“…for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.” Psalm 138:2 (NLT)
DAY ONE – Nahum 1-3
Isaiah gave us a full accounting of Assyria’s siege against Jerusalem. After what God did to the Assyrians, ending their rampage against the Lord’s people, Nahum also takes up this ‘burden’ against Nineveh (Assyria), having been a contemporary of Isaiah. In clear, cryptic language, in no uncertain terms, the prophet accurately predicts what will happen to the Assyrians in the future. Remember, ‘future’ exists in our reality, not God’s! Divine justice requires all nations and people to give account to God for the way we have treated others. The Assyrians were merciless in war, tearing and ravaging as they conquered nations. Now when Yahweh God turns against them, they will be ravaged without mercy. As they did, so it will be done to them. These messages bring comfort and encouragement to the people of Judah, because they remember what Assyria did to the ten northern tribes (Israel). Will that happen to Jerusalem as well? No, says Nahum; no, says Isaiah. God will keep them from destruction for this time. God controls the destiny of nations, which obviously causes us to wonder what will yet happen in our immediate future. Where are we in time? We see what the Lord did in history, but what about as we go forward from here? Let’s take a leap and read some of Jesus’ words, spoken over 700 years after these prophets spoke for God.
Matthew 24:1-14 – Jesus went out from the temple, and was going on his way. His disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “Don’t you see all of these things? Most assuredly I tell you, there will not be left here one stone on another, that will not be thrown down.” 3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Be careful that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will lead many astray. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you aren’t troubled, for all this must happen, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be famines, plagues, and earthquakes in various places. 8 But all these things are the beginning of birth pains. 9 Then they will deliver you up to oppression, and will kill you. You will be hated by all of the nations for my name’s sake. 10 Then many will stumble, and will deliver up one another, and will hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise, and will lead many astray. 12 Because iniquity will be multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end, the same will be saved. 14 This Good News of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. This was given to the Jews (Israel), but it is for ALL OF US. Let us take heart and serve God well.
DAY TWO – Zephaniah 1-3
We are still in the period of the kings of Judah and Israel; however, Israel had already fallen to the Assyrian king and had been deported and scattered in Assyria. The young king Josiah of Judah was beginning a purge throughout the land, of every remnant of Baal worship, leading the people back to Yahweh their God. Imagine two classes of priests holding services in the land: 1) the descendants of Aaron established under Moses, robed and directed according to the pure religion of Yahweh; and 2) the Chenarims, a class of black-robed, ascetic priests leading the dark worship of Baal wherever they could get a following of the people. Zephaniah stepped into the milieu and sounded the strong words of God, announcing the overthrow of all that was dark and rebellious toward the Lord. So the prophet helped the king. The prophet spoke only for God. If we jump ahead momentarily to the words of the Lord Jesus given in the seven letters to the seven churches as reported in Revelation 2 and 3, each letter ends with this challenge: “Let everyone who has an ear hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” Is God still speaking? Do we receive the words of our ministers as coming from the Lord? Do we recognize prophetic voices issuing a clarion call to our generations? Is. God. Still. Speaking? We must answer that question. If He is, then are we listening? If we are listening, what are we hearing Him say? If we acknowledge that He is speaking, and we affirm that we are listening, what is the message we are receiving? Yes I am being repetitive. Yes there is redundancy in the Gospel. The Good News MUST BE SPOKEN again and again in every kind of setting and in every relevant way. But it must also BE HEARD and then RESPONDED TO by every person wishing to know the Lord. If we fail of the word of God; and if we fail of discerning His voice; and if we fail to respond to His loving and clarion calls, THEN WE HAVE FAILED! Hope for our generations lies in THE LORD HIMSELF! He doesn’t need us in order to be God; but we need Him to find our identity, our hope and our future. Thank God for our prophets willing to risk everything for God’s message. Are we willing to risk everything to hear… and follow? Forsake the gods of this world and run from all that is false! PRAY TO GOD for our families and friends, and for God’s people. PRAY that we will stand, that we will hear, that we will follow Christ Jesus decisively in this world. PRAY that God’s bold message will penetrate the confusion and black arts of our culture. PRAY for His kingdom to come with power, authority and salvation. The worship of praise and thanksgiving to God ends with PRAYERS for His will to be done on earth.
DAY THREE – 2 Kings 22-23, 2 Chronicles 34-35
He becomes king of Judah at age eight. When he is sixteen he begins to seek Yahweh God of Israel. Four years later he commences a purge of the land by chopping down and/or pulverizing all the altars, poles, images and whatever other symbols were used to sacrifice to and worship the false demon gods of the people. King Josiah has inherited the spiritual DNA of his distant grandfather King David. Of him the testimony is that he served Yahweh God like no other king before or after him. And while all this was going on, a book was found in the temple during a time of repair and cleaning. It was identified as the Book of the Law, given by God to Moses. It was brought to Josiah and read in his presence. And when he heard THE WORDS OF THE LAW OF GOD, he immediately tore his clothes and began a period of humbling before God. The fear of the Lord seized him, so he sent his chiefs to inquire of God in his behalf. THIS, dear friends, is a description of revival. It lasted only during Josiah’s short life. His sons after him did evil in God’s sight. The wrath and calamity determined during Manasseh’s evil reign was about to explode on Judah and Jerusalem. History maintains a clear record of those nations that have either preserved or desecrated God’s testimony among the people. Desecration is always followed by violence which ends in destruction.
