I’ve heard a number of people say they wish God would just give them specific instructions. Do this. Don’t do this. Then it would be far easier to follow them. We see in today’s Zechariah reading, and we’ve seen it so many times before in Scripture, that there are some specific instructions. With these, you can’t go wrong. Be kind. Show mercy. Help the poor. Hopefully that helps.
- 1-8 – The horses and chariots seem to represent God’s power returning to Judah and Israel.
- 9-14 – Zerubbabel and Joshua were to work together to rebuild the temple.
- 8-10 – God tells the Israelites, through Zechariah, exactly how he wants them to live. He is looking for kindness, mercy, and help for the poor.
- 11-14 – The Israelites didn’t listen but hardened their hearts.
- 1 – Though “plague” is never an enjoyable thing, it is good that the wrath of God will soon be over.
- 1-4 – David admits his past sins and repents. He knows that no one can stand before God’s righteousness.
- 9-12 – David not only looks to God for forgiveness, but also for protection from enemies.
- These are fascinating examples of creatures who have been given little but make the most of it. Presumably, we could learn a lot from them.
In today’s reading, we get a broad view of God’s character. We see a good amount of his wrath, which we have to remember is brought on by human sin. We also see his continual love and his abundant provision for us. It is easy to get a limited view of God based on what we hear, but reading Scripture opens our eyes to the fullness of who God is.
- 1 – Nineveh was the gentile city Jonah was sent to about 150 years before this prophecy was established. Jonah’s message allowed Nineveh to repent, but apparently they fell back into oppressive, evil ways. Nahum’s message is once again that Nineveh needs to be destroyed.
- 2-11 – This establishes that God will take care of those who are evil with his wrath and power. The explanation is sure to show, though, that God does not jump to conclusions, but definitely takes care of sin.
- 15 – Nahum’s name means comfort, but he is preaching a message of destruction. The message would have been comforting to those, like Judah, who Nineveh had oppressed.
- 1-12 – God declares destruction upon Nineveh.
- 1-19 – God’s destruction upon Nineveh is promised to bring them low. Other examples of nations God has destroyed are given to compare what their lot will be like.
- 7-12 – The wrath of God is unleashed after the seventh seal is broken. As the angels blow their trumpets God’s wrath is unleashed in stages.
- 13 – The eagle warns that the wrath is about to increase.
- This psalm lists off a series of reasons why God has been good to the people and proven his goodness and then responds by affirming that God’s constant love will endure.
- 7-9 – These are beautiful requests asking God to give exactly what is needed, no more and no less.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t recognize the remainder of Daniel. Today’s reading marks a major shift in the content of Daniel. The second half of the book focuses on apocalyptic literature. It is the only Old Testament book with a significant emphasis on the apocalypse.
- This chapter shifts the book from the stories we learned as kids to the apocalyptic portion of Daniel.
- 1-8 – Foreign powers are no longer depicted favorably in Daniel.
- 9 – The Ancient of Days is God.
- 19-27 – The fourth beast represents Antiochus. Antiochus rises to power overtaking the faithful folks for a time, but ultimately, God prevails.
1 John 1:1-10:
- 1-4 – Here John confirms that God was made flesh in the person of Jesus. And John wants to share that message with everyone, which will make his joy complete.
- 5-7 – We can’t call ourselves faithful and continue to blatantly walk in sin. There’s also a rockin DC Talk song about this.
- 157-158 – The psalmist doesn’t allow others to turn him away from his commitment to God’s law.
- It’s pretty incredible that this is by far the longest psalm and it is almost exclusively about the psalmist’s love and commitment for God’s word.
- 23 – This contrasts a true friend versus someone who just offers lip service. One is helpful. The other is not.
Because one time isn’t enough to hear this song, enjoy the musical version of a portion of today’s psalm:
- 1-3 – Remember, Nebuchadnezzar turned his allegiance to God after witnessing the miracle of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not burning up in the fire.
- 4-27 – The king calls on Daniel to interpret his dream and it’s not favorable. Daniel must have been understandably scared to deliver the bad news to the king.
- 28-37 – Nebuchadnezzar still takes credit for the power of Babylon, which destroyed Israel and captured their people. God humbles him and reminds him who is truly in control.
2 Peter 1:1-21:
- 3-4 – God gives us insight into faithful living and what he wants from us for our own good and so we can follow him.
- 19-21 – This confirms that prophecies were given by God through the Holy Spirit. At this point, many prophecies had come true, but this was encouragement to continue to trust those that hadn’t.
- 97-104 – The psalmist continues to show great love for God’s commands. He realizes that this is where he can receive wisdom and protection.
- 105 – A familiar and beautiful verse proclaiming the great help Scripture can give us.
- 17 – Guilt of this kind of sin cannot be taken away.
Are you more or less likely to live faithfully when in difficult situations? If we’re honest, most of us are less likely to live faithfully. We tend to grasp at anything that may be a way out of our current situation. But now that we’re reading Daniel, we have an excellent example of what it looks like to live faithfully in the worst of circumstances. We can learn a lot from this book.
- 1-2 – This is to set the scene that this story will happen while the Israelites are in exile.
- 8-16 – Like in many other stories in Scripture, it is important to trust in God for provision and not to rely on others in any way. Eating the king’s food and drinking his wine would have been a way of relying on and trusting in the Babylonians.
- 8-9 – The king asks the wise men to tell him what his dream means, but he refuses to tell them the dream.
- 20-23 – Daniel’s prayer is one of humility and seeking God’s wisdom and provision.
