Old Testament In a Year: December 20 – Esther 1, 2

Esther 1, 2
Focus Verse: When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. – Esther 2:15

Esther was beautiful to others, not only because of her looks, but also because of her authentic humility, grace, teachable spirit, and willingness to follow the advice of others. When it was her time to go before the king, she did not ask for anything other than what the king’s eunuch, Hegai, advised her to take.

She won favor from everyone who saw her because she was walking in God’s purpose for her life and His good hand was upon her.

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Old Testament In a Year: December 19 – Ezra 5, 6, 7

Ezra 5, 6, 7
Focus Verse: For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel. – Ezra 7:10

Before others knew it, God knew that Ezra had set his heart to study His Law because God is constantly looking at the inward state of people and not at their outward state. As a result of Ezra’s determination and dedication to practicing righteousness, the good hand of God was on him.

Ezra not only set his heart to study God’s Law. He also set his heart to do God’s Law. And then, he set his heart to teach others God’s Law.

When not only our mouths say we want to study God’s Word, but also our hearts are set to study God’s Word, then God will know that we are serious about knowing Him, loving Him, and following Him. When our hearts are intent on studying God’s Word, we will not be content to just read it, but we will be moved to do it. Once we do God’s Word and realize the joy, blessings, and satisfaction it brings, then we will want to teach or share God’s Word with others, so that they too can get in on the good life that God’s Word makes possible.

It is no easy task, however, to truly study God’s Word. In order to gain as much knowledge as possible about God’s Word, so that it becomes a part of us, and we know what is to be done and what is not to be done, then we cannot settle for a surface-level understanding of it. We must take time (even away from other things) to dig deep, to search it, and to meditate on it.

Once we have dug deep in God’s Word, and searched it, and meditated on it, we must then apply it. Ezra did not settle for having a theoretical theology. He was also concerned with the practical application of God’s Law. Let us put what we read into practice, exercise what we study, and live out the Scripture we meditate on.

Old Testament In a Year: December 18 – Psalms 107, 126

Psalms 107, 126
Focus Verse: Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. – Psalm 107:13

What is your affliction? What is your trouble?

For deliverance from it, cry to the Lord.

When surrounded by darkness, when in the shadow of death, when weighed down by guilt from sin, when overwhelmed by wrath, when in the face of danger…

Do as the Israelites did when Pharoah and his army was behind them and the Red Sea was before them.

Do as David did when he was being pursued by Saul.

Do as the three Hebrew boys did when they were thrown into a fiery furnace.

Do as Daniel did when he was in a lions’ den.

Do as Esther did when she was told that her people were in danger of being exterminated.

Cry to the Lord. And He will answer you and exchange the darkness for His light…give you life instead of death…replace guilt with grace…express joy instead of wrath…provide protection from every danger.

Do as the apostles did when they were caught in a furious storm.

Cry to the Lord. Save me, Lord; I am perishing. And He will save you from affliction…from storms…from sin…from death itself.

Old Testament In a Year: December 14 – Psalms 77, 78

Psalms 77, 78
Focus Verse: I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. – Psalm 77:11

In his day(s) of trouble, David questioned the faithfulness of the One he sought. Even though he was calling out to God and stretching out his hand toward Him, it seemed that God did not hear him. It seemed that God had turned His back on David and left him to suffer alone.

David asks:

Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
Has His steadfast love forever ceased? Are His promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His compassion?

These questions are more rhetorical rather than questions that demand an answer because David already knows the answer to his questions. He knows that it is impossible for God to spurn forever those He loves. He knows that God’s steadfast love will never cease. He knows that God is a God who cannot lie, a God who keeps His promises and will fulfill every one of them. David knows that it is not in God’s character to be ungracious. And he knows that God’s anger is never greater than His compassion.

We know these things too. And if we ever start to doubt them, we must do what David did.

Remember.

Remember what God has done for us. Remember what God has done for others. Go far back, to when time first began, and remember…remember the deeds of God in creating the heavens and the earth. Remember the wonders He performed for Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Remember how He healed sick people and raised the dead; how He made the sun stand still and stopped the heavens from giving rain; how He shut the mouths of lions and caused a fiery furnace not to burn.

And once we remember these works and wonders, we should take a moment to ponder them, meaning we should think about them very carefully. We should take time to meditate on them, meaning we should focus our minds on God and His goodness.

Then, we will come to the same conclusion that David came to.

Yes, God, your ways are holy. There is no one else and nothing else that is great like You. You are the God who works wonders and performs miracles. You redeemed your people back then and you are redeeming me today.

Old Testament In a Year: December 5 – Ezra 1, 2

old-testament-in-a-year-december-5

Ezra 1, 2
Focus Verse: In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing. – Ezra 1:1

God moved upon the heart of a heathen king to have His word fulfilled and to have His will done concerning His people.

Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord like channels of water; He turns it wherever He wants.” For those who follow Christ, this is a reminder that we need not be discouraged by governmental leaders or by leaders in other spheres whose behavior does not honor God. The power and influence that they wield is not theirs, but God’s. They are not really the ones in control, God is.

God holds the hearts of all people in His hands, even the hearts of kings and queens and presidents and prime ministers. He can turn these hearts in whatever way He so pleases. He can move even the most unlikely leaders to do what is right and use them to have His will done on earth as it is done in Heaven.

Therefore, our hope should not be in human beings, but in the One who made them. Our eyes should not be watching the actions of people. Our eyes should be watching God.

