Thought for December 31st. “BUT FOR YOU WHO FEAR MY NAME… “

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

        If you believe in God, are you in awe of him?  This is the underlying sense of the word ‘fear.’  God does not want us to be scared of him as we might be scared of a bully or an evil person.  The closing words of the Old Testament we read today show how God will in the climax of human godlessness deal with its’evil, “Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evil doers will be stubble.”  [Malachi 4 v.1]  These are words which compare with the awesome parts of the Revelation chapters we read yesterday.

        Then God reveals to Malachi an opposite vision.  “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.  And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet … says the LORD of hosts.” [v.3,4]  Again, Revelation helps us to ‘see’ the meaning of the imagery of this wording.

        There are comparisons here with the words of the LORD to Job in his final chapter which we also read today.   We noted what Job acknowledged concerning God; “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” [v.2].   This is Job’s response to God’s question, “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” 

        Job says “I have uttered what I did not understand … I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself and repent …” [v.3,5,6]  It was Job’s lack of “knowledge” in the sense of knowing, of having a relationship that was his shortcoming.    

         And for us, a ‘real’ prayer life is an essential step toward achieving this ourselves. Do we talk or write about things we do “not understand” at times? Hasn’t this proved to be the case with some of our attempts to interpret and ‘understand’ prophecy over the years?

        Job had known God in theory and, in that sense, had spoken “what is right” about him [42 v.7], not like the “friends” with whom God is angry. Job now ‘sees’ the awesome reality of what he had been talking to the ‘friends’ about.  Job is surely one of those God was referring to in his words through Malachi, .  “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise.” 

         Let us all as 2018 ends develop a frame of mind, a spirit of meditation  so that this is also true of us – and our “fear” – that is awe of the “name” – this is our sense of the awesome character and power of the Creator is ready for when the “day” that “is coming” actually comes!  How awesome!  What ‘real’ faith we will surely need – and the time to make sure we have it is now!  2019 has all the indications of being the ultimate faith testing year

Thought for December 30th. “EVERYONE WHO DOES EVIL IS GOOD ,,,:”

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

           After Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament was written, there was silence; no inspired message from God until John the Baptist came on the scene 400 years or so later.  No wonder John attracted so much attention. 

             Through Malachi God again predicted the coming of Jesus, his special messenger, but Jesus states that John had also been predicted [Luke 3 v.15] in the words we will read in Malachi 3 v.1, “Behold I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me.”  

           Malachi’s message, like those of many prophet’s before him, fell on deaf ears.   The religious leaders, the Levites, were misrepresenting God. “You have wearied the LORD with your words” he tells them.  They ask, “How have we wearied him?”  His response was , “By saying everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them.” [Ch.2 v.17]   How could they say that?  Well we can see today how much “whitewash’ is painted over ways of living that God declares is wrong.  

           By representing God as being merciful, by twisting the application of the Law almost no matter how they lived  the religious leaders in the time of Jesus were also misrepresenting God.  Finally, a terrible judgement fell of them.  What about today?  There is a near silence in the established churches about the latter day warnings in God’s word.  Malachi’s warnings apply to today when we read, “behold the day is coming , burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble.  The day that is coming will set them ablaze.” [Ch.4 v.1]  

              In contrast, how wonderful is the other side of the message! Let’s make sure we fix the gaze of our thinking on the other side,, “for you who fear my name,  the sun of righteousness shall arise ….” [v.2]  

              Malachi mentions the book of life of which we read in Revelation today (20 v.12).  Malachi calls it a book of remembrance and writes, “”Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another.  The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.  They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them … “[3 v.16-17]                  Let us live so we become one of God’s treasured possessions.

Thought for December 29th. “I HAVE LOVED YOU’ SAYS THE LORD”

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

            Today we started reading the last book of the Old Testament, by the prophet Malachi.  This was the final message of God; he sent no more prophets until John the Baptist and Jesus Christ came.  It was a time of divine silence similar to today, but they did have the writings of the prophets and patriarchs and we also have God’s word.    Malachi’s message begins,   “The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. ‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD, But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’” 

God’s answer to their question is just as relevant today.  There is a lot of talk in Church circles that ‘God is love.’ – is that talk meaningless?  Why did the people of Malachi’s day ask this question?  It was because they expected the LORD to endlessly show his love regardless of how they behaved.   Their lives had become full of problems; as a result, they cannot see any evidence of God’s love. 

