Vs. 1, “These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land.” The next few chapter of Deuteronomy (12-26) is Moses expounding upon specific laws that would help the people live out their lives. You will notice that Moses makes sure that the Israelites were to destroy all the pagan worship places in the Promised Land (vs. 2-3). These other places of worship and other god’s would always be a stumbling block for Israel if they did not get rid of them completely. Sadly, some would have disobey God as they years progressed. Moses gives out some practical instructions about locations of worship. It would be centuries later when God would instruct David to move the tabernacle to Jerusalem. Prior to this, there were other locations; Mt. Ebal (Joshua 8:30-35), Shechem (Joshua 24:1-28) and Shiloh (Joshua 18:1). As they people finally entered the Promised Land, they were to be more disciplined about the offering of sacrifices. Unlike the pagan worshippers, Israel was to worship in once place.
Regarding application…Deliver us from Evil. Vs. 31, “You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.” There is a tendency for us to have compassion and pity upon the nations in the land of Canaan. But, here we are reminded of the sheer evil these people were. One of the most horrible things these nations would do would be to sacrifice their own children in fire to the pagan deity Molech. Question: Is the enemy now more tame? Absolutely not! Jesus already told us that there would be an increase of wickedness in the last days (Matthew 24). The enemy is just better at disguising the his evil so we think it’s not a big deal. Brothers and sisters, let us be wise and open our spiritual eyes to the evil that tries to ensnare us.
Vs. 13a, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” As the time is looming with just a few days left before Good Friday and the cross, Jesus takes time to denounce the hypocritical Pharisees and teachers of the law. Question: Why do so? It was important for Jesus’ followers not to revere these leaders. It was also important that they receive judgment for their actions. While they did adhere to the good parts of the law, their oral traditions made a mockery of God’s intentions. Jesus still wanted the people to follow their leadership (vs. 3) as long as it did not go against God’s word. Jesus proceeds to pronounce seven woes of accusation and judgment (vs. 13-36). The first woe (vs. 13) is a judgment for leading the people astray. The second woe (vs. 15) is accusing them for their efforts to make false converts of their own pride and leading them away from Jesus. The third woe (vs. 16-22) deals with how the Pharisee’s developed a complicated system of their own oaths and vows that were dishonorable to God. The fourth woe (vs. 23-24) accuses them of focusing so much on tithing even small things that they forget to serve the people in other ways. The fifth woe (vs. 25-26) is an accusation of pride as they focused on the appearance rather than the heart. The sixth woe (vs. 27-28) builds on the fifth woe in that they were more worried about how they looked, but inside they were unclean. The seventh woe (vs. 29-32) reveals their boasting that they would not have killed God’s prophets from the past, yet they were conspiring to kill God’s son. And lastly, we see Jesus lament over Jerusalem (vs. 37-39) as He knows of the soon destruction when the Romans would invade in 70 A.D.
Regarding application…Ugliness of Pride. Vs. 7, “They love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” Sadly, we as humans struggle with this. I believe especially “honor & shame” cultures are more susceptible to this way of thinking. Korea is just one of the many “honor & shame” cultures. Certainly, serving in a Korean culture yet being raised in an American culture, I see the dynamics of this phenomenon. I’ll quickly point out that we can glean good and bad things from both types of cultures. For example, Korean churches have a tendency to emphasize their titles (deacon, elder, etc.) While I understand their emphasis to respect each other, this can be a slippery slope. Pride can set in and we begin to feel like we are entitled to the praises of men. Certainly, corporate America can look very similar too. Let us remember that we are to be servants and consider others above ourselves!
Vs. 1, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” What a wonderful hope we have for our future! The promise of a new heaven and earth (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22) now will come to fruition. Question: Can you imagine a place with no more tears, death, mourning, crying or pain (vs. 4)? This is the place where those who softened their heart and put all trust in the Savior will reside, and quite a comparison to those who do not (vs. 6-8). The bride of Christ (the church) is the new city Jerusalem. We see the combining of the OT saints to the church with the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles (vs. 11-14). In other words, the faithful will have an eternal reunion! As John takes his measuring rod, we should be stunned by the size and of the new heavens (vs. 15-21). Think about it; 12,000 stadia is equivalent to 1500 miles long, wide and the kicker, tall! That’s a gargantuan new heavens! The beauty will take our breath away because it will reflect the glory of God. It’s quite notable that there is no specific temple (vs. 22), for the whole place is the temple of God. There will be no need for the sun or moon, for God’s glory will provide the light (vs. 23-24).
