Tag Archives: Prophecy

God’s People, part 112: Yeshua

Read Zechariah 3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak joined his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his family in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel.” (Ezra 3:2a NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

YeshuaPart 112: Yeshua. At the outset of writing the God’s People devotion series, which I started back on May 27, 2017, I have been eagerly awaiting reaching this point in the series. This is where we begin to see the Old Testament and the New Testament beginning to meet together. How so, you might wonder? I will attempt to answer that very question in this devotion.

Yeshua, as I am sure you realize by this point if you have been reading the series as of late, was the person who was chosen by God to be the high priest of the people who returned back to Jerusalem from exile. There is little that is known about him but for a few short and obscure passages in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. With that said, his significance cannot, nor should not, be underwritten.

Here is what we do know. Yeshua was of a priestly lineage and served as high priest circa 515-490 BCE, which means he served for about 25 years upon his return from exile. Yeshua was also one of the catalysts, along with Haggai, that pushed for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple (Haggai 1:1, 14) after 16 years of the project having been delayed by endless negotiations and bickering between the Jews and “the people of the land” (aka the Samaritans).

As such, it seems that Zerubbabel, Yeshua, and Haggai upset the order and ruffled the feathers who were seeking to hold the project off even longer. Once Haggai delivered the message of God to Yeshua and Zerubbabel, they sprung into action with the people and began to rebuild the Temple. As such, a divisive conflict rose up against them.

Before I continue, there are two basic schools of thought on the timing of Yeshua in relation to Zechariah’s prophecy. The first being that Yeshua was alive at the time of his great-great-grandson’s marriage to a Gentile woman (see Nehemiah 13:28), and subsequent expulsion from his priestly duties and from Jerusalem. If that was the case, then Yeshua would have been 90 years old at that time and Zechariah’s prophecy (Zechariah 3) would have been directed toward Yeshua.

The second school of thought is that, perhaps, Yeshua was dead by that point and Zechariah’s prophecy was directed toward his grandson, Eliashib, who succeeded him as high priest, using Yeshua’s scenario with Satan as an allegory. While this is certainly possible, I am of the belief that Zechariah’s prophecy was directed toward Yeshua and that what we have in Zechariah’s prophecy is evidence of the tension that the high priest was dealing with.

In today’s Scripture, we see that Yeshua the High Priest is standing before the Lord and Satan, who is throwing accusations out at him. In other words, Satan is trying to convince God that Yeshua is not worthy. It is generally understood here that Satan is seen as the force behind the divisive opposition that rose up against Yeshua’s leadership as high priest during his push to rebuild the Temple. Zechariah went on to state that God rejected Satan’s accusations and proclaimed the following to Yeshua and the priests who were to follow him: “Listen to Me, O [Yeshua] the high priest, and all you other priests. You are symbols of things to come. Soon I am going to bring My servant, the Branch” (Zechariah 3:8).

This, in and of itself, is an amazing Testament to what was about to happen. Clearly, Zechariah was prophesying about the coming Messiah. Still, what’s more amazing, is the high priest’s name itself. Yeshua (often spelled in the Bible as Jeshua…but I spell it phonetically as it sounds) is the name יְהוֹשֻׁוּעַ, or Joshua, which means “The LORD saves”. The Greek equivalent for Joshua is Ἰησοῦς, or Jesus. That is right, Yeshua in Greek is Jesus. Thus, in Zechariah we have Jesus the High Priest, being deemed the symbol of the Messiah Jesus who was to come and bring salvation not only to the Jews but to all the world!

This Messiah Jesus to come would also establish himself, and all who believe in him, as the true temple where people worship God (regardless of where they are) in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:21-23). How amazing is it that? Seriously. Here we have explicit Biblical evidence, written at least 3 – 4  centuries before Christ, that God was clueing people into the fact that there was an overarching plan to redeem this world through the Messiah. What’s more, there is explicit Biblical evidence that God not only revealed the plan, but even hinted at the Messiah’s name!

