He Is Coming!

Daniel 11-12, Revelation 22

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20 ESV

As the books of Daniel and Revelation both come to a close, they provide encouraging reminders that the events recorded in them will take place. Daniel is told to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4 ESV). He is to seal up what is contained in the prophesies provided by God and preserve them. God was not telling Daniel to hide them, but to make sure that he preserved them so that the words contained within them would be proven true when all took place just as God had said. In the book of Revelation, John is told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Revelation 22:10 ESV). This was an indication that the end was close. The culmination of all God's plans for the redemption of mankind were nearer than they had ever been. There is a surety and a certainty contained in both of these books. What God has said will take place. What He has prophesied will come to pass. There will be much that will happen between now and the end of time. Daniel was told of events involving the nations of the world that would result in all kinds of political and military upheaval in the centuries to come. The Persians, Egyptians, Seleucids, and Greeks would jockey for power, conquering one another and making the Middle East a volatile and unstable environment for years to come. All the way up until the rise of the Roman empire, Palestine would find itself in the middle of a power struggle between powerful nations, leaving the people of Israel as helpless pawns and easy preys for their enemies. The 400 years between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament were some of the most tumultuous times on earth – just as God had said they would be. But they would end with the coming of the Son of God as an innocent human baby.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But Christ's first advent was designed to pay for sin and offer salvation and justification to all who would believe in Him. His first coming was to satisfy the just demands of a holy and righteous God who had to punish mankind for their rebellion against His sovereign rule. Jesus became the sin substitute, accomplishing for man what he could not have done for himself. Jesus lived a sinless life and lived in perfect obedience to the just requirements of God's holy law. He became the perfect, spotless Lamb who was sacrificed as a payment for the sins of mankind. His death made eternal life possible. He exchanged His righteousness for man's sins. He bore our burden and died the death we deserved. All in fulfillment of God's divine plan. But while His redemptive work is finished, His job is not yet done. He is coming again. He has unfinished business. The point of all prophesy is the future. In Daniel's case, he was given insight into events that would take place over the coming centuries. And all of what was recorded in chapter 11, verses 1-35 has taken place. The various kings and nations mentioned can be easily traced and the accuracy of the prophecies contained in these verses can be easily proven. So if what God said would happen has actually taken place, why would we not believe that everything else He promised would be fulfilled as well. God told Daniel that “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Daniel 12:1 ESV). He was speaking of the Great Tribulation, the missing seventieth week spoken of in Daniel 9. It will be a time of great trouble. Jesus Himself described it in these sobering terms: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21 ESV). But God had good news for Daniel. “But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1b ESV). God would redeem a remnant of His people. He even told Daniel, “But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13 ESV). This does not mean that Daniel would live to see the end, but that he would be part of the faithful remnant who would undergo resurrection from the dead and stand before “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:3 ESV).     

What does this passage reveal about man?

Jesus told us, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:7-8 ESV). The centuries have recorded a wide range of events, from wars to natural disasters. We continue to watch as the influence of sin on the world manifests itself in a variety of unsettling forms. There are days when it would appear as if the end was near. We even question whether it can get any worse. But Jesus said these things are simply the birth pains. They are the precursor to something even greater yet to come. Man's rebellion against God will continue to increase up until the bitter end. The period of the Great Tribulation will see the rise of the Antichrist and the greatest outpouring of persecution on the Jews that the world has ever seen. Sin will have reached its apex. Man's rebellion against God and Satan's war against God's people will come to a climax. And then God will step in.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

John records the stirring words of Jesus Himself, predicting His second advent. “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12-13 ESV). He is coming again. God predicted it and He will bring it to pass. Again, Jesus says, “Surely I am coming soon”  and the response of those of us who call Him our Lord and Savior should be, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20 ESV). We should long for His coming. We should pray for His return. And while we wait, we should issue the words found in Revelation 22:17: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17 ESV). Jesus is coming again. And while there may appear to be plenty of time before that event takes place, we must live with a sense of urgency. We are to live soberly and righteously, as if His return could take place at any minute. We are to issue an invitation to everyone we meet, inviting them to “Come!” We are to point all those who are thirsty to the source of living water – Jesus Christ. And while we wait for His return, we are to do exactly what the angel told John, “Worship God” (Revelation 22:9 ESV). He is to be our focus. He is to be our source of hope. He is to be our help in times of trouble and our strength when we feel weak. We must constantly remind ourselves that God is not done yet. His will WILL be done. His plan WILL be fulfilled. His Son WILL return. His Kingdom WILL come. And sin WILL be no more.

Father, You are worthy of worship. You are deserving of my praise and my trust. You have proven Yourself trustworthy and true time and time again – in history and in my life. Your Words always come true. Your prophecies always get fulfilled. Your will always comes to pass. Help me to live in light of those realities. And, come Lord Jesus, come! Amen

The Dwelling Place of God.

Daniel 9-10, Revelation 21

Daniel 9-10, Revelation 21And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” – Revelation 21:3 ESV

Daniel and his contemporaries had been in captivity in Babylon for nearly 68 years. He was probably in his 80s at the time these two chapters were written, and had spent the majority of his life living in exile, away from the city of God, and unable to worship in the temple of God. When Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C, he had completely destroyed the temple, the dwelling place of God. So since that time there had been no place for the people of Israel to go in which they might worship and offer sacrifices to their God. For almost 70 years, the people of Israel had endured exile and had lived with the awareness that their great temple lay in ruins. But by the time Daniel received his vision recorded in chapter 10, a group of Jews had been able to return to Jerusalem and had begun the restoration of the city of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple – all by virtue of a decree issued by King Cyrus. God had miraculously provided a means by which His people would be returned to the land and the city of Jerusalem could be rebuilt – all in keeping with His promise. But the real emphasis in these two chapters seems to be the presence of God. In spite of the fact that Daniel lived in a foreign land, far away from the city of Jerusalem and the temple where God's presence was supposed to have dwelt, He received word from God Himself. When he prayed to God, He answered. “At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision” (Daniel 9:23 ESV). God then proceeded to give Daniel a glimpse into the future as it related to the people of Israel. He provided Daniel with the assurance of His ongoing presence and unwavering commitment to His people – the Jews. God told Daniel, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage” (Daniel 10:19 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

Much of what God shared with Daniel regarding the future of Israel was confusing and disturbing. He received news of “a troubled time” in which “desolations are decreed.” He heard about floods and war, abominations and destruction of the city of God. But Daniel also received encouragement. He was told not to fear. He was given news from God Himself, providing him with a reassurance that everything was going to be okay. God was working behind the scenes, orchestrating the affairs of men and implementing His divine plan, according to His perfect timeline. God sent an angel to Daniel who told him that he “came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come” (Daniel 10:14 ESV). God was sharing with Daniel news about the future. He was reminding that He had not forsaken His people. He had seen Daniel and had been aware of His mourning. He had heard Daniel and responded to His cries for mercy. God was not restricted to heaven or relegated to a temple built by human hands. He was the transcendent God who omnipresent, able to be everywhere at once and capable of being with His people wherever they were at any moment and at any time. He is not hindered by time or space. And in spite of the sins of the people of Israel, He was still with them and would one day restore them to a right relationship with Him.    

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man's greatest need is God. And yet our greatest weakness seems to be our insatiable desire to try and live without Him or simply in place of Him. When Adam and Eve were created, they enjoyed unbroken fellowship and intimacy with God. But sin changed all that. They went from having unrestricted access to God to being physically removed from His presence and denied entrance into the garden where they once walked and talked with Him. The story of the Bible is about God's plan to make right what sin destroyed. Sin marred the world. So God is going to make it new again. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1 ESV). He will start fresh. He will recreate. He will even make a new Jerusalem. “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2 ESV). When the remnant of Jews returned to Jerusalem during the days of Daniel, they were able to rebuild the temple, but the finished product was a shadow of its former glory. It was nothing like the once-glorious temple that Solomon had built. Because man cannot restore like God can restore. Man can't fix what is wrong in the world. Everything we do is little more than a band-aid on a problem that requires extensive restoration and healing. Even Daniel understood that his people were helpless to fix the problem they were experiencing. Their own sins had gotten them where they were. But God had not abandoned them. He was still among them. And He was always giving them assurances of His ongoing presence and power. But any glimpses they got of God were nothing compared to what was to come. Sin still mars God's creation and damages man's relationship with God. But the day is coming when those things will be remedied once and for all.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Man was created to have a relationship with God. Sin threw a monkey wrench into the plan, driving a wedge between man and God, and requiring God to do something radical to remedy the problem. God sent His Son to pay for the sins of man and to make possible the restoration of the relationship between God and His creation. But even now, sin continues to make it difficult for man to experience God's indwelling, ongoing presence perfectly, without interruption. So God has one last thing He needs to do. He is going to eliminate sin and its devastating influence. He will destroy Satan and remove him completely from the equation. John was told that God would “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV). God reminds us, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). A new heaven and a new earth. A new Jerusalem. A new relationship between God and man. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3 ESV). Over in his gospel, John writes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). The word for “dwelt” in this verse means to “fix one's tabernacle” and it pictures God's choice to dwell among men in a physical form. In Revelation 21:3, John records the noun version of the same word when he writes, “the dwelling place of God is with man.” When Jesus came to earth, He made God visible to men. But the day is coming when God Himself will dwell with men once again. We will enjoy unbroken, unhindered fellowship with God. Sin will be eliminated. Confession for sin will no longer necessary. There will be nothing to get in the way of our relationship with God. He will be our God and we will be His children.

Father, on this earth we only get glimpses of what fellowship with You can be like. Sin continues to make it difficult to see You, hear You, and experience You. The world can be a constant reminder of sin's reality and make it feel like You are distant and removed from everyday life. But the day is coming when we will experience You in uninterrupted glory. You will dwell among us and we will enjoy Your presence. Help me to stay focused on reality of that promise. Amen

Thy Kingdom Come.

Daniel 7-8, Revelation 20

…and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. – Daniel 7:13-14 ESV

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He gave them the following model to follow. “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10 NLT). Jesus began His prayer with a request that His Father's Kingdom be established on the earth and that the will of His Father be perfectly fulfilled here on earth just as it is in heaven. This was a request for something to be done that was yet future in its fulfillment. Jesus was teaching His disciples to long for and look for a day when the Kingdom of God would be established on earth in a real and final sense. While we see a partial fulfillment of God's Kingdom as we live on this earth as citizens of that Kingdom, and enjoy the Kingship of Christ in our lives; we do not yet see His Kingdom fulfilled in all its glory. That day is yet future. It is reserved for what Daniel records as “the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17 ESV). Daniel was given a glimpse into the distant future, a time called “the latter end” (Daniel 8:23 ESV), “many days from now” (Daniel 8:26 ESV), when God will bring all things to a close and establish His Kingdom on earth. The kingdoms of this earth will cease. The kings of this earth will be removed from power. The one true King will sit on His throne in Jerusalem where He will reign in righteousness and glory for 1,000 years. John was given insight into this event and shown that a day was coming when Jesus Christ would return to earth, defeat Satan and the armies of this world, set up His Kingdom and reward those who had been faithful to Him throughout the time of the Great Tribulation and had suffered martyrdom on His behalf. “They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4 ESV). “…but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6 ESV). This refers to that yet future time period called the Millennial Kingdom, when God will establish His Kingdom on earth once and for all. His Kingdom will come and His will will be done, perfectly and completely. The prayer Jesus prayed will be fulfilled.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God showed Daniel and John things that no man had ever seen. He revealed to them things that had yet to happen, but that would most certainly take place because they were part of His divine plan for the redemption of His creation. Much of what was revealed to Daniel would have a short-term fulfillment. He was shown the various kingdoms that would come to power in the not-too-distant future. He was told of the coming of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), the eighth king of the Seleucid dynasty, who would lead Syria to great power and prominence and become of the greatest persecutors of the people of God that had ever lived. He would kill thousands of Jews. He would desecrate the temple of God by setting up an idol dedicated to Zeus and offer a sacrifice of swine to this false god. But these events were just a precursor of something even greater and far more sinister to come. Antiochus would be the partial fulfillment of the Antichrist who was to come in “ the appointed time of the end” (Daniel 8:19 ESV). What Daniel saw had to do with events to come that have already taken place, but it also had to do with a future time that has yet to be fulfilled. God's focus is on the end. He is involved in the here and now, but His emphasis is on culmination of all things. He is all about answering the prayer that Jesus prayed. He is all about the coming of His Kingdom and the ultimate fulfillment of His divine will on earth.   

