~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Zephaniah 1:1-3:20 ~ Revelation 10:1-11
Psalm 138:1-8 ~ Proverbs 30:11-14
Old Testament - Today we start and finish the book of the prophet Zephaniah! Zephaniah was different from some of the recent prophets that we have read, in that he came from royal lineage. He was the descendent of King Hezekiah. Thus, Zephaniah writes about the upper class, courts, and priests with quite a bit of authority and clarity. Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. He prophesied in approximately 640-620 B.C. The purpose of his prophecies were to announce God's coming judgment against Judah. But, as we see with the other prophets, Zephaniah also writes about God saving a remnant of people who love and honor God with their lives - thus preserving and carrying on the covenant promise to Abraham. A good overview of the book of Zephaniah is at bible.org at this link. The link includes a funny opening line - "The Book of Zephaniah is probably best known for being the least known book of the entire Bible." :) Below is an image of the prophet Zephaniah preaching to King Josiah -
Zephaniah chapter 3 verse 5 stood out to me in today's readings - "But the LORD is still there in the city, and he does no wrong. Day by day his justice is more evident, but no one takes notice--the wicked know no shame." As you read the 4 preceding verses, you'll note that God is calling the people and leaders of Jerusalem to the carpet for their sinful ways. And in the midst of all this, comes this beautiful verse 5. God is still there in the city. In the midst of all the chaos and shame. And even through all of this, God's justice actually becomes more and more evident. I think this verse really jumped out at me today because I read a horribly depressing story in the paper recently about just some awful things that were done to children in a nearby city. And this story reminded me that we indeed live in a fallen world. There is evil in our world that invades the hearts of men and women. And yet, even in the midst of all of this chaos and shame in our world today, "The LORD is still there in the city, and he does no wrong. Day by day his justice is more evident, but no one takes notice--the wicked know no shame." Do you take notice of God in our world today? Even in the midst of everything else going on that may attempt to distract you from God? Is God's justice (and love and compassion and mercy and call to holiness) becoming more and more evident to you each day of your life? This very evening, do you believe that God is still there in the city? Will we take notice?
Chapter 3 verses 11 & 12 also stood out to me in today's readings - "I will remove all the proud and arrogant people from among you. There will be no pride on my holy mountain. Those who are left will be the lowly and the humble, for it is they who trust in the name of the LORD." We of course continue to see the sin of pride coming up over and over again in the Old Testament. Here God reminds us that pride and arrogance are not attributes of those who love him. It is indeed the lowly and the humble that better reflect the attributes of those who love and trust God. Is pride something that you struggle with? Do you realize that pride can be a hindrance to a fully loving and obedient relationship with God? Will you lay down your pride and seek humility? Will you seek to place your trust in God rather than your own abilities? When was the last time you bowed low before God?
New Testament - Revelation chapter 10 brings forth the angel and the little scroll. Note that this scroll is not the same as the scroll in Revelation chapter 5, verse 1. This first scroll contains a revelation of judgments against evil, whereas this little scroll's contents are not disclosed - though, it may contain a judgment as well. You will recall from our readings of Ezekiel earlier this winter that, similar to John in this chapter, Ezekiel was instructed in a vision to eat a scroll that was sweet to taste but contained judgments against Israel. From Ezekiel chapter 3 verse 3 you'll recall - "Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth."
Revelation Chapter 10 Verse 1 in today's readings has some cool stuff going on in it - "Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire." The angel being surrounded by a cloud recalls God speaking to Peter James and John on the mountain of the Transfiguration in Matthew chapter 17 verse 5 - "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” The rainbow over the angel's head recalls God's promise to Noah after the flood to never destroy the earth by water again, as we see in Genesis chapter 9 verses 15 & 16 - "I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."" And the angels feet being like pillars of fire recalls the pillars of fire and cloud that guided and protected the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt, as we see in Exodus chapter 13 verses 21 & 22 "By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people."
Psalms - Psalm 138 is an awesome Psalm of thanksgiving and praise to God from David! You'll note that the word Temple is used in verse 2 - and of course the Temple was built by David's son Solomon. It is thought that David used the word Temple in reference to the tent holding the Ark of the Covenant. Some have also thought that this Psalm possibly was written after David's time, in the post-exile period. Either way, it is a beautiful Psalm of praise. Psalm 138 begins a final collection of eight "Davidic" Psalms, which are framed by songs of Praise in Psalm 138 & Psalm 145 - and Psalms 139 through 144 are six prayers.
In Psalm 138 today, verse 3 stood out to me - "When I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me the strength I need." Do you believe that God answers your prayers? Maybe not exactly in the way you'd expect, but that they are answered? Do you believe that God answers your prayers through encouragement and by giving you strength?
Verse 7 jumped out at me as well - "Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will preserve me against the anger of my enemies. You will clench your fist against my angry enemies! Your power will save me." Do you believe that Jesus' power will save you in times of trouble? Or do you rely on your own power and maybe forget about Jesus during times of trouble? Will you rely on Jesus, realizing that only His power will ultimately save you?
Proverbs - Proverbs 30 verses 11 through 13 are a great reminder of the commandment to honor our father and mother - unfortunately these verses are an ugly glimpse of what it looks like to ignore this commandment - "Some people curse their father and do not thank their mother. They feel pure, but they are filthy and unwashed. They are proud beyond description and disdainful." I pray this Christmas season that each of us has an opportunity to honor our father and mother in some special way. Let us be pure and truly humble in this area of life.
What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up in the Comments section below!