Thought for December 31st

Todays readings.. Job 41&42, Malachi 3&4, Revelation 21&22

“BUT NOW MY EYE SEES YOU”

An abundance of challenging and inspiring thoughts occur in our minds as we complete our readings for the year.   In Revelation we read, “Behold, I am making all things new.” [21 v.5] and as part of this wonderful future is the promise, “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” [v.7]   Son?  Those in the kingdom we will be “equal to angels”  [Luke 20 v.36] and the ultimate purpose of God will occur when, literally, “there is no male and female, for … all (will be) one in Christ Jesus.” [Gal. 3 v.28]

Back in Revelation we are told the fate of those who fail to qualify!  They will experience “the second death.” May this NOT apply to any who are reading this!  We read, “as for the cowardly, the faithless … the sexually immoral … and all liars, their portion will be … the second death” [[ch. 21 v.8]   All of  these will be among those raised to life, but they will those who have failed to live a Christ-like life.

Paul warned about this in writing to Timothy, “the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith … through the insincerity of liars…”  [1 Tim 4 v.1,2]  All those who believe “the truth” must speak the truth at all times, see Ephes. 4 v.25.

What a heritage awaits “the one who conquers’ – and the foundation for doing this is laid now is living a life which “conquers” the flesh, and one vital part in this is to “speak (and write) the truth” at all times.

We completed reading Job today – and “the truth” was his aim in life and Job is comforted at last with seeing the reality of God – and how utterly humbling this is! He says, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself …” [42 v.5,6] 

Job is blessed because he had spoken of God “what is right” [v.7]   One day – how soon (?) – we will say to our Lord ”now my eye sees you”!  Can we ‘picture’ our feelings!?   Difficult – no,  impossible! 

We recall Isaiah’s reaction [6 v.5] to seeing “the Lord sitting upon a throne … (and Isaiah) “said Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King”   Can we imagine Isaiah’s feelings?  And ours – when we have this experience!  How soon now? 

Thought for December 30th

Todays readings..  Job 40, Malachi 2, Revelation 19&20

“FOR THE FINE LINEN IS … “

    Although the book of Revelation contains much symbolic language we can build up a framework of understanding from the definitions it provides.  We have now reached the climax and see the vindication of those who faithfully serve him in spite of all the opposition and challenges to faith they have variously encountered in the spiritual battles in their lives.. 

    We now read of the appearing of the Lamb of God, our Saviour and Lord.  His dramatic return to earth is described in several parts of the New Testament.  What follows this!?  What fear many experience, but what rejoicing is experienced by the faithful remnant. 

John tells us how he hears “what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’ – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”  [19 v.6-8]

    Paul had told believers that they were espoused to Christ to become his bride (Romans 7 v.4; 2 Cor. 11 v.2).  John, in his Gospel tells us that John the Baptist, when he met Jesus, said he “rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice” [John 3 v.29].  

The bride is made up of all the truly committed believers and, as Jesus said in a parable (Matt. 25 v.6), they are those with their lamps (and garments) ready who go out to meet their returning bridegroom. Look up and meditate on Isaiah 61 v.10.

    Revelation ch. 19 proceeds to describe the other role of Christ at his return; “in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire … from his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations and he will rule them with a rod of iron.  He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God …” [v.11,12,15]

    Chapter 20 describes how the bride “will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” [v.6].  The end of this chapter makes the sobering statement that “if anyone’s name is not found written in the book of life, he was thrown in the lake of fire” and that “this is the second death” – so we are left in no doubt as to what that lake symbolises.  

Verse 20 of Ch. 19 told us that all the evil powers and those who had “received the mark of the beast” were also thrown in the lake of fire.  In contrast, those “who have not soiled their garments” – they have “fine linen.”  Because of this Jesus says I “will never blot his name out of the book of life.” [Ch.3 v.4,6]  Let us keep our “linenfine, because we are faithful members of “his Bride (who) has made herself ready” [ch. 19 v.7]

Thought for December 29th

Todays readings… Job 39, Malachi 1, Revelation 17&18

“WHAT A WEARINESS THIS IS” 

Malachi is the last prophet God sent to his people Israel before John the Baptist and Christ came on the scene. After Malachi there is silence in Israel, no inspired man from God appears.  Of course the records of the messages of the prophets are available; indeed they are carefully preserved as we can see from the discovery of so many scrolls in the caves by the Dead Sea in 1947-50.

    So was there anything significant in the message God sent through the last prophet?  The first half of his short book is a lament by God that the people only give in sacrifice to him what we might call the ‘leftovers.’    

