Daniel 3

Daniel 3

Today’s reading is the famous story of the three Hebrews and their unflinching faithfulness to God in the midst of an imminent threat of death in the fiery furnace. Most people have heard this story and it is often told in very simplistic terms. However, the principle of steadfast faithfulness in the midst of great personal threat is so pertinent to our present culture and the new of current times, that the words from today’s reading seemed to leap off of the page as I read them.

I like a paragraph from today’s reading of D. A. Carson’s devotional,

Observe: (a) Their basic courtesy and respect are undiminished, however bold their words. (b) They are completely unwilling to apologize for their stance. The wise believer never apologizes for God or for any of his attributes. (c) They do not doubt God’s ability to save them, and they say so: God is not hostage to other gods, or to human beings, emperors or otherwise. (d) But whether or not God will save them they cannot know—and the point is immaterial to their resolve. Faithfulness is not dependent upon an escape hatch. They choose faithfulness because it is the right thing to do, even if it costs them their lives.1

Personal persecution is very limited today in our country, but it seems like the potential is rising for it to become increasingly more as the days go by. Do I have the backbone to stand faithfully to any tests that I face in the future? It is a sobering and pertinent question to ask myself.

1 D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: a Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word., vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998).

Psalm 99-101

Psalm 98-101

I love the 3 psalms in today’s reading. Psalm 99 begins with a reverant praise of God. Carson notes,

After the unrestrained joy of Psalm 98, there follows in Psalm 99 a profound reverence. We have moved from a festival of praise to a cathedral.
The psalm divides into two parts. The theme of the first is established by the repeated line, “he is holy” (99:3, 5). This does not mean something as narrow as saying that God is good or moral (though it does not exclude such notions). The emphasis is on the sheer “Godness” of God—what makes him different from human beings, what makes him uniquely God. 1

Psalm 100 will always be special to me. When I was in college, I participated in a contest for preaching. As one of three finalists, I used Psalm 100 as my text. Psalm 100:5 is one of my favorite verses and it so happens to mention the “steadfast love of God” which has been a theme for me this summer.

Psalm 101 speak of the integrity of the believer. It includes a promise of conviction in Ps. 101:3—a purposeful plan to keep greed, lust, and envy at bay. It also includes a reference to the “steadfast love of God” in Ps. 101:1.

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: a Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word., vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998).

Psalms 98

Introduction

This week marked a change in my life schedule which is good. However, the time I have available to write is less as well as less structured. As a result, I have not produced an entry in my posts for about a week. Because of this change, I may not be able to write as frequently or as extensively as before. However, I do not want to give up this project so instead, I plan to change the focus a little. Rather than writing about both readings each day, I will likely more often, concentrate on one of the two readings and it may not be every day. Even though this change initially troubles me since it is a shift from my original goal, I shall adapt. I will remind myself that the purpose of this online journal was never to inform or attract other readers, though all are welcome, it is to give me an avenue to deepen my quiet time with the God of the Bible.


Psalm 98

In the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 98 is known as the Cantate Domino (“Sing to the Lord”) and is placed between the evening Old Testament reading and it New Testament counterpart. It overflows with exhilarating worship and joy. 1

The last word of the above quote from D. A. Carson was the primary focus of my reading this morning. This summer, for the most part, has been one often void of real joy. Spending so much time without work created an ever increasing discontent with life and with my goals. The bright spot was an increasing awareness of God’s “ever presence” and a sensitivity to my sin.

I also became increasingly aware of a clearer definition of “joy”. It doesn’t come from things. It doesn’t even come from people, really. It ultimately only comes from pleasure in God. God is constant and when my joy is in Him, my joy will remain constant also. Things will fade, people will disappoint, but God remains constant forever.

In this Psalm, the author writes many imperatives. Two of them, I highlighted, Psalm 98:4 and Psalm 98:6. Three times he uses the word joyful or joyous. He also commands that my joy be expressed verbally (noise, song). I might point out also that the Lord is the receiver of my expression. Because of my cynical sin nature, I am often suspicious of outward expressions of worship during singing in church or similar venues. My suspicions are wrong but they limit my ability to express my joy and praise in a likewise fashion. However, I do feel a pull to worship the Lord and express my joy in Him.

Psalm 98 is a great expression of the grateful heart. Recently, I have seen the might hand of God do some really awesome things in my life and my responses are gratefulness and joy. The joy part seems weak, though, because the circumstances are difficult. Today’s psalm teaches me to focus on God not circumstances. The result will be unrestrained joy!

1 D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: a Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word., vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998.