The question for us is, do we trust God’s plan or do we get mired in our own. Don’t get me wrong, not everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the only reason that things happen is that they do. People are not raped, beaten, abused, hurt, impoverished, homeless and/or are suffering for any reasons other than the fact that we live in a broken world, mired in sin and less-than-ideal circumstances. With that said, God has an overarching plan, despite the sin and circumstances that beset us, to redeem all of the world, us included. Do we trust that? Do we trust enough to step out of the way and to join God’s ranks in transforming this world from what it is into the Kingdom of God? Let us reflect honestly and open ourselves to the convicting of the Holy Spirit.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The Bible is very resonant. It has everything: creation, betrayal, lust, poetry, prophecy, sacrifice. All great things are in the Bible, and all great writers have drawn from it and more than people realise, whether Shakespeare, Herman Melville or Bob Dylan.” – Patti Smith

PRAYER
Lord, I place my trust in you and your Word. Amen.

God’s People, part 108: Zechariah

Read Zecharaiah 3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon.” (Zechariah 9:11)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 108: Zechariah. As with all of the prophets, we really know very little about who Zechariah was. The main purpose of the prophetic writings was to warn people of the dangers of their sins and to steer people back to God. That is never an easy task. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others have found out, people resist being told they are wrong; in fact, they often violently and vehemently resist it. We are seeing this unfold before our very eyes as people stand up for the justice of immigrants (and others) and the absolutely vitriolic reaction people are having to that. Don’t believe me? Here’s an experiment for you: post #blacklivesmatter or #allfamiliesmatter or #justiceforimmigrants as your Facebook status and see what reaction you get.

What we do know about about Zechariah is that he probably came from a priestly family. His father was the son of Berechiah, who was the son of Iddo. Iddo was a Levite and a priestly figure, mentioned in Ezra 8:17, and it is believed that he returned from exile with Zerubbabel. Berechiah, no doubt, would have carried those priestly duties on from his father; therefore, many scholars believe that Zechariah was a priest, in a lineage of priests, as well as a prophet.

Zechariah began his prophetical career during the second year of King Darius the Great’s reign and is the prophet that the Old Testament book of the same name is attributed to. It is in that book that we see the focus of Zechariah’s prophetic ministry and the kind of opposition he was up against.

In the first section of the book (Chapters 1-4), Zechariah lays out Israel’s history in order to present the returned exiles with a stern warning. They had, as was discussed in the last devotion, been returned to their homeland and commissioned by King Cyrus to rebuild the holy Temple. Yet, years had passed and a new king was ruling and the Temple had still not been built. This was because the the people were debating over whether or not to let the Samaritans build it, as they had offered. The debate seriously stalled the construction project.

Zechariah, therefore, was instrumental in getting the people back on track regarding the rebuilding of God’s Temple. At the same time, so was the high priest Yeshua. We will get into Yeshua’s story in more detail in a couple of weeks; however, suffice it to say that Yeshua was against stalling the rebuilding of the Temple and wanted to see it built without the help of the Samaritans. As such, he was up against a very divided people. Some of those people were in support of him and some were in support of further negotiations with Samaritans.

Zechariah denounced the opposition and firmly pronounced that God had appointed Zechariah and was on his side. Furthermore, the prophet exposed the real culprit behind the division: SATAN. Zechariah proclaimed, “And the LORD said to Satan, ‘I, the LORD, reject your accusations, Satan. Yes, the LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebukes you. This man is like a burning stick that has been snatched from the fire.’”

It is important to understand that throughout Old Testament and the New Testament, the word satan is not a name but a title. The Hebrew word, שָׂטָן(pronounced saw-tawn’) literally meant “the accuser” or “the adversary”. This role is played by different entities in different ways throughout the Old Testament (for instance, in the story about Balaam’s donkey, the Angel of the LORD stood in the road as an adversary, blocking Balaam’s way forward); however, there seems to have been a being that was an adversary to God and to God’s people.

This being, forever known as Satan, was a divider and conquerer. His role was to divide God’s people against themselves and keep them from obeying and following God. Thus, as we learn from Zechariah, Satan’s chief modus operendi division.

This is important for us to understand as God’s people in today’s time. Satan has not gone anywhere and this adversary of ours is still operating in the same way: THROUGH DIVISION. Think about that. Take a look around the United States of America and around this world. Look at social media and at our political climate.

