Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ezekiel 14 & 15 - Idolatry and Vines

by Katrina

LINK: Ezekiel 14 and Ezekiel 15



Some men who were supposed to be the leaders of Israel came to Ezekiel to see what he had to say. Clearly, these were not godly men who were true spiritual leaders for Israel. God revealed the idolatry that filled their hearts. He also made it clear that each one would be held responsible for his own personal sin of idolatry. But at the same time, God was giving them the opportunity to repent. If they didn't repent, then they would bear the punishment (their removal) so the house of Israel would no longer be led astray by them.

God went on to describe the four judgments that He would send on Jerusalem: famine, wild beasts in the land, war, and pestilence. And even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in their midst, these righteous men would not be able to prevail upon God to relent.

People might wonder if the people of Jerusalem really deserved such punishment from God. But God said that there would be survivors in the city. They would live through the siege, survive the famine, not be killed by wild beasts, and not die from the diseases that will be rampant in the city. They will see it all first hand then be carried off by the Babylonian army. Yet, they will not repent. They will continue in their sinful ways, and everyone will know that God had good reason to judge them.


Israel was a vine that God had planted and tended. But the vine was not producing fruit and so was worthless. And what good is a vine that doesn't produce any fruit? If it had been a tree, it could be cut down and the wood made into something useful. But a vine can't be made into anything at all. Its only usefulness is to be fuel for a fire. God sent fire (judgment) that charred the vine, making it even less useful (if that were possible). And He will soon send further fire that will consume the vine. "Then you will know that I am the Lord."

Anything that ranks higher than God in my heart is an idol, and I must guard my heart against this form of idolatry. One way to do this is to consciously abide in the true vine - Jesus. (John 15:1-9). If I remember that He is my source of life and ministry, and I draw my strength from Him, then I will bear fruit. If I try to draw my life and strength from any other source, I will dry up and be fruitless, good for nothing except to be thrown in the fire.

Let's examine our hearts today for any hint of idolatry. Do I love anything more than I love God? Money? Career? Clothes? Jewelry? Entertainment? Praise from others? Anything else? Confess it to God and abide in Jesus.

Lord, you know my heart better than I do. I want to abide in you and keep you first in my heart. Show me any areas where I do not have you in first place. Lead me, Lord, that I may draw ever closer to you and be filled with the sap of your true vine. May it ooze out through me, producing fruit for you, in the name of Jesus, amen.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ezekiel 13 - Prophecy against False Prophets

by Katrina

LINK: Ezekiel 13


Verses 1-16

One of the reasons the people didn't believe the prophesies of Ezekiel and Jeremiah was that there were so many other prophets telling a different message. These false prophets spoke of visions and inspirations from God, but God never gave them messages or visions. They made it all up and lied.

True prophecy was a spiritual protection for the people, like a strong wall surrounding a city. True prophecy always came from God and called His people to repentance and a deeper relationship with Him. But these false prophets were building a weak wall that would fall down. Its foundation wasn't sturdy because it was based on lies. They were giving the people false hope based on these lies.

The false prophets covered their weak walls with whitewash to make them appear to be sturdy. They covered up the fact that their words were lies by candy-coating them. They told the people what they wanted to hear -- that there would be peace and that Jerusalem would be protected from harm.

God laid out His judgment for these counterfeit prophets in verse nine. They would be removed from their prominent offices, removed from citizenship, removed from the land (either by death or exile), and not be permitted to return to the land.

Verses 17-23

Not only were their false prophets among the people, but there were also lying sorceresses. They claimed to be prophetesses, but practiced magical arts which were forbidden to the Jews (Deuteronomy 18:9-14). They made "magic charms" for people to purchase and wear on various parts of the body. These would supposedly protect them from evil.

Ezekiel compared them to birds of prey, hunting and killing the weak. These women preyed on the fears of the people and gave them false hope. They encouraged those who were wicked to continue in their wickedness and disheartened the righteous.

Their end would be similar to that of the false prophets. God would strip them of their charms and would not let them return to the land.

This chapter made me think how we need to be careful who we listen to. Sometimes it's just easier to listen to what we want to hear and think everything's okay. It's nice to hear reassuring words. We like to be told that we're doing alright. But sometimes what we need to hear isn't so comfortable. We may need to hear that we're doing something wrong or have a bad attitude about something. And whatever we hear, we need to search the scripture and test the message against it, rather than to jump on a bandwagon because it feels good. We need to make sure that the people we listen to are well-grounded in scripture and not getting carried away with their own ideas.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us your word and your Holy Spirit. Help us to discern which messages we hear are really from the world and which are your word to us. Amen.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Psalms 134 & 135 - Blessings and Hallelu-jahs!