Regarding application…God Dwells with Us. Vs. 3, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” Jesus is called Immanuel (God with us) and now we literally will have God dwell physically with us again (Garden of Eden). While we find much comfort in the promised Holy Spirit, dwelling with God in the new heavens and earth is going to be amazing! I think back to my young childhood on those scary nights where the darkness would seem to overwhelm me. The noises and sounds of the wind would cause me to run to my mom’s room and beg her to sleep in her bed that night. The safety I felt like a child was wonderful, but imagine brothers and sisters that it will be incredibly amplified when we are finally dwelling with our God!
Vs. 1, “Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” We read of these 144,000 in chapter seven. There are differing thoughts on who this 144,000 could be. Some scholars believe it is a literal Jewish remnant living during the time of Tribulation, while others believe it is more symbolic of all believers who did not adulterate themselves to the devil. It is quite a scene as the army of believers stand with Jesus and sing a new song (vs. 1-5). John now turns to several scenes of angles bringing their messages. The first angel brings an announcement more for those who are believers rather than the unrepentant, for humans were to be agents of the Gospel (vs. 6-7). The announcement of doom upon Babylon probably a code word for Rome, which in turn is really a message against the world and the enemy (vs. 8). The third announcement is to those who follow the beast (vs. 9-13). And lastly, the latter portion of our chapter shows us that the harvest is ripe (vs. 14-20). God calls for the sickle to gather the ripe harvest of grain and of grapes for judgment.
Regarding application…Judgment is Coming. Vs. 7, “He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Certainly, there is a bit of an ominous feeling to this. However, for Christians, this reminder is actually one of hope! This is a crazy sin-filled world we live in. This reminder should bring great relief to know God is ready to bring a righteous judgment. Just like kids when traveling will ask their parents, “Are we there yet?” God is reminding us that we are arriving soon. Don’t lose hope, for our travels will finally get us to our true home!
Vs. 1, “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” Jesus now addresses the last three churches of the seven. The church in Sardis was a sleeping church (vs. 2). The church in Sardis enjoyed relative peace compared to the persecution in the other cities. This peace contributed towards their spiritual slumber. I fear that we here in America experience such a phenomenon as well. We then transit to the church in Philadelphia (vs. 7-13). The city of brotherly love unfortunately had a small Christian community. There was a large Jewish opposition (vs. 9) that were wayward and closing the door to the believing Jews to the Synagogue’s (place of worship outside of Jerusalem). However, Jesus reminds the believers that He is the one who controls the opening and shutting of the door (vs. 7). And lastly we come upon the church in Laodicea (vs. 14-22). Many of us may be familiar with Jesus’ accusation of being lukewarm (vs. 16). Historically, Jesus was illustrating the example of their actual water situation. Laodicea lacked their own water supply so they build aqueducts, but by the time the water reached the city it was lukewarm. Water is great when it is either hot or cold. Jesus uses this as an example of their spiritual state. Though they were rich in material possessions, they lacked spiritual want (vs. 17-18).
Regarding application…Inviting Jesus to Dinner. Vs. 20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Though this verse is often used for salvation calls, the actual context is for current believers. Jesus is desiring to fellowship and commune with us. Yet, so often, we are too busy and self-sufficient to take the time spend with Jesus. This is a very convicting reminder for the church today. No amount of programs or increase in numbers is going to matter if the members of the church do not spend time with the Lord daily. As you spend time with Jesus today, remember to encourage another to join in the dinner!
Vs. 34, “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.” On the tenth day of the seventh month, the Israelites were to observe the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Question: What was the purpose? They were to make sacrifices to reconcile God’s people to Him and forgive their sins (vs. 16-28). It started with Aaron the high priest and was to be a tradition passed on that only the High Priest could administer. Only the high priest could enter the most holy of holies on this one day (vs. 2). The sin offerings (bulls and goats) and burnt offerings (ram) each had their purposes. It was a sobering and solemn day for the Israelites. On this day, it was the only required fast given to the people.
Regarding application…Jesus, the Final Sacrifice. Each year, this special Day of Atonement was given as a picture of God’s grace. But it was not a permanent solution. The writer from the book of Hebrews, gives us additional insight to this very important day. Jesus is portrayed as the final High Priest (Hebrews 10). Like the sacrifices outside the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus died outside the walls (Hebrews 13:12). Since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the Jews have stopped the actual sacrifices on this day. However, they still recognize this Day of Atonement. Sadly, the Jews along with the lost world do not realize Jesus was the sacrificial lamb slain for our sins. Brothers and sisters, we have much to be thankful for in Christ this Thanksgiving week. Let us be a light to our friends and family as we recognize God’s wonderful provisions in our life!
Vs. 1, “A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls.” Question: When is this day? There are differing views from theologians regarding this. Some point towards the End Times before the Millennial reign of Christ, others point towards a time after Zerubbabel (vs. 1-2). It seems that this is pointing more towards Jesus as the one who stands on the Mount of Olives to fight against the nations (vs. 3-11). The King of Kings will now assume His physical role on the earth (Vs. 9). And those who try to defy the King will experience a plague and a great panic! The remaining of those Gentiles that have turned to the Lord will be required to come and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (vs. 16-19). The Feast of Tabernacles in quick summary really is a celebration of thanksgiving.