 Most importantly, look at the church and look at our own relationships with the church, as well as with our families and friends. Let us be challenged to realize the truth behind Zechariah’s warning. Let us assess our own lives, our own attitudes and our own positions. Do we see the handy work of God, or do we see the foul play of the devil. Let us, like God, rebuke Satan and move toward peace and unity around Christ’ mission.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

In 9:9, Zechariah also prophesied that, sometime following the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, the Messiah would come riding into the holy city on a donkey and it’s colt in holy victory This prophecy was clearly fulfilled a few hundred years later by Jesus of Nazareth.

PRAYER

Lord, like you I rebuke satan’s divisive meddling in my life in your name and turn my eyes firmly upon you. Give me the strength to continue to do so and keep me on your path of righteousness. Amen.

God’s People, part 97: Obadiah

Read Obadiah 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

obadiah_tissot_640x425Part 97: Obadiah. You may be scratching your head right now and thinking, “Wait a minute, didn’t he already write about Obadiah?” Indeed, I have written about Obadiah; however, that Obadiah is not to be confused with this one. The first person with that name that I wrote about in part 70, if you remember, was a majordomo (aka someone who spoke on behalf of the king and was in charge of his affairs). He was, in that role, employed by the wicked King Ahab and sent by the king to speak on his behalf to the prophet Elijah; however, we also learned that this majordomo was a devout follower of the LORD and he was helping to save the prophets from being captured and executed by the king.

This Obadiah, however, was not the same person. This one was a prophet in Judah during the war with Babylon and the exile that followed it. His prophecy was written sometime after the exile and was directed not against the Kingdom of Judah; rather, it was against the Kingdom of Edom. In order to understand the reason for this prophecy, we need to understand who the Edomites were. This is where all of the lineage in the Bible becomes important to understand.

If you recall, Isaac, of whom I wrote about all the way back in part 9 of this series, had two sons: Esau and Jacob. Jacob had stolen Esau’s birthright and, thus, became the heir to his father’s lineage and estate. Esau, resentful toward his brother, hunted Jacob down for years and years hoping to kill him. While the two brothers did reconcile, Jacob went on to become the successor and Esau did not. Instead, Esau went on to become the ancestor of the Edomites, a related but lesser “cousin” to the Israelites who descended from Israel (aka Jacob).

Thus, the Edom was related to Judah (named after one of the 12 sons of Jacob). Yet, when the Babylonians besieged and entered Jerusalem to conquer it, the Edomites joined forces with King Nebuchadnezzar II and helped him loot the city. They rejoiced at the destruction of Jerusalem and they helped the Babylonians intercept and kill anyone who was trying to escape. Thus, Obadiah cried out, “Because of the violence you did to your close relatives in Israel, you will be filled with shame and destroyed forever.” (Obadiah 1:10)

This, for us, should be a reminder that our actions and attitudes do not end with us; rather, the carry on and on for generations and generations. Jacob wrongly stole the birthright from his brother Esau, who resented him for it. Regardless, the Israelites become the prominent people and the Edomites (descendants of Esau) became their subjects. During the reign of the kings of Judah, Edom was their vassal state. Thus, just as Esau became subject to his baby brother Jacob, so did the Edomites become subject to the Kingdom of Judah.

It is important for us to realize that our attitudes toward others, and the way we treat them, don’t die with us. We teach our children to think and act that way and we pass our biases and our sins right down to them. Their actions and attitudes eventually get passed to their children and so on and so forth.

What’s more, it is important for us to realize that apart from the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, there is nothing we can do to change the effects of sin on our lives and the lives of those we influence. With that said, if we just turn our hearts and our minds to Jesus, if we let Jesus take over and become Lord of our lives, then we can overcome the sin and begin to reverse the effects of it in our lives, in our children’s lives, and in the lives of people living in the world around us. In Jesus Christ, we can overturn the kingdom of sin and become ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” – Rev. John Wesley

PRAYER Lord, I forgive me of my sins and navigate me toward your righteousness. Amen.

God’s People, part 96: Zephaniah

Read Zephaniah 3:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

 Part 96: Zephaniah. In order to talk about Zephaniah, we need to travel back to King Josiah. It was under the great reformer king that Zephaniah was a prophet. Again, we know very little about Zephaniah himself, other than what is revealed of him in the eponymous short book in the Hebrew Testament. Here’s what we know of him for sure. Zephaniah was the son of Cushi, who “was the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah” (1:1b). If you follow the generations, Zephaniah was the great-grandson of King Hezekiah.

