We all need a voice of reason encouraging us to do the right thing. We tend to struggle on our own. In today’s reading of Zechariah, you’ll hear that voice of reason for the Israelites. He encourages them to turn back to God. Does anything he says speak to you too?
- 1-6 – Zechariah’s prophecy immediately follows Haggai’s and is addressed to post-exilic Israelites. He begins with a call to return to the Lord.
- 7-17 – This begins a vision of an angel who seems to offer God’s grace and restoration to Israel.
- 1-6 – The newborn child, though facing peril, was saved and taken to God’s throne.
- 7-12 – This depicts a massive battle between God’s angels and the devil and his angels. The devil is thrown down to earth, but is vicious in desperation.
- David’s requests of the Lord for protection are genuine and seem to come with expectation that God will come through.
- So, be sure to follow commandment #5 and obey your parents!
Today we start Hosea. It is a fascinating book where Hosea is a model of faithfulness to God. Can you imagine being asked to marry someone you knew was going to cheat on you to help God paint a picture? I’m not sure I’m strong enough. But Hosea was faithful even though Gomer would never be. What are the limits to your faithfulness?
- 1-3 – God uses Hosea’s life as a microcosm of how Israel had treated God. Just as Israel was unfaithful to God, Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea.
- 4-9 – The children of Hosea and Gomer also each represented a portion of Israel’s relationship to God.
- 1-15 – This is an explanation of the punishment Israel will receive for its unfaithfulness.
- 16-23 – This section describes how it will be when the Israelites are restored to God.
1 John 5:1-21:
- 3 – This is powerful because often we feel that if we obey God our lives will be boring and lifeless, but this reminds us that following God’s commands is actually beneficial and freeing for us.
- 13-15 – When we believe in Christ, we receive eternal life. We also have a connection with him so that he hears our prayers.
- 18 – When we accept Christ we are to be transformed, which means we change and leave behind sins and walk towards righteousness. This, of course, is a process.
- 1-8 – The psalmist gives credit to God for protecting the Israelites and realizes that they would not have succeeded without the help of God.
- 6 – This verse depicts the weight of sin and the freedom in righteousness.
True repentance requires sincerity and taking responsibility. It is undoubtedly difficult, but absolutely necessary to achieve full restoration. In today’s reading Daniel sets a great example of repentance for not only himself, but also the entire nation of Israel. Do you need to practice repentance for anything?
- 3-15 – Here Daniel repents for all of Israel. His repentance is sincere and takes responsibility understanding that it is the sins of the Israelites that caused their exile.
- 16-19 – Daniel pleas with God for forgiveness and restoration. He longs for the day when God’s sanctuary will be restored.
1 John 2:18-3:6:
- 18-23 – The antichrists seem to be people denying that Christ was the Messiah. They had, at one time, been connected with the believers, so they looked the part, but were not true believers.
- 1-3 – It’s pretty incredible to think of ourselves as children of God. We have been adopted into his family because he loves us and wants us.
- 1-7 – These are poetic words describing the way God cares for and protects us. It’s good for us to remember where our help comes from because we often look everywhere else but to God for help.
- 27 – We are blessed to be a blessing. When we fail to use those blessings to help others, we often cease to receive those blessings.
We often think of sins as unrelated, individual decisions. I needed to lie in that situation so I did. Now it’s over. Today’s Proverb reminds us that that simply isn’t true. Sin becomes habit and we get comfortable doing it. It then leads us onto shaky ground, normally looking over our shoulder and wondering when we’ll get caught. Choosing faithfulness, however, brings us strength and stability as we stand on solid ground.
- 1-16 – This is the continuation of the prophecy against Gog. Gog had not appeared in Scripture until the last chapter. Gog is an individual who has opposed Israel and will be punished because of it.
- 21-29 – God explains that though Israel was disobedient and he punished them, he will soon restore them back to prominence and proliferation.
- 1-17 – This is a vision Ezekiel is given regarding what the new temple should look like. The new temple ends up being built in the same place as the old temple and it stood until 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed it.
- 18-26 – Our faith is not helpful if it is inactive. True faith cannot actually remain inactive. If we have faith in Christ, it is transformative and causes us to begin to live more like Christ. Works are inevitable.
- 2-12 – James spends time discussing how difficult it is to tame the tongue, but that if we do, it controls our whole selves. We all know how difficult it is to keep our speech pure, uplifting, and beneficial to others.
- 5-7 – The psalmist has such confidence in God’s ability to take care of him despite the circumstances because he had experienced God’s protection before. Instead of forgetting God’s faithfulness, he used that memory to build his faith for the future.
- Disobedience and sin lead to instability, but faithfulness leads to strength.
Do you ever feel like the critics know more about our faith and the Bible than we do? I remember being confronted by an atheist when I was in college. He talked to me about biblical contradictions and I realized he knew more about the Bible than I did. Paul encourages Timothy, in today’s 2 Timothy reading, to always be prepared to defend the gospel because others will always be ready to attack it. I’d encourage all of us to do the same.