LINK: Psalm 134


This psalm is the last in the “Songs of Ascent” and seems to have been part of the worship service at the temple. The theme of the psalm certainly makes it a fitting close to worship. The psalm centers on those who remained in the temple to care for it (the Levites), bidding them to do it in worship of God. Then the psalm turns and invokes the Creator God’s blessing on those who worship. Perhaps it was spoken from the people to the Levites, a continuation of their previous words or perhaps it was a response from the priests to the people.


My service to God is a form of worship to Him. Am I serving Him – doing those tasks He has given me, some perhaps mundane and boring – with reverence and joy? Do I desire to bless the Lord through them?

How do I do those tasks? What is the quality of my work? Does my work reflect my LORD's work?

Those are the questions I’m asking myself this morning as a result of thinking about this psalm. I hope you’ll ask them yourself, as well.

I love the last verse! No matter how much we want to bless the LORD, He is the one who gives more. He, the Creator of heaven and earth, has infinite resources with which to bless us.

LINK: Psalm 135


Does this psalm remind you of any other scripture passages? It should! It pieces together verses from other places into a patchwork quilt of thoughts that form a cohesive whole. You will find parts of Psalms 134, 116, 95, 115, and 136 in it; as well as verses reminiscent of Deuteronomy 7:6 and 32: 36, Jeremiah 10:13, and Exodus 3:15 . Check it out!

The psalm also begins and ends with Hallelu-jah – praise to Jehovah God!


So let’s look at what’s between the Hallelu-jahs!

There is a list of reasons for praising the LORD:

Praise Him for His goodness in choosing us. We as believers are grafted into the vine of Israel – we are His special treasure.

Praise Him for His power revealed in nature. He is in charge of every bit of this world, from the depths of the seas to the atmosphere that surrounds the earth. “Whatever the LORD pleases He does.”

Praise Him for His power revealed in history. He worked miracles to get His people out of Egypt. He judged those nations who refused to recognize Him, to fear Him.

Praise Him for His unchanging character. He is the same forever. That is something to hang onto in this changing world!

Praise Him for His compassion for His people. He judges us with compassion!

Praise Him for His trustworthiness. He, unlike idols, sees and hears. He isn’t made by man. (Whenever I run across something in God’s word that is impossible to understand, I am comforted, because it is a sign to me that God, who is greater than man, authored it. What man would write something impossible to understand?)

The psalm closes with a repeated invocation for all His people to bless the LORD.

If you fear Him, bless Him!


So do it!

Then make a list of ways you have seen God’s goodness, power, faithfulness, compassion, and trustworthiness exhibited to you in your own life.


Hallelu-jah! We praise you, LORD, for your power and love. Either of those without the other would diminish you. Thank you for giving us hearts to love you and hands to serve you. Help us to reflect your faithfulness and constancy – both to you and to those around us.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ezekiel 6-7 - Destruction of the Land

by Katrina

LINK: Ezekiel 6-7

Yesterday's two chapters focused on the destruction of Jerusalem, and today's two chapters describe the destruction of all the land. God had commanded Ezekiel not to speak unless He gave him something to say, and this is one of those times God gave him a message for the people.

The people had defiled the land with idols and high places. God would send an army (Babylonians) to destroy the high places, altars, and idols. The cities and people would be destroyed as well (chap 6). God will pour out His wrath on the land.  The land and the people will be devastated by sword and famine. Their arrogance, violence, and wickedness will result in disaster upon disaster until complete destruction is accomplished. God will deal with them as they deserve (chap 7).

The final verse of chapter seven reveals God's larger purpose in this judgment. "And they will know that I am the LORD." Although the people would seek help from their priests, their king, and other nations, nothing would thwart God's plan. God would prove Himself to be sovereign.
The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever; The plans of His heart from generation to generation. (Psalm 33:10-11)

Let's meditate on the sovereignty of God today. He is totally in control. We can't always understand what He's doing or why He does something, but He is truly the sovereign Lord over all.

Lord, you have a plan for all of history, and no power on earth or in hell can thwart it. You have control over all of my life, and no one can change that either. Your ways are beyond our comprehension, but you will accomplish them. We worship You, the Most High God!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ezekiel 4-5 - Siege of Jerusalem

by Katrina

LINK: Ezekiel 4-5

God told Ezekiel to act instead of preach and gave him some specific object lessons to use. Ezekiel was not to speak at all. Maybe this was because nobody was listening to God's prophets, so God used a different method to communicate. Ezekiel was to stay in his house most of the time as well. His odd behavior drew people to his house to see what he was up to.