The first part of verse 1 states that Zephaniah was a prophet under the rule of King Josiah. Given the fact that Josiah, himself, is known to be a great reformer, it seems that Zephaniah was his greatest advocate. He, no doubt, spoke up against the critics that would have risen up against the reforms that Josiah was pushing to have put in place.

Zephaniah’s prophecy spoke against idolatry, pride, corruption, and those who “remain complacent in their sins”. His prophecy also pointed fingers at the surrounding nations and/or kingdoms that have defiled Judah with their idols, their religious practices, and their bloodshed against God’s people. Finally, Zephaniah held Jerusalem, the seat of power in the Kingdom of Judah, accountable. He called the city “rebellious and polluted…the city of violence and crime.” He charged the city with haughty arrogance, a city that refuses correction and that refuses to put its trust in God. He proclaims that its leaders are like roaring lions who hunt their victims.

‭‭He also brought charges against Jerusalem’s judges, which he said were “like ravenous wolves at evening time, who by dawn have left no trace of their prey.” The prophets, he proclaimed, were arrogant liars who are merely seeking their own gain; the priests defile the Temple by disobeying God’s instructions. It is easy to get hung up on the “wrathful God” language used in Zephaniah and other prophetic texts; however, when one understands the abuses of power and corruption that the prophets are crying out against, one can understand why God would be angry. ‬‬‬‬

Such corruption, arrogance, unfaithfulness and injustice brings about consequences and justice will have its day. Zephaniah does not leave us with a wrathful ending, either. God is just. God is merciful. God is looking for people to return into a right relationship with God. Forgiveness is available to the people who will humble themselves, admit where they have gone wrong, and change. In fact, that is all that God is asking for. The warning, itself, is a plea for people to repent and change.

Each of us have not been as faithful to God as we ought to be. Each one of us falls short of God’s glorious standard. God does not want destruction to fall upon us, but wants us to live life and live it abundantly; however, our arrogance, pride, unfaithfulness bears fruit that is counter to what God wants for us and the consequences are on us, not God. This isn’t just true individually but on us as a national people. Corruption, injustice, oppression, arrogance, deceitfulness and idolatry are everywhere in our nation and we, as a people, are being called to repent and to turn back to God. In Christ, through whom all things are possible, we can begin to reflect the honesty, justice, liberty, humility and right worship of God.gh

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“A man’s conscience, like a warning line on the highway, tells him what he shouldn’t do – but it does not keep him from doing it.” —Frank A. Clark

PRAYER

Lord, help me to humble myself so that I may see where I have strayed. I repent of such times and ask you to, in Christ, lead me back to you. Amen.

God’s People, part 95: Habakkuk

Read Habakkuk 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.” (Habakkuk‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 95: Habakkuk. An obscure prophet, of whom little is known, Habakkuk is believed to have lived around, or somewhere following, the rise of the Babylonians (aka the Chaldeans). Living during the seventh century BCE (ca. 612 BCE), he was an early contemporary of the prophets Jeremiah and Zephaniah. Thus, Habakkuk saw the rise of the Babylonian Empire and the imminent danger that empire was to Judah. 

His short prophetic book consists of a series of questions and answers, concluding with a song of praise to God. It starts off with Habakkuk question God. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted” (Habakkuk‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NLT).‬‬

In this, as you can plainly see, the prophet was openly questioning the working of God. He reminded God of his cries for help and then accused God of not listening. He accuses God of ignoring the need for salvation and justice, leaving the wicked to far outnumber the righteous and, as a result, allowing justice to become perverted by wicked people.

Habakkuk has been praised by scholars for his literary genius, believing that he intentionally wrote his letter in this question and answer style in order to deliver the message with dramatic effect. Whether these prayers to God were prayers he actually prayed, or whether these prayers were articulating the serious questions of the “righteous” people of Judah, Habakkuk gives voice to the lament against God’s seeming inactivity in the midst of such corruption.

More than give voice to this kind of lament, Habakkuk actually gives people permission to lament in such ways, to pray in such ways, to pour out one’s heart to God in such ways. The prophet to does not record God’s response in a way that rebukes the inquirer; rather, God entertains the questions and gives answers to the specific work that God is doing.