           God causes Malachi to respond, “the LORD of hosts says to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’  By offering polluted food upon my altar … when you offer those that are lame, or sick, is that not evil?” [v.7,8]  They offered to God the things that were no longer of value to them.  What is the equivalent today?  

One answer is – our time!  Are we too busy to make the time to read God’s word?  When we do read it, does it stir us into action to use our particular talents in some area of service?            

Malachi’s message is very relevant to many attitudes today; note v.13 “ … you say, ‘What a weariness this is’”  Today, much more than then, there are  interesting and humanly exciting things to do than to give more than a passing thought to God – at the very best to find a couple of hours to spare from the 168 hours in the week to offer a form of “worship” – and maybe the main interest then is in “fraternization”?   

Some may see participation in Christmas time activities as showing ‘love’ to God?  Singing carols perhaps?  The words of one popular carol particularly struck us, we chanced to hear it sung by a popular entertainer, “Man will live for evermore because of Christmas Day!”   What nonsense.

             Disasters followed Malachi’s time and the message at the start of Ch. 4 is even more relevant today: “For behold, the day is coming … when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble … but for you who fear my name …”   Let us fear God’s name and use our time in 2019 in ways that show we do. 

Thought for December 28th. “FINE LINEN IS THE RIGHTEOUS DEEDS OF THE SAINTS”

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

            Today’s reading of the last chapter of the prophet Zechariah starts with, “Behold a day is coming for the LORD … will gather all nations against Jerusalem …” and our reading in Revelation contains the only verse in the Bible with the word ARMAGEDDON. We read there how “demonic spirits” (totally irrational attitudes?  Now seen in many countries!  These ” 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” [Revelation 16:14-16] The word Armageddon used to crop up in our Newspapers quite a lot, sometimes in relation to climate change and fearsome weather events. It was also used in relation to the world-wide financial instability, which is still far from solved, but kept hidden for fear of destabilising the potentially erratic world economy which has become sort of supercharged so that it needs continuous massive spending. This is the NOW generation, we must have everything NOW.

             The money crisis has been kept at bay by Governments like the USA throwing a heap of largely ‘invented’ money into the system. Of course, money is no longer gold and silver, which was its foundation, even 60 years ago. Money has become a “beast” which people worship. It is interesting that Revelation 16 says a replica (image) of the beast causes “harmful and painful sores” on “those who bore the mark of the beast and worshipped its image.” [Revelation 16:2]  We ponder the possible application to the ‘image’ of money that we use today.

      Zechariah’s chapter also describes Armageddon without using the word! Remember our thoughts yesterday. After the LORD goes forth to fight “… the mount of Olives shall be split in two”   [Zechariah 14:3,4] We noted that Revelation 16:18 speaks of “a great earthquake such as there has never been since man was on earth.”

Zechariah also states that “all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, their tongues will rot in their mouths.” [Zechariah 14:12] That sounds horribly like radiation.

      But then, writes 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 …” [Zechariah 14:9,16]. 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.” [Rev. 15:4]

      The challenge to us – we quote again “Blessed is the one who stays awake keeping his garments”. We note Revelation 19:8 – “fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints”. We must be with those who are awake, keeping our garments in the very best condition – that is – with our Lord’s help – humanly possible. [see Revelation 16:15]

Thought for December 27th. “STRENGTH THROUGH THE LORD OF HOSTS”

Todays readings… Job 37, Zechariah 12, Revelation 14

     Nine times we read the phrase “on that day” in just 15 verses in Zechariah 12 through to the first 2 verses of Zechariah 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” [Zechariah 12:1]. 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 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.”  [Zechariah 12:3] Jerusalem will be the centre of attention in the Middle East, attracting more and more the attention of the whole world since Israel became a nation again in 1948 after being “dead” since AD 70.