First, Ezekiel was to "act out" the coming siege of Jerusalem using a brick to represent the city and then "playing soldier" against the city. After scaling the wall and attacking it with battering rams, he held up an iron plate between his face and the city to represent how God could not look on His people anymore because of their sin. How heartbreaking this must have been to Ezekiel as well as to any other exiles who "got" the message. There was no doubt that God was communicating to them that Jerusalem would be destroyed.

Ezekiel's second "act" was to lie on his left side bearing the iniquity of the past sins of Israel. He had to do this at some point every day for 390 days. This might represent the approximately 390 years from the beginning of Rehoboam's reign through Zedekiah's reign, because during these years the temple was desecrated by idolatry. Ezekiel also had to lie down on his right side for 40 days. This might represent the 40 years in the wilderness. After lying on both sides, representing the iniquity of the people, Ezekiel "set his face" toward the brick Jerusalem with his arm bared and demonstrated the prophecy against it. His arm would represent the strong arm of God bringing His wrath on the city, and by extension, on the people of Israel. The clear message here was that God had waited very patiently for many years, but He would not hold back His judgment any longer.

The third demonstration took place during the second one. Ezekiel was to have very meager portions of bread and water to eat while he was lying on his side. His daily portion of bread amounted to about eight ounces, and his daily water would be about 21 ounces. This demonstrated the severe famine in Jerusalem during the siege. How sad that this would be the condition in the once beautiful city and in the land "flowing with milk and honey."

In the fourth "act" Ezekiel shaved all the hair from his head and divided it into three equal portions. The first portion was burned on the brick Jerusalem, representing the people who would die in Jerusalem during the siege. The second portion, Ezekiel chopped up with the sword, representing those who would die by the swords of the Babylonian soldiers. And the third portion was scattered in the wind, representing the Jews scattered all over the world among the Gentiles. But before he destroyed all the hair, Ezekiel tucked a few hairs in his robe. These represent the remnant of faithful people whom God would preserve.

God gave the exiles a vivid picture of what was about to happen to Jerusalem. Although they had been hearing such messages for years through the prophets, it must have hit home to be shown a visual demonstration of the destruction and death that would come upon their beloved city and nation. God was longsuffering with His people, but His waiting had come to an end. God is also longsuffering with me. I pray I never push Him to the end of His patience! I have experienced His chastening, and would not like to experience His wrath!

Lord, you cared enough about your people Israel to always have your word speaking to them. And you have given us the Bible today, full of your message to us. Thank you for teaching and leading us through your word and through your Holy Spirit. May I always be attentive to you and learn to obey you and not take your patience for granted. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Psalms 132 & 133 - Promise and Unity

by Becky

LINKS: Psalm 132, Psalm 133

These psalms are also part of “The Songs of Ascent,” sung by the Jewish pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem to worship.



This psalm deals with past, present, and future. The first six verses look backward to David’s hardships in becoming king and his desire and vow to build a temple for the LORD. Then, in verses 7 – 9, the psalmist joyfully speaks of going to that dwelling place to worship – showing us that David’s desire had become reality. Because the poet’s heart is turned to worship, perhaps, and therefore to the consuming passion of David for the temple, he reminds the LORD of his promise to David and asks Him not to forget it. God’s promise was two-fold. The first part was unconditional: one of David’s sons would sit on his throne (11). The second part was conditional. If David’s sons (his descendents) would keep God’s covenant, they would sit on his throne forever (12). Part of this psalm (vv. 8-10) is also stated in 2 Chronicles 6: 41-42 in Solomon’s prayer for Israel at the dedication of the temple. God did keep His unconditional promise in setting David’s son, Solomon, on the throne. But we have seen how many of David’s descendents did NOT keep their covenant with God. That resulted in all that judgment we’re reading in the prophets.

There is a kind of double image, though, concerning the part of God’s covenant that promised an heir of David for the throne. The last section of the psalm(13-18) looks to the future to the coming of the Anointed, the Messiah. We are reminded that once again priests will be “clothed with salvation” and saints will “shout for joy” (16). God will “make a horn to sprout for David.” He has prepared “a lamp for [his] anointed.”

We know that God did keep that covenant! He gave the God-Man Jesus, a direct descendent of King David, and so through the Jewish nation, to bring righteousness and truth – to set up an eternal kingdom without geographical or chronological boundaries.