This pattern happens in the second chapter and, in the third chapter, Habakkuk praised God for the work that God was doing, for God’s justice, and for God’s enduring presence. Thus, after a series of questions and answers, Habakkuk leads the reader into a song of praise of God, reinforcing the reality that God not only can handle our questions, but God will answer them.

This challenges the view of God that many people have, the view that God is distant and hard to approach. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever found yourself questioning God? Have you ever felt guilty for questioning God? Habakkuk teaches us not only that God will enact justice and hold the wicked, the greedy, and those who abuse their powers accountable, but that God listens to us and does not get angry when we ask questions.

The challenge for us is to grow in our knowledge of God so that we can strenghten our relationship with God. The better we get to know God, the more we honestly and openly communicate (aka pray) with God, the more comfortable we will be with asking God the tough questions. The more we commuicate with God the better we will get at listening to God as well, and hearing God’s response. I pray, if you haven’t already, that you experience such growth.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed by the masses.” —Unknown Author, possibly summarizing “The Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s Republic

PRAYER

Lord, lead me into a deeper and stronger relationsip with you, one where I ask questions and listen for answers. Help me to see you clearly, so that I may see truth beyond the shadows that surround me. Amen.

Fulfilled: Easter Sunday

Read Isaiah 53:7-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.” (Daniel‬ ‭7:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

 Easter Sunday. He is risen! In Isaiah 53:7-12, the prophet talks about God’s suffering servant. He mentions that the holy sufferer will see what was accomplished as a result of his suffering and be satisified. The sufferer will know that the suffering had not been in vain; rather, he sees that his suffering has brought redemption to many. Many, as a result of him bearing the sins of the world, will find salvation.

Isaiah continued on to proclaim, “I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels” (vs. 12). Thus, the suffering servant suffered death but was honored like a victorious soldier. Isaiah, when writing this, may have seen himself as the suffering servant. He may have seen Israel as a whole as the suffering servant, and that Israel was bearing witness of their faith in God to a hostile world.

The neat thing about prophecy is that that, regardless of the original context, a prophecy comes from God and the visions revealed in them prove themselves true in ways we could have never expected. Even if Isaiah had Israel in mind as the suffering servant, the way this prophecy got fulfilled in Jesus Christ is beyond human comprehension. It is the power of God on full display for all the world! Surely, Jesus came from Israel and through Jesus (the righteous suffering servant), many found redemption from their sins. How awesome is our God!

Daniel also prophesied about the Son of Man, and the glorious victory he would have over the sinful world. In verse 17, he enters onto the scene in glory, in the very presence of the living God. Furthermore, in verse 26, Daniel wrote, “Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will last forever, and all rulers will serve and obey him” (Daniel‬ ‭7:27‬ ‭NLT‬‬). In other words, the Son of Man (aka Jesus Christ) has established God’s Kingdom on earth and that all the kindoms of the earth will be given over to God’s people who serve and obey the soveriegn God.

Daniel’s verse is often seen as a prophecy for the future, for the second coming of Christ. While the future has yet to be revealed, it certainly makes sense being that the world has yet to be fully delivered from sin and evil. It is easy to understand that this prophecy could still have more unveiling to do; however, prophecy is the gift that keeps on giving and, while more may be fulfilled in this prophecy, it is also true that it has already seen fulfillment in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Let me explain. Forty days after resurrecting and showing himself to countless people, Jesus ascends (coming on the clouds) into heaven and is “led into [the] presence “of the “Ancient One”. What happened from there? Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, which outpoured onto the disciples, filling them with God’s Spirit and power. From the day of Pentecost and onward, the disciples healed the sick, took care of the poor, visited the imprisoned, raised the dead to life and preached the Good News of Jesus Christ to all of the known world. Within 400 short years, this little sect of Judaism overtook the Roman Empire, the very empire that executed Jesus and his followers. Holy wow!!! Think about that. The impossible was made possible as a result of Jesus’ resurrection! Praise God!

Certainly, the resurrection was not the end of the story, but the beginning of it. Christians, being human beings, have fallen short and have sometimes put the institution of Christianity above Christ; however, Christ is still unfolding the salvation, redemption and sancitification of this world. What’s more, we are a part of that unfolding! We are a part of the story. We are the ones who, if we are faithful, will do even greater things than that of the disciples if we would only open our hearts to the possibility and to the call. With that said, happy Easter! He is risen! Now, rise up and preach the good news of Jesus Christ to all the world!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

He is risen and you can rise with him!

