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December 18: Tread on High Places

Today’s Bible Reading: Habakkuk 1-3, Job 37, John 19:28-37, Revelation 15 Habakkuk 1-3: Though Habakkuk is a brief book, it is filled with important truth and is profound in its own way. Covering all the ground of these three chapters in short expanse is therefore a challenge—and probably not really possible. Basically, Habakkuk is asking and receiving answers regarding God’s use of non-pure, even violent, means to accomplish his ultimate ends. Assyria was used by God to discipline his people; Babylon was then used by God to judge Assyria. Babylon itself would fall to Persia. And through it all, God’s purposes stand. Here is the location and context for that most famous of verses in the book of Habakkuk—three times quoted in the New Testament (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38): “…the righteous shall live by his faith.” (2:4) In the midst of many things that we do not understand, the righteous person is made righteous through his faith...

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December 17: Good News

Today’s Bible Reading: Nahum 1-3, Job 36:16-33, John 19:17-27, Revelation 14 Nahum 1-3: Jonah had preached to Nineveh about a century earlier than this prophecy of Nahum, and when Jonah had preached to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria had repented. But now, when Nahum prophesied mainly to Judah, Nineveh has judgment coming to it for all its evil. It had destroyed Israel’s northern kingdom, and only about a century later it would fall to Babylon. The Lord is slow to anger (1:3), but will by no means clear the guilty. That is the guilty who do not repent and put their trust in God and his Christ. “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him” (1:7). But for the others, with an “overflowing flood” he will make an end of his adversaries (1:8). There is good news: behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him...

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December 16: Steadfast Love

Today’s Bible Reading: Micah 6-7, Job 36:1-15, John 19:1-16, Revelation 13 Micah 6-7: Renewal cannot come until God’s people learn, “Hear what the Lord says” (6:1). It is critically important today, too, that the church centers its corporate (as well as individual) life around the Bible. We must “hear what the Lord says,” listen carefully, take in his word, apply it to our lives, and follow what he says. Israel’s sin is made clear—and should therefore have caused them to repent—by the comparison of their rebellion with God’s faithfulness and redemption of them. They have no reason to rebel against God, for this is the God who rescued them from Egypt (6:4). Why, Christian, should we ever run from God when this God is the one who died for our sins? What could possibly cause us to do anything other than love, earnestly seek, and follow the Lord Jesus because this Lord Jesus is Christ Crucified for us—the...

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December 15: Little Town of Bethlehem

Today’s Bible Reading: Micah 4-5, Job 35, John 18:28-40, Revelation 12 Micah 4-5: Micah, under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, now turns his eye to the future and the blessing that will come to God’s people through the coming of the Messiah. There will be an international reach to this new work of God (4:1-2); there shall be a conduit of peace (4:3) and blessing (4:4), and a removal of idolatry (4:5). He will use the weak (4:6-7), and kingship shall come again (4:8). Indeed, the center of all this is a little town of Bethlehem. But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (5:2) Such promises ring with Christmas cheer in our ears and are the hope of the years for all nations. Rejoice, the King has come! Even to...

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December 14: Filled with Power

Today’s Bible Reading: Micah 1-3, Job 34:21-27, John 18:19-27, Revelation 11 Micah 1-3: The first three chapters of Micah have little by way of positive feel-good vibe—interspersed only occasionally with promises of the future Redeemer (the promise of which is more clearly in view in chapter 4). Micah prophesied during a time of prosperity, and warned God’s people against their rebellion and its consequences; the northern kingdom fell during his ministry, and the southern kingdom also came close to dissipating too. In this context they are to “hear” God’s word (1:2). For there is judgment coming (1:6). It is such a serious judgment that Micah conjures up one of the famous poems in Israel, written to mourn the death of Saul by none other than David: “Tell it not in Gath” (1:10; 2 Samuel 1:20). Micah preaches against their misuse of their prosperity (2:1) and violent economic aggression (2:2). For such plain speaking he is told...