Think of all the times and circumstances in which this psalm was sung. What was going on in the lives of the various pilgrims who sang it from their hearts? Perhaps they lived during the reign of a king (like Ahab or Manasseh or the wicked queen mother Athaliah) who was not keeping covenant with the LORD and who persecuted God’s followers. Perhaps some sang this while in exile, far away from Jerusalem and God’s temple.
It took faith to sing this from the heart. Look how it focuses on what God has promised! This psalmist knew his history – the story of God’s covenant with David. He knew His God, too. He might not know how or when, but he knew that God would keep His word and that gave him hope!


How well do you know your history? One reason we’re reading through the Bible together is so that we will know it. We have a record in it of God’s promises and His working. We might not always understand the prophecies, especially as they relate to future events, but we do have evidence here of the God who made those prophecies. So that is the best reason to read the Bible. We get to know our God through it. We see over and over again that God keeps His promises. He will fulfill that which He has promised.

Perhaps you are feeling far away from the LORD right now. Perhaps you are doubting Him and feeling like He doesn’t care. Perhaps you are even suffering for Him.

Take heart! God keeps His covenant. He promises His people a future and a hope!



This short psalm speaks of the pleasantness of brothers in Israel living in unity. Two similes picture the goodness of God’s people focused together on pleasing the LORD and living for Him.

The first simile is that of the sweet-smelling ordination oil that was poured on the head of the priest, Aaron, and all the priests that followed him. This oil consecrated them and set them apart to God. The image here is of an abundance of oil, so much that it flowed off of Aaron’s beard and ran from his hair down onto his collar.

The second simile compares the blessing of unity to the refreshing dew of Mount Hermon. That dew was crucial in the dry season. That dew nurtured life on the mountain.

I am reminded here of Jesus’ prayer for His church in John 17, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17: 21-23)

God’s people living in unity doesn’t mean that we agree on everything or that we are alike – how boring would that be! It would be like only having the melody and no harmony in a song. What it does mean is that we agree on our purpose – to live for the LORD Jesus – to be His to use, to love Him. If we do that we will love each other!

And it IS a wonderful thing to see God’s people living for Him, with love, and not for their own glory and recognition. That unity DOES revitalize us and renew us and it oozes from the church, like the oil on Aaron’s head – a sweet smelling savor to the world around us.

I have had the privilege of knowing many internationals here for graduate school, many of whom have come to trust in the LORD Jesus as the way, truth, and life. When I’ve asked them what drew them to the LORD, without exception they have replied that it was the love God’s people exhibited for each other that drew them.
So this psalm is a chance for us to evaluate ourselves. Who am I living for? Who is my focus? Is it me (my recognition, my fulfillment, my pleasure, my ­­­­­­______ )? Or am I yielded to the LORD, dedicated to Him and His purposes? Am I helping God’s people live in unity or am I causing friction by my focus on something other than my Lord? Am I loving God’s people because I love Him?


Dear LORD, Thank you that you kept covenant with David and that Jesus came as the Anointed One to rule over a kingdom that will never end. We love because you first loved us. Help me to live for you and so to live in love and unity.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Daniel 9 - Prophecy of 70 Sevens

by Katrina

LINK: Daniel 9


Daniel was reading Jeremiah and found it clearly stated by God that the captivity was to last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12). Since this was the first year of Darius, it was 538 B.C., 67 years after Daniel had been taken captive in the first group of deportees from Palestine to Babylon. He knew the captivity would soon end. But at the same time, he knew from his vision in chapter 8 (13 years previously) that there would be many more years of chastening from God. Daniel couldn't understand how both prophecies could be true at the same time. They both came from God, yet they seemed to contradict each other. One said the captivity would last only 70 years, and the other said that there would be many more years of judgment to come.

So Daniel turned to God in prayer. He confessed the sins of Israel, not separating himself from those sins. He acknowledged that they deserved God's punishment and begged God to turn His wrath away and restore His people for His own sake. What a passionate prayer! Daniel wanted God to go with the 70 year chastisement and restore his people to their homeland.

God responded by sending Gabriel with another prophecy. This Gabriel is the same angel who interpreted the vision of the ram and the goat (chap 8) and who will one day tell Mary that she will conceive and bear the Son of the Most High (Luke 2:26-38).

The prophecy is found in verses 24-27. The term "week" refers to a period of seven years. God decreed 70 sevens, which would mean 490 years. At the end of this time, Israel will have completed its transgression, ended its sin, made atonement, and have everlasting righteousness. Then all the prophecy concerning Israel's chastisement will be completed and can be "sealed up," and the temple will be anointed for God's service.

But the time is broken down into two periods -- 7 and 62 weeks (69 weeks altogether), and the final (70th) week. During the first time period Jerusalem would be restored and the Messiah would be on the earth. The rebuilding of Jerusalem would occur in the first seven sevens (49 years), and the Messiah (scarlet thread of redemption!) would be on the earth before the end of the 62 sevens (so before the end of a total 483 years).