PRAYER

Lord, you have redeemed me and I choose to live the RESURRECTED LIFE in you! Amen.

Fulfilled: Spy Wednesday

Read Zechariah 11:12-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.” (Matthew 26:14-15 NLT)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

006-judas-betrays-jesusSpy Wednesday. In Zechariah, we see the prophet giving up on his office as prophet. He had been embattled serving the people of God. They were divided over who should be high priest, many hardened their hearts toward God, and Zechariah felt that the time had come for him to simply let them have their own sinful way. This was not done because Zechariah was a quitter, but because God had given them the choice between their ways or God’s way, and they had clearly chosen.

Thus, the Lord God was speaking through Zechariah, when he said that he would remove the good shepherd and replace him with a useless, lazy, selfish one (Zechariah 11:16-17). As a result of their hardened hearts, they ended up following the prophets and leaders of this world, to their own demise. Thus, Zechariah requested, “‘If you like, give me my wages, whatever I am worth; but only if you want to.’ So they counted out for my wages thirty pieces of silver” (vs. 12). Continuing on, Zechariah declared, “And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—this magnificent sum at which they valued me! So I took the thirty coins and threw them to the potter in the Temple of the LORD (vs. 13).

Yet, Zechariah’s situation aside, this particular verse was foreshadowing what was to happen to Jesus of Nazareth through one of his closest friends and disciples, Judas Iscariot. It was on what has become known as “Spy Wednesday”, that Judas met with the high priest and the Pharisees to plot against Jesus. Judas agreed to betray his Lord and master in exchange for none other than thirty pieces of silver. Thus, Judas became like a spy. He became a wolf among the sheep and waited for the right moment to betray Jesus and have him arrested.

This, of course, was directly following Jesus’ revealing to his disciples that he was going to be “handed over to be crucified.” It was also following Jesus scolding his disciples for their chastizement of the woman who anointed his feet. In Matthew, it is written that the disciples became indignant because such expensive perfume could have been sold and given to the poor. Jesus put the disciples back in their place and praised the woman for her compassion toward him.

The question that puzzles many is this, why would Judas betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (about $600 in U.S. currency…a handsome amount in the ancient world)? Maybe it was because, as Jesus continued to press and antagonize the religious and political leaders in Jerusalem, Judas feared that they would all go down with Jesus. Maybe, for Judas, Jesus wasn’t doing enough against the Romans and he was among those who wanted to see a physical, bloody revolt. Maybe Judas, along with some of the other disciples, were indignant toward Jesus for the woman anointing him, or maybe for other reasons. There is, of course, the possibility that Judas was always a snake in the grass, was greedy, and looking for any opportunity to find a way to betray Jesus and gain money and status for doing so.

We can only speculate Judas’ motivations; however, we do know that the Judas regretted his decision so much that he took his own life. The blood money he was paid went to pay for a field, fulfilling the words of Zechariah in a new and most sorrowful way. The challenge for us is to look inward on this Spy Wednesday! Are our intentions pure? Do we follow Jesus for the sake of following the Lord, our Savior? Do we follow Jesus for the glory of God and for the Kingdom of God? Or do we have alterior motives for following Christ?

Do we seek out God’s agenda, or are we secretly trying to find ways of working in our own? Are we sheep in Christ’s fold, are are we wolves that have found our way in? Are we Christ’s own, or have we become snakes in the grass? These questions are not comfortable ones; however, they are important to ask. I think that we can find moments in our lives where we are truly aligned with Christ, and others where we are not. Let us be honest this Holy Week and pray for God to remove the inner-Judas that exists within all of us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We have two choices in love, faithfulness and betrayal.

PRAYER
Lord, forgive me for the times I have betrayed in you in my thoughts, in my words, and in my deeds. Guide me toward a life of faithfulness. Amen.

Fulfilled: Holy Tuesday

Read Isaiah 49:1-7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:28 NLT)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

AngryJesusHoly Tuesday. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem being hailed as the King of the Jews. He went into the temple and upset the peace by overturning the tables of the money changers. No doubt, this act had both the Temple priests and the Roman leadership looking intently on this individual…this “prophet.” He was showing himself to be a trouble maker.

