Daily Bible Reading

August 19

August 19

Zerubbabel — The temple rebuilding project is stopped & the church is a temple.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Ezra 3

Reading 2: Ezra 4

Reading 3: Ephesians 2:19-22

Success and setbacks go together. In the tides of human history, just as in the oceans of the world, God has ordained tides of fortune and misfortune, opposition and overcoming, setbacks and success.

Today’s readings start with success – the returning exiles resume sacrifices to God, even before the foundation of the Temple is laid, and this is ahead of any other rebuilding in the city. But there are enemies among them, and they refuse to allow those enemies to participate in their work. So in revenge the enemies make trouble for them over several generations until king Artaxerxes orders the work stopped.

So it appears that God’s will is thwarted, and that His people will again be defeated, but God has all authority, and His Story (History) is written by Him. Soon setbacks will be turned into success once more, and the ungodly who had to be excluded in Ezra’s day will be included in the Church. Such is the difference between the Old and the New Covenants, between the nation of Israel and the Church. The new is the fulfillment of the old. Not a replacement but a completion and transformation.

You and I are beneficiaries of God’s grace in that transformation – Gentiles who are now insiders, built together around the cornerstone of Jesus.

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 18

August 18

Zerubbabel — The first return of people from captivity to rebuild the temple.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Ezra 2

Reading 2: Jeremiah 29:10-14

Reading 3: Psalm 126

We saw yesterday how God’s plan prevails, even in the most ungodly circumstances. Today the first of the exiles returns to rebuild the Temple, in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy and prompting the writing of Psalm 126.

God is committed to restoration, redemption and reconciliation between humanity and Himself. This does not depend on our effort, but on God’s love, as we shall see in the New Testament before long.

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 17

August 17

King Cyrus — Cyrus doesn’t know God but fulfills prophecy about rebuilding the temple.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Ezra 1

Reading 2: 2 Chronicles 36:15-23

Reading 3: Isaiah 45:1-7

We have said many times that God is God, and the rulers of human kingdoms have less power and authority than they appear to have. Sometimes God works through an ungodly ruler, other times He removes one, all in accordance with His master plan.

Today we read about king Cyrus who fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah about rebuilding the Temple. It does not seem to matter to God that the instrument of His plans is not a believer! We already saw God’s power over the evil actions of unbelievers in the account of Esther, today we see it again with Cyrus.

So for us who believe, the potential is great – if we will cooperate with God and follow His instructions, the fruit could be greater than when God has to overrule an ungodly authority figure to fulfill His plans.

How can you cooperate with God today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 16

August 16

Esther — The King’s decree, the Jews saved, & the Feast of Purim.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Esther 8

Reading 2: Esther 9

Reading 3: Esther 10

What do you do when an all-powerful ruler has issued a decree which will destroy your people, but the decree cannot be reversed?

That is the seemingly intractable situation that Esther and Mordecai face today. Their enemy Haman has been destroyed, but his sons and his allies still have a decree permitting them to wipe out the Jews on March 7th.

Mordecai has been made prime minister, but the king still has all the authority. Esther goes to the king again and is granted permission to send any message throughout the land, provided it does not contradict the decree to wipe out the Jews.

(Sideline – weak leadership that is too easily influenced by malicious advisors is a terrible affliction for any nation. And subordinate leadership that rebelliously seeks to usurp control is a reflection of satan’s original sin)

Mordecai proves himself to be the leader of God’s choosing alongside Esther – the new decree does not change the original one, but orders the Jews to gather together to defend themselves and attack anyone who seeks to harm them, on the same day as the first decree was to be implemented.

This reversal causes almost everyone to side with the Jews, and allows the Jews to wipe out their enemies, including Haman’s ten sons, on one day (two days in Susa, the capital). This day of victory becomes the Feast of Purim (casting lots) which Jews still celebrate today. The name comes from the lots cast to decide the day the original decree would take effect.

For us, we may face seemingly insurmountable threats, whether today or in the future. But Jesus has already overcome those threats. He has implemented God’s decree, that death will be no more, and sin will be washed away. We can celebrate a great victory!

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 15

August 15

Esther — Esther’s banquets, Mordecai’s honoring, & Haman’s death.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Esther 5

Reading 2: Esther 6

Reading 3: Esther 7

God is a God of repentance and restoration. He is also a God of judgment and retribution. These two are not opposites as you might suppose. Instead they involve reversal rooted in love and justice. Because most of all, God is a God of love and that leads to justice in application.

So today we read of Haman’s pride and supposed success, but also of his bitterness at the way Mordecai refuses to bow down to him. Mordecai’s heart is already bowed to God, and to the authority God has instituted in this ungodly kingdom – the king. So Mordecai cannot share his submission with another, especially one who is so adamantly opposed to God that he intends to wipe out all God’s chosen people.

But the story unfolds, with Mordecai and Esther patiently allowing God to work rather than overstepping their place. And God brings justice, along with shame, pain, and death, to His enemy.

The same will happen on a universal scale before long. The victorious reversal Jesus inflicted on satan will result in the ultimate erasing of evil. We are patiently waiting for God to complete it, just as Esther and Mordecai trusted God to deliver them and their people.

Choose whose side you are on today – and choose wisely!