Artaxerxes' second decree sending Jews back to Israel, allowed them to build the city and walls under the direction of Nehemiah. This decree was issued in the spring of 445 B.C., and within 49 years the city was rebuilt.

Using the lunar calendar of the day, the 483 years (69 weeks) brings us to spring A.D. 32. The 69 weeks are concluded, probably with triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

Verse 26 has specific events that seem to occur between the 69th week and the 70th week. This is when the Messiah would be "cut off" and the people of the prince would destroy the city and temple again. (This news must have greatly disappointed Daniel!) Messiah being cut off would refer to His crucifixion, and we know from history that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.

The final (70th) week will commence with a treaty between this prince who is to come (we call him Antichrist) and the people of Israel. The treaty would be for seven years but would be broken by the prince halfway through. He will completely desecrate the temple. Many theologians call this seven-year period the "Great Tribulation" and believe it is synonymous with the time Jesus referred to in Matthew 24. By this view, Jesus will return to earth following the seven years of tribulation.

So, both prophecies were true at the same time. The Babylonian captivity would last 70 years and Jerusalem would be restored. But there would continue to be a cycle of destruction and rebuilding until the end when the final desolation would take place under Antichrist.

There is a clear, more detailed explanation in this book if you are interested in further reading. We will also discuss all these prophecies again when we get to Revelation.

I don't know about you, but all this thinking has made my brain tired! I can only imagine how much more distressed Daniel would have been, since he never had the hindsight of history to understand how the prophecies would be fulfilled!

Lord, once again you prove yourself to be the all-knowing God who controls all of history. Thank you for sending Messiah to make atonement for the sins of Israel. And thank you for extending that atonement to Gentiles as well. You are truly a loving God, desiring that all should be restored to you. And thank you for providing that salvation to me! Amen.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Daniel 8 - Daniel's Vision of the Ram & Goat

by Katrina

LINK: Daniel 8

Here Daniel returns to writing in Hebrew (remember he switched to Aramaic in chapter two), which indicates that this and the following chapters will pertain primarily to Israel rather than to the Gentiles. He dates this vision as the third year of Belshazzar's reign over Babylon - probably 551 B.C. - and makes it clear that it came after the vision in chapter seven.

The ram in this vision represents Medo-Persia. The two horns represent Media and Persia. The first horn was Media, a powerful kingdom, and the second horn was Persia, which became powerful later and then dominated Media. This ram butted toward the west, north, and south. Likewise, Medo-Persia conquered nations primarily in those directions - Babylon, Syria, and Asia Minor to the west; Armenia and the area around the Caspian Sea to the north; and Egypt and Ethiopia to the south. The Medo-Persian army overwhelmed one kingdom after another until it became the largest empire up to that point in history.

The male goat coming from the west represented Greece, which was west of Medo-Persia. It ran so swiftly across the earth that its feet didn't touch the ground. This is Alexander the Great who conquered the ancient world with tremendous speed.

The goat had a great horn between its eyes, which represented the first great king of Greece, also Alexander the Great. The fact that it was between the eyes may represent his unusual intelligence. Alexander attacked the Medo-Persian Empire with great fury and trampled it.

After it became powerful, the goat's horn was broken, and four other horns rose up. Alexander the Great died at the young age of 32 in 323 B.C. Four of his generals divided the kingdom among themselves. (1) Ptolemy - Egypt, Cyreme, Cyprus, Palestine, and several cities along the coast of Asia Minor. (2) Seleucus - Syria, Babylonia, southern Asia Minor, and the Iranian Plateau. (3) Lysimachus - Thrace and western Asia Minor. (4) Cassander - Macedonia and Greece proper.

A fifth horn then emerged out of one of the four horns. It was little at first, then grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. The "Beautiful Land" refers to Israel. This horn represents a significant king who would come to power in one of the four divisions of the Grecian Empire. He would rise to power through intrigue. This king would be Antiochus IV (Epiphanes). Antiochus was not a rightful heir to the throne. He used bribery and flattery to become king. Once he was king, he was very heavy-handed and tried to force new religious practices on the Jews and forbid the keeping of the Law. He threw down and trampled some of the stars. This represents persecution and killing of Jews. We know from history that Antiochus Epiphanes was very cruel to the Jews and desecrated the temple. In the vision, Daniel learned that this would last 2300 days. That is less than 6.5 years. Antiochus persecuted the Jews and desecrated the Temple from 171 to 165 B.C.

