The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament and the last of the prophets. For my name will be great among the nations says the Lord of hosts. God is consistent all the way through the Old Testament about what He is planning to do. But then… silence. Four hundred years of no recorded prophets. Four hundred years of no recorded word from God. During this time, the world was changing, Rome was coming to power, and the Jews were still waiting.
Waiting for all the promises to be kept. Waiting for God to come to their aid. Waiting… for something. Can you imagine years of waiting with silence? Whole generations of people were born, lived, and died without hearing from God. Everything we have read so far prepared the way for our salvation. Everything we will read in the New Testament sets the stage for who this Jesus is, and how God will finish His plan to bless the entire world. This week in our reading plan, we begin reading portions of the Bible known as the prophets.
Throughout the history of Israel, God used prophets to speak His words directly to people. They were His mouthpiece. We get to see some of the stories of the prophets throughout the history books Samuel, Kings, Chronicles , but now we get to read the messages that God gave to each of them. Each prophet spoke words from God to certain people, at a certain time, in a certain situation. To fully understand their messages, understanding the context is key. Some prophets wrote specifically to Israel, some to Judah.
Some wrote before the exile, some wrote after. Each wrote to specific issues offering specific warnings to the people. First, the prophets proclaimed a message of warning. Throughout the history of Israel, the hearts of the people often wandered from following after God. It was easy for them to gradually conform to the nations around them: serving other gods, practicing injustice, not remaining faithful to God, etc. Most of us can understand that gradual pull to conform to what the culture around us is doing, what is comfortable, what is safe, what makes sense. Sometimes, we have to intentionally incline our hearts back to God.
Each of the prophets were sent to warn the people of Israel to stop worshiping other gods, stop trying to find satisfaction in the things around them, and put their trust and hope fully on God. Second, the prophets pointed forward to the promises of God. God would honor His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by fixing the problems of the human condition on His own. Despite the faithlessness of His people, God would save them.
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Despite the people worshiping other gods, He would deliver them. Despite the wickedness of the human heart and the complete inability for people to truly follow Him, God would act. But it was bigger than just saving people from the nations that invaded and conquered them. And it was bigger than just blessing them. They were just speaking what they were told to speak. The Apostle Peter was inspired to write in the New Testament:. But now, on this side of the cross, we get to see it. We get to experience it. The promises of God that He spoke throughout the generations was culminated in Jesus.
It was to bring transformation. It was to save us from the sin and rebellion that our hearts are naturally drawn to. It was to allow our hearts to worship the one true God, and not cheap alternatives that the world throws at us. The whole story of the Bible is the story of a rescue mission that God started to bring humanity back to Himself. And as the prophets were looking forward, wondering how God would do it, we get to look back and praise God that He accomplished a salvation for all peoples of all time. As you read the prophets over the next few weeks, know you are only getting small portions of only a few of the prophets.
Some of it may not make sense on the surface, but as you read, use these two keys. See the warnings to the people of Israel, and recognize how easy it is for your own heart to wander away from God. And see the promise that at the time was for the future, but is now our reality. And praise God that though our hearts are fickle and those our affections wane, Jesus has died and defeated death to hold us strong in Him.
Right in the middle of the story of David finally coming into his kingship, after waiting for a couple of decades after being anointed, we see one of the most obvious stories of grace and mercy pre-Jesus. But David still asks the question, is there anyone left that I can show grace and mercy to? Saul had tried to kill David on numerous occasions. David had to wait for 20 years after being anointed king of Israel before he was actually appointed king, and much of time he spent on the run and in hiding. And Mephibosheth was the absolutely wrong person to be shown grace in the eyes of the people of Israel.
He had a physical disability, and that would have disqualified him from so much during his life to those around him. There was no earthly reason for David to show grace. I love this story because it puts grace squarely before our eyes. He wanted to show grace to a family in the world that least deserved it. He wanted to bless simply because he had been blessed. I love that this is included in the middle of the story of David because it reminds me of what grace really is.