What does this passage reveal about man?

Much must take place before the end comes. Jesus Himself warned that things were going to get worse long before they got better. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:6-8 ESV). We have been witness to the reality of His prediction. We have been eyewitnesses to countless wars, tragic famines, devastating earthquakes and other seemingly end time events. But Jesus told us not to be alarmed. These things are not necessarily a sign of the end. They are simply evidence of the devastating influence the fall and the presence of sin will have on God's creation and on mankind. Kingdoms will rise and fall. Nations will wage war against one another. Injustice and unrighteousness will become commonplace. The sin of man will reach epic proportions and the darkness of man's rebellion against God will appear overwhelming. The actions of an Antiochus Epiphanes will pale in comparison to those of the Antichrist. “His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand” (Daniel 8:24-25 ESV). Man's capacity for evil will reach it apex in this one individual. He will rule and reign over the world and turn his wrath against the people of Israel. Jesus described this period of time in very harsh terms: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

News of these yet-future events had a devastating impact on Daniel. “And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king's business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it” (Daniel 8:27 ESV). But rather than fear, we must be ready. Rather than live with a sense of trepidation, we should live with expectation. Jesus told us, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 ESV). He is coming back. And when He returns the second time, He will come to defeat the kingdoms of this world, along with Satan, the prince of this world. God will take back what rightfully belongs to Him. He will establish His Kingdom and set up His Son as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. “…and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV). God's Kingdom will come. His will will be done. His Son will reign. His enemies will be defeated. Sin will be eliminated. The unrighteous will be judged. The redeemed will be rewarded. The God of the universe will have the final say. So as Jesus modeled for us, our constant prayer should be that God's Kingdom come and His will be done – on earth, just as it is in heaven. That day is coming. And it is for that day we hope and the creation moans in eager anticipation.

Father, while things appear to be getting progressively worse, we know that man's capacity for sin and rebellion knows no limits. Sin will increase. Unrighteousness will spread like a cancer. But Your Kingdom IS coming. Your will will be done. Your Son is going to return and set everything right. Help us to live with that reality in mind. This story has an ending and it is an unbelievably good one. Amen

An Instrument For God's Glory.

Daniel 5-6, Revelation 19

He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions. Daniel 6:27 ESV

Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God… – Revelation 19:1 ESV

The story recorded in chapter six of Daniel is a familiar one. It tells us of the time when Daniel was cast into the den of lions for having worshiped God rather than bow down and worship King Darius. The temptation, when reading this story, is to make much of Daniel and his faith. But the point of the story is not the faith of Daniel, but the God whom Daniel worshiped and in whom he had placed his faith. Daniel worshiped God. Darius wanted everyone to worship himself. In chapter five we read of the story of Belshazzar, the young son of the king who, while serving during one of his father's long absences from Babylon, threw a party where he and his guests drank out of the sacred vessels that had been pillaged from the temple in Jerusalem years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar. These vessels, which had sanctified and set apart for the worship of God, were used by Belshazzar and his drunken guests to worship the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. Both Belshazzar and Darius were guilty of having worshiped something other than the Most High God. And in both of these stories, Daniel was simply an instrument through whom God displayed His greatness and glory. While Daniel was recognized for his “understanding and excellent wisdom” (Daniel 5:14 ESV), and we are told “an excellent spirit was in him” (Daniel 6:3 ESV), he is not the focus of this story. Daniel existed for God's glory. He was used by God to deliver a powerful word of judgment against Belshazzar, condemning him of his pride, arrogance and for having lifted himself against the Lord of heaven. He accused Belshazzar of not honoring “the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways” (Daniel 5:23 ESV). And Daniel would be used by God to reveal His power and prominence over the king, his governmental representatives and even a pack of lions. Daniel had a reputation, but his life was intended to point others to God, not himself. While Daniel had received praise and a promotion, he remained dedicated and totally submitted to his God.    

What does this passage reveal about God?

Daniel knew that His God was great. He was fully aware that God was in control of the affairs of men, including the various kings who sat on the throne of Babylon, whether it was Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar or Darius. When chapter five opens us, Daniel would have been in his 80s, having served as part of the court in Babylon for well over 60 years. He had seen the rise and fall of Nebuchadnezzar. He would watch as Belshazzar was killed for his pride and profaning of God. He would live to see Darius come to power and watch as he followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, forsaking the greatness of God and demanding the worship of man instead. Yet Daniel knew that God alone was to be worshiped. He warned Belshazzar, “And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored” (Daniel 5:23 ESV). When he was made aware of King Darius' decree that all men should bow down and worship him, forsaking the worship of any other gods, Daniel “went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:10 ESV). God is mentioned sixteen times in these two chapters. It was His hand that wrote on the wall, throwing a wet blanket on Belshazzar's party. It was His hand that protected Daniel from the lions in the den. It was to Him that Daniel bowed and prayed, not to King Darius. It was God in whom Daniel trusted and placed His faith. And it was God of whom Darius would decree, “that all in my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:26 ESV). Because Daniel was willing to be an instrument in the hands of God, this pagan king would end up exclaiming, “he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:26-27 ESV).  

What does this passage reveal about man?

We exist for God's glory, not our own. Daniel was simply an instrument through whom God revealed His greatness, glory, and power, and proved His prominence over kings, nature, and the wisdom of men. As children of God, we are to be His instruments. We are to recognize that we exist for His glory. As we rightfully worship Him in the midst of a culture that worships anything and everything but Him, we provide Him with opportunities to prove His power and presence. We become vessels through whom He reveals His glory. Paul writes about this very thing in one of his letters to Timothy. “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21 ESV). Like those vessels that Darius used from the temple, we have been set apart as holy, useful to the Master. We are to be used for His glory and to bring Him honor. Daniel, in spite of his apparent success, had not lost sight of the fact that he existed for God and was intended to bring Him glory, being ready for every good work. He was even willing to die, as long as God was honored in the process. He knew that even his martyrdom would honor God because he would have remained faithful to the end. But should God spare him, God would receive honor as well. Living for God must include a willingness to die for Him, if necessary. Honoring Him is best achieved when I recognize my role as a vessel for His glory. My life exists for His glory, not my own. John the Baptist understood this. He revealed it in his simply statement regarding Jesus, in which he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30 NLT).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The goal of my life should be that God and His Son be lifted up through me. My life should reveal the power of God. My life should reflect that transforming presence of Christ. I must continually see myself as an instrument in God's hand. I am a vessel into which He has placed His glory and through that glory must be revealed to a lost and dying world. In the end, my life should be living proof of the reality that “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just” (Revelation 19:1-2 ESV). As people look at my life, they should be able to see God's power in me. My actions should point them to Christ as I live in dependence upon Him and place my faith in Him. Over in the book of Revelation, we are reminded that our great God is one day going to bring His plan of redemption to a close. He is going to send His Son one last time to the earth. The Word of God will appear one last time, and He will come in power, bringing judgment against all those who have chosen to worship someone or something other than God Most High. And He will bring with Him, “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure” (Revelation 19:14 ESV). Once again, God will use His people as His instruments, through whom He will accomplish His will and bring Himself glory. But the battle will be His. The victory will be His. It will be He alone who wears the title, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16 ESV). When all is said and done, the point of it all will revealed: “Worship God!” (Revelation 19:10 ESV). That is why we were created. It is why we exist. And it will be what we do for eternity. Because He has been, is, and always will be the point of it all.

Father, we exist for Your glory. We have one purpose and one purpose – to worship You and bring You glory as we allow You to work in and through our lives. May Your power be revealed in our lives. May Your presence be seen in our lives. May Your will be done in our lives. For Your glory and Your glory alone. Amen

The Most High Rules.

Daniel 3-4, Revelation 18

…and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.. Daniel 4:32 ESV

During the time period recorded in the book of Daniel, Babylon was the post powerful nation in the world. It was a pagan nation that had experienced tremendous success militarily. Its armies had conquered many nations and its influence could be seen throughout the Middle East. Nebuchadnezzar ruled over a vast kingdom and was a force to be reckoned with. But the book of Daniel is all about a much more powerful, sovereign and almighty King than the one who sat on a throne in the great city of Babylon. From the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace to the shocking case of Nebuchadnezzar's bout with insanity, the greatness of God is the resounding theme. Repeatedly we see Nebuchadnezzar struggling with pride and attempting to set himself up as the sovereign ruler of the world. His decision to erect a giant idol and demand its worship stands in direct opposition to the sovereign power revealed in chapter two. When the three young Jews refused to bow down before Nebuchadnezzar's statue, he arrogantly responded, “who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15 ESV). But when God miraculously preserved the lives of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Nebuchadnezzar changed his tune, exclaiming, “How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:3 ESV). But apparently, Nebuchadnezzar's awareness of God's dominion and rule was short lived. Given enough time to consider his own greatness and all that he had accomplished, Nebuchadnezzar would end up putting himself back on the pedestal of his own mind. “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30 ESV).    

What does this passage reveal about God?

Nebuchadnezzar arrogantly and sarcastically asked Daniel's three young friends, “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15 ESV0. God would provide him with the answer. Three different times in the passage God made it clear that He was going to do something so that there would be no doubt about who was in control. “…that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17 ESV). “…till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:25 ESV). “…until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:32 ESV). The story found in Daniel is not about the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but about the God in whom they placed their faith. The real message of these chapters is God's sovereignty and rule over the affairs of men. Nebuchadnezzar, as great as he may have thought himself to be, was nothing more than “the lowliest of men” in God's eyes. He was simply another creation formed from nothing by the hand of the Creator. His very life and the throne on which he sat were the work of God, not himself. God had the power to remove not only Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, but his sanity as well. God could control the king's dreams. He could alter the king's behavior. He could do with His creation whatever He chose to do. And the ultimate goal is that all men will some day know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men.   

What does this passage reveal about man?

There has been a power struggle taking place ever since Adam and Eve decided to reject God's will for them, and buy the lie of the enemy that promised them, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5 ESV). Ever since that fateful day, men and women have been at war with the God of the universe, attempting to wrest control from His hands so that they might be the arbiters of their own fate and the masters of their own domains. Acceptance of God's sovereign rule and willing submission to His control over the lives of men continues to be an epic, ongoing struggle. Even in the lives of the godly, submission to God's rule can be difficult to live out. Our sin natures continue to tempt us to demand our own way and to fight for what we believe to be our rights. Our pride rises up within us, causing us to wrongfully assume that we are responsible for our successes and the best determiners of our own fate. In other words, we know what is best for us and we will do whatever we have to in order to get what we want. But God would have us know “that the Most High rules over the kingdom of men.” And that includes our own petty kingdoms and personal domains. Interestingly enough, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego seemed to have come to grips with the sovereignty of their God. When confronted with the choice to worship the king's statue or remain faithful to their God, they didn't flinch. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18 ESV). They were willing to put their lives in the hands of God. They were wiling to face death rather than put someone or something else in His place as the Most High. And their faith wasn't academic or intellectual. It was real, taking the form of an actual commitment to face death in a fiery furnace rather than turn their back on God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The entire Bible, from beginning to end, is about the Most High God. It starts with His miraculous creation of the entire universe. It contains His sovereign interactions with mankind that spans the centuries and influences the lives of countless generations. It peaks with the coming of His Son as the divine solution to man's inherent problem of sin. And it culminates with a depiction of God's final plan for the restoration of His creation and His victory over Satan, sin and death. Even in the book of Revelation, we see the return of the image of Babylon. This once great pagan nation returns to the scene, but now as a representative picture of the satanic system of evil that will dominate the world scene in the end times. Whether or not the Babylon spoken of in chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation is a literal city is not clear. But there is no doubt that it symbolizes all that is evil with the world. Babylonianism is makred by pride, idolatry, injustice, immorality, greed, avarice, lust, materialism, and human glory. It is the attitude found in the life of Nebuchadnezzar, but on steroids. During the time of the Great Tribulation, pictured for us in the book of Revelation, the moral decline of man will reach its apex. The decadence and debauchery for which Babylon was famous will be worldwide and will impact everything from religion to commerce. Sinful, pride-filled, arrogant man will literally go to war with God Himself. “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is the Lord of lords and the King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14 ESV). Babylon will fall, “for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her” (Revelation 18:8 ESV). When all is said and done, God will once again prove that He is the Most High God and rules over the kingdom of men. He will put to rest any debate regarding His sovereignty and defeat once and for all any rebellion to His rule and attempt to usurp His throne or His glory.