Ezekiel 38 and Psalm 89

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 38 begins the familiar prophecy against Gog and Magog. I always thought this was referring to Moscow but D. A. Carson has a different take,

Along similar lines, Ezekiel 38 begins by denouncing “Gog, chief prince of Meschech and Tubal” (38:3). The suggestion that these names refer to Moscow and Tobolsk is without linguistic merit. The pair of names appears elsewhere (Gen. 10:2; 1 Chron. 1:5; Ezek. 27:13; 32:26) and refers to the known tribes of Moschoi and Tibarenoi. Gog is perhaps to be identified with Gyges, king of Lydia (called Gugu in some ancient records). More importantly, this anticipated horde of opponents to God’s people comes from the “far north” (38:6)—which is the direction from which the worst of Israel’s foes always came. The chapter ends in apocalyptic imagery (38:18-23)—which begins to make the scene feel like an idealized and final outbreak against the people of God, in which God vindicates his name and his cause. Thus all previous outbreaks anticipate, and are concluded by, this final apocalyptic struggle.

Chapters 38-39 appear to be the end of the first part of Ezekiel with 40-48 coming a number of years later. Knowing that brings a more climatic feel too chapters-39 for me. I appreciate the portions of the Scripture that obviously identify God as the final victor in the great battles of human history.


Psalms

As I have identified before, I’ve been highlighting the phrase “the steadfast love of God” in the Psalms as I read. Psalm 89 opens will several instances of this phrase beginning with Ps. 89:1. It is found again in Ps. 89:2.

The steadfast love of God has been one of the most important promise of God for me over the last six months. I cherish the comfort of God’s abiding love.

1 D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: a Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word., vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998.

Ezekiel 36 and Psalm 86

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 36 suggests to me a bit of a shift from judgment to hope. God tells Ezekiel to give a pronouncement to the Mountains of Israel (Ezekiel 36:1-15). It seems like an inverse of Ezekiel 35 and the pronouncement to the Mount Seir. This chapter feels full of hope for the restoration of Israel, especially since the judgment has been so severe, albeit deserving so. God also reiterates the history that led up to this point reminding Israel that it was her sins and her disobedience that caused all of the suffering.

I believe that God seeks restoration with His people, but because He is holy, His justice demands an accounting for sin. These are critical characteristics of God and we can not change Who He is, nor should we want to. The variable here is my own human heart. Am I willing to submit to God who alone can cover the darkness of my heart and allow Him to direct my path or will I stubbornly refuse and follow my flawed will into deeper darkness?


Psalms

We return to David as the author of today’s psalm, Psalm 86. There are several verses that I identified by highlighting them in my Bible. Psalm 86:5, Psalm 86:13, and Psalm 86:15 all reference the “steadfast love of God” I think one reason this phrase stands out to me is because it was a promise to me all of this summer that God had not forgotten me and He had not forsaken me. His love was “steadfast” and nothing would change that. David experienced a great deal of lonliness and at times, despair, yet he always held on to the “steadfast love of God” as an anchor in his life.

When I read the news or listen to others talk about current events or the culture of today at large, I often feel a very strong check in my spirit. It is in those moments and frankly all of the time, that I appreciate the realization that God’s love is steadfast and He is unchangeable. My love for the Word of God grows stronger all of the time because I need to know more about God.

Lord, I need You, Oh, I need You
  Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
  Oh God, how I need You1

1 Christy Nockels, Daniel Carson, Jesse Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, and Matt Maher. “Lord, I Need You.” Song Select (https://us.songselect.com/songs/5925687/lord-i-need-you : accessed 3 October 2014).

Ezekiel 35 and Psalm 85

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 35 is another chapter of condemnation of one of Israel’s neighbors. It seems out of place with the others that ended with chapter 32. Mount Seir is actually an indirect reference to Edom. Carson gives his explanation,

More importantly, of all the neighboring nations Edom was in one respect a special case. The nation of Edom was descended from Esau, and the old rivalry between Jacob and Esau was passed down into the rivalry between Israel and Edom, two nations of relatives divided by a common animus. Edom is not specifically mentioned in this chapter, of course; the reference instead is to Mount Seir (Ezekiel 35:2)—i.e., the mountain region east of the Arabah, the valley running south from the Dead Sea. There they harbored their “ancient hostility” (Ezekiel 35:5)1

It is difficult to comprehend why emnity among brothers seems so much stronger and enduring than among strangers. I think it is sad that the animosity between Jacob and Esau flowed down to the many generations of their offspring.


Psalms

Psalm 85 feels like the morning after the dark night or the sunshine after the hard rain. The psalmist recounts God’s restoration after the severe judgment that Israel faced. He uses words like “restore” and “revive” to describe what is going on in the life of the nation of Israel. There are a couple of places where I again highlighted the phrase, “steadfast love”

  • Psalm 85:7
  • Psalm 85:10

This morning, I am rejoicing in the goodness and faithfulness of God. He has given restoration and shown His steadfast love. He is trustworthy and kind. He is always good. I cannot always see His hand but I know that it is always with me. Thank you, God, for loving and caring for me.

