A shocking ally!

Judah has allied with Egypt. Hum, wasn’t it God who delivered Israel from Pharaoh centuries ago? Didn’t he show Himself mighty in the plagues he brought against the superpower of Egypt? Didn’t God drown the Egyptian army in the Red Sea? Didn’t God deliver His people from their bondage and slavery?

In today’s reading, Judah has run to Egypt for protection against Assyria, whom God is raising to chasten his people for their sins. So God tells Judah through Isaiah, What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. For these Egyptians are mere humans, not God! Their horses are puny flesh, not mighty spirits!… (Isaiah 31:1, 3, NLT) Instead of repenting of their sin and turning to God for protection, Judah opts to remain in sin and ally with an old slave master. Wow! How shocking that the people once delivered from cruel bondage have run back to bondage. 

What a reminder! In the Bible, Egypt pictures the world. Before we were saved, were we not in bondage to sin, wondering hopelessly in a world that promised everything but always disappointed? Let us remember what God has done for us! But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession… “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. (1 Peter 2:9–11, NLT)

Thank you for joining me as I read and journal chronologically through the Bible! This devotional reflection comes from Isaiah 31-34.

It’s getting uncomfortable!

Today, we are back in the Book of Isaiah. Reading through the prophets can certainly be heavy. It can seem as though it is all doom and gloom. Judah accused the prophets (or seers as they are also called) of this very thing in our reading this morning. Notice, … They tell the seers, “Stop seeing visions!” They tell the prophets, “Don’t tell us what is right. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies. Forget all this gloom. Get off your narrow path. Stop telling us about your ‘Holy One of Israel.’ ” (Isaiah 30:10–11, NLT)

Wow! The prophets Micah, Isaiah, Hosea, and many more to come were not prophesying doom and gloom; they warned the people of impending judgment so they might repent and avoid the coming destruction. But that was considered a narrow path—doom and gloom! 

With their hearts closed to the One who wants to show them mercy, what does God do? So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. (Isaiah 30:18, NLT) God is not going to force His people to turn from their evil. He will allow judgment to do its work. Because they rejected the mercy of God, notice what happens. This is the reply of the Holy One of Israel: “Because you despise what I tell you and trust instead in oppression and lies, calamity will come upon you suddenly— like a bulging wall that bursts and falls. In an instant it will collapse and come crashing down. (Isaiah 30:12–13, NLT)

What a reminder! It is good to hear the uncomfortable, and even better when we respond by repenting. Pride, however, resists correction, even to the point of wanting to be lied to! Humility receives mercy.

Thank you for joining me as I read and journal chronologically through the Bible! This devotional reflection comes from Isaiah 28-30.

The wind and the whirlwind!

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind…(Hosea 8:7, ESV) As we finish the book of Hosea, we see that Israel has sown winds of sin and idolatry, and now they reap the whirlwind. 

Notice that Israel fed on the wind. The people of Israel feed on the wind; they chase after the east wind all day long. They pile up lies and violence; they are making an alliance with Assyria while sending olive oil to buy support from Egypt. (Hosea 12:1, NLT) When you pile on the sin, you harvest a whirlwind of destruction. “But since my people refuse to return to me, they will return to Egypt and will be forced to serve Assyria. War will swirl through their cities; their enemies will crash through their gates. They will destroy them, trapping them in their own evil plans. For my people are determined to desert me. They call me the Most High, but they don’t truly honor me. (Hosea 11:5–7, NLT) Interestingly, the very alliances Israel made with pagan nations were the nations that swirled through their cities with war. A whirlwind indeed!

Where is God’s heart in all of this? While God will chasten Israel for their sin, notice what He desires. Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for your sins have brought you down. Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord… The Lord says, “Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever. I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven. Israel will blossom like the lily; … My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines…(Hosea 14:1–2, 4-7 NLT)

What a reminder that sin never pays, and while we reap what we sow, God desires repentance that He might heal and bless!

Thank you for joining me as I read and journal chronologically through the Bible! This devotional reflection comes from Hosea 8-14.

From trouble to hope!