Father, You rule and reign, not just in heaven, but over all the earth. You are the sovereign God over all men, all kingdoms, and the entire universe. Your desire is that we might recognize You are the Most High and live as if we truly believe You are in control. Give us the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, so that we might be willing to submit to Your rule and even suffer death out of reverence for Your name and respect for Your righteous reign over our lives. Amen

God of gods.

Daniel 1-2, Revelation 17

Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery. Daniel 2:47 ESV

When studying a book like Daniel, there is a real temptation to make it all about the one whose name it bears. Many of us know the stories found in Daniel. We probably heard them as little children in Sunday School. We know about Daniel and the lion's den. We've heard about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. And it would be easy to make this story all about Daniel and his friends. But to do so would be to miss the whole point of the book of Daniel. It was written, not to deify Daniel, but to reveal the power and glory of God in the midst of what was a very difficult and hard to understand circumstance for the people of God. Everything Isaiah the prophet had warned would happen had taken place. The Babylonians had come into the territory of Judah, besieged the city of Jerusalem, and in 605 B.C., had taken captive the first group of the city's occupants. Daniel was included in this first wave of exiles. The book of Daniel was written for Jews who were living long after this events occurred. It was a history lesson, revealing not just the details of past events concerning the Israelites, but the reminding them of the sovereign hand of God over their lives. Ultimately, this book is about God. His influence can been seen on virtually every page. He is the one who is orchestrating every circumstance, from the fall of Jerusalem into the hands of the Babylonians to the captivity of Daniel and his subsequent promotion into the king's favor and service. God was behind Nebuchadnezzar's dream and Daniel's ability to interpret it. God is not only the star of the story, but its author.  

What does this passage reveal about God?

For the Jews who had to live through the fall of Jerusalem and the deportation of its citizens into captivity in Babylon, there would have been ample reasons to wonder whether their God was either impotent or indifferent. Had He lost His power or had He simply lost interest in the people of God. It would have been easy for them to feel abandoned by God and left to fend for themselves. Even though God had warned them repeatedly that judgment was coming, they still would have found their circumstances hard to understand and difficult to endure. But the book of Daniel was intended to remind the people of Israel that their God was in control. Throughout the first two chapters, His hand is revealed and His involvement behind the scenes can be clearly seen. “And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1:9 ESV). “As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17 ESV). Why would God give Daniel favor? Why would He give Daniel the ability to understand dreams and visions? Better yet, why had God allowed Daniel and his companions to be taken captive in the first place? There is much that happens in life that we question. There are circumstances that occur that cause us to doubt God's goodness, power, wisdom or presence. But the story of Daniel reminds us that God is always there. He is the ever-present God of the present and also the God of the future. What happens today, while difficult to understand, has implications for tomorrow. God's plan is far greater than our current conditions. Daniel's captivity, while difficult, was a necessary part of God's divine plan. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

The book of Daniel juxtaposes the weakness of man with the power of God. While Babylon was the most powerful nation in the world at the time, and King Nebuchadnezzar was feared and revered; they were no match for God. Daniel would even tell the great king, “You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all…” (Daniel 2:37-38 ESV). God had given Nebuchadnezzar his power. In his prayer of thanksgiving to God, recorded in chapter two, Daniel says, “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2:21 ESV). Man is no match for God. Even the magicians, wise men and enchanters of Babylon are exposed as weak, ineffective, and unable to tell the king the meaning of his dream. They confess, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king's demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Daniel 2:10-11 ESV). They were right. Not a man alive could do what the king was asking. Not even Daniel. Even he would admit that. “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries…” (Daniel 2:27-28 ESV). 

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In reading through these opening chapters of Daniel, it would be so easy to concentrate all our time and energies at trying to understand the vision that Daniel interpreted for the king. The same is true when reading chapter 17 of Revelation. We could spend countless hours trying to determine just what all the imagery means and what each portion of the vision represents. And while there would be inherently wrong in doing so, we could miss out on the most significant point behind it all. God is in control. Even in the book of Revelation, amongst all the imagery of beasts, harlots, heads, and horns, there is a strong and indisputable reminder of God's sovereignty. “For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled” (Revelation 17:17 ESV). Scholars and theologians have spent their lifetimes trying to determine the meaning behind all the imagery of this passage. There has been much debate and little consensus on just what all the imagery means. But we CAN know this. God is behind it all. He is in charge of all that happens – both now and into the future. Daniel knew that God had not abandoned him, in spite of his circumstances. So he prayed to God and was answered by Him. God revealed to Daniel the details of events that had yet to happen. He gave Daniel insights into the future and never fully explained to him what they all meant. God doesn't tell us everything. He doesn't reveal all the details behind His plans. God is not obligated to explain Himself or defend His actions. But I should know that he is God of gods and Lord of kings. He is a revealer of mysteries and the author of the entire story of mankind. He is in complete control and I can have confidence in Him, “until the words of God are fulfilled” (Revelation 17:17b ESV).

Father, it is so easy to miss the point of the Bible and make it all about man. I can spend so much time focusing on the people of the Bible that I miss out on the God of the Bible. Help me to recognize that the Bible is Your personal revelation of Yourself to man. It is not about us. It is about You. We are bit players in the great redemptive story. We are the beneficiaries of Your goodness and the spectators who get to witness Your greatness. Never let me lose sight of the fact that, regardless of what I see or experience, You are in control and Your words and Your will are going to be fulfilled. Amen

A Humility of Heart.

Isaiah 65-66, Revelation 16

But this is the one to whom I will look; he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:2 ESV

Israel's unique position as God's chosen people should have produced in them a sense of humility and grateful dependence upon Him. Instead, they developed an arrogance and pride that was marked by a sense of entitlement. They saw themselves as spiritually superior to all the other nations, saying, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you” (Isaiah 65:5 ESV). And yet, God viewed them as rebellious, idolatrous, disobedient, and deserving of His wrath. His assessment of them was not good. “…when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in” (Isaiah 65:12 ESV). But amazingly, there were a few who remained faithful and true to God. There was a remnant of Jews who worshiped Him correctly, exhibiting a healthy awe and respect for who He was and all that He had done for them. God refers to the faithful few as His servants. He says they shall eat, while the rest go hungry. They will drink while everyone else thirsts. They will rejoice while the prideful and arrogant are put to shame. They shall sing for gladness of heart while the unfaithful cry out for pain of heart. God describes this faithful remnant as humble and contrite in spirit, having a healthy fear of Him.  

What does this passage reveal about God?

God prefers humility over the act of sacrifice. He desires relationship over religion. For the majority of the Israelites, the sacrificial system had deteriorated into little more than a means of appeasing God and attempting to curry favor from Him. It had become self-centered and selfishly motivated. Rather than a means of worshiping God for who He was, men had made it little more than a ritual designed to get what they wanted from God. The whole sacrificial system had been intended to remind men of their dependence upon God. They stood as sinful and guilty before a holy and righteous God. They could not come into His presence because of their sinfulness. So they were required to offer Him sacrifices as a means of worshiping Him for who He was – holy, unapproachable, mighty, just, righteous, and worthy of all honor. God reminded Isaiah, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1 ESV). God didn't need a temple in which to dwell. Even Solomon recognized that the temple he built was insufficient to house the glory of God. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27 ESV). But the temple was designed as a place to which men could come in humility, obedience and repentance – acknowledging their sin and their need for God's grace, mercy and forgiveness.

What does this passage reveal about man?

God's grace is reserved for the humble. James would remind us, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 ESV). “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10 ESV). There is a real sense in which humility is a non-negotiable necessity for experiencing the blessings of God. Humility is a recognition that we can do nothing for God and we deserve nothing from God. It is a realization of our desperate need as we stand in the shadow of His glory. There were those Jews who worshiped God for His sake, while others did so for their own benefit. When we make worship man-centered and self-focused, we replace humility with pride and His glory with our own. Pride is one of the most powerful forces in the life of a man. It appears to be self-preserving and protective, but it is really destructive in nature. It sets self up as the center of the universe, in place of God. It attempts to make man like God, and relegates God to little more than a glorified life coach or cosmic genie in a bottle. Man begins to believe that God exists for his benefit. But God made man to bring Him glory. But mankind has made a habit of glorifying itself. Even the Israelites, the people of God, believed that they were the point of the story. They wrongly assumed that they were the focus of God's attention and the center of the universe. Rather than live in humble awe and wonder at the very thought that the God of the universe would choose to have a relationship with them, they wrongly assumed that they somehow deserved God's favor and were guaranteed His blessings, regardless of how they lived their lives.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In the end, God gets the glory. Literally, when the end of times comes, it will be God and God alone who gets the glory for what happens. He will send back His Son, not because anyone deserves it, but because God has had it planned all along. Even during the Great Tribulation, God will redeem a remnant of Jews, bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus, the Messiah. Again, not because they deserve it. But because God, in His infinite grace and mercy, has predetermined it. God will save and vindicate Israel, but not so they can revel in the experience and pridefully gloat over their enemies. No God will redeem Israel because He has promised to do so, and His fulfillment of His promises will bring glory to Himself. Twice at the end of chapter 66, God states that in the end times, the nations “shall come and shall see my glory” (Isaiah 66:18 ESV). “…and I will send survivors to the nations…that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations” (Isaiah 66:19 ESV). Ultimately, it is going to be about God's glory. His redemption of man is all about His glory. His restoration of the nation of Israel will bring Him glory. His judgment of sinful man will bring Him glory. Humility is the recognition of His glory and the staggering realization of our own inability to measure up to His righteous, holy standards. Humility is man's way of stating his dependence upon God and His divine plan for our redemption and the creation's restoration. It is a recognition that God alone can restore this sin-ravaged world. It is to acknowledge, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” (Revelation 16:7 ESV). Our humility brings God glory. Our willful dependence upon Him is a form or worship of Him. As we allow God to work through us, it brings Him glory. When we attempt to do things for God, we inevitably rob glory from God. But humility recognizes the truth behind Christ's words, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV) and “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 ESV).

Father, humility comes hard. It is not natural for us as human beings. Our sin natures make it next to impossible to walk humbly before our God. We live with our eyes focused on ourselves. We think the universe revolves around us. We even think You exist for us. But I want to walk before You humbly and dependently, recognizing my need for You and living my life to bring You glory instead of myself. Thank You for reminding me that I exist for Your glory and not the other way around. Amen

A Desperation For God.

Isaiah 63-64, Revelation 15

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence. Isaiah 64:1 ESV

Isaiah had a first-row seat to the situation going on in Israel. He was a witness to the sin and rebellion of the people and the righteous judgment of God. Every day he could watch how the people neglected their God-given responsibilities to live as His representatives and act as His children. Isaiah had not deluded into believing that they were somehow innocent and undeserving of their punishment. He even included himself when he confessed that they were guilty as charged. “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6 ESV). Isaiah's assessment of the condition of the people of Israel was bleak. He concluded that, “there is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you” (Isaiah 64:7 ESV). And this was not a new problem. The people of Israel had been unfaithful for a very long time. “…in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?” (Isaiah 64:5 ESV). Things looked dire and desperate. From Isaiah's perspective, things look hopeless. But it was this very feeling of desperation and hopelessness that led Isaiah to cry out, “Oh that you would rend the heaven and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence…” (Isaiah 64:1 ESV). Even God knew that desperate times call for desperate measures. He had looked down from heaven and concluded, “there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me” (Isaiah 63:5 ESV). Isaiah, as a representative of the people, called out to God for help. He turned to the only one who could do something about their desperate condition. He reminded God of His role as their Father, Redeemer, and Protector. He appealed to God's zeal, power, mercy and compassion. While they had “become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name,” Isaiah knew that God could be counted on to show goodness, compassion and steadfast love. 

What does this passage reveal about God?