The prophet’s message is, “You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD.  Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished.” [Ch.1 v.13,14]

    Have these words any application today for those who say they believe and serve God?  They certainly have! While there is no temple for us to bring our offerings, there is a spiritual temple.  Paul wrote, “We are the temple of the living God; as God said, I will make my dwelling among them …” [2 Corinthians 6 v.16].  Paul made the same point to the believers at Ephesus saying that, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” [Ch. 2 v. 22]

    Gatherings of believers must sense the wonder of this happening, the wonder of God’s involvement in their lives.  But do many only give to God the leftovers of their time, especially today? 

Do some feel, as we read in Malachi, “What a weariness this is” [v.13] when they feel obliged to find some time to use in a spiritual way.  Malachi says that God even felt it would be better if someone “would shut the doors” to the temple so they “might not kindle fire on my altar in vain.” [v.10].

     So if we only wearily give to God our ‘left over’ time will not God also say of us, “I have no pleasure in you … I will not accept an offering”.  If we struggle to fit in time, and often do not succeed, in joining with fellow believers in acts of worship and in the reading and study of God’s word, will God not have the same attitude toward us as he did in the days of Malachi?  If we make a New Year’s resolution on this – how quickly will it be brokenIt depends on how well we sense the presence of God. As we read the climax of the book of Job we will see a challenging lesson there.

Thought for December 28th

Todays readings … Job 38. Zechariah 13&14, Revelation 15&16

“BEHOLD A DAY IS COMING…”

Today’s reading of the last chapter of the prophet Zechariah starts with, “Behold a day is coming …” and our reading in Revelation contains the only verse in the Bible with the word ARMAGEDDON.     False spirits (attitudes?)  “ … go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God Almighty. Behold I am coming like a thief!  Blessed is the one who stays awake … and they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” [Ch.16 v.14-16]    

That word “Armageddon” has cropped up in our Newspapers quite a lot, sometimes in relation to climate change and the potential for more fearsome, indeed awesome weather events.  It was used in relation to the world-wide financial crisis 8 years ago, which is still far from solved. AAP reported some years ago,  ”In a new record, Australians now owe more in household debt that the country’s entire economy earns in a year”

 The world’s economy has been revved up to work on massive spending – continuously.  This is the NOW generation, ‘we must have it NOW.’  The crisis has been “solved” by Governments throwing a heap of largely borrowed money at the problem.  

  Zechariah’s chapter also describes Armageddon without using the word!   “Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations … the mount of Olives shall be split in two” [12 v.3,4]  A world shaking earthquake occurs, see Rev 16 v.18; “a great earthquake such as there has never been since man was on earth” – and the “day” will have come!

But then, says Zechariah, “the LORD will be King over all the earth … then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship in King, the LORD of Hosts …” [v.9,16]. We have read almost the same in Revelation, “Who will not fear O Lord and glorify your name? For you alone are holy.  All nations will come and worship you for your righteous acts have been revealed.” [15 v.4]  

Blessed are those who are awake and ready for what God will cause to happen. {see 16 v.15]

Thought for December 27th

Todays readings.. Job 37, Zechariah 12, Revelation 14

“LOOK ON … HIM WHOM THEY HAVE PIERCED” 

    First we note that there are no less than nine times the phrase “on that day” today occurs in just 15 verses in Zechariah Chapter 12 through to the first 2 verses of chapter 13. We note the prelude to these pronouncements, “Thus declares the LORD who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him” [12 v.1].  These words fascinate us as a way to announce the character of God, a declaration of his absolute almightiness as the originator of all that exists.

    It is the first “on that day” that has particularly captivated the attention of believers throughout our lifetime. “On that day” we read, “I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves.  And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.” [12 v.3]

    Jerusalem was the centre of attention in the Middle East, attracting the attention of the whole world from when Israel became a nation again in 1948 after being “dead” since AD 70.

    The USA tried hard to “lift” the “stone” to solve the problem the diplomatic headaches in earlier years: but made no real progress. The influences of Islamic countries have grown greater and it now seems clear that someday, maybe soon, an “explosion” will occur.  The next “on that day” is when God “will strike every horse with panic and its rider with madness” [v.4]    Today men have invented a great variety of “vehicles” to replace the horse. They get around at great speed. What is this madness?  We suspect it means totally irrational behaviour, especially in the surrounding nations,  in a situation which suddenly gets totally out of control. 

   Now notice the declaration in the next verse. “The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the LORD of hosts their God.”  We are strongly inclined to believe this happens because of diviner intervention when God pours out on “Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him they have pierced, they shall mourn …” [v.10]

    This portrays the wonder of the return of Christ, with the Jews at last recognising their Messiah. But Ch. 13 v.8,9 appear to indicate they first experience a traumatic time when God will “refine them”.  There is then an incredible turnaround of events as “the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives” [14 v.4] which is where Jesus ascended from (Acts 1 v.9-12)  But also “on that day there shall be a fountain opened for … the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” [13 v.1,]  

The most momentous climax possible – to human history is soon to happen. Will you be there on that day?