Old Testament In a Year: November 20 – Ezekiel 14, 15

Ezekiel 14, 15
Focus Verse: That the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord God. – Ezekiel 14:11

Reading about the condemnation and destruction that God promises to bring upon Israel and Judah because of their idolatry and unrighteousness isn’t easy. It makes God seem mean, merciless, and a far cry from the gracious God that we are familiar with.

But because He is merciful, God must condemn unrighteousness. Because of His grace, God allows those who continue in sin to be destroyed.

God most desires one thing: For us to be His people and for Him to be our God.

Sin keeps that from happening.

Therefore, God is merciless when it comes to punishing sin, because He cannot bear to have His children kept apart from Him. The purpose of God’s punishment is to push the sinner away from sin and towards Him. That they may no longer go astray, no longer defile themselves…but become one with Him, united in His glory.

Old Testament In a Year: October 22 – Jeremiah 9, 10, 14

Jeremiah 9, 10, 14
Focus Verse: Not like these is He who is the portion of Jacob, for He is the one who formed all things, and Israel is the tribe of His inheritance; the Lord of hosts is His name. – Jeremiah 10:16

Thank God that we do not serve someone whom we made, but rather Someone who made us. The God who we serve is not among those who cannot move, cannot speak, cannot hear, and cannot walk. Our God is alive and able. There is none like Him.

He is great and mighty. The true God. The only God. Living and everlasting. Able to save and deliver, punish and destroy.

He is both love and justice, righteousness and wrath. He deserves both our worship and our respect.

By His power, He created the earth. By His wisdom, He founded the world. By His understanding, He stretched out the Heavens. And with that same power, wisdom, and understanding, He loves, saves, corrects, and shapes us.

Old Testament In a Year: October 21 – Jeremiah 7, 8, 26

Jeremiah 7, 8, 26
Focus Verse: Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard.” – Jeremiah 26:12

After Jeremiah had finished speaking the word of the Lord – a word that was by no means nice – to the cities of Judah, he was grabbed by the priests and the prophets and all the people and threatened with death. Imagine that! The priests and prophets grabbed Jeremiah because he spoke the word of the Lord to them – the same Lord that they claimed to worship. Not only did they grab him, they threatened to kill him – a sin! – something which priests and prophets weren’t supposed to commit.

I’m sure Jeremiah must have been perplexed. Like: Yo, God, I obeyed You. I said everything You told me to say – the good, the bad, and the ugly…well, just the bad and the ugly because there wasn’t any good in those words. But still, I obeyed You, and now this? I’m being threatened with death! Can’t a guy get a break?

Regardless of what Jeremiah thought about his situation, however, he wasn’t about to disobey God. Even when threatened with death, Jeremiah remained faithful. When questioned about why he spoke the way he spoke and why he prophesied what he prophesied, Jeremiah said, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard.” This wasn’t Jeremiah’s doing. Truth be told, he probably wouldn’t have minded living a safe and comfortable life that didn’t require him to be grabbed and threatened with death. But because God sent Jeremiah to speak, he spoke. Because God told Jeremiah to prophesy, he prophesied. And he never spoke or prophesied what he wanted to say or what he thought should be said, but only what God wanted him to say.

Because Jeremiah’s faith in God was firm, he knew his life was in God’s hands and that nothing could happen to him unless God allowed it to happen. Because Jeremiah’s obedience to God was unquestionable, it didn’t matter what he was faced with, it wasn’t going to cause him to stop doing what he had been called to do.

When He was here on earth, Jesus the Christ lived in complete obedience to His Father. Everything that His Father wanted Him to do, He did. Every word that His Father wanted Him to say, He said. Every place that His Father wanted Him to go, He went. But where did Jesus’ complete obedience take Him? To the cross. To pain. To betrayal. To hate. To death.

Complete, unquestionable obedience to God does not mean a safe life or an easy life. In fact, the more we do what God wants us to do, the more we will experience persecution by those who are not doing what God wants them to do. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should stop doing what God has called us to do. We should remain faithful. We should follow the path of obedience no matter where it takes us, keeping in mind that present persecution and present pain can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.

Old Testament In a Year: October 20 – Jeremiah 6, 11, 12

Jeremiah 6, 11, 12
Focus Verse: Righteous are You, O Lord, when I complain to You; yet I would plead my case before You. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? – Jeremiah 12:1

Jeremiah comes to God with an age-old concern: Why does the way of those who are wicked prosper? Why do those who are treacherous thrive?

In presenting his concern, however, Jeremiah does not question the goodness of God. Even though unrighteousness and injustice seem to have the upper hand in the world, Jeremiah does not doubt God’s righteousness. In fact, it is because Jeremiah knows God is good and righteous that he asks why those with the opposite qualities always seem to win the day. In Jeremiah’s mind, this is irreconcilable with God’s character. Since God is good, should not those who strive to do good be the ones who prosper? If God is righteous, should not those who hunger and thirst after righteousness be the ones who thrive?

God is still being presented with the same concern by many today: Why do bad things happen to good people?

When we find ourselves contemplating such a question, we shouldn’t be afraid to bring it to God for an answer. We shouldn’t be afraid to complain to Him or to plead our case before Him. Whatever it is we don’t understand, we can let Him know about it. Because God is God, He is big enough to handle all of our concerns, doubts, and questions. We should not, however, let our concerns, doubts, or questions cloud the truth of who God is.

God is good even when we do not understand His ways.

God is righteous even when we think that we or someone else is being treated unfairly.

We must live in the light of the truth of who God is. Just. Holy. Wise. No matter how critical our concerns or how dark our doubts may be, they too must submit to the truth of God’s character. Divine. Ethical. Faultless.