Isaiah knew the rich history of his people. He was fully aware of all that God had done over the generation on behalf of the people of Israel. Which is why he could “recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord” (Isaiah 63:7 ESV). God had been the Savior of Israel on more than one occasion. He had a track record of faithfulness and mercy – in spite of all of Israel's sin and rebellion. “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9 ESV). God had been with them through all the years. He had been an eyewitness to their sin. He had endured the personal affronts to His holiness as the people worshiped other gods. He had patiently put up with their unfaithfulness. He had redeemed them out of slavery in Egypt. He had led them through the wilderness. He had fed them with manna and quail as they traveled all those years. He miraculously prevented their clothes and sandals from wearing out. He provided them with the assurance of His presence through the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of smoke by day. He had safely delivered them to the Promised Land and given them victory over their enemies. He had allowed them to possess “cities that you did not build and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant” (Deuteronomy 6:10-11 ESV). And then He had watched as they quickly forgot all about Him and began to worship the gods of the nations that had possessed the land before them. “They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies” (Judges 2:13-14 ESV). But whenever the people became desperate enough and cried out to God for help, He sent a deliverer. God would use His judges “who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them” (Judges 2:16 ESV). But once delivered, the people would inevitably turn away from God again. They would forsake God and He would be forced to send their enemies against them as a form of punishment. And when the people became desperate enough, they would cry out to God again. And He would deliver them. Over and over again.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Desperation requires dependence, and dependence is not something mankind finds attractive. We are independent creatures who want to live free from restraints and according to our own rules. At our core, we are rebellious. We tend to bow up at the idea of anyone or anything controlling us. Even the people of God can display a pronounced disgust and disregard for the very idea of His control over their lives. At the end of the book of Judges, we read one of the most revealing statements ever made about men. After years of sin and rebellion, defeat at the hands of their enemies, and desperate cries to God for help, we are told that “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25 ESV). Rather than do what God required of them, they chose to do what they wanted to do. Their deep desire for independence and autonomy stood in direct conflict with God's desire that they be dependent upon and dedicated to doing His will and bringing Him glory. God wanted to display His power through them. He wanted to shower His blessings on them. He wanted to make His name known to the nations as He ministered to and through His chosen people. But God's deliverance required dependence. And the state of dependence seemed to require that the people of God be brought to a point of desperation. Over in the book of Jeremiah, we read, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 ESV). In the book of Deuteronomy, God had warned the people of Israel that if they did not obey and serve Him, they would end up exiled in a foreign land where they would worship false gods who could not deliver them in their times of desperation. “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV). They would have to reach the point of desperation. They would have to come to the conclusion that nothing and no one else could deliver them from their predicament. In their desperation and despair, they would recognize their complete dependence upon God. “For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them” (Deuteronomy 4:31 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The sad reality is that we never seem to understand or appreciate our complete dependence upon God until we reach the point of desperation and hopelessness. It is as if we have to finally conclude that we no longer have any other options and no other saviors to whom we can turn. When we finally get tired of doing what is right in our own eyes and suffering the consequences of our desire for independence, we will reach the conclusion that God alone is the answer to our problem. And like Isaiah, we will cry out “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.” We will long to see God do what only He can do. It is sad that it sometimes takes a point of desperation to bring us to an awareness of our dependence upon God. We don't just need Him for salvation from sin, we need Him to live in righteousness. We don't just need Him to provide our ticket to heaven, we need Him to provide the strength we need to live on this earth. It is interesting that during one of the most difficult and desperate times that will ever come upon the earth, there will be those who cry out to God. They will recognize His power, mercy, goodness, and desire to redeem what belongs to Him. Toward the end of the Great Tribulation, as God prepares to bring His final judgments upon the earth, those believers who have been martyred during the tribulation will stand before the throne of God and cry out, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!  Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3-4 ESV). They say desperate times call for desperate measures. But as children of God, we should know that desperate times call for dependence upon Him. God alone can save. God alone can redeem. God alone can solve the problem that has plagued mankind since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. We live in desperate times. Which is all the more reason that we live our lives in complete dependence upon God. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 ESV).

Father, I want to live in dependence upon You. I don't want to wait until I reach the point of complete desperation and I have run out of other options. I truly want You to be my first and only option. You have proven Yourself trustworthy and faithful more than enough times in my life. I have proven myself to be a lousy savior and the things of this world have proven themselves to be unreliable deliverers. As we look at the events taking place all around us, may we reach a point of desperation that leads us to complete dependence upon You. Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down! Amen

A Glorious Future.

Isaiah 61-62, Revelation 14

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exalt in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…. Isaiah 61:10 ESV

At the time Isaiah was writing the words contained in his book, the nation of Israel was still facing the prospect of their fall at the hands of the Babylonians. God had already told them that they would be defeated, their city and temple destroyed, and the majority of their citizens taken into captivity. But God also told them about their glorious future. He spoke of a coming day of salvation, redemption and restoration. And while they would experience a partial fulfillment of this promise when they returned to the land under the leadership of Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerrubabel, there was a greater, yet future, fulfillment coming. The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write of “the year of the Lord's favor.” There was a time coming when the poor would receive good news, the brokenhearted would be comforted, the captives would be freed, and imprisoned would be released. These words of comfort spoke of something far greater than a physical salvation from poverty and imprisonment. When the people of Israel would eventually return to the land from captivity in Babylon, they would find themselves free from slavery to a foreign power, but they would still be captive to their own sin natures. They would still be spiritually impoverished, brokenhearted and imprisoned. God's ultimate salvation was coming at a much-future date. Hundreds of years later, when Jesus Christ appeared at the synagogue in Nazareth, He was handed the scroll containing the writings of Isaiah. “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor’” (Luke 4:18-19 ESV). When Jesus came the first time, He offered salvation from the power of sin. He came to provide men release from captivity to the demands of their own sin natures. Yet, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). This came as no surprise to Jesus or to God the Father. The people of Israel's rejection of Jesus as their Messiah was foreseen by God and was actually necessary in order to His Son to accomplish His divine mission. Jesus Himself told His disciples, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Matthew 21:42 ESV). He would go on to tell the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the people of Israel, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God has a plan. He is not reacting to events as they occur and coming up with on-the-spot decisions based on circumstances that have caught Him off guard and by surprise. As men, our plans are always subject to unforeseen and unexpected events that can complete derail our well-thought-out objectives. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21 ESV). God's plans are unalterable. His will is immutable. Jesus came to die. That was God's plan from the beginning. The rejection of His Son by His own people was not a monkey wrench thrown into the plans of God, but an integral and expected part of His overall strategy. But their rejection of the Messiah would not permanently remove them from God's favor. Their refusal to accept God's Anointed One would not cause God to forsake them. Instead, He promised them, “but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God” (Isaiah 61:6 ESV). He would eventually cloth them in “garments of salvation” and “the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Paul wrote to the Gentile believers in Rome, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27 ESV). God has great plans in store for His people. God promises them, “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isaiah 62:3 ESV). Not only that, they will go from being referred to as “forsaken” and “desolate” to being called “My delight is in her” (Isaiah 62:4). God is not done with Israel. He told Isaiah to remind them, “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’ They will be called ‘The Holy People’ and ‘The People Redeemed by the Lord.’ And Jerusalem will be known as ‘The Desirable Place’ and ‘The City No Longer Forsaken’” (Isaiah 62:11-12 NLT).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Israel did not deserve God's favor. They had earned His wrath and deserved to suffer the consequences for their sins. And for many years, they would find themselves struggling under the discipline of the Lord. But they would also experience the unmerited favor of God. He faithfully restored them to their land. He preserved and protected them for generations. Yes, they would suffer under the rule of various nations. They would go for centuries without a king and experience the humiliation of the poverty and powerlessness that comes withsubjugation and servitude to more powerful nations. Even today, Israel finds itself surrounded by countless enemies who would love to see them wiped off the face of the earth. Even during the Great Tribulation to come, Satan will go out of His way to eliminate the people of Israel. He will wage an unrelenting war against the people of God, in the hopes of destroying them, and along with them, derailing the plans of God for them. And while the Jews continue to forsake Jesus Christ as their Messiah, God refuses to forsake them. Even during the period of the tribulation, God says He will raise up 144,000 Jews, redeeming them as His own and making them followers of Jesus Christ. “These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless” (Revelation 14:5 ESV). These 144,000 redeemed Jews will come from every tribe of Israel. They will be witnesses of God's salvation and of Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel. Through their testimony, a great many people, both Jews and Gentiles, will come to faith in Christ even during the dark days of the tribulation. Our faithful God has tremendous plans for His people. He has much in store for them. But as in Isaiah's day, the danger for the people of God is that we would with a myopic perspective that prevents us from living with our eyes on the glorious future God has in store for us. How easy it is for us to take a look at our current circumstances and conclude we are “forsaken” and “desolate.” How important it is for us to always remember that God delights in us as His own. Our current conditions are not a reflection of God's love, mercy, power or ultimate plans for us.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The world in which we live is temporary. It was not meant to be our final destination. It's current condition, marred by sin and filled with antagonism toward God, is a less-than-ideal place for us as God's people. But we have been placed here by God for a reason. We have work to do. We are to live as His ambassadors and representatives, living as lights in the midst of darkness. We are people on a mission to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and model the redemptive work of God in the midst of a people living in spiritual poverty, captive to sin, and enslaved to the powers of this world. But even while we live out our lives on this planet, we are to keep our eyes firmly focused on our glorious future. This is not all there is. The pleasures of this world are but a shadow of what is to come. Any joys we experience in this life pale in comparison to what we will experience in the future God has in store for us. Our sufferings during this life, while real and sometimes devastating, won't last forever. Paul reminds us, “For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT). He goes on to tell us, “So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 4:18-5:1 NLT). What a glorious future God has in store for us. And He will bring it about – in His perfect time and according to His perfect plan.

Father, help me live with my eyes on the future. Help me to judge what I experience and see in this life through the lens of Your faithful, unfailing plan. You are not done yet. There is much in store for us as Your people. You have much yet to accomplish for the people of Israel. Thank You for reminding me of Your faithfulness and love. No matter what I see or experience in this life, I can rest in the fact that I have a glorious future in store for me. Amen

God, Our Redeemer.

Isaiah 59-60, Revelation 13

…and you shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Isaiah 60:16b ESV

From the perspective of the Israelites, God seemed to be either ignorant of their difficult predicament or unable to do anything about it. It appeared as if He was oblivious to their condition or powerless to save them. But made it clear that the problem had nothing to do with Him. It was because of their sin. “…but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2 ESV). It was their sins that were bringing about their own punishment. God was allowing their enemies to harass them, and He would eventually allow them to defeat them. The people of Israel were guilty of bloodshed, lying, iniquity, wickedness, injustice and violence. There was an absence of God's peace or shalom in the land because there was no justice and righteousness. “Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us” (Isaiah 59:9 ESV). Because they failed to extend justice to one another, God was withholding His justice from them. God's justice comes in the form of His rule setting all things right, restoring things to their proper order. Because they refused to live righteously, they were missing out on the righteousness of God. God's righteousness shows up in the form of His presence and power as He vindicates and delivers, fulfilling all His righteous purposes on behalf of His people. Because of their sin, the people of Israel were experiencing an absence of God's justice and righteousness on their behalf. God was not happy with them. “The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice” (Isaiah 59:15 ESV). God had intended for His people to be the conduit of His justice, mercy and righteousness. He had told them what He expected of them. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 ESV). But they had failed. And when God looked to see if anyone would intercede, He saw no one. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede” (Isaiah 59:16a ESV).  

What does this passage reveal about God?

So God would intercede on man's behalf. “…then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him” (Isaiah 59:16b ESV). In spite of Israel's sin and rebellion, unrepentant hearts, and stubborn resistance to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with their God, He would intervene. He would intercede. God would step into the darkness and reveal His light. This was partially fulfilled with the coming of Christ. “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9-11 ESV). God promised the coming of the Redeemer. “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression” (Isaiah 59:20 ESV). But most of Israel rejected Him when He came. They refused to accept Him as their Redeemer and Messiah. But God is not done yet. His plan for Israel is not yet complete. There is a day coming when His Son will return a second time and He will establish His Kingdom on earth and rule from the throne of David from the city of Jerusalem. In chapter 60, God gives Isaiah a glimpse into the distant future, revealing the Millennial Kingdom of Christ that will be established after the days of the Great Tribulation on earth. Jesus referred to the period of the tribulation in very foreboding terms. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21 ESV). But even during those dark days, the light of God will shine. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1 ESV). God will one day shine His light in the form of His Son on the lives of His people. As a result, they will once again reflect His glory and radiance. God will once again remember and redeem His people. “…and you shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty one of Jacob” (Isaiah 60:16 ESV). All of these things have yet to happen. They are future events still waiting to be fulfilled. But God will bring them about. He will cause them to come to pass at just the right time and according to His perfect plan.  

What does this passage reveal about man?