Thought for December 26th

Todays readings.. Job 35&36, Zechariah 11, Revelation 12&13

Here is the patience and the faith of the saints..

“ENDURANCE AND FAITH” 

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” [Rev.13 v.10]   

This statement in Revelation was true then – and it is just as true today, and it is almost certain to become even a guiding principle in the lives of earnest believers before God “shortens” [Matthew 24 v.22] life on earth by sending the Lord Jesus back here, otherwise no human beings would be left alive.   

Honesty should compel all dedicated students of God’s word to admit that some things, maybe many things in the Bible are a “challenge” to understand and the history among those striving to be true believers is full of examples of mistakes made in trying to be specific in expounding prophecy, and time has proved them wrong.  

That said though, it is clear from what is written that there is to be, and has been throughout history, a continuing battle between that which is true and right in relation to God and that which is a human perversion of that truth.

 It was so in the time of Jesus and we read in several places how Jesus condemned the religious leaders for teaching their own traditions. [Matthew 15 v.3-6]  These are represented in Revelation as a dragon and a beast. We read of a beast that looks somewhat like a lamb [13 v.11] but when it opens its mouth it is clear it is not.

It is very much a lesson of life that one never judges simply by appearances!  This is why it is essential to read and absorb the teachings of the Bible for ourselves, especially the words of Jesus and the apostles. 

In past Centuries, those represented by the symbols of the beast and the dragon, often persecuted those who followed the lamb and sometimes they became martyrs – as some of the first disciples eventually did. Revelation pictures this in some places.

Today, as well as seeing those who think Christ accepts them as his followers teaching things which Christ did not teach,  we also have to contend with human imaginations that we are just the highest form of animal life!  That all that exists has evolved by pure chance – an incredible accident – and there is no Creator! 

As a result there is even greater immoral behaviour now – there is “no fear of God before their eyes” [Rom. 3 v.18].  So the call for “endurance and faith” goes out today more than ever

Thought for December 25th

Todays readings.. Job 34, Zechariah 10, Revelation 10&11

“WE GIVE THANKS TO YOU LORD” 

           The Book of Revelation offers us a wondrous vision in today’s chapter, a vision to which nearly all the world is blind – as they ‘celebrate’ this day in human ways.  We read how there are loud voices in heaven saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” [Ch.11 v.15].  

            The elders fall on their faces and worship saying, “We give thanks to you Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.  The nations raged, but your wrath came and the time for the dead to be judged and for rewarding your servants the prophets and saints. And those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” [v.17/18].   

            What a day of incredible thanksgiving this coming day will be, but notice it follows a time of the nations raging.  

             The present largely ‘empty’ human behaviour over the Christmas period will be seen for all its emptiness, much of it being really ungodly.  What are people giving thanks for today?  It is the passing ‘pleasure’ of the moment!  

The children enjoy themselves and, thankfully, some are moved to think of those less fortunate and give some help to them.  That is good – as far as it goes.  Do any of the children learn anything real about Jesus?   It seems impossible to think so, but God knows.  

              It is interesting that only twice in the Bible is there any mention of celebrating birthdays – and both were those of bad men! [Genesis 40 v.20 – Pharaoh] and [Matthew 12 v.6 – Herod, when John the Baptist lost his head] 

                The heavenly celebration to come will be wondrous beyond our ability to imagine, but until that time arrives true believers celebrate, not their Lord’s birth, but his sacrifice and death – in the way he appointed [Luke 22 v.15-20], knowing there is to be a wondrous finale to that celebration  in the kingdom.  

                This wondrous event, called “the marriage supper of the Lamb” is also mentioned in Revelation [19 v.6-9] “Blessed are those who are invited” to that feast, that utterly wonderful celebration – and will, with all their heart “give thanks to you Lord.”    Let us live today so that we will receive an invitation.

Thought for December 24th

Todays readings.. Job 33, Zechariah 9, Revelation 7, 8&9

“SPRINGS OF LIVING WATER”   

The book of Revelation is about the drama of human history from God’s perspective.  We read of visions, largely, but not entirely, in symbol, these picture God’s judgements on human godlessness but ultimate blessings for those who remain faithful.  

