Revelation 1

Vs. 3, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”  The book of Revelation simply means “unveiling” and it also gives us the English word apocalypse.  The source of revelation is none other than Jesus Christ (vs. 1-3).  In this book, we are given detail to God’s plan and purpose for His church, but most importantly it is about Jesus.  You will notice much symbolism that is related to the Old Testament prophecies.  This symbolism can lead to much speculation, but part of the mystery of Revelation is that its purpose is not to shed complete light.  While Revelation was originally given to seven actual churches in Asia Minor, John like his Gospel intended this to apply to all (vs. 4).  There was much persecution and people needed encouragement.  Certainly, we can also comprehend the difficult times in our own lives.  John gives us a beautiful description of the Spirit of God, Jesus and the Father (vs. 4-8).  While banished on the Island of Patmos, John gets amazing encouragement from Jesus Himself (vs. 9-19).  The seven lampstands represent the seven churches (vs. 11-12, 20).  John’s vision of Jesus (vs. 13-16) reminds us of the prophet Daniel’s visions of Jesus (Daniel 7).  Our chapter ends with Jesus’ words of encouragement to John’s obvious fear and amazement (vs. 17-20)

Regarding application…Do not be Afraid.  Vs. 17, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.”  There are times when our feeling and emotions can get the best of us due to our circumstances.  Yet, the Lord would remind the Apostle John just as He did the shepherds in the fields at His birth and so many others; Do not to be afraid.  But this word of encouragement was not just for John, it was for the seven churches going through persecution and it is also for us living in the end times.  Question: What fears lie ahead for you in 2013?  The book of Revelation is a wonderful reminder for us as we begin the new year of our ultimate future!

Zechariah 7

Vs. 3, “by asking the priests of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”  The night visions are over and Zechariah is visited by a delegation of leaders from Bethel who are curious about their practice of fasting while in exile.  We get a surprising answer (vs. 4-7) as it seems the LORD is pointing towards the prophet Jeremiah’s warning (Jeremiah 36).  People were fasting, but not for the right reasons (vs. 5).  Jeremiah goes on to share how the Jews were reminded to be obedient in good works in the past, yet their hearts were evil.  They were so focused on the outwards acts of the Law, that they were not following the spirit of the Law (vs. 12).  They closed their hearts and their ears (vs. 11-14).  That is why they were disciplined and were taken captive in Babylon in the first place.

Regarding application…Hardened Heart.  Vs. 12a, “They made their hearts as hard as flint…”  Over 2500 years ago, the prophet Zechariah shared these Spirit inspired words…yet they still so aptly apply to us today.  How ironic that Zechariah was reminding a new generation of what God had exhorted to their older generation.  And so the cycle continues…  Brothers & sisters in Christ, that is why I follow the Word of the Spirit of God to walk daily with Him!  I would find myself nearly hopeless and lost if I had not His Word to convict and guide me.  In our Bible study this week, we were reminded of that wonderful opening in the Gospel of John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Question: How is your heart?  Are you turning to God’s Word?  Soften your heart today and know God is calling you to follow Him daily!

Zechariah 6

Vs. 1, “I looked up again, and there before me were four chariots coming out from between two mountains—mountains of bronze.”  This is the 8th an final night vision for Zechariah and is reminiscent of the initial vision in chapter one serving as a bookend.  However, this time the horses are pulling chariots and there is a fourth black horse.  Question: What do these horses and chariots signify?  Chariots were like the modern version of tanks, so they were readying themselves to dispense judgment.  Most biblical scholars believe the two mountains are Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives and the four spirits (vs. 5) represent the four corners of the earth (North, South East, West).  This vision is fulfilled by the overthrow of the Babylonians via the Persians (vs. 8).  The latter half of the chapter (vs. 9-15), we see God’s plan for the return from Babylon for His people.  As the captives came back, they were to pool their gold and silver and construct a crown for Joshua the High Priest (vs. 11).  This event in Zechariah bringing the royal and priestly (vs. 12-13) lines together help fulfill the prophecy of Jeremiah.

Regarding application…Future Hope!  Vs. 12, “Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord.”  Though the crown was intended for Joshua the High Priest, the Branch (vs. 12) really points us towards our true future hope in Jesus the Messiah!  It is Jesus who fulfills the royal and priestly lines!  There was much hope for Israel as they returned from Exile.  I can’t help but think of our own future hope as we await the Lord Jesus a second time!  This really helps me have perspective about the bigger picture.  With a new church and moving next weekend, there are many thoughts about what is in store for my family and I.  Yet, this hope drives me in faith to know that God is in control!