While the people of Israel were guilty of lying and deceit, they could trust in their faithful and true God. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19 ESV). God would do what He said He would do. And it might have appeared to the Israelites that His hand was shortened or His hearing diminished, God was fully aware of their circumstances and had everything under control. Even though God would allow them to fall at the hands of the Babylonians and experience the humility and despair of exile for 70 years, He would redeem them and restore them to their land. He would vindicate them and display His justice and righteousness on their behalf. But they would continue to sin against Him. They would continue to worship other gods besides Him. They would practice injustice and display their unrighteousness in a variety of ways for generations. Even when God sent His own Son to live in their midst and display His glory amongst them, they rejected Him. They refused to repent and turn to the physical manifestation of God living and walking as one of them. Even today, those of us who have been exposed to the reality of God's Son and experienced salvation through acceptance of His sacrificial death on our behalf, can find ourselves living as if nothing has really changed in our lives. We struggle with the same sins as before. We are prone to turn to other “gods” of our own making or choosing. We rebel against God's righteous rule in our lives and refuse to repent of the sins we so easily and regularly commit. We have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but still continue to wrestle with sinful habits and behaviors. We still fight against our sin natures, oftentimes losing the battle and succumbing to our own selfish passions. But God is not done yet. There is a day coming when our sin natures will be done away with permanently and completely. We will receive new bodies. We will have our sin natures eradicated once and for all time. “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:53-56 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God is not done yet. He is not through redeeming me. His plan for my salvation, while completely taken care of by Christ, is not yet completed. There is a day coming when He will finish what He began. Paul tells us, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 ESV). Elsewhere he reminds us, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 ESV). God has a plan for His church, the body of Christ. He is sending His Son back for us some day, and when that time comes, our salvation will be complete. The ongoing process of our sanctification or transformation into Christ's image will be finished. We will be glorified. And God is not done with Israel either. He has great plans in store for them. And while the period of the Great Tribulation remains in their future, so does His redemption. The book of Revelation tells us of God's future plans for Israel. These include the coming of the Antichrist and a period of difficulty and intense persecution. But it also includes the redemption of God and the restoration of His people. “For the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended” (Isaiah 60:20 ESV). God will redeem. He will restore. “I am the Lord; in its time I will hasten it” (Isaiah 60:22 ESV).

Father, Your redemption of mankind and Your restoration of Israel is not yet complete. You are not done yet. Your work is not finished. Don't let me lose sight of the fact that Your arm is not shortened and Your hearing has not failed. You know what is going on in my life and in this world. Your salvation will come. Your great redemptive plan for mankind will be finished one day. You will do it in Your time. You have promised it and You will bring it about. Help me rest in Your faithfulness. Amen

God, Our Healer.

Isaiah 57-58, Revelation 12

“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him.” Isaiah 57:18-19 ESV

The Israelites of Isaiah's day were marked by idolatry and spiritual adultery. Over time the numbers of truly righteous individuals dwindled, leaving a spiritual vacuum among the people. But rather than mourn the loss of the righteous, the majority of the Israelites failed to even notice their passing. They continued to practice their idolatry and forsake God. When faced with difficulty or trouble, they turned to their false gods or sought help from foreign kings. Yet they also continued to hedge their bets, turning to God in times of trouble, going through the religious ritual of fasting in the hopes of gaining favor from God. But God wasn't interested in watching His people go through the motions of false humility. He would not tolerate their false acts of piety. “Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God” (Isaiah 58:2 ESV). They wanted God to do the right thing, but they were unwilling to do what was right in His eyes. And they couldn't understand why God wouldn't answer their prayers and take notice of their acts of humility. But God informed them, “Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high” (Isaiah 58:4 ESV). It wasn't enough for them to look the part of the humble, repentant servant, wearing sackcloth and bowing down before God. He wanted to see true heart change. God wanted their fasting to be accompanied by acts of justice, compassion, kindness, and a reverence for the things of God. 

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is holy and cannot tolerate sin. He had made it clear to the nation of Israel, that their unique status as His chosen people came with a non-negotiable expectation: They were to be holy. “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” (Leviticus 20:26 ESV). Their lives were to be lived according to His exacting standards, not those of the world. His people were to keep His law and maintain their moral and ethical purity through the ongoing use of His sacrificial system. But sacrifice without true repentance and sincere heart change was meaningless. Earlier in the book of Isaiah, God had declared that the Israelites were simply going through the motions: “this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13 ESV). They seemed to say and do all the right things, but their hearts weren't in it. They had given their affections to other things. But God told them what His idea of true fasting and mourning looked like. “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7 ESV). God had nothing against fasting and mourning, but He wanted the act to be accompanied by changed attitudes and heartfelt expressions of love for others. This kind of fasting would result in God's favor. “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8 ESV). The psalmist expressed it succinctly. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17 ESV). God told Isaiah, “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit” (Isaiah 57:15 ESV).  

What does this passage reveal about man?

But men find it hard to express humility. Even those of us who claim to love and follow God have a difficult time coming before Him with a contrite and lowly spirit. Our pride gets in the way. We refuse to see ourselves as He sees us. We justify our sin and rationalize our behavior. We compare ourselves to others and deem ourselves somehow worthy of God's favor. But God sees us differently. “Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if there were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God” (Isaiah 58:2 ESV). Just like the people of Israel, we can so easily find ourselves seeking God and acting as if our so-called righteous deeds somehow earn us favor with Him. We go through the religious motions, showing up at church and doing our daily allotment of pious activities that make us look good to others, but do little to impress God. All the while we fail to realize that we can do nothing to earn God's favor or live up to His exacting standards. Holiness is impossible for us to pull off, just as it was impossible for the people of Israel. We can't maintain a lifestyle of righteousness in our own strength. The Israelites knew what they were supposed to do, but just couldn't muster up the determination to do it on an ongoing basis. And we find ourselves in the same boat. If we are not careful, even as believers, we will find ourselves attempting to live the spiritual life in the strength of our own flesh. We will attempt to live up to God's standards without His help. Our own pride will convince us that we can somehow pull it off. But like Paul, we simply need to reach the point where we cry out daily, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:24 NLT). We simply need to confess our insufficiency and turn to God for the help He has provided through His Son. “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25 NLT).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

One of the amazing aspects of God's great redemptive plan for mankind is revealed in His faithful, consistent and loving interaction with the people of Israel. In spite of their rejection of His sovereign rule over their lives for generations, He never gave up on them. Even when they failed to accept His Son as their Messiah, instead demanding His death on the cross, God did not turn His back on them. While they have never been able to live up to His standards or maintain the life of holiness He demanded of them, He still has plans for them. He is still going to keep His promise to them. In the book of Revelation we get to see into the future where God reveals how He is going to redeem and restore His people. There is a day coming when He will heal them. He will do for them what they could never seem to do for themselves. Even in the midst of the Great Tribulation, when the people of Israel will suffer the most intense persecution they have even had to endure, God will be there. John is given a vision of a woman who is pregnant. She will give birth to a baby, “a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne” (Revelation 12:5 ESV). The woman represents Israel. The baby is Jesus Christ. After His death and resurrection, God literally “raptured” or snatched up Jesus, taking Him to heaven where He awaits His second coming at the end of the Great Tribulation. But during the last three and a half years of that great time or tribulation, Satan will wage war against the people of Israel. They will have to run for their lives. Jesus warned of this day. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:21-22 ESV). But God will protect His own. “…and the woman [Israel] fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:6 ESV). God will miraculously protect His own. He will care for them, even during one of the most difficult times the earth has ever known. And ultimately, God will bring healing to His people. He will redeem and restore them. God promises, “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him,; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners” (Isaiah 57:18 ESV). God is the great healer. He is the redeemer and restorer. He will do for Israel what He has promised. He is faithful, trustworthy and true to His Word.

Father, thank You for the reassurance of Your faithfulness. You have not abandoned Your people Israel and You have not and will not abandon me. You have even made it possible for me to live uprightly and righteousness in this life. You have given me the capacity, through the power of Your indwelling Spirit, to live humbly and to practice acts of justice, compassion, and kindness – not in my own strength, but Yours. You have made it possible to experience Your healing and help in this life and You have promised me complete healing in the life to come. Amen

Come to the Lord!

Isaiah 55-56, Revelation 11

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isaiah 55:1 ESV

The invitation of God extends to all men. He offers them the opportunity to come to Him and receive what they could never find anywhere else. He promises to quench their thirst, to satisfy their hunger, to provide them with true bread, and to make an everlasting covenant with them. And He offers it all at no cost. This amazing passage is a clear prophesy of the redemptive work God offered through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Messiah was the ultimate fulfillment of this offer made by God. But to accept the offer of salvation through His Son, all men would have to accept the invitation of God to come. They would have to forsake their ways, thoughts, and attitudes. They would have to admit that God's ways were in direct contradiction to their own. The whole idea of a single, solitary man dying as the payment for the sins of all mankind makes no sense to us. The concept of God taking on human flesh and dying a sinner's death on a cross in order to make men right with God is impossible for us to fully grasp. But God says, “For my thoughts are nor your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8 ESV). His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. The way He works is beyond our comprehension. But we must come to Him. We must accept His ways. We must realize that His way is the only way. God would ask us, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for the which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2 ESV). Rather than take God at His word, men will go out of their way trying to find false substitutes for what God has offered to provide. They will seek satisfaction elsewhere, wasting money and time trying to replicate the blessings of God by seeking them from this world. But God continues to say, “Come!”.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God's invitation will not last forever. There is a time limit to His offer and there is a day coming when His offer will be removed from the table. So God lovingly pleads with mankind, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55: 6-7 ESV). The present is the time for salvation. Yet men presumptuously put off the inevitable, delaying their response to the invitation, assuming that they will have plenty of time to accept the offer at a later date. Yet the book of Revelation makes it painstakingly clear that the day will come when God's offer of salvation runs out. He will send His Son back to earth to bring judgment on all those who have rejected Him as their Savior. The offer made in the opening verses of Isaiah 55 will expire. But amazingly, we live in a day when God's offer is still available to all men. His promise of both abundant and eternal life still stands. The gift of His Son is still available and for those who accept Him as their Savior, the satisfaction and salvation God offers is still accessible. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

Because our ways and thoughts are so radically different than God's, we have a hard time accepting what He has to offer. We don't want to believe that His gift of salvation is free and available to us apart from any good works or human effort. That just doesn't make sense to us. So we determine that there must be something more needed. We wrongly assume that we can somehow earn our way into God's good graces by doing good things or by attempting to live a good life. Then there are others who just conclude that this life is all there is and so we should attempt to enjoy all that we can get from this life while we are alive. So we seek satisfaction from the things of this world. We spend our money on that which is not really bread. In other words, we attempt to buy fulfillment and satisfaction from those things that are merely poor replicas of the real thing. We end up working hard to get our hands on things that can never bring the satisfaction they promise. And all the while, God is offering us more. He is inviting us to enjoy life and life more abundantly. .

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Even in the end times, as God will wrap up His divine plan for mankind, He will continue to offer His invitation of hope and healing. Revelation 11 tells us that, during the Great Tribulation that will come on the earth in those days, God will send His two witnesses. These two individuals will be sent from God and will witness on behalf of God. They will have miraculous powers. They will perform powerful miracles designed to prove their validity as God's messengers, much like the miracles Moses did before Pharaoh. But these two witnesses will die at the hand of the Antichrist. They will be martyred and their bodies will be left in the streets of Jerusalem for three and a half days. Then God will raise them from the dead. He will restore them to life. And as a result, “Great fear fell on those who say them” (Revelation 11:11 ESV). God will then speak from heaven and call them to Himself, and they will ascend into heaven much like Jesus did. Their ascension will be followed by a great earthquake and the deaths of one tenth of the city of Jerusalem. But this cataclysmic event will have a dramatic impact on those who are left. “…and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:13 ESV). Even in those days, God will be revealing Himself through His messengers and through His miracles. He will be inviting all men to recognize that He alone is God. He has power over death. He is almighty and a force to be reckoned with. But even then, His offer will still stand. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1 ESV).

Father, I can't thank You enough for the offer You extended to me so many years ago. You invited me to come. You offered me the gift of Your Son. It wasn't based on my merit. It wasn't because I somehow deserved it. And You offered it in spite of the fact that I was seeking satisfaction in anything and everything but You up until that point. Your invitation was a free gift and I am eternally grateful for it. Amen

Our Faithful, Loving God.

