Bible Reading Blog
BIBLE READING: Luke 1-2
“And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” (Luke 1.19)
Luke 1 is dominated by the angel Gabriel who is sent to both Zechariah and Mary with a message from God. He tells Zechariah that he will have a son who will prepare the way for Jesus (Luke 1.13-17). He tells Mary, although she is a virgin, that she too will have a child and he will be the son of God (Luke 1.31-33).
Both messages troubled the hearers (Luke 1.12, 29). The sudden appearance of Gabriel, coupled with a message about coming events were both confusing and frightening. But there was no doubt this message was from God.
This appears to be a primary function of angels throughout scripture. They entered the world to execute divine judgment and communicate God’s will in definitive fashion (see Genesis 19.1-22; Numbers 22.22-35). Angels were not always overt in their mission (Hebrews 13.2), but in episodes when they revealed themselves, there was no doubt God was at work. Such was the case with Gabriel.
If an angel appeared to you in dramatic fashion, no doubt you would stop to consider what they were saying. As the author of Hebrews would write, “[their] message proved to be reliable” both for blessing and retribution (Hebrews 2.2). But how does he continue? Jesus is superior to the angels, in power and prominence (Hebrews 1.4-14) – “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking to you” (Hebrews 12.25).
As important and trustworthy as Gabriel proved to be, he was the preface to the incarnation of Jesus. In fact, Luke goes on to include other witnesses to this important event. The Holy Spirit enlightens Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah to the fulfillment of prophesied events (Luke 1.35, 41-45, 67-79). Another angel appears to some shepherds who share what they had been told about Jesus (Luke 2.8-20). The prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna both exalt in Jesus as the Christ (Luke 2.22-38).
All this is intended to center our attention on the person of Jesus. God communicated with beings both great and small, so the world was aware of what he was doing. As powerful and profound as Gabriel’s moment was in Luke 1, Jesus is the one we’re supposed to see. In fact, everything God ever communicated is intended to bring us to this point (2 Corinthians 1.20; Hebrews 1.1-4). So, whatever Jesus says or does is the final word from God. His words possess authority (Mark 1.22, 27). His judgments are definitive (John 5.22). His promises are sure (Hebrews 6.18-20). We must not refuse anything that he says.
“For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2.2-3)
BIBLE READING: Micah 1
“Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.” (Micah 1.2)
Almost daily, I say to my kids, “Are you listening to me?” The question is essentially rhetorical. I’m asking because they’re obviously not doing something I’ve told them to do. The older they get, the harder it seems to be for them to hear me. They’re busy doing something they want to do and don’t understand the importance of my words and the value it can bring to their lives.
God begins every prophetic discourse with a call to listen for the same reason parents do: his children aren’t listening. He revealed himself to them in many ways. Powerful signs and deliverance from Egypt. Providence in the wilderness. He showed his presence on the mountain. He gave them written commands and expectations. He made it clear that he could be trusted, he should be feared, and that his words always came true. What more did his people need?
Scripture reveals the natural tendency of God’s people to become hard-hearted and dull of hearing over time. “Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing.” (Hosea 8.12). Like children, there is a natural bend to challenge his words in the context of other thoughts and ideas. Over time this manifests as indifference, pride and disobedience.
God is long-suffering with this immaturity but will not endure it forever. God expects to be heard because he speaks intentionally. Everything he says will come to pass (Numbers 23.19) and he does nothing without revealing it through his messengers (Amos 3.7).
As we know, in the fullness of time “the word became flesh and dwelt among us” in a definitive period of communication for the salvation of the world (Galatians 4.4; John 1.14; 3.16-18). And yet many religious people still failed to listen. They had eyes that did not see and ears that did not hear (Matthew 13.15, cf. Isaiah 6.10; Jeremiah 5.21). Not because it wasn’t evident but because they did not want to hear or see.
The critical lesson we learn from the prophets is to listen to God the first time. He has graciously preserved his written word and sent prophets throughout history. Although largely ignored, God suffered long according to his steadfast love and faithfulness. But the advent of Jesus was a communication we cannot ignore (Hebrews 1.1-4; 12.25). His presence in this world is something we must not take lightly. God came down, not in judgment as he did in the days of the prophets (Micah 1.3, 12) but in hope of reconciliation.
Let’s open our ears, humble our hearts, listen to God’s communication and let it lead our life today.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… see that you do not refuse him who is speaking to you.” (Hebrews 1.1-2; 12.25)
BIBLE READING: Revelation 13-14
Revelation depicts the dichotomy of good and evil. There is no gray area where some ride the fence and swing their loyalty just enough at the end. Those who realize victory and vindication from Jesus are those who have committed themselves to the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus (12.17; 14.1-5). They have struggled against Satan and his forces, even to death (6.9-11). Everyone else, whether deliberate or deceived, will incur the wrath of God (11.10; 13.4, 14; 14.9-11).