Zechariah 5

Vs. 1, “I looked again, and there before me was a flying scroll.”  Quite a very unusual vision to have a thirty foot/fifteen foot scroll suspended in the air (vs. 2)!  The scroll was a reminder of the covenant that God made with His people through Moses (Exodus 20).  Both sides of the scroll can be a summary of the Ten Commandments with the first set of commandments in relationship with God (vs. 4) and the second set of commands to love others (vs. 3).  The “curse” (vs. 3) represents the consequences that come from disobedience.  In the seventh vision (vs. 5-11) we see a woman in a basket carried away by two women with stork-like wings!  Question: Who is this woman?  When referred to in this manner in the Old Testament, the “woman” often was connected to idolatry/wickedness.  The two women were most likely part of God’s plan to remove idolatry from the land.

Regarding application…Stealing from God?  Vs. 4, “ The Lord Almighty declares, ‘I will send it out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name. It will remain in that house and destroy it completely, both its timbers and its stones.”  Not only were people literally stealing from their neighbors, they were also lying about it in the legal system.  This was not acceptable behavior from God, for they were also stealing also from Him.  Their actions and heart were taking away the glory of His name.  While many of us probably have not stolen things in our lives, we probably have not used the gifts both physical and spiritual that God has given us wisely.  In the end, all that we have does not belong to us in the first place.  Let us remember to give cheerfully to the Lord and to others!

Zechariah 4

Vs. 1, “Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep.”  Zechariah fifth vision comes as the angel wakes him up, remember all of these vision came to him in one night.  Zechariah is given a vision of a golden lampstand with a bowl on top along with seven lamps and two olive trees on the right and left side of it (vs. 3-4).  Question: What is the significance of this golden lampstand and the two olive trees?  The Olive trees signify the olive oil that is continuously supplying the lamps via the channels from the trees.  The purpose of the vision is to encourage Zerubbabel (Governor) that God will help supply all the needs to lead the rebuilding.  No enemy would be able to stand against Israel.  Subsequently, the olive trees also represent the leaders of Zechariah’s time, Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel (vs. 14) or prophets like Haggai and Zechariah.  There are differing thoughts on this understanding.

Regarding application…Spirit’s Power.  Vs. 6, “So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”  Question: How was this big monumental task of rebuilding God’s temple going to be possible?  By the Spirit’s power.  Last week, we were reminded from our reading in Galatians 5, that we are to keep in step with the Spirit.  As a preacher and teacher of God’s word, I too have been admonished to pray for the Spirit’s illumination as I prepare and teach.  I think there is certainly a tendency to rely too much on our own talent and abilities.  When we look at many church communities today, there are fears about our future.  Yet, this was what was going on in Zechariah’s time for there was fear about their own community.  There is when we must not try to do things by our own power, trust in the Lord!

Amos 7

Vs. 2, “When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, “Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!”  Despite Israel’s lack of repentance, Amos boldly calls out to the LORD to forgive.  We see three visions that Amos experiences: locusts (vs. 1-3), fire (vs. 4-6) and the plumb tree (vs. 7-9).  It’s interesting to note how the prayer of Amos brought a change in God’s original plan in the first two visions.    However, the plumb tree/line gives a historical picture of Egyptian engineering.  They would use the plumb line rope and use an actual plumb to hang from a wall to determine if it was built correctly.  God was measuring His people and something wasn’t right.  Amos finally pushed too many buttons and Amaziah the priest finally went to report King Jeroboam II about these prophecies (vs. 10-11).  But Amos was quick to respond back at Amaziah’s threats (vs. 12-17).  Sadly, there would be consequences to such unrepentant hearts like Amaziah (vs. 17) and the rest of Israel.

Regarding application…Out of God’s Will.  Vs. 8, “And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?” “A plumb line,” I replied. Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.”  God was measuring Israel and they were not lining up.  By doing this, God was showing the people through Amos that he checked their hearts and they were turned away.  Question: Are you in God’s will?  How would we measure up with the plumb line?  Not only was God unable to bless His people, He would have to bring judgment upon the nation.  So many chances were extended to Israel and we have the benefit of reading this and knowing the outcome of God’s faithfulness.  But the story is still being lived out to this day.  We too are God’s chosen.  Amos did his part in interceding in prayer for his people.  When we or others we see are out of God’s will, let us pray.  I know that the four years of selfish living in my teen years, I had others praying for me and God’s grace was extended to me.  Let’s be ready to pray for each other.  Let’s be ready to exhort each other in our churches.  Let’s turn back to the will of God!