1 D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: a Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word., vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998).

Ezekiel 34 and Psalms 83-84

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 34 tells the story of the self-concerned shepherd who feeds himself but not his sheep. In the Old Testament, the term shepherd often referred to the king. Carson gives this explanation,

“Shepherd” was a common metaphor for “king” in the ancient Near East, not least in the Old Testament (cf. Isa. 44:28; Jer. 10:21; 23:1-6; Mic. 5:4, 5; Zech. 11:4-17). The shepherd provided not only care and nurture for the sheep, but leadership, medical attention, and defense against foes. Doubtless it was an excellent metaphor to apply to hereditary monarchs who might be tempted to think of their calling in terms of power and privilege but not in terms of responsibility.1

God, however, turns the story around by listing a number of times the phrase, “I will…” or “I myself will…” (Ezek. 34:10-16 and Ezek. 34:17-22). He will both protect the sheep and purify the flock by judging those who are evil or corrupt. In Ezekiel 34:23-31 He promises a shepherd who will be both God and a man from the line of King David — Jesus (John 10).

God is amazing; He identifies the problem, He executes judgment, and He provides relief for the oppressed. In the midst of deficit, it can be easy to succumb to despair — much like the poor sheep of this metaphor — but God will alway step in at just the right time to restore the downtrodden.


Psalms

There is quite a difference between Psalm 83 and Psalm 84. Psalm 83 is likely the last psalm of Asaph and it once again asks God to bring judgment against Israel’s wicked neighbors. I don’t think that is it easy for me to understand just how heavy the oppression against Israel by it surrounding countries was. However, I can liken it to the oppression that Satan brings against my mind and soul with his accusations and fiery darts. Spiritual warfare is very real and living right in the middle of the devil’s kingdom is a dangerous and oppressive place to be. I can relate in that sense to the cry of this psalmist to God to destroy my enemy and restore me to a safe refuge when I am feeling the oppression of the devil against me.

Psalm 84 is a beautiful oasis in this portion of Scripture. The psalmist speaks about true worship and coming to the place of the presence of God. The closest thing we experience to this today would be corporate worship. I know many Christians who claim to love God but disdain church, usually because of bad experiences. Those are the human factors but they do not negate the critical command we have in Hebrews 10:25 to come together to worship Christ and be fed from the Bible.

I read a very good commentary on Psalm 84 this morning from the book, Opening Up Psalms,

In the first place, we must note his intense longing for worship (Ps. 84:1-4). How great was this longing? The psalmist says it consumed his entire being. He says his soul ‘faints’ with this longing (Ps. 84:2). It was almost too much for him to bear.

We will never feel like worshipping God until we understand something of his greatness, and we cannot help but worship once we do. In other words, there is a direct correlation between our conception of God and our desire for worship. The greater God is in our eyes, the greater will be our desire to worship him.2

1 D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: a Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word., vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998).

2 Roger Ellsworth, Opening up Psalms, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 58-59.

Ezekiel 33 and Psalms 81-82

Ezekiel

Today’s reading from Ezekiel 33 has some familiar verses in it. It is the story or metaphor of the watchman. It harkens back to chapter 3 of Ezekiel. I have heard many sermons using this text as a motivation for evangelism. Whether that application is strictly correct or not, it does serve as a reminder of how critically important it is for me to share the gospel message. I am a “watchman” against the rising wickedness of my culture and my message of warning is the message of the gospel. D. A. Carson introduces this changing section of Ezekiel,

Although the warnings and calls for repentance continue, one now hears a rising note of comfort. As long as the exiles found it difficult to believe that Jerusalem could fall, Ezekiel was full of warning. Once the fall has taken place, God in his mercy gives Ezekiel words that will comfort the exilic community, nurture their faith, and steel their minds and wills.

Before that turning point arrives, the first half of the chapter returns to a theme first introduced in Ezek. 3:16-21: Ezekiel the watchman.1


Psalms

The Old Testament Survey Series: The Wisdom Literature and Psalms outlines Psalm 81:

Ps. 81 is another Asaph psalm. Since it tells of the early history of Israel, Ps. 81 is classified as an historical psalm. The psalm has three main divisions: (1) a call for celebration (Ps.81:1-5); (2) a stimulus for recollection (Ps. 81:6-10); and (3) an expression of lamentation (Ps. 81:11-16).2

Ps. 81 reads like a history lesson recalling the goodness of God and the failure of His people to obey. I can only conclude that Israel, like us today, can not do good and please God from their own strength. If the Holy Spirit does not move us to do right and please God, we are helpless with our sin nature to do it on our own volition.

The same commentary does a good job outlining Psalm 82 as well,

The psalm develops three thoughts: (1) the indictment of the judges (Ps. 82:1-4); (2) the pronouncement against the judges (Ps. 82:5-7); and (3) the exaltation of the supreme judge (Ps. 82:8).3

1 D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: a Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word., vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998).