By Monday, Jesus he began antagonizing the Temple leadership, as well as the teachers of religious laws (known as the Pharisees). He taught in parables that called the leaderhsip out for their hypocrisy. He proclaimed that hey was the the stone that God declared to be the cornerstone and decried the priests and the teachers fo religious law for rejecting him. He certainly did not win many of the priests and Pharisees over on Holy Monday.

On this day, Holy Tuesday, Jesus’ teachings took a sharp and dramatic turn. Instead of teaching in parables, he called the Sadducees and Pharisees out directlty. “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.” (Matthew 23:2-3 NLT). Calling them hypocrites, Jesus levied a series of seven accusations against the religious leadership. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (Matthew 23:15 NLT)

Jesus called the leadership out on perverting the law for their own gain. He likened them to “whitewashed tombs”  that look pristine and beautiful on the outside, but are filled with bones and the dead on the inside. His words cut through them and caused their hatred of him to grow to an all-time high. They were already trying to find a way to eliminate him; however, after this display, they were even more determined.

Jesus did not stop there either. He went on to predict that the temple would be destroyed and began to share with his disciples that the world was going to experience a whole lot of darkness before it would see the light of God. Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, for its refusal to accept him and the message of God who had sent him. He lamented, “And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see Me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the One who comes in the name of the LORD'” (Matthew 23:38-39 NLT)!

All of this a profound fulfillment of what was written in Isaiah 49:1-7. Jesus’ words were, indeed, “words of judgment as sharp as a sword.” On Holy Tuesday, Jesus was like a sharp arrow in God’s quiver. He was being loosed on the people who were supposed to be witnessing to the glory and love of God but were, instead, basking in their own status and glory to the detriment of God’s people.

Of course, it is easy for us to read this and point fingers at the religious leadership in Jesus’ time; however, Christians believe in the “priesthood” of all believers. That we are all called to bring people to a relationship with Jesus and represent God’s love in the world. The question is, are you doing that? Are you living into the call that God has placed on your life as a believer? Are you exonerated by Jesus, or his sharp words cutting through with convicting truth? I think we all can acknowledge that there is room for us to grow and transform. I pray that we all open our hearts and be transformed by Jesus’ words in fulfillment with what Isaiah prophesied, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to Me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6 NLT)

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Love does not always come in hugs and flowery words, but as words that cut like a sword through the aspects of ourselves that enslave us and bring us down.

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for loving me enough to tell me the truth. Continually guide me and lead me back to you and your Kingdom. Amen.

Fulfilled: Palm Sunday

Read Zechariah 9:9-17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.’” Matthew‬ ‭21:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

 Palm Sunday. There can be no doubt that Jesus sparked great controversy due to his actions on Palm Sunday. In the life of the church, we think of this day as a joyous celebration, one that involves little children whipping each other with palm leaves and, subsequently, their parents transforming those leaves into palm crosses.

Yet, for Jesus, all of the pomp and circumstance was bitter-sweet. It must have been a sight for him to see all of those people, thousands, crowded around him, laying branches before the donkey carrying him, and shouting, “Hosanna”, a Hebrew word that means, “Help”, or “Save, I pray.” It must have been awesome to witness those crowds hailing him as the Messiah.

With that said, he also knew that the Romans would not ignore the fact that the crowd was hailing him as “King of the Jews.” Nor would King Herod Antipas. Nor would the High Priest, who had much politically to lose if Pontius Pilate were to choose to intervene and stomp out any potential rebellion. Jesus knew that, even though the crowds were hailing him as king on this day nearly 2,000 years ago, they would not be hailing him as king by the end of the week.

But how could this act of riding on a donkey be taken to mean that Jesus was king? Simple. This was prophesied about the messiah that was to come in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.” (‭NLT)‬‬‬

Jesus’ choosing to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey shows that he understood himself as the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming messiah. He understood himself to be the coming King that would liberate God’s people. With that said, he also knew that the kind of liberation they were seeking was not the kind he was bringing.

The people wanted a liberation from the tyrannical rule of Rome; however, who would save them from the tyrannical rule of sin and death. Even if one could have overthrown the Roman Empire, what would stop him or her from becoming yet another tyrannical ruler. Look at the kings of Israel and Judah. Each generation of rulers became more wicked than the last.

