Reading Through The Bible — Week 66
2/24 Monday: Read Ezekiel 47:1—48:35
· If time is short, focus on 47:1-12
· Aha! With the final chapters, the vision of the temple becomes more clear. Scripture does interpret itself! The water that flows from the temple to become a great river… the trees that are not only ever-bearing, but monthly-bearing… all reveal that all the precise measurements and directions we have been reading are not a prescription as to how things are to be set up when they return from Babylonian captivity, but rather a picture of the glory and perfection of the coming Kingdom of Christ. You will find many similarities with the vision John received of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21.
· Several things grab our attention. The river is impressive, obviously showing the constant, abundant blessings that flow from the altar of God. You and I know something of those blessings and the fruits that they bear in our own lives.
· The city has twelve gates, the number of the church. All God’s people gain entrance.
· But best of all the city is named: “THE LORD IS THERE.” That is the joy of our faith and will be the heart of our joy in eternity.
· And so concludes the prophecy of Ezekiel. We will probably remember him best for his vivid visions of the temple and valley of dry bones and also for those strange messages that he acted out.
2/25 Tuesday: Read Daniel 1:1-21
· If time is short, focus on v.1-7 and 17-21
· Daniel, like Ezekiel was one of the exiles taken to Babylon and writes from that foreign land. But he was from the first wave of exiles and his life was very different. He was of the brightest and best of Israel taken to be trained for a place of leadership. This book is at the same time one of the best known and least known books of the Bible. The first half is the familiar story of the life of Daniel and his friends. The second half are difficult symbolic visions like we just read from Ezekiel and the book of Revelation.
· The plan was obviously to take away the native identity of these bright young youths and make them thoroughly Babylonian. Their names and language were taken. (Wouldn’t it be weird to be in the federal witness protection program and have your whole identity changed?) But it is in this that Daniel and his friends faced their first challenge. Would King Nebuchadnezzar be able to take their God from them by forcing them to eat ceremonial unclean food? By God’s grace and Daniel’s diplomacy they were able to continue the practice of their religion.
There may be many compromises that we may have to take in life… and be willing to take, but let the practice of our faith be on the non-negotiable table.
2/26 Wednesday (Ash Wednesday): Read Daniel 2:1-49
· If time is short, focus on v.1-13 & 44-45
· Nine of Daniel’s twelve chapters have to do with visions God sent. This is the first which reveals to king Nebuchadnezzar that his power was not forever but would be followed by other kingdoms. The statue would then depict the Babylonian rule till 539 B.C. (head of gold) when the Mede/Persian kingdom would come to power (chest and arms of silver). Followed by the great Greek kingdom of Alexander the great in 330 B.C. (belly and thighs of bronze), and then Rome in 63 B.C. (legs of iron & clay).
· But Jesus is also in this vision (as He is in all of Scripture) for there is a rock cut “not by human hands” (not by human effort) who would topple all earthly power and might and would reign forever.
· Pray for our nation today that we would not be filled with self-pride and glory, but would recognize a higher might. As you participate in our Ash Wed. worship today, thank your God that He has received you into His forever-kingdom. (Once again I am reminded of the two flags that stand in front of our church).
2/27 Thursday: Read Daniel 3:1—4:37
· If time is short, focus on 3:1-30
· Did the good king not get it?... Or (although he exalted Daniel) did he purposely reject the vision Daniel’s God had sent?... that he would haughtily construct this immense statue 90 ft. high and demand that all worship it! (Archaeologists have found what they believe to be the base of this statue 40ft. Square and 25 ft. high).
· Would you have been as confident and courageous as Daniel’s three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (3:17,18)? Pray today for those who in our world who face terrible choices for their faith. (And note v.25) Who is always with His people even when they are in a fire so hot that would turn metal bright red???
· Not nearly as familiar as the Bible story we have heard since childhood is the vision of chapter 4. But what a powerful message is the vision of the felled tree! This powerful ego-maniac king is reduced to a wild beast for “seven times” (Seven years? Seven months? A symbolic definite complete time?).