1 Peter 3:8-4:6:
- 13-15 – The way we live our lives is a big part of our witness. We must live righteously so people don’t have anything to question, but if they do anyway, we must be ready to share the gospel.
- 1-6 – As believers, we are called to live like Christ and leave behind our old ways.
- 67 – When we encounter God, it should show through a change in our lives.
- We harden our hearts through perpetually choosing sin over faithfulness. Perpetually choosing sin is guaranteed to destroy us.
Salvation is a free gift. We can’t earn it. That is so freeing…but…it should free us to do more good, live more like Christ, and serve more. It should not, in our minds, give us free license to sin more because, hey, what’s the harm? Be grateful for your free gift and act accordingly.
- 18-25 – These festivals and others are spelled out in Numbers 23.
- 1-18 – The prince had special instructions on how to handle offerings and other rituals in the temple.
1 Peter 1:13-2:10:
- 14-21 – Our call is to live like Christ. Because he lived a holy life, we are to do so as well. We know this is a worthy call because he died and rose again.
- 1-3 – We are to turn away from our sin and long for God’s goodness and guidance.
- 9-10 – We should take it seriously and act upon it that we were saved.
- 36-37 – A difficult prayer to pray because it might mean we actually have to turn from our selfish ways and live for God.
- 11 – Wealth does not equal wisdom.
We are often like little kids who get told ‘no’. Like us, they are appalled that someone would correct them from doing what they want to do. Today’s psalm reminds us that God’s commands are blessings to us and help keep us safe and blessed. Instead of seeing them as cramping our style, we should see them as gifts to make our lives the best they can possibly be.
- 9-14 – Though the Levites responsibilities for the temple were not completely revoked, they were punished for leading others to worship foreign gods and idols.
- 28-31 – God assured that the Levite priests were well taken care of so they didn’t need to acquire wealth anyway other than how God provided for them.
1 Peter 1:1-12:
- 1-2 – This letter was written by Peter or by someone whose faith originated from Peter’s ministry. People often attributed their works to their teachers or leaders.
- 6-9 – We can rejoice even when we face trials because our salvation means we have ultimate hope.
- 18-24 – When do we ever beg for God’s rules and commandments? We forget that they are blessings to us and are meant for our good.
- 10 – Throughout Scripture we are warned against leading others into sin.
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.
Don’t miss today’s reading! There is a ton of great stuff in here! It’s even hard to decide what to entice you with here, but I’ll go with this: if you think you’re beyond restoration or repair, read today’s Ezekiel passage. God raises dry bones back to life! No one is beyond forgiveness! No one can stray so far that God can’t redeem them! That means you too!!
- 1-14 – Ezekiel’s prophecies over the dry bones give hope that God can restore Israel even though their situation seems hopeless and their nation seems lifeless.
- 15-23 – God promises to reunite Israel and Judah and to, once again, be their God.
- 14-23 – Though Gog had seen success against Israel, God makes it clear that Israel will rise again and it will not bode well for Gog.
- 22-25 – Reading Scripture alone is not enough. We must also live what it tells us to do. Otherwise we are like a foolish person.
- 27 – If we truly want to follow God we must care for the most vulnerable in his name.
- 1-9 – We tend to want to associate with those who are powerful and can lift us up, but God does the opposite. He lifts up the lowly. God is calling us to share in his work.
- 10-13 – We tend to want to make our sins seems less egregious, but once we have sinned, we are sinners.
- 14-17 – This can be confusing because we know that faith in Christ is what saves us. We can’t save ourselves through works. This does not mean we’re not supposed to do the works though. Our salvation is intended to make us more like Christ, how worked diligently to care for those in need and bring others into God’s family.
- Why do we praise the Lord? Because he loves us.
- When we’re entrapped in sin, we constantly have to watch our backs and wait for the other shoe to drop. When we are living faithfully, there is freedom from this fear.
The line in the Lord’s Prayer that asks God to “lead us not into temptation” is sometimes problematic for people. They wonder if that suggests that God leads us toward sin. Today’s James reading assures us that God does not lead us toward sin but towards righteousness because he doesn’t want us to sin. The line in the Lord’s Prayer is referring back to Jesus’ temptation and recognizing that we are not strong enough to handle what he did.
- 1-15 – Mount Seir was a series of mountains marking the southeastern border of Judah. Clearly the people that inhabited the region had disobeyed God and would face punishment and the land would be made desolate.
- 15 – So many of the prophecies and oracles end with the statement, “then they will know that I am the Lord” or something similar. The destruction and difficulty God was sending to these nations had a purpose. Clearly they were previously unaware that God was God alone, or they were simply unwilling for that truth to inform how they lived.
- 8-15 – Not all the prophecies were bad. God promises to reestablish and repopulate the mountains of Israel. Here too he says that they will know he is God, but this time it’s because of the good he does for them.
- 26 – A powerful verse describing how we become when we choose sin over and over again and then how God restores and transforms us.
- 2-4 – It is difficult to look at trials this way when we’re in the middle of them, but we can often look back at past trials and how God has sustained us through them. Hopefully, then, in the next trial we will remember God’s faithfulness in previous trials.
- 12 – To remain steadfast is to remain faithful to God.
- 13-15 – God does not desire for us to sin, so he does not lead us to sin.
- 16-18 – These verses are the perfect answer to verses 13-15. God gives good gifts, not opportunities to sin.
- 1-2 – God’s faithfulness to us should lead us to more faithfulness to him.
- 23-27 – The investment you put in those with whom you’re entrusted will benefit you later.