Fortunately, from somewhere in the shadows of history God’s Word always emerges, and periods of revival of religion follow. The United States was, in a sense, born in a revival of religion, as faithful worshippers looked for a place to serve God in peace without harassment from their own governments. The history of this land is replete with revivals, both regional and national. But godless and secular forces impelled by men whose pride is lifted against God eventually quash and quell the fires of revival until the hearts of the people are once again complacent toward the Lord and his eternal kingdom. And somewhere along the way, blatant evil pervades and permeates the social edifice until it is compromised and ineffective. This desecration is always followed by violence which ends in destruction. Reading through the Bible reveals the PATTERN of the world system. Religious revivals do occur; and they persist for a season before succumbing to the pull of the cosmos away from God. Good and righteous people do seek and serve God, hoping their children will do so as well. And although the future is held in God’s loving and saving hands, THE EVIL that has manifested in every generation will, eventually, bring FINAL wrath and judgment upon the world system, from which there will be no recovery. “BUT SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS…”
DAY FOUR – Habakkuk 1-3
We have all, at one time or another, had a conversation with our child in which we attempted to explain why we took a particular course of action or maintained a particular opinion; only to discover that the child did not have enough life experience to understand the explanation we are trying to give. In a sense, Habakkuk’s conversation with Yahweh God is like that. His opening question is “How long, O Lord?” In other words, God, you gave me a vision of an invading army that is so destructive I can’t wrap my wits around it. How can you do this? Why would you do this? Yes, I know Judah has become rotten and violent to the core, but the Babylonians, the people you intend to use for correction, are worse! What’s up? Why would you help the Babylonians? And God replies, Yes, this is what I am going to do; and it will be worse than you think. But in the process the Babylonians will go a step too far and think their own gods have given this success, when I actually helped them for my purposes. And then the tables will be turned on them! It’s like this, Habakkuk: People who live by violence and greed perish in the violence and greed. Whether it’s a man or a nation, turning a greedy look outward to swallow others, invites the Lord to return the evil upon their own head. Yes, Judah will be punished and corrected; but when it is over, the Babylonians’ fate will be worse yet. So God maintains His Sovereignty over men and nations, working His own plans to save the world… in His own time and way.
How should we respond? Habakkuk decided to stop talking and stand there… and wait. And when the conversation had reached an end, he prayed–not just any prayer mind you. It is one of the most heartfelt and powerful prayers of consecration ever uttered. Why? Because the prophet admits that the matter is over his head; there are some parts he won’t understand. Will he go on complaining, asking, badgering the Lord for further explanations? No. No, he has decided he will TRUST GOD to handle God’s business! And then he gives us this: “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NLT)
DAY FIVE – Joel 1-3
Picture a swarm of locusts that rises like a cloud on the horizon, covering both heaven and earth as it comes. The sky is darkened, the sun covered, by the thickness of the swarm advancing over the land. Locusts, zillions of them! Flying, swarming, crawling, covering, moving forward until they have swallowed up every green thing in front of them–they continue to come, no end in sight. After devouring the fields, the trees and plants, they invade the cities, swarming on the walls, creeping through the windows, entering houses until their fearful presence has everyone–men, women, children–paralyzed and poverty-stricken. Priests wail for the Lord’s house; everyone else cries out and mourns over their deep loss. There is nothing left behind the locust armies. This is the video Joel has seen and described. Yahweh God has led his army into Judah and Jerusalem to once again call the nation to attention, to divert them from their idolatrous and violent ways, to get them to return to their true religion and worship. When nature itself is destroyed by the violence and corruption of humankind, shouldn’t that be understood as a call to return to God? Shouldn’t we be alerted by the sheer numbers of tornadoes, earthquakes, massive fires, floods, droughts and other physical phenomena that occur annually across our land these days? Isn’t there a correlation to the violence and corruption that have pervaded and permeated every level of our social structures? And shouldn’t the high incidence of people leaving behind their faith in God and adopting the secular ideas of popular culture be a warning sign to us all?
Thankfully God tempers justice and judgment with mercy, else we would have ceased long ago. And thankfully the Lord’s vision is filled with thoughts of restoration, to bring to a conclusion that which is destroying His creation so that Jerusalem and Israel may finally realize God’s redemptive purposes, and so that all of humankind may rejoice in His plans to save the world. Our Creator sees far beyond the evil that stalks in the shadows of humanity, threatening the order and peace He intended us to have. And He has declared a time of regathering, rebuilding and restoring all to its original meaning and purpose. He has sent His Holy Spirit to administrate everything pertaining to His heaven-sent Kingdom on earth. And He WILL FINISH all He has started. It’s time for us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength… to WORK with Him and to BELIEVE His Word.