I was Mephibosheth… and so were you. You and I are from the wrong family… the family of Adam, the family of humanity, the family that brought sin and rebellion against God into the world. You and I had nothing unless Jesus invited us to His table. He took a nail through His feet to make up for our lame feet. The only thing that separates me from Mephibosheth is that he knew very clearly that he did not deserve his place at the table… and sometimes I forget what grace really is.
As I have been reading through our reading plan this year, one word keeps coming to mind. A word that our American culture seems to define much differently than the Bible, and often my cultural understanding wins the day over the Biblical one. What is good is what seems good to me. What is good is me getting the things that I want. What is good is what makes my life better. The book of Joshua is a book of conquest. It is the people of God dispossessing the current inhabitants of the land that God promised to the people of Israel. We will read of some of the battles, but not all of them.
And for many, it is chapters like these that make readers wonder if God really is good and if he treats us fairly. How do we classify the conquest in our minds? That all depends on our definition. God told us throughout the previous five books what He was about to do and why He would do it. He was about to drive out the nations that were currently living in the land of promise SO THAT there would be a pure and fresh start for the people of Israel to worship the one true God and to cleanse the land from the worship of other Gods. In Deuteronomy , for example, the issue is worship. And as the people of Israel worshiped the one true God, the nations around them would see the amazing things God was doing in Israel and attribute it to their God and not the false gods that used to be worshiped there.
If other gods were still being worshiped there, who would get the glory? Because of the darkness of our own hearts and the sin that we all know lives in there, the only thing we deserve is separation from God. Was it good that Jesus had to die? God had a plan, a good plan, to redeem all people. Part of His plan to do that was to set up a people and give them a land.
This whole plan was based on His desire to give salvation and freedom to all people. This was a plan that would ultimately bring Jesus to die for the sins of the world. I praise God for letting us read Joshua. It points us to His holiness, His purity, His otherness, and His desire for the world to know just how good He is. Because He cleansed the land, the world got to see how good He is. And I praise God that this holy God chose to send His son to be conquered between 2 pieces of wood so that the world can again see just how good He is.
We did not get to experience the love and forgiveness of Jesus because we were better or earned anything. God chose to reveal His love and grace to us. The only thing we deserved was death. The last thing Jesus deserved was death.
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We have to skip Leviticus ! Leviticus is my favorite! O, did I read your mind wrong? Sorry about that. Leviticus gets a bad reputation. I had a friend tell me one time that we tend to read the Bible like a yearbook. You spent money on this huge book just so that you could have a record and a story to tell about how you fit into your school years. The yearbook was ultimately all about you. Sometimes, we take that same mindset into the Bible, and specifically, Leviticus.
Praise the Lord that Jesus fulfilled all those sacrificial rules so that we can be cleansed! Last week we read one of the most important verses in the Old Testament in my opinion. As these people follow the law that God has given them, they are sending a message to the world about who their God is. This is what it looks like for the people of Israel to be priests. All those laws in Leviticus that seem really weird or pointless to us are actually telling a story to the world at that time about who God was.
So as you read through Leviticus over the four days that we are given, let it remind you that God speaks to people of every nation and every generation. These words showed the world 4, years ago that this God really is amazing. God sent Jesus so that we would know how good He is.
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God has always been in the speaking business, and God has always wanted the whole world to know how good He is. Let it remind you that God loves you so much as to speak in a way you can understand just like he spoke in a way the people of generations past could understand. Its a story full of defilement, lies, murder, plundering, and revenge — not the Christ-like virtues that we strive after! This is the God you worship. He condones murder, revenge, and abuse, and therefore, religion is dangerous. Genesis, along with much of the Bible, is a narrative.
It is not trying to teach us how to live and is not trying to give us commands to live by. Humanity is broken, and though God does not prescribe us to live the way we see in this story, he wants us to see His grace and mercy in using broken people and to see that from the very beginning, mankind was in need of a savior. Much of the Old Testament reveals the story of mankind through the lens of one people, Israel, and the brokenness that humanity, left to their own devices, is capable of, even through the lens of religion.
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