 Isaiah 53-54, Revelation 10

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10 ESV

What is the response of a holy, righteous God to the persistent sin and rebellion of His people? He gives us the answer Himself. “‘For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord, your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:7-8 ESV). It would appear as if God had deserted them. From a human perspective, it would feel like God's anger had caused him to abandon them. But His compassion and everlasting love for them never diminished or truly disappeared. Even His punishment was an act of love. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19 ESV). “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6 ESV). And the greatest expression of God's incredible love would come in the form of His own Son. In order to effectively deal with man's ongoing sin problem, God would send His Son as the permanent payment for the penalty due. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16a ESV). “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all…” (Romans 8:32a ESV). Amazingly, God's plan for man's redemption has always included His Son. His first coming was designed to provide intercession – His death in our place. It was intended to make propitiation for our sins, satisfying the just demands of a holy God. It was meant to provide salvation from the condemnation we deserved and replace our sentence of eternal separation from God with eternal life in His presence.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Hundreds of years before Jesus Christ appeared on the scene, God gave Isaiah a detailed account of what His earthly life and ministry would look like. In chapter 53 of Isaiah's book, we have an amazing description of the Servant of God who was to come. In this passage we see the painstakingly clear picture of the suffering Savior who was to come to the earth and take all of the sins of mankind upon Himself. We are told that He would be unattractive and unimpressive in appearance. He would be despised and rejected. He would be intimately familiar with sorrow, grief and suffering. He would be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. He would take on all the sins of mankind and suffer the punishment of God's wrath on our behalf. And He would do all this willingly, out of obedience to His Father's will and out of love for mankind. God makes it clear that the suffering and death of Jesus was His divine will. “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV). Yes, God fully intended for His Son to die a criminal's death and be buried in a borrowed tomb, so that the sins of mankind could be fully atoned for once and for all. And God did all this out of love. The result of this amazing display of sacrificial love is truly incredible. “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11 ESV). Jesus would suffer and die, but also be raised again and see the fruit of His sacrificial love in the form of redeemed, justified sons and daughters of God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

How easy it is for us to overlook and under-appreciate the love of God. Just like the people of Israel, we can find ourselves taking for granted His incredible mercy, grace and love. We can underplay our own sinfulness and in so doing, diminish the price that God paid for our sins: the life of His own Son. The biggest problem we all face as human beings is our own sin and guilt. Every man or woman who has ever lived has had the same problem: Their inherent sin nature and incapacity to do anything about it. Isaiah would later write: “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind” (Isaiah 64:6 NLT). Solomon wrote, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT). All stand before God as guilty and He is fully justified in meting out the punishment of death for our sin. But instead, God came up with a plan of salvation that provided a way for His wrath to be satisfied and His love to be displayed justly and rightly. God couldn't ignore or overlook man's sin. He couldn't turn a blind eye to man's inherent sinfulness and guilt. To do so would have been unjust and unrighteous. It was out of His character as God. So He came up with a solution that made man's salvation and His own satisfaction possible. And even though the people of Israel rejected His Son the first time He came, rejecting the very idea of a suffering Servant, God is still going to display His love to them a second time. The book of Revelation provides us with an end-of-the-story account of just how God will display His steadfast, unfailing love to His chosen people. He will keep and fulfill His covenant promises He made to them. “‘…my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God IS love. It is not just a character quality He displays. It is His very nature. He is love all the time – in all that He does. His disciplines are an act of love. His sacrifice of His own Son on my behalf was the ultimate act of love. When He sends His Son again, it will be the consummate act of love. It will be an expression of His steadfast, unfailing love for His creation, and will display His unfailing love for His chosen people – the Jews. For a brief moment, it appears as if God has deserted them. To our limited understanding it would seem as if God's anger with Israel has resulted in His rejection of them. But God would have us understand otherwise. He WILL show them compassion. He WILL display His everlasting love for them. His steadfast love WILL NOT depart from them. His covenant of peace WILL NOT be removed.  “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17 ESV). In the book of Revelation, John is given a scroll to eat. He is told, “it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey” (Revelation 10:9 ESV). On that scroll was contained “the mystery of God.” It was an account of the final plan of God for the world. There would be further punishments involved. There would be more judgments to come. But in the end, the love of God would be displayed as His Son faithfully fulfilled His role as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Sin and death would be dealt their final blow. Satan would be eliminated once and for all. Righteousness would reign on earth. God's people, the nation of Israel, would be restored to favor in His eyes. All as a display of God's unwavering, matchless, unfathomable love. The very same love He showered on me when He offered me the gift of His Son's death on the cross in my place.

Father, thank You for Your love. I take it for granted far too often. I don't fully appreciate it or understand it. I don't think about it or thank You for it enough. Sometimes I just flat out miss it in all the busyness of life. When things don't go quite the way I want them to, I can feel unloved by You. But Your love does not exist to make me happy. It exists to make me holy. You love me so that I might be like Your Son. You loved me so much that You sent Him to die for me and so that I might have His righteousness in exchange for my sinfulness. There is no greater display of love I need from You. Amen

The Salvation of Our God.

Isaiah 51-52, Revelation 9

The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Isaiah 52:10 ESV

Repeatedly in chapter 51, God pleads with His people to listen. He tells them to give Him their full attention and hear what He is saying. He calls them to get their eyes off of the world and their circumstances and to look to heaven from which the salvation they long for will come. In spite of all that had happened to them, God was reminding them that He was not yet done with them. He tells them, “My salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed” (Isaiah 51:6 ESV). God was going to do something incredible. He was going to do for them what they could never have done for themselves. Yes, in the short term, He would return them from captivity in Babylon and restore them to the land of promise. But God had an even greater salvation in mind. He had a much more long-term plan in store for them. And it will involve a Savior like none they have ever had before. He will be a King, but not like any other king they have ever known. He will be greater than any judge that ever delivered them in the past. He will be wiser than Solomon, more righteous than David, and He will bring about the salvation of God in a way that the people of Israel could never have imagined or anticipated.

What does this passage reveal about God?

How often God had to remind His own people, “I am the Lord your God” (Isaiah 51:15 ESV). He seemed to constantly have to remind them of His role as creator and sustainer of all things. They kept forgetting and forsaking Him. They lived in a constant state of fear and anxiety even though they enjoyed a unique status as God's chosen people. Which is why God accused them of having: “forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy” (Isaiah 51:13 ESV). Nothing had changed about God. He was still in control. He was still all-powerful. He remained in His place in heaven, completely sovereign over all things and was prepared to reveal His power on behalf of His people. The problem lay not with God, but with the people. He calls them to “wake yourself, wake yourself” (Isaiah 51:17 ESV) and to “awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion” (Isaiah 52:1 ESV). They were like a man who had fallen asleep and found himself in the midst of a bad nightmare. So God called them to wake up to the reality of His sovereignty, majesty, power, and ever-present faithfulness. “I am the Lord your God,” He declared. God remained God whether or not they treated Him as such. They remained His people, whether or not they acted as such. God was going to bring salvation in such a way that they could no longer doubt who He was or question His ability to save. “Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am” (Isaiah 52:6 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

God's people, whether Old Testament Jews or New Testament saints, have been regularly marked by doubt and disobedience. And the same holds true today. Our faith in our God can be so fickle at times. We intellectually know that He is all-powerful, all-knowing and in control over all things. But when it comes to everyday life, we have our doubts. We fully believe He created the universe and sustains it on a daily basis, but we somehow doubt that He can handle the daily affairs of our life. We wonder whether He can save us from our particular circumstances or deliver us from the trials in which we find ourselves. But even worse than that, we fail to trust that He can provide us with what we need to make the most out of the time we have on this earth. So we turn to other things to bring us satisfaction and fulfillment. We decide that there is more to this life than a relationship with Him. We know that being His child comes with some great benefits when it comes to the future; but when it comes to the present, we seem to believe God's will is somehow insufficient or unacceptable. We find ourselves lulled into a kind of spiritual stupor, sleep-walking our way through life, content to seek our hope and satisfaction from the things of this world. We live within the realm of the temporary, while God would have us focus on eternity. So He issues us a wake up call. These words of Paul are as appropriate now as when he first penned them to the believers in Rome: “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11 ESV). Paul issued another wake up call to the believers in Ephesus: “‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:14-16 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

We are to live with an eye on the future. The danger is that we might be lulled into a kind of false sense of security and complacency, living as if this life is all there is. The salvation of the Lord is not yet complete. His work is not yet done. The return of the Jews to the land of Canaan from their time in captivity was not to be the final chapter in God's redemptive story for them. He still had far greater plans in store. He was going to send His Son and He was going to be rejected by His own people. Not only that, He would die a criminal's death on a Roman cross with the shouts of the people of God ringing in His ears, “Crucify Him!” But God had this to say of His Son: “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand” (Isaiah 52:13-15 ESV). God's Savior would be rejected. He would be despised. He would be murdered. But He would be successful in accomplishing the will of His Father and His obedience would result in salvation for all mankind. But He has one more thing to accomplish. God's plan of salvation is not yet complete. Jesus' work on the cross was finished. His atoning work for the sins of man is complete. But God is going to restore His creation. He is going to put an end to sin and death once and for all. He is going to judge all those who have rejected His Son's offer of salvation and permanently eliminate Satan as the ruler over this world. “And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10 ESV).

Father, in the book of Revelation You remind us that Your work is not yet done. But You have a plan in place that You will enact at just the right time. You will complete what You have started. You will restore what was damaged by the fall. You will redeem what was rightfully Yours from the beginning. The damage done by sin and Satan will be repaired. The injustice that mars Your world will be made right. The indifference toward Your Son will be eliminated and all men will know that You alone are God. May that day come sooner rather than later. Amen

Then All Will Know.

Isaiah 49-50, Revelation 8

Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior; and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Isaiah 49:26 ESV

One of the reasons God chose Israel was to reveal Himself through them. They were to have been a living example of what it looks like when men walk in a right relationship with God. They had received His law, which was intended to provide them with a code of conduct, unlike any other on earth. He had given them the sacrificial system in order to atone for their inevitable sins and to receive forgiveness so that they might continue to enjoy His presence among them. God had chosen Israel in order to reveal His presence and power among men. He had placed His name on them so that they might reveal to the world around them what it looks like when men serve God faithfully. Their lives should have been lights shining in the darkness around them. But they had failed. And God had known all along that they would do so. He was not surprised, shocked, or caught off guard. The sending of His Son was not plan B. The incarnation was not a knee-jerk reaction to Israel's failure to live up to God's expectations. The Messiah had been the plan all along. God had known that mankind was incapable of living up to His holy, righteous standards. They could not keep His law. They could not obey His commands. And the sacrificial system had always been a temporary and incomplete solution to their ongoing sin problem. It was never intended to absolve them of their guilt permanently or completely. Which is why they had to keep offering sacrifices year after year. It was a foreshadowing of a greater sacrifice to come.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The goal of God has always been for men to worship Him and Him alone. All of creation was intended to bring glory to God. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1 ESV). “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” (Romans 1:20 NLT). Throughout history, God has made Himself known to man. He revealed Himself to Abraham. He appeared to Moses in a burning bush. He manifested His glory to the people of israel through thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai. He appeared before them as a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke. He spoke through His prophets. His presence appeared in the Holy of Holies above the Mercy Seat. God was always making Himself known. But men either failed to acknowledge Him or refused to obey Him. Israel, as a nation, never fully lived in obedience and faithfulness to Him. And yet God would use the nation of Israel as the means by which He would make Himself known to the world. He would see to it that His Son, the Messiah, would be born a Jew. “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children” (Galatians 4:4-5 NLT). God's greatest revelation of Himself to mankind would be through His own Son. “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 NLT). The apostle Paul refers to Jesus as “the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). He became God in the flesh – God incarnate.

What does this passage reveal about man?

But even Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7 ESV), was eventually rejected by men. He became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV). God predicted the rejection of His own Son through His prophet Isaiah. “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6 ESV). In chapters 49-50 of Isaiah, God makes it clear that the day was coming when He would send His servant to redeem Israel, not from captivity in Babylon, but from captivity to sin. He would bring salvation of a kind they had never known. And as a result, they would know God. “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 49:23 ESV). The Jews collectively rejected the Messiah when He came the first time. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). But at His second coming, Christ will come in power and glory and might. He will come as a conquering warrior and as the King of kings and Lord of lords. “Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior; and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26 ESV). At His second coming there will be no discussion or debate as to who He is. There will be no one living who will be able to reject the reality of His nature as God or the essence of His role as King.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The return of Jesus will be accompanied with great judgment. He will not come as an innocent, helpless baby, but as a conquering King and righteous Judge over all the earth. The book of Revelation makes it painfully clear that judgment is a non-negotiable part of His return. Chapter eight records four of the seven trumpets that will bring judgment upon the earth during the days of the Great Tribulation. There will be cataclysmic, worldwide destruction that will impact every living person on earth at that time. God will reveal Himself in devastating, non-debatable reality. And it will all culminate with the return of His Son. Men have only two options: They can choose to recognize the glory of God revealed through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, making possible salvation and a restored relationship with Him. Or they can wait and face God's glory as revealed in His coming judgment. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 ESV). When Christ returns, no one will be able to debate His deity or reject His sovereignty. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is the Lord. They will worship Him whether they want to or not. How much more should we who have been redeemed by His blood worship Him now? We who have been made right with God through the finished work of Christ on the cross have been witness to God's glory. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). We have seen Him. Now we must reveal Him to all those around us. We have been transformed by the Light of the world, so that we might shine like lights in the world. God is making Himself known through us. But one day He will make Himself known to all men through the return of His Son to earth. Then all flesh shall know.