- The next two chapters are a pronouncement of judgments on various lands including Moab and Ammon.
2 Timothy 4:1-22:
- 1-5 – Timothy needed to always be ready to share and defend the gospel because the opposition always was.
- 9-18 – Paul deals with practical matters but asserts his certainty that God would protect him no matter what opposed him.
- 6-11 – God’s faithfulness to the Israelites despite their wanderings is reiterated.
- A list of foolish people and how foolish it is to entrust foolish people with anything.
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.
It’s hard for most of us to understand persecution for our faith. The worst we normally have to face is someone ridiculing us for our beliefs. In today’s 1 Thessalonians reading, Paul praises the Thessalonians for enduring persecution for the gospel. As you read it, take a second to pray for those around the world who daily face persecution for the gospel.
- 13-22 – There were many false prophets who were opposing what God was saying through Jeremiah and they were leading the Israelites astray. God tells Jeremiah what to say in response to the false prophets.
- 1-9 – God is not backing down in coming after the false prophets and everyone who follows them.
- 10-21 – Jeremiah is afraid of the people and God confirms his commitment to and protection of Jeremiah. God’s response in verses 19-21 are very powerful.
- 1-15 – The first 13 verses are very bad news for the Israelites. They will face a great deal of destruction. The last two verses give hope, though, that they will eventually be returned to God’s intent for them.
1 Thessalonians 2:10-3:13:
- 13-16 – The Thessalonian believers clearly faced a great deal of persecution as they initially pursued Christ. Paul, multiple times, expresses gratitude for their faithfulness in the midst of it.
- 17-5 – Paul explains why he hasn’t visited Thessalonica again, but why Timothy visited instead.
- 1-13 – Asaph, the psalmist, asks God why he would bother bringing the Israelites out of Egypt only to forsake them later.
- 14-19 – Asaph asks that God returns to the people and restores them.
- 2-3 – God’s mind is far greater than that of a king, but a king’s mind is greater than that of a common person.
- 4-5 – Kings, in order to be faithful and successful, should be taken away from bad advisors and influences.
When we cheer for or celebrate the tragedies of others, God is not pleased. Today’s proverb reminds us of that. We may disagree with the person or their actions or principles, but we are not to find joy in their misfortune. Try to remember this nugget of wisdom next time you think someone “gets what they deserve”.
- 4-10 – Like several others called by God, Jeremiah has an excuse of why he can’t possibly be God’s instrument. God disagrees and assures him that he will.
- 13-14 – Babylon is to the north and eventually fulfills this prophecy.
- 18 – Jeremiah will be protected by God as long as he is serving God.
- 1-30 – Through Jeremiah, God remembers the connection he had with Israel and then how sharply they turned from him. They cannot deny how much they’ve forsaken him because he gives specific examples.
- 2 – Just so you don’t feel dumb, here are phonetic spellings of the two names here: You-o-de-uh and Sin-te-kay.
- 4-7 – When we release things to God in prayer, we are free not to worry anymore. God’s peace can comfort us and give us confidence that the situation will be resolved.
- 8 – This verse reminds us where our minds should be. We allow so much filth into our thought life, it is hard to be focused on the good, true, and pure.
- 10-13 – Paul doesn’t speak simply in “what if’s”, he had learned to trust God with a little or a lot.
- This psalm delineates the differences in the treatment of the righteous and the wicked.
- 17-18 – Everyone is God’s child. We should not gain joy from another’s misfortunes.
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.
Today we start Philippians. Like Ephesians and Galatians, this is a letter Paul wrote to a church he had interest in. If you ever talk to someone who wants to grow deeper in their faith and isn’t sure where to start in the Bible, Philippians is a great place to send them. It is short, simple, and to the point.
- 1-14 – The Lord makes it clear what kinds of worship he prefers. True worship is never routine and meaningless. He asks for us to care for those in need as an act of worship.
- 1-19 – God will not tolerate injustice and he is clear that he will punish those who oppress others.
- 17 – Note the similarity to the Armor of God from Ephesians.
- 21 – God makes a new covenant with the new Israel. Though this is not the covenant of Christ yet, it is a new way for God to connect with his people.
- 1-6 – Paul begins most of his letters with a warm greeting and encouragement on how thankful he is that the recipients of the letter are partnering with him in living out and spreading the gospel of Christ.
- 12-14 – Though other believers may have been concerned about facing similar persecution as Paul, he assures them that it has been worth it because of how it has advanced the gospel.
- 21 – Paul offers several poetic yet slightly cryptic sayings like this throughout his letters. Paul basically means that if he’s alive, he’s going to be serving Christ. When he dies, he’ll get to be with Christ.
- 1-16 – The psalmist is confident in the Lord’s ability to save him from his enemies because he is able to reflect on other times God has taken care of him.
- 17-24 – The psalmist praises God in advance for taking care of him and even promises to tell others of God’s great deeds.
- 10 – This verse calls out all those who feel strong in their faith or otherwise who then topple over when difficulties come. The strength of our faith is determined when tested.