The stark contrast represents true reality. The world will say truth is subjective and enlightenment comes through many paths. Philosophy and psychology always seem to come up with new explanations for what life is about and how to do it right. Like the early believers John wrote to, we are influenced by cultural bias and sometimes become lax or discouraged in our faith. John’s vivid language is intended to wake us up to reality and prompt urgency. In fact, John makes a point to step aside from his apocalyptic language to offer clear calls to action:
“Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints… “those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” (Revelation 13.10b; 14.12)
“This calls for a mind with wisdom…” (Revelation 13.18; 17.9)
Some of these calls are for the immediate readers, as they would soon experience these things (Revelation 13.9-10). But these are also for believers of all time. We too will be confronted by a world that is still subject to the power and deception of Satan. Until Christ returns, Satan’s focus is to destroy those loyal to Jesus. What this means is Revelation must be considered and acted upon. Its goal is to motivate faithfulness, in our lives, until the very end (Revelation 14.13).
Trials cause frustration and distress. Life causes apathy and discouragement. Some of this is the nature of the world, but some of these are Satan’s tactics to distract our loyalty to Jesus. Here is a call for endurance. We need to make the best use of our time and commit ourselves to Jesus in every way. In our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. In our relationships, work, and families. Following Jesus is all in, all the time. We must be sober minded about this reality and live today with purpose and conviction.
“…you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10.36)
""...blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on." "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!" (Revelation 14.13)
BIBLE READING: Revelation 12
The major message of Revelation begins in chapter 4 with the introduction of God on his throne. Everything else up to this point was preparatory as John is about to witness the “Drama of Redemption.” We are introduced to Jesus as the living, victorious Christ (Revelation 1). The audience this drama is to benefit is presented in Revelation 2-3 with all their vices and virtues. Revelation 4-5 settles our attention on God and sets the tone for all that follows. God reigns supreme and his dealings with humanity find purpose and meaning in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (4.11). He alone is worthy to unveil the mystery hidden for ages because he fulfilled the redemptive purposes of God towards man (5.9-10).
Revelation is not intended to be read as a linear timeline but rather as a mural depicting the various elements of redemptive history. In this book we see the hand of Christ opening the sealed book of God’s dealings with men and giving clarity to God’s actions.
As the seals are broken and trumpets are blown, we see wickedness and corruption increase throughout history (Revelation 6). Evil gains prominence and the world becomes an apparent wasteland, ruled by wicked leaders, and filled with unrepentant peoples (Revelation 9). This culminates in apparent victory for evil (11.7-10). But throughout there are constant reminders of God’s power and presence to redeem those who are his (see 6.9-11; 7.9-17). These events are within the bounds of God’s power as it is his messengers who usher the timing of their occurrence (marked by angels blowing trumpets, pouring bowls, etc).
When all hope seems lost, the tides suddenly turn. The murdered witnesses revive (11.11), and the apparent kingdom of the world becomes “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (11.15). The temple is opened (11.19) indicating universal access to God.
But this is not the end of the story. At this point we must turn our attention to the enemy at large. Satan has been cast down and he knows his time is short (12.9, 12). He is furiously working to make war on “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (12.17). In the chapters that follow, Satan’s ferocity and tenacity are intimidating and, for many, convincing. He is relentless because he has no time to waste. “…But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12.12).
This is the time in which we live. Satan operates openly and covertly. He manipulates people and situations to take our attention off Jesus. This is not some childish apparition; We have an enemy who is out to get us (1 Peter 5.8). Every day we must live with this awareness and prepare our minds to engage. He has no time to waste… and neither do we.
"Let no one deceive you… walk as children of light… look carefully how you walk… making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5.6-16)
BIBLE READING: 2 Peter 2-3
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” (2 Peter 2.1)
You expect the church to be a safe space where you can trust people. But even Satan finds his way in sometimes. We shouldn’t mistrust one another, but we should be on guard for Satan’s schemes. He works through personal agendas, greed, and other means that are sometimes undetectable to the spiritually immature.
Passages like this reveal and ugly reality of life that we wish didn’t exist. For some it may plant ideas in the mind that cause anxiety, worry, and doubt. Can I really trust anybody? While uncomfortable to consider, it is this thought that drives us to the need for a standard outside of ourselves. In addressing these concerns Peter would say this:
“…I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles…” (2 Peter 3.1-2)
Peter’s remedy for identifying false teachers and establishing our faith is this: Listen to the predictions of the prophets and follow the commandments of Jesus and the apostles. For both, he says “remember,” meaning not just recollect, but to consider their application to the present. To explain, he gives a practical example for how this works.
People in the first century would question the return of Jesus in judgment— “where is the evidence? Nothing like this has ever happened before.” But they’re wrong. God judged the world in Noah’s day with a flood, destroying everyone but the righteous. This stands as a witness to God’s ability to bring another judgment in the future which will happen. (2 Peter 3.3-7, paraphrased)
It is the prophets who give power to the words of Jesus and the apostles (Romans 15.4). This is why we need to know the Old Testament. God’s prophets weren’t making stuff up. They spoke as they were moved by God, often in ways they didn’t understand because they were serving future generations (Consider Amos 3.7; 1 Peter 1.10-12; 2 Peter 1.21).
We may not always be able to trust one another, but we can trust the apostles, prophets and Jesus. Our commitment must be to believe their predictions and adhere to their patterns. Without these, we can easily be led astray by things that sound good or by people that appear trusting (1 Timothy 4.1-2). I pray God that does not happen to us! Let us then commit to have a fellowship “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2.20).
“…we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you would do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place…” (2 Peter 1.19)