According to Gabriel, the little horn would stand against the Prince of princes. Antiochus did stand against God when he plundered and defiled the Temple and had the Temple rededicated to the worship of Zeus. He also replaced the Jewish sacrifices with the sacrifice of pigs. He even had coins minted with the inscription "Antiochus Theos Epiphanes" which means "Antiochus God Made Manifest." He certainly considered himself superior (vs. 25).

Gabriel indicated that this man would be destroyed, but not by human power. So no human would put him to death. There are a few different accounts of his death - he died of great grief when his military began to be defeated, or he died of epilepsy, madness, or disease. Although we don't have a definite account of his death, none of these involved human agency. God judged him Himself.

Gabriel instructed Daniel to seal up the vision (NASB says to keep it secret). This wasn't a command to hide it but to shut it up, or preserve, it. He was to record the vision in written form so it could be preserved for future generations. This was because it dealt with future events. Antiochus's abuse of Israel didn't begin until 380 years after Daniel received this vision.

Daniel was distressed by how long God was planning to continue to chasten Israel and the severity of the events in Israel and the Temple. He was so wiped out emotionally that he fainted and was ill for several days. And although Gabriel had interpreted the vision for him, he still didn't fully understand its implications and continued to ponder the vision.

Lord, you hold the hearts of kings in your hand and make them do whatever you will. You are sovereign over the nations. You know all that you have planned throughout history and will bring it all about. You certainly are the Most High God, all-powerful and ruler over all. We praise you!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Psalms 129-131 - “But...” Can Be a Wonderful Word!

by Becky

LINKS: Psalm 129, Psalm 130, Psalm 131

We continue "The Songs of Ascent."

Psalm 129 speaks of affliction. As I’ve meditated on the psalm, it seems to me that this psalm can be understood on two levels – we can understand it personally and we can understand it as God’s people. God’s people were afflicted. God’s people suffered over and over again. Some of the Jews were faithless, but there was always a remnant who continued to follow God. They had been afflicted by others since their youth (in Egypt) and the oppression occurred over and over again. Look at the images there: “Plowmen have plowed my back and made their furrows long.” Plows run over and over again in the ground. There is a sense of deep and continual affliction.

BUT! Don’t you love the way that word is used here? The whole psalm turns on verse 4. “But the LORD is righteous!” Being freed from the bonds of the wicked is tied directly to the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God. It’s not tied to His love or His mercy, but His righteousness. “He has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.” God is the one who rescued and freed His people.

Remember, these songs were sung on the way to JerusalemZion – where they could come to God’s presence. The rest of the psalm is a request that those who hate Zion – those who don’t long for God’s reign and presence will be turned back in shame. The figurative language of this song asks that those who don’t love God and His righteousness be like grass on the roof. It withers before it can grow and therefore can’t be reaped and used.
Psalm 130 deserves far more time and space than I can give it today. It is a meditation on God’s mercy and forgiveness and redemption. It also speaks of waiting.
Look at these verses:

“If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
BUT with you there is forgiveness,
therefore you are feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

This psalm jars us by telling us that it is because God forgives that we fear him. I would put that differently and say that fear comes from experiencing punishment and justice. So it makes me stop to think. When we know that what we deserve is punishment, when we truly understand our sin, and what we deserve, and then when we experience the fullness of the LORD’s forgiveness, we do want to give him pleasure, we do fear disappointing him. Notice that “but” here.
Spurgeon put it this way in Treasury of David: “None fear the Lord like those who have experienced his forgiving love. Gratitude for pardon produces far more fear and reverence of God than all the dread which is inspired by punishment. If the Lord were to execute justice upon all, there would be none left to fear him; if all were under apprehension of his deserved wrath, despair would harden them against fearing him: it is grace which leads the way to a holy regard of God, and a fear of grieving him.”

This psalm is the heart cry of someone who has known forgiveness of his sin and sees the sin all around him. He is waiting and longing for the LORD’s redemption of His people – just as the night watchmen longs for the morning. Of course, we know that God provided fully for his people’s redemption from sin; he loved us so much that he came in the flesh to redeem us! Jesus is our redeemer!

Psalm 131, though brief, packs an emotional wallop. Almost a year ago, my husband was in an accident and was severely injured. His pelvis was crushed, both femurs were broken, his left leg was mangled and half of his left foot had to be amputated. He spent over a month in the hospital. I would read to him from the Bible and this is one psalm that I happened to read toward the end of his hospitalization when we were both asking God some of those hard questions. I remember reading this through once and then rereading it, sobbing as I read. I looked up and saw tears streaming down Jerry’s face, too.
At that point Jerry was still in pain; he was dependent on everyone. We didn’t know how fully he’d recover. We didn’t know what the future held. Life had suddenly come crashing in on us. We knew we were not in control and even the questions seemed pointless. All we could do was rest in God’s arms and trust.

