The Israelites who returned from exile had high hopes on them. But…they failed miserably. Here’s how:
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.
When was the last time you cried out to God? In today’s psalm, David cries out because Saul has chased after him for a while, trying to kill him. At times, our suffering and difficulty are exhausting and seem never ending. You’re not alone. And like he did for David, God will come through for you too.
- 1-7 – Clearly it was not going to be through merely physical effort that God’s purposes would be accomplished. It was by God’s spirit working through Zerubbabel’s words that ultimately did so.
- 8-10 – Zerubbabel was charged with rebuilding the temple. God blessed its completion.
- 1-5 – A special song of praise was reserved for the 144,000 righteous ones who were set apart.
- 13 – Traditionally, Jews believed death was a separation from God. This suggests that now death is a good thing because one can rest.
- 14 – Son of man is a term Jesus used for himself.
- 15-20 – This seems to be another removal of the unfaithful.
- David is crying out to God in the midst of Saul’s attempts to murder David. This chase lasted a long time and must have been exhausting for David.
- 21-23 – These are all shifts from a lowly state to a far more respected and accepted one. The earth would tremble because it’s so foreign from the way the earth typically works.
Like the three days Jesus was in the grave, in Revelation, there is a time when evil is winning. We know that it doesn’t win ultimately, but take a minute to think about the chaos, pain, and sorrow that would be associated with evil winning. Now take a minute to praise God that he wins.
- 6-12 – God declares to those who were taken into exile and have been in Babylon, that he will restore Jerusalem and that even others will turn to God because of God’s restoration of Israel.
- 1-10 – Part of restoring Jerusalem and the temple was restoring the priests. Joshua’s clean garments are symbolic of his return to God.
- 1-4 – The people should not be worshipping the beast or the dragon. They are not God. They are some of the many other entities that the world chooses to follow other than God.
- 5-10 – For a time, evil is allowed to prevail. Those who were not already saved began to follow the evil ruler. Because the saints were temporarily defeated, this was a test of their faithfulness and patient endurance.
- 11-18 – Like the people of the Lord were marked and sealed for Christ, now those who follow the beast are marked for him.
- 1-4 – So often our requests of God are to benefit just us. David’s request asks for God’s help to remain faithful.
- 8-10 – David also asks for safety from his enemies.
Remember Zerubbabel and Ezra? Haggai is a contemporary of theirs, but he’s less impressed with the faithfulness of the returning Israelites. Here’s his challenge for the people:
Today’s psalm is beautiful. If you’ve ever felt abandoned, unwanted, unworthy, or unloved, read this psalm. God so intricately knit you together. Allow yourself to be amazed by the care God took to make you. He took that same care to make each of us. You are loved. You were made on purpose. You are wanted and known by the one true God.
- 1-6 – Haggai is given the message to rebuild the temple. He was a contemporary of Zerubbabel, who we read about in Ezra. Haggai supported Zerubbabel as he led the effort to rebuild the temple.
- 1-9 – Haggai is called to spur on Zerubbabel and Joshua to rebuild the temple even though they weren’t familiar with the glory of the first one.
- 12-19 – Though confusing to interpret, this passage seems to make it clear that though impurity is easily spread, purity is not. God is displeased that the Israelites have returned and built their own houses and begun to farm but have not focused on his house. He reminds them that he controls what they have no matter how much effort they put in.
- 23 – Zerubbabel is in the line of David. The signet ring would be a sign that God had placed his favor on him and would be the sign that David’s line had, as God said it would, returned to the throne.
- 1-14 – The two witnesses were witnesses for God. The people of the earth end up killing them and then a large portion of the city and its inhabitants are killed. Those who remain see what happened and repent and give glory to God.
- 15-19 – This seems like it could be the ending. God’s kingdom officially comes to earth with the blowing of the 7th trumpet. Wrath is poured out on the evil people and joy and celebration is amongst the faithful.
- In one of the most beautiful and poetic psalms, David recounts all the ways God’s knowledge of humanity and him specifically are vast and complete. He recognizes that God was there as he was formed and God knows every bit of his innermost being.