It is important to realize that Jesus did not come to liberate in a worldly fashion. Jesus did not come to follow the world’s ways and methods of liberation; rather, Jesus came to change the hearts and the souls of a people who he knew had closed off their hearts to him. Still, with that said, that fact was no deterent for Jesus. He entered the city in triumphal fashion, went straight to the temple, overturned the money changers, and fulfilled another prophecy, “Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” (Psalms‬ ‭69:9‬ ‭NLT).‬‬ Jesus stayed the course and took the one-way march into Jerusalem; a march unto his bloody, torturous death. God’s suffering servant was ready to take on the weight of the world‬‬

MOMENT OF REFLECTION

In what ways have you closed your heart to Jesus, the Christ? Are you willing to allow the passion of our Lord to soften your heart, once again, and let him in?

PRAYER

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Bring me back into your presence and your loving care. Amen.

Amazing Grace

Read Luke 20:9-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken.’” (Isaiah 28:16 NLT)

AmazingGraceAgain, I want to reevaluate the parable of the vineyard and the wicked tenants. In particular, I would like to have us focus on the wrathful ending to it. In the last devotion, we spent time discussing what the parable reveals to us about God’s plan of redemption. Being that this is the parable Jesus chose to teach just days before he was going to be betrayed and handed over to the Romans for capital punishment, it reveals to us exactly what Jesus thought his mission to be. Yet, as was also discussed, the redemption seems to get lost in translation and overshadowed by God’s wrath.

So, let us look at the rhetoric Jesus is using and try to understand this not as God’s wrath, but of God’s ultimate measure of grace. The reality is that when Jesus asks the question, “what do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do to [those wicked tennants]?”, he is attemption to elicit a certain response. Yet, the religious leaders had come to be trap this pesky Galilean teacher, not to be trapped by him. So, these leaders remain silent rather than answering the question.

Of course, they surely knew what the answer was. They knew that any owner of such a vineyard, who had the right to claim his/her share of the crops, would definitely not sit by after having his servants killed by such wicked tenants. What’s more, the murder of his son would have driven this father (and any parent) over the proverbial edge. Yet, there the religious leaders stood, resolute in their silence.

Thus, Jesus answered for them, “I’ll tell you—he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others” (Luke 20:16a NLT). This response elicited the exact response Jesus knew they would come up with. Instantly, the religious leaders scoffed, “how terrible that such a thing should ever happen.” In other words, these religious leaders were both saying that such a scenario is horrible and, on the same note, a rather far-fetched story that bore no relevance to them.

Yet, it absolutely bore relevance to them. Jesus, knowing their hearts were hardened, quoted scripture, “Then what does this Scripture mean? ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ Everyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on” (Luke 20:17-18 NLT).

First, I want to point out that Jesus’ answer on how the vineyard owner would respond does not exactly match the Scripture that Jesus quotes. The answer itself is the answer that Jesus knew lay in the hearts of the ones he was telling the story to. It is the answer that we as humans would wish that the owner, who’s own son was murdered, would do. Of course, the father is going to seek vengeance and retribution for the death of his son, right? What father wouldn’t?

Jesus then follows that up with something quite different from that answer. Jesus points out to the religious leaders that God had given them the stone upon which to build God’s kingdom. This was the very stone that stood before them: Jesus Christ. Yet these religious leaders, who were builders in the sense that they were supposed to be leading the people in building God’s kingdom, had rejected that stone and, in doing so, had turned away from God. Thus, they would end up stumbling over the stone and falling because of it.

Yet, that was not God’s wrathful vengeance, but their own hardened hearts that led them to trip up instead of build. That was the result of their own unwillingness to see what God was doing through Jesus. Sadly, the religious leaders realized that they were the “wicked tenants” in Jesus’ story and, instead of repenting and turning back to God, they fulfilled their part in the prophetic parable. Instead of reacting as humans would in that situation, God instead showed AMAZING GRACE. This grace is extended toward all humanity, even those who have rejected God. In fact, some of Jesus’ opponents did eventually come to follow Jesus (e.g. Nicodemus, Saul of Tarsus, etc.). Everyone can turn from their sins through faith in Jesus Christ, and become the Kingdom builders they were created to be. This is God’s challenge to us this Lent.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” – John Newton

PRAYER
Lord, you are the corner stone upon which I have been built. Thank you for your amazing grace. Amen.