Hosea, the prophet, is in an interesting situation! The Lord gives him a message during the years when Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah were kings of Judah. Hosea is commanded by God to marry a prostitute—to be a living illustration before Israel. When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2, ESV)

What Israel has done—committing whoredom through worshipping other gods—has been deeply felt by God. Israel is pictured as a wife, an unfaithful wife; God feels it, Hosea is living it, and thus, the message of Hosea is to bring charges against her. Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel! The Lord has brought charges against you, saying: “There is no faithfulness, no kindness, no knowledge of God in your land. You make vows and break them; you kill and steal and commit adultery. There is violence everywhere— one murder after another. That is why your land is in mourning, and everyone is wasting away… “Don’t point your finger at someone else and try to pass the blame! My complaint, you priests, is with you. (Hosea 4:1–4, NLT)

Yet, as the picture of Hosea’s situation develops, we see something amazing about God. God tells Hosea, after his wife left him for more prostitution, to find her and buy her back. It’s a picture of God’s heart for Israel. Though judgment will come upon His people for their whoredom, He just can’t let them go! “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. (Hosea 2:14–15, NLT)

What a beautiful picture of redemption from a dark, twisted, awful situation. Herein, we find ourselves this morning. God loved us before we were ever born. Yet He knew we would be born in sin, estranged from the womb, born speaking lies and seeking our interests. However, God sent His Son to redeem us from the grip of sin and death. It is His goodness that He chose to show us that we might repent of sin and accept Jesus as our Saviour. Believers, we can rejoice this morning that God transformed our “Valley of Trouble” into hope! May others see this hope and joy in us and turn to Christ!

Thank you for joining me as I read and journal chronologically through the Bible! This devotional reflection comes from Hosea 1-7.

A reprieve from evil!

What a bright spot in a dark time in Judah’s history. Hezekiah comes to the throne and is unlike any of the kings before or after him—he loves the LORD! He had one thing on his mind: to pursue after God wholeheartedly (2 Chronicles 31:21).

Hezekiah came to the throne at age twenty-five, and his intensity in reforming Judah and restoring its worship was noticeable. He wasted no time! In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them. (2 Chronicles 29:3, NLT)

Once the temple was cleansed and restored for worship, Hezekiah sent runners throughout the land to invite the people to observe the Passover, which had not been done in quite some time. Most people in Ephraim, Manasseh, and as far away as Zebulon laughed—they thought this was a joke (2 Chronicles 30:10–11). But notice what God did in Judah in response to their efforts to honor Him. At the same time, God’s hand was on the people in the land of Judah, giving them all one heart to obey the orders of the king and his officials, who were following the word of the Lord. (2 Chronicles 30:12, NLT)

As we have been reading, judgment has been pronounced on Judah for her sin. It is coming. But how merciful of God to bless a reprieve from evil because a few still had a tender and obedient heart toward God. Rejoice, believer; we serve this same God who rejoices in showing mercy to the repentant! This morning’s reading was filled with joy, singing, worship, gladness, and feasting. What reprieve! We can still have this today! May we follow after the Lord!

Thank you for joining me as I read and journal chronologically through the Bible! This devotional reflection comes from 2 Kings 18; 2 Chronicles 29-31; psalm 48.

Perfect Peace!

Isaiah, the prophet, starts today’s reading with a word against the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. God will judge this influential marketplace of the world. Then Isaiah moves on to the entire earth. Yes, Isaiah speaks of a time when God visits the whole earth, all nations and peoples, for their wickedness. Look! The Lord is about to destroy the earth and make it a vast wasteland. He devastates the surface of the earth and scatters the people. Priests and laypeople, servants and masters, maids and mistresses, buyers and sellers, lenders and borrowers, bankers and debtors—none will be spared. The earth will be completely emptied and looted. The Lord has spoken! (Isaiah 24:1–3, NLT)

While this prophecy sounds heavy, it is necessary, much like the flood in Noah’s day was required. In Noah’s day, the earth was so full of wickedness that the thoughts and imaginations of people were only continually evil. The people of the earth then were on a path to utter self-destruction. Isaiah speaks of a time to come much the same, except God will judge with fire, not water. Notice why…only when you come to judge the earth will people learn what is right. Your kindness to the wicked does not make them do good…the wicked keep doing wrong and take no notice of the Lord’s majesty. (Isaiah 26:9–10, NLT) At some point, God’s kindness and patience become nothing to the wicked, and God must judge. 

Amidst all this trouble, what does the prophet say to those who fear the Lord? You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3, ESV) As believers, our minds need not be shaken—keep our minds on Him; in Him is perfect peace!

Thank you for joining me as I read and journal chronologically through the Bible! This devotional reflection comes from Isaiah 23-27.

But they partied on!

Isaiah continues to prophecy more judgment against more nations in today’s reading. As we read through these judgments, they can become very heavy. Sin always produces awful destruction. 

How did God’s people, in particular, respond to the judgments against them? Did they find them heavy? Were they humbled in spirit and heart? Did they reach out to a merciful God to ask for forgiveness? Notice Jerusalem’s response to God’s calls for repentance. In that day the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and wearing sackcloth; and behold, joy and gladness, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (Isaiah 22:12–13, ESV) When God’s people heard the prophecies against them, they responded by partying on!