2 James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Ps 81.

3 Smith.

Ezekiel 32 and Psalm 80

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 32 is a lament by Ezekiel for both Egypt and for Pharoah Hophra. Pharoah is described as both a lion and as a sea monster. The Lord catches him in a net and he is cast upon the shore to be devoured by the birds and other creatures. Later, the chapter describes several of the neighboring nation-states that have previously fallen in like manner. Assyria, Elam, Meshech-Tubal, Edom, and finally the ‘princes of the north”, likely the Phonecian city-states or Sidonians. Each of these nations were fierce and powerful at one time, but because of their sin, they faced the inevitable judgment of God and they have been destroyed.

It serves to me as a reminder that those people or groups who seem today to have such power, whether it is political, social, etc. and who turn their back on God and pursuade other to also so so, will one day face the inevitable judgment of God. When it comes to the people, I would pray for repentance and rebirth, but when it comes to the sin, as a Christian, I rejoice in the just hand of God.

The effect of God’s judgment is “fear-producing”. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says this,

In response to Egypt’s fall the surrounding nations would be appalled (cf. Ezek. 26:16; 27:35; 28:19) and their kings would shudder with horror. God’s revealing His holy character through Egypt’s judgment would have a profound effect on other nations. If mighty Egypt could be destroyed, so could they.1

Psalms

Psalm 80:3, Psalm 80:7, and Psalm 80:19 all repeat the refrain,

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Matthew Henry’s commentary shares this thought,

Lastly, The psalm concludes with the same petition that had been put up twice before, and yet it is no vain repetition (Ps. 80:19): Turn us again. The title given to God rises, Ps.80:3, O God! Ps.80:7, O God of hosts! Ps.80:19, O Lord (Jehovah) God of hosts! When we come to God for his grace, his good-will towards us and his good work in us, we should pray earnestly, continue instant in prayer, and pray more earnestly.2

In this psalm, Asaph uses the metaphor of the vine. Israel is represented by the vine that is in rough shape. A big part of this condition is that God’s protection has been removed due to judgment. How can I expect God to surround me with his protection while at the same time willfully sin and dishonor His glory?

1 Charles H. Dyer, “Ezekiel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1290.

2 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 861.

Ezekiel 31 and Psalm 79

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Ezekiel

In Ezekiel 31, Ezekiel bring the fifth oracle against Egypt and it king, Pharoah Hophra. Egypt is compared to Assyria who is compared to the great cedar tree. In the Old Testament Survey Series: The Major Prophets, a description of this is given,

The oracle begins with a rhetorical question: .“Whom are you like in your greatness?” Only Assyria was comparable to Egypt in pomp and power. Ezekiel compared Assyria to a giant cedar tree with beautiful and shady foliage. This tree was exalted above all the trees of the forest, i.e., every other kingdom. The numerous boughs and long branches provided shelter for bird and beast alike, i.e., .“all great nations lived under its shade” (Ezek. 31:3-6).

No other tree in the .“garden of God,” i.e., the world, could compare to it. In fact all other trees (nations) were jealous of the giant cedar. As part of God’s garden, the kingdoms of this world needed to recognize that they had been planted and nurtured by the Lord. The cedar (Assyria) spread its branches and boasted of its beauty. The cedar forgot the source of its life. By extolling the beauty and majesty of the cedar, Ezekiel condemned the proud spirit of Assyria and of Pharaoh who was like Assyria (Ezek. 31:7-9).1

When God gives us His rich blessings and shares a talent or a resource with us to use for His glory, what is our response — better asked, “What is my response?” The things we are blessed with are not for our glory nor are they any indication of our status or our esteem. Rather they are only a tool with which we are expected to bless others and glorify Christ. John Doe has a great job and a beautiful house because God has provided them not because John Doe is someone special. This is easy to remember when we are on the bottom looking up, but do we remember this when we think we are on the top looking down?

Psalms

Asaph the psalmist, recognizes in Psalm 79 that Israel is deserving of the chastisement they have received. He intervenes in prayer for Israel and asks God to shorten the judgment and bring it to an end. As I continue to read about the judgment of Israel, both in the prophets and in Psalms, I am even more amazed that Jesus Christ took my judgment upon Himself. I may be chastened by my heavenly Father, but I can stand in full assurance that I will never face the ultimate judgment for my sin (Romans 8). That is an amazing and mind-blowing truth to comprehend.

D. A. Carson gives a brief introduction to Psalm 79:

Here Asaph does not question the justice of God’s burning “jealousy” (Ps. 79:5), but (as in Ps. 74; see meditation for September 23) its duration: “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” (Ps. 79:5).2

1 James E. Smith, The Major Prophets, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1992), Eze 31:1-18.

2 D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: a Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word., vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998).