Old Testament In a Year: November 15 – Psalm 137; Ezekiel 1, 2

Psalm 137; Ezekiel 1, 2
Focus Verse: How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? – Psalm 137:4

A foreign land is not always a physical place. It can be a state of mind, a permanent feeling, or a passing event.

We may find ourselves in a foreign land of despair…of grief…of loneliness…of unbelief…of depression. None of this is familiar territory for the Christian, but that doesn’t mean we won’t sometimes find ourselves struggling through it.

It’s hard to sing “hope is rising” when you’re in the depths of despair.

It’s hard to sing “no more sorrow, no more pain” when your grief is fresh.

It’s hard to sing “Your love never fails” when your faith in God is ebbing away and unbelief is taking over.

It’s hard to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land. Hard. But not impossible. Because the ultimate victory is already ours. Death, despair and depression have no sting. Grief and the grave have no power to hurt. The pain that we currently feel can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.

This is what we fix our eyes on. This is what we set our hearts on.

For the joy before us – CHRIST JESUS – we endure the burden of the cross, scorn the shame of the world, and persevere under pressure until we are by His side in glory.

Old Testament In a Year: November 14 – Daniel 11, 12

Daniel 11, 12
Focus Verse: He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. – Daniel 11:32

During times of apostasy and persecution in Christianity, there are always those who fall away from the faith. Instead of holding firm to the truth, pressure from God-haters erodes their belief in His sovereignty and pain shakes their conviction into uncertainty.

Still, there are also always those who remain firm in the faith. This group of people is often small compared to those who fall away. But though they are small, their faith in action looms larger than life and is well rewarded in the end. Regardless of what they are faced with – lions, fire, swords, torture, imprisonment, stoning – these faithful few regard disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Earth. Instead of desiring peace and pleasure for a season, they fix their eyes on Jesus and climb towards a greater reward, towards an eternal city, whose builder and maker is God.

Do we know our God? Do we know that even in times of persecution, He is still Provider? Do we know that amid hate, He is still Healer? If so, let us take our place among the faithful few and stand firm, knowing that the current pain of this life can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.

Old Testament In a Year: November 13 – Daniel 8, 9, 10

Daniel 8, 9, 10
Focus Verse: I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” – Daniel 9:4

The life of a believer should be one that is made up of continuous confession and repentance of sin. We shouldn’t only go to God and ask for His forgiveness after we know we have done something wrong and feel bad about it. But everyday, throughout each day, we should often be in prayer as Daniel was making confession for our sins and even for the sins of others.

I have sinned, should be our contrite admittance, I have done wrong. I haven’t listened to You. Instead, I have turned away from Your Word and done by own thing. I deserve shame, but I’m asking for Your forgiveness. I deserve to be punished, but please show me mercy. Turn Your eyes to my pain and open Your ears to my prayer…not because of any righteousness on my part, but because I am called by Your name.

Continuous confession of sin is necessary because we are often not aware of all the ways we hurt the heart of God. Our standards are not the same as His standards. Scripture says that His thoughts and His ways are not like our thoughts and our ways. His are so much higher than ours; therefore, things that we may consider to be “okay” or “not that big of a deal,” God may consider those same things to be completely unacceptable.

Even when we do not think that we have sinned, we must take the request of David and make it our own: Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

Old Testament In a Year: November 12 – Daniel 5, 6, 7

Daniel 5, 6, 7
Focus Verse: Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” – Daniel 6:5

What a testimony Daniel had! As a young person, he was taken as an exile from his homeland of Judah and brought to Babylon – the mightiest and wealthiest kingdom on earth at the time, but one that was pagan and filled with all sorts of idols, enchanters, astrologers, and gods that were made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. In order to fit in, it would have been easy for Daniel to succumb to the new culture that he suddenly found himself living in. But he did just the opposite. Instead of blending in to Babylon, he blended out. He dared to stand alone. He dared to remain faithful. He dared to live by conviction. And that made all the difference for him and for others.

Because Daniel remained true to his God, he was influential in turning the hearts of King Nebuchadnezzar and King Darius (and no doubt countless others) towards God.

While in Babylon and while in Persia, others repeatedly tempted Daniel and tried to trip him up, but by continuing in prayer, he was able to keep his eyes fixed on God and remain faithful to his purpose. No ground for complaint could be found for him. No error or fault could be found in him. He is repeatedly described as having “an excellent spirit”. Wherever he went, he found favor in the eyes of those in power and God raised him up to high positions. The only way that Daniel’s enemies could get him to do “wrong” was by making up laws that would force him to disobey God.

But Daniel never disobeyed or denied God. It didn’t matter what he was presented with – the promise of a promotion or a den of lions.

May our testimony reflect that of Daniel’s. Instead of blending in to the materialistic, pleasure-driven, self-fueled culture that we live in, may we blend out.

Let’s dare to be different. Let’s dare to be faithful to our Creator and true to our faith.

God, cultivate within me an excellent spirit. May I live in such a way that my life turns others to You and not away from You. If any fault is found in me, let it be the fault of following Your law. Amen.