     In recent years the USA tried hard to “lift” the stone to solve the problem: it seems to have only made matters worse. 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” [Zechariah 12:4] Today men have invented a great variety of “vehicles” to replace the horse. They get around at great speed. What is this madness? We suggest it means totally irrational behaviour in a situation which 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 God has poured 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 …” [Zechariah 12:10]

     This portrays the wonder of the return of Christ, the Jews recognise their Messiah at last; but Zechariah 13:8,9 appears to indicate they first experience a traumatic time when God will “refine them”. There is an incredible turnaround of events “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” [Zechariah 14:4] from where Jesus ascended [Acts 1:9-12] But also “on that day there shall be a fountain opened for … the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” [Zechariah 13:1] This will be a most momentous climax – will we witness it?

Thought for December 26th. “ENDURANCE AND FAITH”

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

                   “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” [Rev.13 v.10.]  The A V Bible uses the word “patience” here, one of seven significant occasions when the word occurs in this book.  – we should  best read it as “patient endurance.” This statement was true then – and it is just as true today; it is vital it becomes the guiding principle in our lives. Honesty should compel all dedicated students of God’s word to admit that a good number of things in the Bible are a “challenge” – in particular- to understand and try to be specific in expounding prophecy; all to often time has proved such efforts misguided.  We can see the wonderful framework, but filling in the details has led all expositors into trouble at times.

               That said though, it is clear from what is written that there is to be, and has been throughout history, continuing frustration in learning and understanding that which is true and right in relation to what God has revealed. All too often human perversions threaten to confuse our understanding.  It was so in the time of Jesus and we read several times of Jesus condemning the religious leaders for teaching their own traditions. [Matthew 15 v.3-6]  Such are represented in Revelation by 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. 

               A lesson in life is that one never judges simply by appearances!  This is why it is essential to read and absorb the teachings of the Bible for ourselves.  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 – which is what happened to some of the first disciples. 

               Today, we also have to contend with more and more dogmatic statements by those who believe in evolution! Only a fool believes life has developed by pure chance – by an incredible countless number of accidents – and there is no Creator!   The outcome today is a world abounding with even greater immoral behaviour.  There is “no fear of God before their eyes” [Rom. 3 v.18].  So the call for “endurance and faith” is more important today than ever.  

Thought for December 25th. “THE TIME … FOR REWARDING YOUR SERVANTS”

Todays readings… Job34, Zechariah 10, Revelation 10&11

            The Book of Revelation provides us with a wondrous vision today.   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].   Then 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 will be.   We should see the present human celebrations surrounding the Christmas period for all their emptiness.  What are people giving thanks for today?  It is the passing ‘pleasure’ of the moment!   The children enjoy themselves and we recall Paul’s observation “When I was a child … I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I gave up childish ways.” [1 Cor. 13 v.11]. 

                Paul also said, “remember … Jesus, how he himself said, ’It is more blessed to give than to receive’” [Acts 20 v.35] – we must teach our children this principle.  Do any of the children in the world (or their parents) learn anything real about Jesus? It seems impossible to think so, but God knows.  Wherever opportunity offers we should “speak a word in season” to encourage them to develop such a vision..  

               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 heaven inspired celebration to come will be wondrous, but until that time true believers celebrate not the birthday of Jesus, but his sacrifice and death in the way he appointed [Luke 22 v.15-20], believing in a wondrous climax 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 celebration – and how far beyond us this is to imagine!  Do you believe you are worthy of receiving an invitation?  

                  No?  It will be only by his grace!  But who is worthy?  It is interesting that the Gk word for ‘worthy’ is one of the words  which occur seven times in the book – but only its first occurrence (ch, 3 v.4) is one that indicates saints that are worthy of receiving a  blessing before God; the last (ch. 16 v.6) is about those unworthy. Once again, the broad and narrow ways – make sure you are on the “rewarding” pathway of the “worthy” in 2018

Thought for December 24th. “A GREAT MULTITUDE … FROM EVERY NATION”

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

Our readings in the book of Revelation are about the climax of human history – we read of visions, largely, but not entirely, in symbol, picturing God’s judgements. It is a time for opening the book of life.  There are blessings for those he judges as righteous and the opposite for the others.  There does not appear to be a third group, one cannot be in a neutral positionl!   Although, as with the Israelites coming out of slavery in Egypt, we can reason that those under 20 will not be counted as ready for judgement. 