The climax from the believers perspective is the opening the book of life.  There are blessings for those he judges as righteous and the opposite for the others.  There is no third category.  Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me” [Matt 12 v.30],  

The resurrection has taken place and John looks and sees “a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the lamb clothed in white robes …. crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’” [7 v.9-10]  “The lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd and he will guide them to springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” [v.17]

    Jesus is the Lamb and we recall he spoke ofliving water’…  “If anyone thirsts, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”  [John 7 v.38]. 

We recall what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “whoever drinks of the water I will give him, it will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” [John 4 v.14].  We can understand that kind of symbolic language, let us drink that “water” every day.

    One would like to ignore the other side of the picture!  The angel is told, “Do not harm the earth … until we have sealed the servants of God on their foreheads”   This reminds us of the blood on the doorposts in Egypt when God was about to bring the final plague!  

In Revelation we read of the plagues on “the rest of mankind” continuing on those “who were not killed by these (earlier) plagues, (but) did not repent … nor give up worshipping demons and idols … nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality …” [Ch.9 v.20-21]   

It is interesting that in the margin of the NKJV Bible sorceries is given the meaning of drugs!  What a curse these are today!  And could the increasing effect of global warming be a plague?  The climax of human history is approaching fast; we need “living water” every day!   

How ‘thirsty’ are you feeling? Are your springsclose at hand?

Thought for December 23rd

Todays readings ..  Job 31&32, Zechariah 8, Revelation 5&6

 “I WILL CAUSE THE REMNANT OF THIS PEOPLE”        

    All five of today’s chapters listed for our reading are specially thought provoking. Job reaches the climax of his responses to the faulty reasoning of his “friends” silencing them. Then in Zechariah we saw God’s clear latter day prophecies – and in Revelation some dramatic words to describe the climax of life on this earth.

    The 8th chapter in Zechariah stirred our thoughts. He writes down a sequence of statements of events that will one day happen – each preceded by “Thus says the LORD of Hosts” [v.2,4,6,7,9,14, 20 & 23]  Zechariah has returned from captivity to Zion, i.e. Jerusalem, but God now causes him to see and pen prophecies looking much further into the future.  God says “I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days … For there shall be a sowing of peace.” [v.11,12]

    Next, God states, “I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things … let your hands be strong” [v.12,13]   When we were young in the 1940’s Israel was dramatically restored as a nation, an event that followed the approval of the U.N. in 1947,  but since then there has been endless friction.  

Some students of God’s word have made unwise statements about what they believe is about to happen next – but we have learnt that prophecy is not given to us to make us clever so we can precisely pronounce on events to happen in the immediate future.  The New Testament illustrates this; in Matthew’s Gospel in particular there are comments on the fulfilment of specific prophecies which could not have been foreseen, in their specific context, beforehand.

    However, the time will surely come, as the end of our Zechariah chapter states, when “many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favour of the LORD.  Thus says the LORD of Hosts: In those days’ ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” [Ch. 8 v.22-23]

    To this we can add what we read in Revelation; the song that will be sung to Jesus, returned as king of the Jews and of the world, “ … by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God and they shall reign on the earth.” {Ch. 5 v.9,10]  What an utterly awesome future for those “ransomed”!  May we so live now, in faith and humility that we, by our Lord’s grace, will be among them.  

Thought for December 22nd

Todays readings.. Job 29&30, Zechariah 6&7, Revelation 3&4

“THOSE WHOM I LOVE I REPROVE AND DISCIPLINE” 

    The 7 letters to the 7 different assemblies of believers that we read in Revelation 2 and 3 always challenge our thinking.  They are representative of all the different types of congregations that have existed over time and each of us should be able to see in one or more of them, a “picture” of the congregation to which we belong.  However, if a community only believes in God in a nominal sense, especially the humanistic minded churches of today, that is probably not the case.  

    The words that particularly jumped out as we read were – “Those whom I love I reprove and discipline[3 v.19] followed by the words, “so be zealous and repent.”  This message was addressed to the “lukewarm” [v.16] believers at Laodicea. In our present overwhelmingly godless environment we believe the warnings in this letter probably have a very wide application.

    Jesus hears these believers at Laodicea saying, at least in their hearts, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing”- and then observes, “not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” [v.17].   To be spiritually naked is a frightful tragedy, especially when you are blind to the fact as most if not all would be; the religious leaders who despised Jesus are a ‘worse case’ example.

    We thought about that phrase, “…those whom I love I reprove and discipline.”  Jesus wishes to love all those who genuinely seek him and is always looking for lost sheep or the prodigal man (or woman) who suddenly realize they are “naked.”  Job was loved by his God and was disciplined to make him an even better and wiser “upright man” – as we will shortly read and more clearly recognise the purpose behind his tribulations.

    The Laodicean letter concludes, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him … “ [v.20].  We hear his voice by reading his word and really taking into our minds and hearts what we read.