~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Zechariah 4:1-5:11 ~ Revelation 14:1-20
Psalm 142:1-7 ~ Proverbs 30:21-23
Old Testament - Today in the book of the prophet Zechariah we read about Zechariah's visions of a Lampstand and Two Olive Trees, a Flying Scroll, and a Woman in a Basket. Chapter 4 is essentially a vision of encouragement for the Jews to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem - not by their own might, but by relying on the Spirit of God. The rebuilding will be led by Zerubbabel, the political leader of Jerusalem at this post-exilic time, as well as by Joshua, the priest - and these two are represented by the 2 olive trees in the vision. The bowl of oil held by the lampstands in the vision represents God's power through his spirit. Below is an image of Zechariah's vision of the lampstand and olive trees from a Cervera Bible from Spain from approximately the year 1300:
Chapter 4 verse 6 stood out to me in today's readings: "It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty." How often in our own lives do we try to do things by our own force or our own strength? And not look to God? Would we ultimately lead more productive and peaceful and joyful and restful lives if we instead allowed God's Spirit to move in our lives? Or will we continue to try to do things by our own force and strength?
Verse 10 is a great reminder for each of us - "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel's hand." If we do feel led by the Spirit of God to work on something - and it turns out to be maybe something bigger than ourselves - do we sometimes get discouraged by the task before us? Do we despise small beginnings? Be encouraged to know that God rejoices in small beginnings! Take the first step! Take the plumb line in your hand! (I will be honest - it's not always easy to get motivated for typing in this blog each evening. Most days I am motivated - but not always. Sometimes I just have to "take the plumb line in my hand" - get started with the typing - and God shows up....)
In chapter 5 we read about the vision of the flying scroll - which is a very large scroll with a purpose of encouraging repentance with a clear message of judgment. The second vision of the woman in the basket is essentially purging sin from the land of Jerusalem, and plopping it down in a more fitting place where they will build a temple for it! To worship the sin... Babylon... Are there areas in our life where we need to deposit some sin into a basket, close the lid, and let the basket be taken away to another place far from us? Is it possible that there are areas of sin in our life where we actually worship the sin somehow? Will we turn away from this false idol worship and return to loving God whole-heartedly?
New Testament - Today in Revelation chapter 14 we read about Jesus (the Lamb) and all believers (the 144,000) in the heavenly Jerusalem (Mount Zion). I love verses 4 and 5 in this chapter: "For they are spiritually undefiled, pure as virgins, following the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been purchased from among the people on the earth as a special offering to God and to the Lamb. No falsehood can be charged against them; they are blameless." Are these 2 verses attractive to you? Do you want to be like this someday in heaven? Spiritually undefiled? Pure? Following Jesus wherever he goes? Blameless?
We then read about the Three Angels and In verse 8 we read: "Then another angel followed him through the skies, shouting, "Babylon is fallen--that great city is fallen--because she seduced the nations of the world and made them drink the wine of her passionate immorality."" Babylon, as we know from our recent readings in the Old Testament, such as Daniel, was in ancient Mesopotamia and the commercial, political, and religious center of a world empire led by Nebuchadnezzar. Some commentators believe that John is writing about Rome here when he says Babylon - and that John uses the term Babylon because it would be too dangerous for him to say Rome. Some others believe this reference to Babylon refers to the time of the antichrist in the end days, and represents the corrupt political and religious systems of the world in the end times.
Verse 12 is likely referring to the end times, but it does make me think about the persecuted Christians in our world today - "Let this encourage God's holy people to endure persecution patiently and remain firm to the end, obeying his commands and trusting in Jesus." There are thousands, if not millions, of Christians in our world today who suffer for their belief in Christ. They are persecuted. Today. How can we encourage these holy people of God who are enduring persecution today? Prayer is certainly one thing we can do, as a starter. Have you heard of the International Day of the Persecuted Church? Please visit their website by clicking on this link - and then click on the links on their home page to check out some great ministries that are serving the needs of the Persecuted Church. Thank you for considering praying and getting involved in the Persecuted Church.
Psalms - Psalm 142 is a prayer of David's when he was fleeing Saul and was hiding in a cave. David is praying for deliverance to God from his enemies. I thought verse 3 was powerful - "For I am overwhelmed, and you alone know the way I should turn.
Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me." Have you ever felt this way? Overwhelmed? And traps every which way you look? And you have no idea which way to go? At a time like this, will you cry out to God as David did in this Psalm? Will you "pour out your complaints before him and tell him all your troubles"? (v. 2) Do you believe that God knows which way you should turn? Will you allow God to ""be your place of refuge"? In times like these, will you allow God to be "all you really want in life"? (v. 5) Some say that David wrote Psalm 142 while in a cave in Adullam. And apparently, some people believe that this cave in the photo below could have been the cave where David lived in Adullam and wrote Psalm 142... I don't know how true this is, but it's kind of fun to think about this cave maybe being the place in any case:
Proverbs - Proverbs 30 verses 21-23 are a continuation of the sayings of Agur, from probably around 700 B.C. during the reign of King Hezekiah. Agur was probably a non-Israelite wise man like Job and his friends.
Comments from you: What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!