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 read in the Gospels of him speaking of ‘living water’, “If anyone thirsts, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” [John 7 v.38]  

Jesus had spoken about this to the Samaritan woman saying, “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.

One is tempted 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 also read of plagues on “the rest of mankind” continuing on, those “who were not killed by these plagues, 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!   We live at a time when the climax of human history is approaching fast, how much had “drugs” come into us – we think of their misuse.   The need today to fill our minds with God’s word is greater than ever.

Thought for December 23rd. “HE IS FAITHFUL AND JUST TO FORGIVE … AND TO CLEANSE US”

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

    The 31st chapter of Job today is highly interesting; it is his final speech and in it he looks deeply into his conscience, reflecting on his motives for his actions.   In doing this he uses the word ‘IF’ no less than 18 times, saying if I have done this or that then I would be deserving of God’s judgements, i.e. punishment.  There is much food for thought here!

    “If I have walked with falsehood” [v.5] “If my heart has been enticed toward a woman” [v.9] “IfI have made gold my trust’ [v.24] “If I have rejoiced because my wealth was abundant” [v.25]  “If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him that hated me, or exulted when evil overtook him” [v.29] “If I have concealed my transgressions as others do” [v.33] If I have not made fair and proper use of the produce of my lands [v.38/39]

     In this self examination, Job also makes other statements that add up to a challenge to us as to our responsibilities (in the sight of God) toward others. He says, “If I withheld anything that the poor desired, or caused the eye of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone and the fatherless have not eaten of it.’ [v.16/17] “If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing” [v.19] and not looked after the traveller [v.31/32].   In some countries Governments and organisations provides for much of this, but let us not use that as an excuse.   

    Job recognized that God would judge him for his failures to act and for having wrong attitudes; it was not just a matter of avoiding doing bad things.  However, in the end because he was “blameless and upright” [Ch.1 v.1] and had spoken of God that which is right [42 v.7] Job is wonderfully blessed.  

There are obvious lessons that all those who desire to follow in the way of Christ can take from Job’s words; but it is not a matter of justifying oneself, as though one can “earn” salvation by one’s own righteousness.  

    We should be motivated by a desire to come as close as possible to the character of Christ.  Remember what we read in John last Saturday  – “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive … and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1 John 1 v.8,9] 


Thought for December 22nd. “THOSE WHOM I LOVE”

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

One of the most challenging lessons in Scripture is to realize that, what seems logical reasoning about cause and effect – does not – at least in the wisdom and outworking of God’s will in our lives – always apply.  Today, in the book of Revelation, we read, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” [Ch 3 v.19]    

This week, I wonder how many parents are spoiling their children with an abundance of presents?  How many of those presents will stimulate their minds toward worthwhile things?  How many, toward things of no real value? 

 Is there real wisdom in their love toward their children?

We are reading Job; it is a challenge to understand it, but when we get to the end we will see a vital lesson of how Job grew in his knowing of God as a result of adversity. Without adversity, and a resultant prolonged contemplation on the ways of God, this would not have happened – and in the end there came into his life far more abundant blessings. 

The verse in Revelation we have just quoted, is followed with Jesus saying, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him.  The one who conquers (or, overcomes, most versions)   I will grant him to sit with me on my throne” [3 v20/21]  

 Now, we have to “open the door” and it is the Bible, the ‘written word’ which invites us to open the door.  As we read the Bible, if we are reading it properly; we ‘hear’ in our minds the ‘knocking’ and the invitation to follow the shepherd and become one of his sheep.  His sheep know his voice, heeding his word, and the time will come when they will be welcomed to take a place in his kingdom and be given a role according as to how they have used their talents, as a parable tells us.