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 14

August 14

Esther — Haman’s plot against the Jews & Esther’s courageous risk to see the king.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Esther 3

Reading 2: Esther 4

Reading 3: Proverbs 21:1

Here we see Esther stepping into her destiny, as God planned, after we saw her willingness to honor God, submitting to ungodly systems and authorities, in our first reading from Esther. Now she and her people are under a death penalty because an enemy has been promoted to a rank he is unfit for and does not deserve. God has prepared her for this time; although she is concerned and would gladly avoid this test if she could, she prepares to take a great risk and go to the king. Again she does not attack the king’s ungodly law or the evil nature of Haman directly, but prepares for it to be uncovered gradually.

Would that we had as much wisdom and faith in resisting the spread of evil in our day. May God grace us all to deepen our trust in Him and act submissively and wisely toward all the ungodly authorities God has allowed in our lives!

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 12

August 12

Esther — Esther becomes queen & Mordecai protects the king.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Esther 1

Reading 2: Esther 2

Reading 3: Jeremiah 29:1-11

Sometimes the best things can happen in the worst situations. Today we read about Esther (also called Hadasseh) who was an exile during the time of God’s judgment on Israel for their sin. She, and her uncle Mordecai, clearly lived to trust and obey God, and God took them into situations that would be very significant – not just for them but for the whole of God’s Story in human history.

Mordecai honored and protected the king (even though the king was anything but godly), showing that Mordecai understood that the source of all authority is God, whether that authority is used in a godly manner or not. Esther also submitted to an ungodly decree that affected her even more profoundly – she became the king’s wife!

All of this took place in circumstances that Christians today would have loudly condemned, organizing petitions,  boycotts, and Facebook campaigns. Why did Mordecai and Esther support and participate in such a pagan system? Because God had commanded it, through the prophet Jeremiah, when Israel/Judah was exiled. God’s plan, His Story, is bigger than the circumstances of the moment. God will call, guide, protect, and work through any of His followers, even in deeply ungodly situations, if they trust Him, submit to authority, and obey God.

In Esther’s case, there is significance in her experience that is relevant to many of us. God had a plan for her that required her to take a path of submission in an ungodly situation. Her past (as a country girl used to working hard in the fields) would have disqualified her as a beautiful queen if she had not taken the time to prepare. But Esther trusted God’s Word, her uncle’s wisdom, and the instructions of the authority figures in the ungodly system. She took six months to heal the scars and wounds of her upbringing, and another six months for her beauty to be defined and enhanced, before going to the king. We would do well to follow her example. We all have issues from the past that will disfigure us until God’s love and truth wash them away. Each of us has only potential until God beautifies us with giftings, wisdom, and life experience offered to Him. Then, in God’s timing, all that preparation bears fruit and we find ourselves ready for God to work; as we shall see next.

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 11

August 11

Ezekiel — Israel’s sinful history & their (national & individual) resurrection.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Ezekiel 20:1-38

Reading 2: Ezekiel 37

Reading 3: John 11:21-27

In the One Story we are tracing together, today’s readings could be said to be the whole story in one day!

We have the sad, but inevitable history of Israel – chosen by God but defiled by sin, so that they continue to turn away from the one who gives them life & hope to trust instead in lifeless idols and evil images.

We have the metaphorical state of every human being apart from God (and every nation by extension): a pile of dry bones with no hope of life.

And we have the glorious Good News that the eternally living God has decided to bring resurrection life to us all. Not that we deserve this (we don’t!) but God has the power and the desire to fulfill his plan.

Breathe life into us us God!

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 10

August 10

Ezekiel — Being a faithful watchman for God & being innocent of people’s blood.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Ezekiel 3:16-27

Reading 2: Ezekiel 33:1-20

Reading 3: Acts 20:25-27

Once again we are reminded that Ezekiel’s calling was no easy task! He is called to preach to a rebellious and hard-hearted Israel, and God tells him they will not listen!

He is tied up in his house with his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, until God gives him something to say, and then he can speak!

The symbolism behind this is that Ezekiel is a demonstration of the quandary Israel has placed themselves in: They do not want to hear from God, but the only answer to their problems is to hear from God! So God tells Ezekiel to simply be faithful to speak what he hears, and then the consequences will be determined by the choices of his hearers.

We have the same challenge today: to faithfully share God’s love, and to leave the response in the hands of those who hear us.

And let’s be good listeners ourselves!

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 9

August 9

Ezekiel — Ezekiel grieves with the captives but does not grieve the loss of his wife.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Ezekiel 3:1-15

Reading 2: Psalm 137

Reading 3: Ezekiel 24

In our previous reading we saw how God called Ezekiel to the hardship of representing God to a people who had turned their backs on Him. Today we glimpse a little of what that hardship involved.

Called to walk alongside the Israelite and Judean captives in exile, he mourns both the sin that brought them there and their loss of intimacy with God that was their birthright. Then, in a symbolic demonstration of the sorrow in God’s heart, as well as the sorrow they would feel when the full extent of their sin becomes clear to them, Ezekiel is commanded not to mourn publicly for his wife when she dies.

What a heavy burden for him to bear! But what a tangible example to his countrymen to see this man of God obeying God even in this way.

Have you ever considered that what you go through is a) less hardship than many others have faced in the past or even today? And b) has the potential to be used by God as a demonstration of His love to those around you?

That puts our troubles in a new light. How does God want to redeem your hardships today?

Have a great day!

Mark.