We want the answers. We want to understand why and how and what and when. We want to be in control (that’s the proud and haughty in this psalm). BUT… (There’s that “but” again!)…

This psalm is from someone who has come to the end of himself. He knows he doesn’t understand. Look what he compares himself to:

“I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

What a picture of trust! Think about a little child, one who has been cuddled and fed by his mother, and who rests in his mother’s arms. That little one isn’t worried about what is going to happen next, or wondering where the food comes from or exactly how it got it or if there’s going to be food again in the future. That child simply rests in the arms of his mother in peace and trust.
That is what we are to cultivate in ourselves. (Notice that the psalmist says “I have stilled and quieted my soul.” It took some realization and effort on his part.) We are to rest in God’s arms, just like a baby rests in his mother’s arms after being nursed. That is humility. That is trust.

What are you experiencing in life right now? Which “BUT” do you need to remember?

Do you need God’s righteousness to free you from the cords of the wicked?

Do you need God’s forgiveness?
Do you need to still and quiet your soul and rest in the arms of your loving, caring LORD?

I hope you’ll take some time today to truly meditate on at least one of these psalms.


I need you, LORD. Thank you for the reminder today that you freed me through your righteousness, that you hear my cry for mercy and keep no record of my sin, and that you care for me as a mother cares for her baby. Help me to cultivate trust and obedience in response to your righteousness, mercy, and care. I want to be like that weaned child, Lord.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Daniel 3 - Fiery Furnace

by Katrina

LINK: Daniel 3

During the events of this chapter, Daniel was apparently away on government business. Nebuchadnezzar, likely inspired by his dream, had a huge statue made of gold and erected on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. This is the province where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were administrators under Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar required everyone to worship the image he had made. . . . but you can read the story . . .

When threatened with death for refusal to bow down to the image, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego didn't budge. I love their confident answer to the king:
O Nebuchadnezzer, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
They expressed confidence in God's ability to rescue them, yet did not require that God rescue them from the furnace. They made it clear that they would worship God alone and never bow down to any other god or idol. They would remain true to their God even if it cost them their lives.

God chose to rescue these young men in such a miraculous way that Nebuchadnezzar was thoroughly impressed with the power of their God. God had a bigger plan than simply rescuing these Jewish men. He was working in Nebuchadnezzar's life as well. Twice now, the king has seen something miraculous - the telling and interpretation of his dream by Daniel, and the deliverance of Daniel's friends from burning in the furnace. Stay tuned to see what happens next!

Lord, help us to be confident in our faith in you. May we increase in our knowledge and understanding of who you really are and thereby trust in you more. May our relationship with you deepen to the innermost parts of our being and ooze out of our lives. May our lives be a reflection of who you are that others will see and believe. Amen.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Daniel 1 & 2 - Godly Captives

by Katrina

LINK: Daniel 1 and Daniel 2


Historical Context
In the year 605 B.C., Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, sent his son Nebuchadnezzar to fight the Egyptian army at Carchemish. Nebuchadnezzar completely defeated the Egyptians, giving Babylon control over a large area including Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and captured King Jehoiakim. While he was there, he received word of his father's death and returned to Babylon to claim the throne. Jehoiakim was bound and carried off to Babylon, and this is also when Daniel and his friends were deported to Babylon. Thus we begin the book of Daniel.

Comments on Chapter 1
Nebuchadnezzar brought with him, not only captives from Jerusalem, but also whatever valuables he could find. Mostly, those were articles from the temple. By taking those articles and placing them in the temple of his god, Nebuchadnezzar was making the statement that his god was greater than Judah's. This little detail will be significant a few chapters into the story, so tuck it in the back of your mind.

Once he was king, Nebuchadnezzar had his officials select the cream of the captives to train for service. Daniel and his three friends were among those chosen. The first step of indoctrinating these young men (probably all teenagers) into Babylonian culture was to change their names. Their names all reflected Jehovah God and would be changed to names that honored Babylonian gods instead.

  • Daniel - God is judge ==> Belteshazzar - may Bel (a major Babylonian god) protect his life
  • Hananiah - Yahweh is gracious ==> Shadrach -  command of Aku (moon god)
  • Mishael - who is what God is? ==> Meshach - who is what Aku is?
  • Azariah - whom Yahweh helps ==> Abed-nego - servant of Nebo (another Babylonian god)
Next, these young men were given the best food and assigned a regiment of education for the next three years. Daniel and the other three clearly belonged to that "remnant" of faithful ones that God had told Jeremiah about. These guys knew the Law and were determined to obey God rather than man . . . even if that man was the most powerful man in the world!