Old Testament In a Year: November 11 – Daniel 3, 4

Daniel 3, 4
Focus Verse: Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are right and His ways are just; and those who walk in pride He is able to humble. – Daniel 4:37

I have always been fascinated by the history of Babylon – how it began, its kings, and its ultimate demise. Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful and had the longest reign of all other Babylonian kings and in a pagan kingdom where many different gods were worshiped and almost no one believed in the one true God, Nebuchadnezzar’s declaration of God’s greatness, might and dominion is amazing.

What makes it even more amazing is that it probably wouldn’t have happened if Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had not been faithful to who they were and what they believed in. Because their actions consistently matched their words and because their faith remained unmovable in the God who they served, regardless of what was thrown at them, they had a life-changing impact on a heathen king…and perhaps on many other Babylonians, as well.

The glitter and glamour of a kingdom, the might of an army, the power of a king, the promotions and accolades which they received did not sway Daniel or his friends from living out their faith in God. We never know how God wants to use us in the lives of others; therefore, we need to be true to our faith and live as committed witnesses wherever we are.

Old Testament In a Year: November 10 – 2 Chronicles 36; Daniel 1, 2

2 Chronicles 36; Daniel 1, 2
Focus Verse: The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. – Daniel 2:11

The Chaldeans were right about one thing. There was not a human being on earth who could do what King Nebuchadnezzar was asking and both tell his dream and its interpretation. It was difficult. It was impossible. Only God could do such a thing. Daniel recognized this, as well. The reason he could both tell King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation and the Chaldeans could not was because Daniel personally knew God while the latter only knew about God.

Daniel believed that nothing was too difficult for God. He had faith that the things which were impossible with him were possible with God. He knew that all wisdom and might did not belong to Him, but to God. Because Daniel’s reliance was fully on his great God, he was able to reveal deep and hidden things and make known to the king his dream.

When our eyes are focused upward, difficult will be made easy for us.

When our voice is directed to Heaven, impossible will become possible for us.

When our faith is firmly rooted in God and our trust lies in His salvation, then He will give us His wisdom and might. The things others cannot do, we will do. And they will know…truly, our God is God of gods and Lord of kings.

Old Testament In a Year: November 9 – Lamentations 3, 4, 5

Lamentations 3, 4, 5
Focus Verse: Though I call and cry for help, He shuts out my prayer. – Lamentations 3:8

There have been times in my Christian walk when I have felt like the writer of Lamentations.

When things do not work out the way I think they should work out or when things do not happen as fast as I would like them to, it seems as if God is repeatedly turning His hand against me. When a series of unfortunate events hits me, it seems as if God is determined to inflict me with bitterness and tribulation instead of peace and happiness. And when I cry out for help and call to be delivered, God does not seem to hear. I feel as if His ears are shut to my prayer, as if His eyes are closed to my pain.

The sound of God’s silence deprives my soul of peace, causes my endurance to fail.

BUT…

When I remember that God is for me and not against me, then my hope is renewed.

When I remember that the love God has for me is steadfast and never ceases, then my strength is restored.

When I remember that the mercies of God are never-ending and are new every morning, then my faith is reignited.

When I remember that the faithfulness of God is great, then my joy is returned.

AND…

This becomes my prayer: Even when I cannot hear Your voice, God, I will wait for You. Even when I cannot trace Your hand, I will trust Your heart. I know You will not cast me off forever. You are my portion. Therefore, I hope in You.

Old Testament In a Year: November 8 – Lamentations 1, 2

Lamentations 1, 2
Focus Verse: The Lord is in the right, for I have rebelled against His word; but hear, all you peoples, and see my suffering; my young women and my young men have gone into captivity. – Lamentations 1:18

The people of Israel experienced harsh punishment from God because of years of unrepentant disobedience. Yet the writer of Lamentations, traditionally believed to be Jeremiah, writes that “the Lord is in the right”. He doesn’t curse God for the destruction that has come upon Israel. He doesn’t blame God. He doesn’t reject God.

“We have sinned against you,” the writer says, “and You are right to punish us.”

Such should be the attitude of our hearts when we find ourselves under God’s hand of chastisement because of some sin we have done. When we experience God’s wrath instead of His mercy and are recipients of His righteous anger instead of His good pleasure, it is easy to get bitter instead of better. But God does not intend for His chastisement to last forever. When we disobey Him, God punishes us out of love, not hate. He hurts us in order to heal us and wounds us so that we can be made whole.

Old Testament In a Year: November 7 – Jeremiah 43, 44

Jeremiah 43, 44
Focus Verse: “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you.” – Jeremiah 44:16

In refusing to listen to what Jeremiah told them, the remnant of Judah were not rejecting him, but God. They were not calling Jeremiah a liar (43:2), but God. The words that Jeremiah spoke were not his words, but God’s word and in refusing to obey them, the remnant of Judah were disobeying God Himself.

God will sometimes speak to us directly, but he often uses other people to speak His Word into our life. His Word is not always what we want to hear, but we must be careful not to refuse to listen to other people because in doing so, we may be refusing to listen to God.

We should ask God to give us His wisdom and discernment so that we will know when He is speaking and when He is not. Then, we should ask to be filled with His Spirit so that once we hear His Word, our hearts will not reject it, but receive it.