~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Haggai 1:1-2:23 ~ Revelation 11:1-19
Psalm 139:1-24 ~ Proverbs 30:15-16
Old Testament - Today we start and finish the book of the prophet Haggai! This is the second shortest book in the Old Testament, with Obadiah being the shortest. This short book does have a lot to offer... Haggai prophesied in 520 B.C. about 18 years after the Jews had returned from exile in Babylon in 538 B.C. When Cyrus, king of Persia, conquered Babylon, he issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple. About 50,000 Jews returned to Jerusalem and began building the temple's foundation in 538 B.C. under the leadership of Zerubbabel. However, neighboring nations were alarmed by the rebuilding of the temple and politically stopped the progress in 536 B.C. Here is where the story picks up with the prophet Haggai encouraging the process of the temple rebuilding to commence. Good overviews of the book of the prophet Haggai are online at bible.org at this link, and at this link, and at this link.
Haggai chapter 1 verse 3 jumped out at me - and probably not in the way you'd expect based on the above commentary / historical setting - "So the LORD sent this message through the prophet Haggai: "Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?" I guess what jumped out at me in this verse is the concept of tithing. I know this is a hot topic, so please know that these are just my personal views - and views that have changed unfortunately all too frequently. :) Earlier this fall I was gracefully challenged by a friend to tithe a full 10% to my local church. She didn't come out and ask me if I was tithing 10% to the church - just, the topic somehow came up. Before this conversation, I was feeling pretty happy that I was giving 10% to a bunch of different nonprofits and ministries and the church. So maybe 3 to 5% to the church. She gracefully challenged me on this... I guess I hope I can gracefully challenge everyone on this too. Should we consider giving 10% of our gross income, a full tithe, to our local church? And then, if we feel so led and called, offerings on top of that to other very worthy ministries and nonprofits? Would this mean probably having to cut back on some of our luxuries? But with the kingdom minded view of building God's church? Would it be a blessing to us and to many others to consider giving 10% to our local church? I don't mean to put this on the table here to make you feel guilty - and I honestly do not mean to get legalistic about this. I just ask that you think about this and pray about this with God. The tithe will actually bless you more than you could ever imagine. Check out this amazing verse in Malachi 3:10 on tithing - "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." It is very rare in the Bible that God says "test me" and follows it up with an incredible promise of a blessing. Will you test God with a whole tithe?
Okay, back to Haggai. :) Chapter 1 verse 8 is a strong one for us to consider as well - "Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the LORD." I think the key word in this verse is the very small but very powerful - Go. Go.... Where in your life is God calling you to go? Is there something God is calling you do to? if you are obedient in this calling, do you believe it will bring pleasure to God? Will you go?
Okay, I know I've been talking about a lot of obedience things to consider in this post today... :) I'll close out here with a great verse of a promise of a blessing from God for obedience, from Haggai chapter 3 verse 19 - "I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn, before you have harvested your grain and before the grapevine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have produced their crops. From this day onward I will bless you"
New Testament - Today in Revelation chapter 11 we read about the Two Witnesses and the Seventh Trumpet bringing the third terror. The two witnesses in today's reading are modeled after Moses and Elijah. They may be representing two actual believers who will be martyred or they may be symbolic of all testifying believers in the final days.
In verse 11:7 we have the first mention of the beast in the book of Revelation - the enemy that comes from the bottomless pit and wages war in the hearts and lives of men and women. In verse 11:8 allowing dead bodies to lie out in the street is a major violation of decency. In verse 15 things begin to shift in big ways as we read - "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: "The whole world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever."" Is the whole world now part of the kingdom of God? What are some example of why or why not?
Psalms - Psalm 139 is off the charts today! I LOVE this Psalm... and had somehow forgotten about it. Is this Psalm anyone's favorite Psalm out there? I would not doubt it if was. This is just an incredibly beautiful Psalm about how much God loves and cares for us. And just how well God knows us. Please read and re-read this Psalm today if you can. And rejoice in how much God loves you and how much he knows you.
Each of the verses in this Psalm are incredible. I'll highlight a few. Verse 3 - "You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am." Do you believe that God charts out your path for you? Do you believe that God gives you true rest? Do you believe God knows where you are every single moment of your life?
Verses 13 & 14 - "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous--and how well I know it." Do you believe that God was loving and caring and creating you in your mother's womb? Are you amazed by the complexity and wonder of the human body? Could it be anything other than the marvelous workmanship of a loving and creative and living God?
And verses 23 & 24 to close out the Psalm - "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Do you consistently ask God to search your heart and mind? Do you confess to God what is not right in your heart and mind? What needs healing? Do you ask God to even point out to you things that you may not realize are destructive to you and others in your heart and mind? Do you believe that this process of confessing your sins to God and asking for forgiveness and healing will lead you along the path of everlasting life?
Proverbs 30 verses 15 & 16 is a reminder to each of us that this earthly life is temporary... what will we invest our temporary earthly lives in? What is God calling us to do with our lives? Will we live joyously to love and serve others and God?
What verses or insights jumped out for you in today's readings? Please post up in the Comments section below!