What do we typically find humanity doing during times of great sin against God, just before God’s judgment on mankind? And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank…until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank…But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. (Luke 17:26–30, KJV) 

What a picture of the utter blindness and insanity of sin! What a reminder of how sin hardens the heart unto judgment despite God’s warnings. Let us heed God’s conviction in our lives, turning from sin daily and receiving His grace and strength to overcome!

Thank you for joining me as I read and journal chronologically through the Bible! This devotional reflection comes from Isaiah 18-22.

Big picture sovereignty!

The big picture of God’s sovereignty is displayed in today’s reading! Isaiah makes sweeping prophecies regarding some powerful nations. God is not overlooking any nation, including Israel. 

By way of context, notice what the Bible says: “I, the Lord, will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their sin. I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty. (Isaiah 13:11, NLT) No nation will get away with evil. 

Isaiah now moves to address some nations specifically. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them…And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, The beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, Shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. (Isaiah 13:17, 19, KJV) Of Assyria: The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; And as I have purposed, so shall it stand: That I will break the Assyrian in my land… (Isaiah 14:24–25, KJV) Of Moab: …But now the Lord hath spoken, saying, Within three years…the glory of Moab shall be contemned, with all that great multitude…(Isaiah 16:13–14, KJV) Of Damascus, Syria: …Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, And it shall be a ruinous heap. (Isaiah 17:1, KJV)

God is sovereign! No nation operates independently of God’s oversight and plan, and no nation gets away with its sin. I have a plan for the whole earth, a hand of judgment upon all the nations. (Isaiah 14:26, NLT) As believers, this should comfort us. There is no such thing as a nation going rogue! God is in control, working out all things according to His eternal plan (Ephesians 1:9–10). May we all humbly remember the following advice from David in Psalm 37:7–11.

Thank you for joining me as I read and journal chronologically through the Bible! This devotional reflection comes from Isaiah 13-17.

The patience of God!

Today, we read of the Northern Kingdom of Israel falling to the Assyrians, and the Israelites are exiled to Assyria. The king of Assyria resettled the land with foreigners he conquered from other nations. What the prophets said would happen came true. 

Again and again the Lord had sent his prophets and seers to warn both Israel and Judah: “Turn from all your evil ways…”But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves … until the Lord finally swept them away from his presence, just as all his prophets had warned. (2 Kings 17:13–15, 23, NLT)

One of the thoughts that stood out to me was that God repeatedly warned Israel, generation after generation, to turn from their wicked ways. God’s patience is truly amazing! At the same time, God’s patience did not overlook sin, and judgment did come. What faithfulness of God to keep His word! Israel chose to defy God’s patience and mercy, and God kept His word to them.

Herein, mankind has a choice: to obey or disobey. To heed God’s patient warnings and receive mercy, or reject and despise God through stubbornness and unbelief. Which does God prefer, judgment and destruction or patience, mercy, and forgiveness? The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9, NLT) While, as saints, we look for Christ’s return now—He is busy being patient with sinners!

Thank you for joining me as I read and journal chronologically through the Bible! This devotional reflection comes from 2 Chronicles 28; 2 Kings 16-17.

The illusion of prosperity!

Today’s reading is from the Book of Micah. Micah and Isaiah both minister during the same period. Isaiah directs his prophecies mainly toward the royal family, while Micah appears to focus on the commoners. 

The conditions during Micah’s time were prosperous. It was a time when the rich were becoming wealthy, ordinary people were becoming poor, and the poor were becoming destitute. Specifically, society was transforming from rural to urban living. The wealthy (investors) were buying up family farms and developing huge land holdings in defiance of the Law of Moses. While these times appeared prosperous, the benefits and conveniences of a society migrating from rural to urban living were an allusion. It is actually a veiled form of tyranny, robbery, and slavery.

When you want a piece of land, you find a way to seize it. When you want someone’s house, you take it by fraud and violence. You cheat a man of his property, stealing his family’s inheritance. But this is what the Lord says: “I will reward your evil with evil; you won’t be able to pull your neck out of the noose. You will no longer walk around proudly, for it will be a terrible time.” (Micah 2:2–3, NLT)

With the allusion of prosperous times, what do the people say to the prophet who warns of God’s impending judgment for their sins? “Do not preach”—thus they preach— “one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.” (Micah 2:6, ESV) In other words, stop preaching; all will be fine. As it has been, so will it be. 

May we remember that prosperous times, ease, and convenience are not sure indications of God’s blessings. It is the humble and contrite heart that God blesses. Therein is the essence of true prosperity.

Thank you for joining me as I read and journal chronologically through the Bible! This devotional reflection comes from Micah 1-7.