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December 13: But Jonah

Today’s Bible Reading: Jonah 1-4, Job 34:1-20, John 18:1-18, Revelation 10 Jonah 1-4: The book of Jonah is a small book with a massive message. The prophet Jonah flees from God, refusing to obey his call to go to Nineveh because he knew that God was a “gracious God and merciful” (4:2) and therefore feared that God would forgive the people of Nineveh. It seems as if Jonah had a faith that especially reserved favor for the Israelites and somewhat resented—was even angry—when that favor and salvation was extended beyond that particular racial group. His confession (and some view it as less sincere than others do) has at its pinnacle the acknowledgment, perhaps begrudging, that “salvation belongs to the Lord” (2:9)—that is, that it is God’s job whom he saves (and whom he does not). The story itself is very familiar. It is worth pointing out that Jonah is viewed as an historical figure by both the Book...

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December 12: The Kingdom Shall Be the Lord’s

Today’s Bible Reading: Obadiah 1, Job 33:12-33, John 17:20-26, Revelation 9 Obadiah 1-21: Obadiah is the shortest book of the Old Testament, but its message is not to be measured by the amount of space it takes up physically in the canon. Probably written after the fall of Jerusalem, Obadiah prophecies against Edom for their role in handing the fleeing Israelites to their captors. Because the Edomites were related to the Israelites, they should have behaved better. God’s judgment comes against Edom: "Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be utterly despised" (verse 2). This judgment is for a particular reason: "Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob" (verse 10). Or as it is expressed more fully: Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives; do not hand over his survivors in the day of distress. (verse 14) Of course, this rule and judgment of God is not particular only to Edom,...

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December 11: The Mountains Shall Drip Sweet Wine

Today’s Bible Reading: Amos 7-8, Job 33:1-11, John 17:6-19, Revelation 8 Amos 7-8: In Amos’ vision, God showed him locusts appearing not at the very worst possible moment but at a time after the king’s mowings, but still a devastating judgment (7:1). Amos appeals to God, and God relents (7:3). Again, a vision of a judgment by fire, Amos appeals and God relents (7:6). Let us learn the importance of intercessory prayer. We do not cease to pray because God is sovereign. As God is in charge, it motivates us to pray to the One at whose command times and seasons and events can change merely by his word. Lastly, God shows Amos a plumb line (7:8), that is a way of measuring how straight or otherwise Israel is. The results evidence the need for judgment on God’s people. Such strong preaching does not win friends and influence people, especially not among the powerful, and Amos...

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December 10: Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters

Today’s Bible Reading: Amos 5-6, Job 32, John 17:1-5, Revelation 7 Amos 5-6: A “lamentation” is not a common form of writing or poetry or discourse today. We are so enamored with “positive talk” or “positive thinking” that we find it hard to see the value in pointing out failings, let alone celebrating a sadness. In other cultures, the bittersweet feeling of ennui or hollow emptiness is utilized as a form to bring us back to the fuller kind of living. Similarly, though now with deep theological substance, this lamentation is intended to bring God’s people back to joy. When all else fails, commiserating about someone’s situation when they think they are doing well is strong medicine—and might be the wake-up call they need. When a person devotes themselves to wealth over and above God, instead of admiring them, perhaps we should lament them. It would at least surprise them if we were to do so. Israel,...

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December 9: You Only Have I Known

Today’s Bible Reading: Amos 3-4, Job 31:24-40, John 16:25-33, Revelation 6 Amos 3-4: Amos declares the fundamental relational and covenantal basis for God’s judgment on his people. You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. (3:2) The “therefore” in that verse 2 is astonishing. Because God knows his people, because God has a unique relationship with his people, therefore he will not revoke the punishment. Whereas we tend to think that God will turn an especial blind eye to the sins of his people, he also expects those who call themselves by his name to follow him in actuality and fact, to live up to the reputation and relationship with which they are aligned. In the same way that the lion roars in a forest when it has prey (3:4), so God has spoken through his prophets (3:7) to genuine and true effect. This warning to God’s people...

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