Daniel 9

Vs. 21, “while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.”  Question: What was Daniel praying about?  This was a prayer of repentance.  A prayer of repentance because God’s people had sinned.  I love how Daniel looks to another prophet Jeremiah’s prophecy (vs. 2) and seeing the fulfillment of the Babylonian invasion and the specific seventy years of captivity.  Since the return to the Promised Land in Egypt nearly 500 years earlier, God’s people turned away from Him.  Question: What would happen to God’s people?  What was this “seventy sevens” reference (vs. 24)?  The seventy sevens refers to 7 times 70 which equals 490.  It was 490 years since the exodus out of Egypt.  The sixty-two sevens refers to the difference of time between the seventy sevens which would be the time it took them to rebuild the second temple upon returning from Babylon.  And some stretch it to the prophecy of years before Jesus would be born.  Daniel seems to pointing to the antichrist rising us during the seven years of tribulations (vs. 27).  I know it gets a bit confusing in this, but the overarching theme God is in control of our future!

Regarding application…Answered Prayer.  Vs. 23, “As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision.”  Wow!  Isn’t that a beautiful picture of God hearing the prayers of his beloved!  Sometimes it’s easy to begin to think that God has more important things to attend to our prayers.  I think it’s important to understand the humility of Daniel’s prayer and confession before God.  It is when we humble ourselves that God is able to open the eyes of our heart to see Him.  Certainly, God’s answered prayer is not always going to be instantaneous to us, but I do believe God has an answer nevertheless.  Perhaps you too have heard that God sometimes says, “yes, wait, or even no.”  Whatever the answer to our prayers, the most important part is the picture of relationship that we have to our Father in Heaven when we pray.  We can’t do this thing called life without communicating  to our Father!  Thank goodness that our connection is not dependent upon a cell tower.  Stay connected to the Lord today!

Ezekiel 40

Vs. 2, “In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city.”  Question: When will this vision be fulfilled?  At the time of this vision, Jerusalem and the temple Solomon had built had sadly already been destroyed.  While another temple was built about 57 years after this vision of Ezekiel, the temple that we see here is the temple that has yet to be built!  This time is referring to the temple that will be built in the Millennium (the 1000 year when Jesus will reign on earth!)  While the measurements don’t mean too much to us, they would have brought much joy to those who would hear a new glorious temple would be built!  These measurements are increased too.  Question: What about the sacrifices?  Some interpret this as more of a symbolic meaning, others look at it like the church practice of communion…but it won’t have the same purpose at the Old Testament practices.

Regarding application…Tell the World.  Vs. 4, “The man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the house of Israel everything you see.”  Just as Ezekiel was to tell others what he saw and heard, we too are to tell the world!  Question: What are you waiting for?  Put yourself in Ezekiel’s place!  Imagine…You were a part of a church that had an incredible church sanctuary!  It was the pride and joy of your church.  Suddenly, we are invaded by another country who destroys all the churches and takes Christians as captives.  Wouldn’t it be exciting if God gave you a vision of a new promise and a more beautiful church?!?!  I’m sure Ezekiel would have been very excited to share this vision.  Likewise, we have God’s visions and prophecies of our future written in the Bible (God’s living Word).  Let’s be excited to tell the world of the hope we have…especially with the Christmas season soon approaching!

Ezekiel 37

Vs. 1, The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.”  About 1 ½ ago, I preached on this very passage!  Question: When will this vision come to fruition?  Many biblical scholars point to this vision as the restoration of the physical and spiritual Israel.  In the past century, Israel has become an official nation again.  And, according to your biblical doctrine, God will one day restore Israel and Jesus will reign with them for 1000 years.  But going back to the vision: It must have been quite a scene to see a valley of skeleton bones all over.  God restores the dry bones and gives them life.  We also see the illustration of the two sticks becoming one to unite God’s people.

Regarding application…Make Us One.  Vs. 22, “I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.”  While the verse is a prophecy to Israel, the application is useful for all of us.  Many of us are dead in our transgressions and don’t realize we are like the dry bones.  As He breathes life into us, we will one day be restored as one body in Christ!  When I think about the heartache of broken families, broken churches, broken nations…it grieves so many.  This hope for a better future is something that not only brings comfort now, but should inspire us to do our part in hastening that day.  What can we do now to help bring about God’s will of restoring that which is broken?