealousy.
- The entire psalm, but with a crescendo in verses 25-26, are attesting to the confidence the psalmist has in God as his hope, salvation, and protection.
- This portion makes a very tangible comparison of how wisdom benefits us.
Just like in the children’s game freezetag, when you get frozen, there’s always the hope of getting unfrozen and getting to play again. This is, very crudely, the message of Isaiah. Yes, there was a time of punishment, but there is hope for restoration!