- 15-16 – These verses explore the depth of greed out there. No one is specifically identified as possessing these qualities, but the qualities are made clear.
We all hate admitting when we’re wrong. People might think we’re dumb or think we’re often wrong if they don’t have a good sample size. We want to seem competent and with it and we like to prove why we’re better than others. Today’s proverb reminds us, though, that the humility of admitting fault can free us and others in so many ways.
- 1-12 – Clearly this imagery is meant to be a metaphor for something else. Leading Ezekiel through the water of increasing depths may represent God leading us through deeper and deeper depths of trust. The good fruit growing out of the temple’s waters could represent God providing good things for the people.
- 13-23 – The land had to be re-divided between the Israelite tribes now that Israel is back from exile.
- 10 – The temple, though the original one was destroyed, was still designed to be the center of the Israelites’ existence.
- 35 – The Lord is There is one of the many names God is given throughout Scripture to describe something he has done for his people.
1 Peter 2:11-3:7:
- 11-12 – We know God doesn’t want us to fall to temptation and sin, but we rarely think of how negatively it affects us and we often fail to see the benefits of living faithfully.
- 18-25 – It seems ludicrous and completely unjust for us to endure punishment or suffering for something we’re not guilty of, but that’s what Christ did and sometimes we are called to endure as well. (These types of verses have also been used to justify things like domestic abuse. That is not what is intended by this passage.)
- 1-2 – Our kindness and goodness can often draw others to Christ.
- 3-6 – Outward beauty is fleeting, but inward beauty will always be beneficial.
- 54-56 – This speaks of a time when God’s word was a comfort when the psalmist was out of his element. God’s word can do the same for us.
- 13 – It is so hard to admit where we are wrong, but it brings freedom for us and others.
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.
In today’s reading, Ezekiel continues to describe his vision of the second temple. Though the details may seem tedious and like you’ve heard it all before, note that he talks about the separation between the holy and common in the temple. Isn’t it incredible that, when Jesus was crucified, the temple curtain was torn and anything that separated us from God was removed!?! Praise God for making a way to connect with us!
- 13-20 – The separation between the holy space and the common space was torn when Jesus died for our sins.
- 43:6-9 – The temple cannot hold the fullness of God, but simply his footstool.
- 1-6 – Those who are rich and cruel on earth have already experienced their blessings.
- 12 – We shouldn’t need anything or anyone else’s trustworthiness to assure our own. Instead, we should simply be trustworthy so people will trust us.
- 16-18 – Righteous prayers can seek forgiveness and healing and receive them. Prayers are powerful. This passage gives evidence of that
- 1-8 – The psalmist seems so eager to follow God’s commands and understands that blessings come from obedience.
- 6 – Though this sentiment is unpopular in our society, wealth is far less important than integrity.
You woke up this morning, right? Great! Then you have reason to give God praise. You were given this day as a gift! Now praise him for it and go out and treat it as the gift that it is.
- 28-49 – This is a continuation of Ezekiel’s vision of what the new temple should look like. Like the first time it was built, there are very specific instructions regarding all the details.
- 1-4 – The Most Holy Place was a place where only the chief priest could go once a year. It was separated from the rest by a curtain. This curtain was torn in half when Jesus died and bridged the gap between us and God.
- 1-3 – This is inviting us to ask God for things. Note that we are to ask for things not to fulfill our selfish wants, but for God’s glory and for our good and the good of others.
- 4-10 – Friendship with the world entails loving things and loving what the world tells us we need more than we love and follow God. Instead, we are to draw near to and worship God.
- 13-17 – We are to submit everything, even our futures, to God’s will.
- 24 – No matter our circumstances, we can always rejoice because God made this day and gave it to us as a gift.
- 29 – This is an exclamation repeated often in Scripture. It is a reminder that God is constant in his faithfulness and that we are loved.
- 5 – This is an interesting point. If we seek the Lord, he steers us to what is good and pleasing in his sight.