Regarding application…Thy Kingdom Come! Vs. 9, “The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.” Brothers and sisters, this is going to be a glorious time! I believe those of us who have died before the Millennium, will meet Christ and reign during this period as well (I Thessalonians 4:17). As I prepare to move and relocate closer to my church, I’ve found it harder to move each time. I’ve been a vagabond of sorts over the years, but I look forward to putting my roots in my church community. Yet, I know that one day we will have a permanent home with the Lord. That will be a time for true rejoicing and celebration! Come Lord Jesus!
Vs. 9, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Many of us are quite familiar with the fulfillment of this prophecy as Jesus did in fact ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 1:1-5, John 12:12-16). As our chapter opens (vs. 1-8), most scholars believe Zechariah is pointing towards the events of Alexander the Great and how he never invaded Jerusalem, but all the surrounding nations. But a greater king (Jesus) would enter Jerusalem (vs. 10). Zechariah also prophesies of Jesus’ second return (vs. 10-15) and most importantly, we see King Jesus victorious (vs. 16-17)
Regarding application…Mighty to Save. Vs. 16, “The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.” What a picture! Jesus the Lamb of God who saves his sheep. Yet, He is also the mighty warrior who is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5)! If the LORD can move mountains and calm the raging seas, how much more can He save His people? In the midst of the unknown future, Zechariah brings hope to those who trusted in the Lord and came back to Jerusalem. God is in control. While there are scoffers who poke fun at the faith of Christians today (II Peter 3:3), we must now allow that to deter our faith. Question: How will you respond to the salvation that has been given/offered today?
Vs. 1, “Then I looked up, and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand.” Remember, the angel with the measuring line would have been quite understandable since God’s people were in the middle of a huge rebuilding of the temple (vs. 1-5). God promises to put a wall of fire for their protection (vs. 5). Reminding all who were fearful about a return to Jerusalem, that there was hope and safety. Sadly, many of the exiles got very comfortable in Babylon (vs. 6-7). The LORD wanted to remind them that it was safe to come home and that He would deal with the evil nations that have hurt His children. Zion can be related to Jerusalem, the temple, the nation, and the future city. In the last part of our chapter (vs. 10-13), we see Zechariah prophesy about the future Messiah in Jesus! God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:3) will come to complete fruition. This will be a time for rejoicing as Jesus will dwell with His people.
Regarding application…People Get Ready. Vs. 10, “Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord.” Ready or not…Jesus is coming! Just when it seemed that hope was lost, God reminds us that there is a future. God is redeeming His people. Question: Are you ready? There are many things we get burdened down with in this life. That is why it is so important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. We are the apple of God’s eye (vs. 8), so He will not let those whom He called to despair. While there are times of great celebration for us, we also should just be still (vs. 13) and be in awe of God’s goodness of God towards us. Be excited to come ready and worship the LORD our God on Sunday!
Vs. 7, “Of Jerusalem I thought, ‘Surely you will fear me and accept correction!’ Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed, nor all my punishments come upon her. But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did.” Sadly, though the surrounding nations would receive their due punishment, Jerusalem/Judah would not be without their own consequences (vs. 1-8). They did not obey (vs. 2), they were corrupt and treacherous, and ultimately had no fear of God (vs. 7). Question: What would the LORD do? He will bring His consuming fire to judge the nations and His people (vs. 8). Yet, this consuming fire of God also has another purpose. This fire will purify the remnant of those who call upon the name of the Lord (vs. 9). Years later after the Babylonian captivity, God’s people (a remnant) would return to the land. As we continue on in this last chapter, we see the LORD speaking to His people, but now makes it personal and we see a first-person approach (vs. 14-20). Zephaniah’s last chapter really speaks of much of what Jesus fulfilled as we are reminded of a mighty warrior (vs. 17) who saves and that the LORD God is with His people.
Regarding application…The Hope of Home. Vs. 20, “At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home.” I’m reminded of Dorothy’s words as she declared, “There’s no place like home,” in the Wizard of Oz. Our lives on earth are but a temporary dwelling place. Like Zephaniah’s time, we live in a world of corruption and increasing sin. Question: How do we deal with all of this? Remember the promises of God in His Word. When Jesus came, He only continued to build upon these prophecies of the Old Testament about keeping our perspective. As Jesus was preparing to go home to be with the Father, He promised us that He is preparing our new home (John 14)! My family and I are now looking for a new home closer to our church. It’s going to be a lot of work packing and moving. But, what a great feeling it will be to be in our new home that will be much closer to church. How much more than will this feeling be when we are finally at our true home? There is much hope brothers and sisters!