Father, You want to be known by men. But You also want to be worshiped by men. You designed us for worship. You created us to have a relationship with You. But sin interfered and marred that relationship. It created a barrier over which we could not climb. It placed before a chasm we could not cross. But You sent Your Son to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. And one day You are sending Him again to do for the world what it cannot do for itself. You will redeem Your creation, restore the people of Israel, and bring an end to sin and death once and for all – so that all will know that You alone are God. Amen

Our Blessed Redeemer.

Isaiah 47-48, Revelation 7

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen. Revelation 7:12 ESV

Israel got exactly what they deserved: defeat at the hands of their enemies and a humiliating deportation and exile in the land of Babylon. God had warned them repeatedly. He had told them what was going to happen if they continued to rebel against Him and refuse to obey His commands. He would send His prophets with words of warning and calls to repentance, but the Israelites would remain obstinate and refuse to listen. So God did what He had to do. He punished them, but not without purpose or for a good reason. “For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:9-10 ESV). God would protect the integrity of His name. He would not allow His character to be defamed by those who were called by His name. Their actions reflected poorly on God, but if God were to destroy them completely, His reputation would be damaged. He had made promises to Israel and He would not and could not fail to keep those promises. The Israelites did not deserve God's redemption, but they would receive it nonetheless. “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go’” (Isaiah 48:17 ESV). They would once again experience the redemptive work of God in their lives. They would learn the reality of His power revealed in their deliverance. They would come to appreciate His wisdom revealed in His sovereign plan. They would eventually express gratitude to Him for their restoration to the land and the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. But because their deliverance was temporal and not eternal, they would find themselves falling back into old habits, and giving in to their sinful natures.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is the creator of the universe. He made all that we can see and all that remains unseen to the human eye. And when He had made it all, He declared it good – including man. But sin marred His creation. What God had created as good became stained by sin. The peace or shalom which originally marked His creation was shattered and the result was that sin spread like a cancer through the land, infecting man and the world in which he lived. But God, because of His character, was not willing to leave His creation in a less-than-perfect state. So God has had a plan in place, developed before He even made the first star or formed the first blade of grass. He has had a divine strategy to deal with man's sin and its devastating aftermath. He was not surprised by man's fall, but already knew what He was going to do in order to reestablish order and redeem His creation. All that we see taking place in the Old Testament between God and His people Israel is simply a foreshadowing of what is to come. His patience and persistent determination to keep His covenant provides us with a glimpse into His character and a reassuring confirmation of just how faithful our God is. God's choosing of Israel as His people was so that He could one day bring about the redemption of all men through a solitary descendant of Abraham, the father of the people of Israel. God was going to use this obscure nation to accomplish His redemptive plan for mankind.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Israel deserved God's punishment for their sins, but they did NOT deserve His selection of them as His people. God made that perfectly clear to them. “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8 ESV). God didn't choose Israel because they deserved it. He chose them because He had a greater purpose in mind. He was interested in more than just the redemption and restoration of a single people group. He has always had the complete restoration and redemption of His creation in mind. God is a loving, covenant-keeping God. He is faithful, holy and righteous in all that He does. He always deals rightly and justly, even when He has to punish those He loves. God's anger is never unjustified or without purpose. He uses it to teach and refine those He loves. The people of Israel loved their unique position as God's chosen ones. They put high stock in their one-of-a-kind status as God's people. But their relationship with Him was strained and marked by lip-service, rather than true devotion. “Listen to me, O family of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and born into the family of Judah. Listen, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord and call on the God of Israel. You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel, whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Isaiah 48:1-2 NLT). They were unreliable, undependable, unfaithful, and for the most part, unrepentant. But God would still redeem them.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The beauty of studying the Old and New Testaments together is that it presents us with the bigger storyline of God's redemptive plan. God's choosing of Israel had a much greater purpose than just the temporal blessing of a particular people group for a specific time period. God had a much greater, richer, and far more comprehensive plan in mind. His strategy has always been the ultimate redemption of mankind and the complete restoration of His creation. He was not interested in a temporal or partial fix, but a permanent one. And in the book of Revelation we are given a vision of just what that is going to look like. John is allowed to see what God has in store for the future. And the amazing thing is that God is not done with His people Israel. While His eternal plan involves far more than just the nation of Israel, it does not leave them out of the storyline. They will continue to play a significant role in God's redemptive plan, even during the time of the great tribulation that marks the end of the age. God will miraculously redeem 144,000 Jews and bring them to a saving knowledge of His Son during one of the most difficult times of persecution and trial that has ever faced mankind. Those 144,000 Jews will then become His witnesses on the earth, leading “a great multitude that no one could number” (Revelation 7:9 ESV) to faith in Christ. They will evangelize throughout the world, resulting in the conversion of people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9 ESV). But all of this will be the work of God. It will be part of His grand plan, as He faithfully and methodically brings about the final chapter in His story of man's redemption and His creation's restoration. God will redeem 144,000 from the nation of Israel. He will redeem countless more from every tribe, nation and tongue. Not because they deserve it, but because it is part of His unstoppable, irreversible plan for the world He created. Which is why we should say, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:12 ESV).

Father, it is so easy to lose sight of Your bigger plan of redemption. You didn't choose Israel and stop there. You fully intended to make Your grace, love and mercy available to men from every tribe, nation and tongue. You didn't relegate Your plan of redemption to just one nation, but intended to make it available to all. Your plan is greater than my own salvation and bigger than my ongoing sanctification. You have something far greater in store for me and for all mankind that just a slightly better life on this earth. You have eternal life waiting for us. Your salvation ends with our glorification and the complete restoration of Your creation. May you bring Your divine plan to a close soon. Amen

Our Incomparable God.

Isaiah 45-46, Revelation 6

I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. Isaiah 46:11 ESV

Over and over again, God reminded Isaiah and the people of Israel, “I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:6 ESV). He boldly claimed, “I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host” (Isaiah 45:12 ESV). God was unrelenting and unapologetic in His claim to be the only true God. “Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength” (Isaiah 45:24 ESV). Idols made with human hands were not only ridiculous substitutes for the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe; they revealed the ignorance and stupidity of the ones who had made them. Idols were powerless to move. They couldn't hear and they were incapable of speech. And when their makers went into captivity, the idols went right along with them. But men still worship gods of their own making. They continue to come up with substitutes for the almighty, all-powerful God who made them, and who alone can save them. They fail to recognize that it is futile to reject God. It is ridiculous to question God or to attempt to replace Him with something or someone else. God's sovereignty is not based on man's acknowledgement of it. Our refusal to confess Him as the one true God does not alter the fact that He is and that all that He speaks is truth and all that He does is right.

What does this passage reveal about God?

That God puts up with mankind is amazing. That He has not wiped out the entire human race is a testimony to His patience and a reminder of His sovereign plan. The ongoing rejection of God by men is no surprise to Him. His entire plan of redemption is based on man's inability to worship Him in their own strength. No one is capable of worshiping God completely or faithfully. All men eventually fail in their worship of God. Even those who acknowledge Him as God are unable to treat Him with the dignity, honor, reverence and respect He deserves. Even the people of Israel could not remain faithful, in spite of all that He had done for them. And yet God said, “All Israel is saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity” (Isaiah 45:17 ESV). Yes, Israel would suffer punishment for their sins. They would experience the devastating reality of defeat at the hands of their enemies and the demoralizing impact of exile in a foreign land, but God was not done with them. Their loving God would eventually redeem and restore them. And He would use a pagan king to do so. Their sovereign, all-powerful God would do the impossible and cause Cyrus, the king of Persia to return the people of God to the land of promise. In His message to Isaiah, God refers to Cyrus as his anointed. He lets the people of Israel know that even this pagan, godless king was under His control, and would be used by Him to bring about His divine plan of redemption for His people.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Doubting God is a national pastime for most Americans. Even those who claim to believe in Him spend a great deal of time questioning His power and living their lives as if He didn't really exist. Those who unapologetically refuse to acknowledge the reality of God spend their lives coming up with ways to replace Him with gods of their own making. Science, materialism and money, pleasure, religion, entertainment, politics, military power, philanthropy, and a host of other “false gods” end up being the focus of man's attention and the recipients of his worship. It is in these things that men place their hope and from which they seek help. But they will never live up to the expectations we place in them. They will always fall short because they are poor substitutes for the one true God. One of the greatest truths that men must come to grips with is that there is NO OTHER GOD. There is no substitute for God. “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9 ESV). Man's inability to comprehend God does not negate His existence. Man's unwillingness to acknowledge God does not alter His reality. Man's propensity to create substitutes for God will always prove futile and fruitless. “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10 ESV).    

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

There are no other gods. There can be no substitute or replacement for God. He alone is God and His divine will is inevitable and unstoppable. He will accomplish what He has planned. He will do all that He has said He will do. I may not always understand it or even like it. I may fail to comprehend what He is doing or attempt to counteract it with my own plan, but His will will be done. His plan will be accomplished. In the book of Revelation, we are given a look into the future, when God will bring His divine plan of redemption to a close. He will bring to an end what He began in Genesis, the book of beginnings. The Lamb who is worthy will be given the scroll and will begin to methodically break the six seals that hold it shut. With each broken seal, God's judgment will be released on mankind. This future event is the beginning of the end. It is known as the time of the great tribulation. And while there is much debate as to its exact nature, the one non-negotiable fact is that God will be the one who brings it about. He will bring a final judgment on the earth. “For the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:17 ESV). There will be wars, famines, disease, and death on an unprecedented scale. God's judgment will come in waves. And while we might want to question the fairness of it all or attempt to rationalize away the reality of it ever happening, we must understand that God's will is inevitable and always right. How well we should remember the words of God to Isaiah: “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’” (Isaiah 45:9 NLT). We must learn to trust God. We must trust Him and rest in the fact that He knows exactly what He is doing – at all times. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22 ESV).

Father, I find it so easy to doubt You. Because I can't see what You see or understand what You are doing behind the scenes, outside of my perception, I tend to question Your sovereignty and come up with my own plans. But You alone are God. Your will is righteous, holy and always right. Your plan is perfect and You are working it out in perfection. Help me to learn to trust You more. Amen

Worthy Is The Lamb!

Isaiah 43-44, Revelation 5

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! Revelation 5:12 ESV

God's relationship with Israel was complicated. He had chosen them. He had made them His prized possession among all the nations of the world. He had determined to dwell among them, give them His law as a standard for righteous living, and then provided the sacrificial system as a means of forgiveness when they failed to live up to His law. They were to worship Him as their God. They were to both love and fear Him. They were expected to obey Him. They were to acknowledge Him as their Creator and King. He was to be their Lord of Hosts, their rescuer and protector in times of conflict. But more than anything, God was to be their Savior and Redeemer. There were times when He was forced to be their Judge, pronouncing His sentence of guilt upon them and executing the punishment they so justly deserved. Yet, in spite of their sin, God always stood ready to be their Savior. He repeatedly restored and redeemed them.  

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is worthy to be worshiped. He is deserving of man's praise and adoration – especially those who have been called by His name. He is the one who created all that exists. And as if that was not enough, He determined to have a special, one-of-a-kind relationship with the nation of Israel. He chose to allow them to experience the power of His presence. He revealed Himself to them. He dwelt among them. He gave them His law. He led them. He fed them. He protected and provided for them. He told them, “I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:3 ESV). He reminded them, “you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4 ESV). He went out of His way to teach them, “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King” (Isaiah 43:15 ESV). And yet, they responded to Him with indifference, apathy, and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge who He was and all that He had done. “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel!” (Isaiah 43:22 ESV). Rather than worship Him, they burdened Him with their sins and wore Him out with their iniquities (Isaiah 43:24). But amazingly, God responded with grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. “I, I am he, who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

When the people of Israel were given the unique opportunity to have a relationship with the God of the universe, they proved to be unfaithful. Their affections for Him proved fickle and fleeting. Rather than honor Him as the one true God, they constantly found themselves turning to false gods. When faced with difficulties or in the midst of trying circumstances, they consistently put their hopes, expectations and affections in something other than God. His repeated acts of kindness, deliverance, protection, provision, mercy, grace, and love were met with indifference, doubt, ingratitude, and unfaithfulness. God had proven Himself over and over again. He had shown that He alone was God. There were no other gods before Him. He had defeated the gods of Egypt. He had overcome the gods of the nations that occupied the land of Canaan. He ridiculed the very idea of idols, saying, “All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit” (Isaiah 44:9 ESV). He exposed the idiocy of those who bowed down to the very things they had created, rather than worship the One who had created them.  