What was Daniel's problem with the food? The problem was with the meat. The animals would not have been slain according to the method prescribed in the Law, and the mean was offered to idols before being brought to the king's table. This was the choice meat, but as far as these young Jews were concerned, it was defiled meat.

God blessed these young men for their determination to honor Him among the pagans in a foreign land. He gave them the ability to learn and then elevated them to high positions in the service of the king.

Comments on Chapter 2
Beginning in the middle of verse four, Daniel switches from Hebrew to Aramaic. The book continues in Aramaic through the end of chapter seven, when it switches back to Hebrew for the rest of the book. Aramaic was a common diplomatic and trade language of that day. By writing in Aramaic, this section could be understood by Gentiles as well as Jews. Here was a message God wanted to communicate to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews.

Here's an artist's idea of Nebuchadnezzar's vision.

The statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream was prophetic of world events to come. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire was at their height of power. Babylon ruled most of the known world. An inferior empire would follow, represented by the chest and arms of silver. This was fulfilled with the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. Next was the belly and thighs of bronze. This would be the kingdom of Greece. The fourth and final kingdom was the legs and feet of iron, representing the Roman Empire. The mixture of clay with iron in the feet and toes is the division and crumbling of the Roman Empire. The Roman military would be strong like iron, but the empire would also be brittle like clay. Just as clay and iron don't adhere to one another, Rome would be characterized by division. Within the empire there would be various groups of people that would not adhere together.

The stone that struck the statute represented a fifth kingdom that would be different in nature (cut out of the mountain). This is the kingdom of God established by Jesus. I believe it refers to the future when Jesus will destroy the Gentile kingdoms and establish His millennial kingdom on earth.

Daniel is one of my favorite people in scripture. He was so strong in his faith and committed to the Lord, and he was also humble. He did not succumb to the tremendous pressure to conform and eat what was put in front of him. He was diplomatic in his approach to the official about not eating the food. He made it very clear that it was God who revealed Nebuchadnezzar's dream to him as well as its interpretation. He did not take any credit for himself but gave all the credit to God. And when he was promoted to a position of significant power, he remembered his friends and asked for positions for them as well. This is the kind of character I aspire to have. Whenever I read the stories of Daniel and his companions, I am reminded to keep pressing on.

Lord, give me confidence in You to make me strong in the face of opposition and bold in obedience to You. Let me not succumb to the pressure to conform to the world. Amen.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Psalms 126 - 128 Songs of Trust

by Becky

LINK: Psalm 126, Psalm 127, Psalm 128


We continue with the “Songs of Ascent.”


Psalm 126 recalls a time when God restored the Jews to Jerusalem, probably when they returned with Ezra or Nehemiah. The psalmist recalls the joy and gladness they felt. It was like living a dream! Remembering that, he now asks that they again be returned from captivity. He longs for his people to return to God and he comforts himself with the realization that often godly sorrow leads to joy. He is sowing in tearful prayer and expects to rejoice in the sheaves that are reaped.

I am glad for that reminder. “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” I notice, too, that over and over again, the psalms refer to what God has done in the past. Seeing His hand in the past helps me to have faith now and hope for the future.

What joys has God given you in the past; what has He freed you from? Are you praying for someone now, with tears? Remember the past and wait in expectation for God’s future harvest which will bring joy!

Psalm 127 focuses on what God does and what we do.

I work diligently. I take care of my family and my home. I try to be a good mother. I try to be a good citizen. My husband and I try to be wise in our use of money.

The results are in God’s hands. Sometimes He gives me results that I would choose. Sometimes He doesn’t.

When we think the results are in our own hands we are saying that we are the ones in charge, in control. This is pride. If I think that I’m the one who determines the results, then I will experience anxiety and sorrow.

Do you want to sleep well? Do you want freedom from anxiety? Do your best and trust God for the results. Rest in Him, no matter what He brings.

Psalm 128 is a blessing, a prayer of hope for those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways. I can imagine it being sung around the campfire or by candlelight, like the family in Fiddler on the Roof’s “Sabbath Prayer.”


LORD, it all comes down to trusting you. Help me to trust you with the lives and hearts of those that I pray for with tears. Help me to do my imperfect best, trusting you no matter what you decide. I have seen how you have turned sorrow to joy in the past. I am trusting you for a harvest of joy in the future!