· And how fickle is the human animal. How slow we are to learn the lessons our God would teach us. JUST one year latter he stands on his palace roof gloating... 4:30 (“I”… “my power”… “my majesty”. And God fulfills the vision God had warned him of, and given the interpretation through Daniel.
· Watch out for your human pride! It has been the downfall of many!
2/28 Friday: Read Daniel 5:1-31
· If time is short, focus on v.1-12; 22-31
· The haughty arrogance that Nebuchadnezzar had shown is mimicked by his “son” (successor) King Belshazzar (recent finds have identified him as son and coregent of King Nabonidus) when he uses the sacred cups stolen from the temple in Jerusalem in a party/orgy to worship man-made gods and thus offends the true God “who holds in His hand your life and all your ways”. (v.22,23)
· The hand-writing is on the wall (literally); such sacrilege and arrogance leads to the downfall of Babylon (that very night) and so the next world power is the Mede/Persian empire. (The Greek Historians Herodotus and Xenophon both carefully document this historic overthrow. Darius diverted the Euphrates River enough to slip under the city wall and were able to easily surprise and overthrow the drunken mob).
2/29 Saturday: Read Daniel 6:1-28
· If time is short, focus on v.1-23
· Daniel serves as faithfully under the new administration as the old. In fact he was so faithful that those envious of him concluded “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” (v.5) Wouldn’t you like your neighbors and fellow workers to say that of you? (Daniel’s religious convictions were obvious to all)
· Are there some lessons on prayer that you can learn from chief administrator Daniel?
· God has not promised that He will shut every lion’s mouth; but that doesn’t mean that He can’t!
3/1 Sunday: We leave Daniel for a day to focus on the Word of God for Lent 1. The thought of this Sunday fits well with the theme of our midweek Lenten service: “The Son of God Goes Off to War”.
The Gospel Lesson, Matthew 4:1-11: The Second Adam goes to war to regain all that the first Adam had lost. Empowered by His baptism and led by the Spirit, Jesus defeats the devil for us. The lesson is not a “how-to” guide for Christians to fight temptation. The point, rather, is that Jesus fought as the champion of mankind by walking to the cross in obedience to His Father’s plan. Satan tempted Christ to use the greatest weapons at His disposal—miracle, mystery and authority—to shortcut this mission. He tempted the Son to have a distrustful Sonship, a presumptive Sonship, a disloyal Sonship. Satan would have had his way with us, but not with our champion! Jesus won this and every battle
with the devil, and now one little word can fell him.
The Old Testament Lesson, Genesis 2:7-9, 15-17, 3:1-7: God had placed Adam into a perfect world and called on him to worship the Lord his God and serve Him only. But Adam did not. He worshipped himself and ate the forbidden fruit, and so plunged the world into an age of darkness and death. Before that day, man’s destiny had been life eternal with God in glory, but death came rushing in the vacuum left behind when holiness and peace vanished. Everything changed that day that Adam fell. But God looked down at these children that He created, and like the parent of a wayward child, He loved them in spite of themselves. God loved them and us and wanted us to live again—to live the way he had intended—with life and light and peace. So God made a promise: What you could not do, I will do in your place. Because man could not live perfectly and serve God faithfully, God promised to one day become a man to do it in our place. Thousands of years later God made good on His promise in the womb of the Virgin. He became man with one mission: to right what was wrong, to do what we had left undone. God became man to do what man could not.
The Epistle Lesson, Romans 5:12-19: Paul provides a New Testament commentary on the First Lesson and shows the universal effects of the First Adam’s failure and the Second Adam’s victory. Adam was a son of God in human flesh (Luke 3:38), but Adam failed the tests of his sonship. Through his flesh he passed his failure on to all of his children, condemning us to sin and death. So God sent another Son in human flesh to be the Son that Adam had not been. He obeyed where Adam did not. The obedience of the second Adam had as wide an effect as the disobedience of the first: He gives His victory to us and declares us righteous and brings life for all.