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

For those of us who call ourselves children of God, He has proven Himself worthy of our allegiance. He has redeemed us through the blood of His own Son. He has provided us a means by which we can escape judgment and enjoy a restored relationship with Him. He has rescued and redeemed us. He has shown Himself to be worthy of our praise, adoration, obedience, love and worship. And we are reminded that that worth is unmatched and without end. There is no one else like Him. There is nothing on this earth that even remotely comes close to Him in value and worth. There is nothing in heaven that rivals His majesty, power, and holiness, or merits our worship, attention or affections. In the book of Revelation, John is given a glimpse into heaven and shown a scene that takes place some time in the distant future. He sees God sitting on His throne in heaven, holding in his hand a scroll. John hears the voice of an angel crying out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break the seals?” (Revelation 5:2 ESV). And much to John's dismay, he realizes that “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or look into it” (Revelation 5:3 ESV), and he began to weep. The scroll contained the details concerning the future of mankind and the earth. It would reveal how the story ends, but no one was worthy to open it and reveal what was going to happen. Except for one – the Lamb who was slain. “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10 ESV). The one who was slain is the one who will make possible the final fulfillment of God's plan of redemption and restoration of creation. He alone is worthy. It is He who provided for our salvation and who will make possible the consummation of all things. He is our Savior, Holy One, Creator, King, Lord of Hosts, and Redeemer. No one and nothing else deserves our praise, attention, affections, hope, trust, worship, and love. “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13 ESV).

Father, it is so amazing that I can find myself worshiping anything or anyone other than You. Nothing compares to You. Nothing can hold a candle to You. Your power is unmatched. Your holiness is unexcelled. And yet I can so easily end up worshiping the creation rather than the Creator. I can so quickly place my affections and expectations in those things that cannot deliver. You alone are God. You alone are worthy. You have proven that to be true time and time again, and when it comes time for You to bring Your plan to an end, it will be Your Son who proves worthy to finish what You began. Amen

I Am Your God!

Isaiah 41-42, Revelation 4

You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off;  fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:9-10 ESV

Things did not always go well with Israel. They experienced their fair share of difficulties and had to endure the repeated discipline of God for their sins and indiscretions. But God continually reminded them of His faithfulness and His unwillingness to abandon them. He would remain committed to their care and to His unwavering adherence to the promises He had made to them. He had chosen them. He had set them apart as His own and He would not give up on them. Yes, they would have to experience His judgment and endure His punishment, but He also assured them, “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you’” (Isaiah 41:13 ESV). In spite of all that they saw happening around them, they could rest assured that God would not abandon them or give up on them.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God's faithfulness is something we take for granted far too often. Like the availability of forgiveness after we sin, we sometimes just treat lightly and casually God's unwavering faithfulness to us. If we're not careful, we can fail to appreciate just how spectacular His unwavering commitment to us really is. The holy, sinless, righteous God of the universe willingly chooses to have a relationship with us, based not on our own merit, but on His mercy and grace. God loves us in spite of us, not because of us. The amazing thing is that the same God who “gave up Jacob to the looter, and Israel to the plunderer” (Isaiah 42:24 ESV) would be the one who would one day rescue and restore them. “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 41:14 ESV). The day would come when they would rejoice in the Lord and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

What does this passage reveal about man?

God had done so much for the people of Israel. “The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious. But this is a people plundered and looted…” (Isaiah 42:21-22 ESV). Why? Because they failed to obey His law. They rejected His will for their lives. They refused to live as a people set apart by God and for God. Instead, they turned to idols. They put their trust in false gods made out of wood and stone. God sarcastically challenged these false gods, demanding, “tell us what will occur in the days ahead. Then we will know you are gods. In fact, do anything—good or bad! Do something that will amaze and frighten us” (Isaiah 41:23 NLT). But they couldn't. They proved to be helpless and hopeless. “But no! You are less than nothing and can do nothing at all. Those who choose you pollute themselves” (Isaiah 41:24 NLT). Rather than trust in the God who created everything, the people were guilty of turning to gods created by men. God made it clear that these man-made gods would prove to be a huge disappointment. “See, they are all foolish, worthless things. All your idols are as empty as the wind” (Isaiah 41:29 NLT).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

And yet, God didn't give up on His people. He would end up sending His own Son as the solution to the problem of sin among His own people, as well as the rest of mankind. “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1 ESV). Years later, Jesus would quote this very verse and the ones following it, referring to Himself as the fulfillment of isaiah's prophecy. He was the servant sent by God. He was the ultimate answer to mankind's sin problem. God had given His glorious law in order to reveal His righteous, unachievable standard. The law revealed the extent of man's sin. God gave His Son as the sacrifice necessary to pay the penalty for those sins. In other words, God made it possible for men to have a relationship with Himself that they could never have achieved on their own. He made the impossible possible. In the book of Revelation, John is given a one-of-a-kind glimpse into heaven where he saw God Almighty seated on His throne. The imagery he used to describe his vision is other-worldly and fantastic in nature. It is the efforts of a mere man attempting to describe the indescribable. He is trying to put into words something that words could never adequately describe. It is a scene filled with beauty and eliciting awe and wonder. There is thunder and flashes of lightning. There are fantastical creatures and worshiping elders. And in the midst of it all sits the Lord God Almighty. “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11 ESV). The amazing thing is that THIS God is OUR God. This same holy, transcendent, powerful, awe-inspiring, fear-producing God is our personal, intimate Father. He loves us and longs to have a relationship with us. So much so, that He gave His Son as the means by which we might be made right with Him. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). Now that is truly amazing!

Father, I am blown away by the fact that You are MY God. I know that You are the god of all men, whether they acknowledge or are aware of it. But You are my God in an intimate, personal way. You have made me Your son and placed me in Your family by sacrificing Your Son in my place and satisfying Your own just demands for the punishment of my sins with His sinless, innocent life. What an amazing reality. Never let me take it for granted or treat it lightly. Amen

Behold Your God!

Isaiah 39-40, Revelation 3

Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. Isaiah 40:10 ESV

Judgment was coming. While God had spared Judah defeat at the hands of the Assyrians, that did not mean that they had dodged the inevitable punishment of God for theirs sins. They were enjoying an undeserved reprieve, but their sinful state still demanded that a just and holy God deal with them judiciously and rightly. What God wanted from His people was repentance. He desired for them to return to Him in faithfulness and dependence, placing their full trust in Him as their God. He wanted them to reflect their unique position as His chosen people and live their lives in accordance with His commands. But they continued to stubbornly and persistently reject His will for their lives. Even Hezekiah, after having been given an additional 15 years of life by God, makes a cardinal error of giving visiting envoys from the land of Babylon a world-wind tour of his kingdom, showing them all his royal treasures and the extend of his military arsenal. In Hezekiah's mind, he was simply wooing a possible ally in his ongoing fight against the Assyrians. He was trying to impress them with his wealth and power. But in reality, Hezekiah was guilty of placing his hope and trust in something other than God. He saw the eventual rescue of his nation coming from somewhere else other than God. And even when the prophet Isaiah told him that “the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left” (Isaiah 39:6 ESV), Hezekiah mistakenly took it as good news. He somehow thought that this all meant an alliance with Babylon would bring peace and security to the land of Judah. 

What does this passage reveal about God?

Chapter 39 ends with God's pronouncement of coming judgment on Judah at the hands of the Babylonians. As almost always seemed to be the case, the people of God never quite fully understood the significance or seriousness of what was about to happen to them. They always seemed to have another trick up their sleeve or another plan that they thought could forestall the inevitable judgment of God. Hezekiah just couldn't bring himself to believe that God would actually destroy His own people. After all, they were the descendants of Abraham, the chosen people of God. They were the apple of His eye and Jerusalem contained the temple in which God's presence dwelt. But what Hezekiah failed to understand was the holiness of God. He could not and would not tolerate sin among His people. He could not turn a blind eye to their ongoing rebellion and overlook their persistently unrepentant hearts. Judgment was not only inevitable, but unavoidable. As a righteous and holy judge, God had to pass sentence on the sins of the people. To ignore their sins would have made Him unjust. To fail to condemn and pass judgment on their sins would have been an unrighteous act. But God reveals something incredibly powerful in chapter 40. In His divine wisdom and omniscience, God provides Isaiah with a glimpse into the future. It is as if a huge gap exists between the end of chapter 39 and the opening verses of chapter 40. The judgment of God would come. The city of Jerusalem would fall. The temple of God would be destroyed. The people of Judah would end up in exile in Babylon for 70 years. But then something incredible was going to happen. Just when everything was bleak and hopeless, the shout would be heard: “Behold your God!” Just when the people of God had grown accustomed to their exile and resigned to the idea that they would never again see their homeland, the news would be announced, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:10-11 ESV). God was going to act. God was going to do something incomparable and inconceivable. He was going to redeem His people once again from captivity and restore them to the land.

What does this passage reveal about man?

The people of Judah did not understand their God. They did not appreciate His power and sovereignty. They took for granted His presence and treated lightly His righteous demands on their lives. God revealed His intimate understanding of them when He rhetorically asked, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’?” (Isaiah 40:27 ESV). Prior to the exile, when they were living in the land of Judah, they acted as if God was oblivious to or indifferent about their behavior. He either didn't care or couldn't see what they were doing. Once they found themselves living in exile, they took the defeatist attitude that God didn't care or was just blind to their predicament. He refused to see anything good that they might be doing. But God reminded them, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV). God was not indifferent to their predicament or incapable of doing something about it. He was the God of the universe. He knows all things. He is all-powerful. He is the source of all strength, all hope, all deliverance, all help, all joy, and all restoration. In spite of the sins of Judah, He would eventually restore them to the land. In spite of the sins of mankind, He will eventually restore His creation to a right relationship with Him. The day is coming when all men will hear the words, “Behold your God!” That does not mean that all men and women will worship Him, but they will acknowledge Him as the God of the universe. There will be no more debate as to His existence or His sovereign reign over everything and everyone.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In Revelation 2-3, we have the words of Jesus spoken to the seven churches. In these two chapters we see Him both commending and condemning these churches. He acknowledges their faithfulness and perseverance under trial. He praises their endurance and determination to remain true to Him even while facing extreme difficulties. But He also reveals their glaring deficiencies and failures. He points out their compromise, as well as their spiritual arrogance and pride. He exposes their self-sufficiency and tolerance of falsehood in their midst. He accuses them of spiritual apathy and lukewarmness. But repeatedly, He reminds them to stay the course. He encourages them to not give up or give in.

“To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” – Revelation 2:7 ESV

The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” – Revelation 2:11 ESV

“To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” – Revelation 2:17 ESV

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations…” – Revelation 2:26 ESV

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” – Revelation 3:5 ESV

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.” – Revelation 3:12 ESV

The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” – Revelation 3:21 ESV

While this may all sound like the burden lies on us to make it through to the end, the Scriptures make it clear that our ultimate victory is the Lord's doing, not our own. Our ability to conquer and come through this life faithful and true is made possible by the indwelling presence of God Himself. Our faithfulness is not of our own making, but is provided by the Spirit of God within us. He empowers and equips us. He gives us strength to obey and the will to remain faithful to the end. So that when all is said and done, and we stand before the Father in heaven, we will hear the words, “Behold your God!” and fully understand the sobering significance of their meaning.

Father, You are incomparable. Your power is immeasurable. Your love for me is unfathomable. I can't fully grasp who You are and all that You have done for me. Yet You are my God. That is unbelievable. You are with me each and every day of my life. You never leave my side. You never lose sight of me or ever take your hands off of me. You will never leave me nor forsake me. You refuse to abandon me and You will faithfully complete Your plan for me. I WILL conquer. I will survive. I will make it through to the end, in spite of my unfaithfulness, weakness, inconsistencies, lack of love, lukewarmness, compromise and spiritual complacency. It is YOU who are faithful and true. And any good I do in this life is completely up to Your Spirit's work in my life. Amen