Devotionals

  • December 24: Hopes and Fears

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 10-14, Job 41:12-34, John 21:1-14, Revelation 21 Zechariah 10-14: I wade into these chapters with trepidation, for they are on the one hand filled with New Testament promises, resonant in our ears—“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered (13:7)”; “thirty pieces of silver (11:12-13)”; and echoes of other words, truth such as they will call upon the name of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:2). In large degree, the picture is of God bringing restoration for his people, unity, the removal of idols, and at the same time there being a great and terrible day yet further ahead when there will be judgment for those who do not turn to God. But throughout it all, there are images that are hard to penetrate, and picture language belies literalistic interpretation, or at least apparently so. Like much of so-called apocalyptic language, the point is somewhat in the effect—a bright…

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    December 23: Seasons of Joy

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 6-9, Job 41:1-11, John 20:24-31, Revelation 20 Zechariah 6-9: Chapter 6 begins with yet another vision—Zechariah is packed with such visions. This one is particularly hard to interpret. As one commentator said, we are very much in the dark as to its meaning in any particularities, though opinions multiply. In general, it is a vision of God’s control, his sovereignty, and his power. As such, the chariots of God’s sovereignty give comfort to this people of God so recently returned from exile. Now comes, in the second half of chapter 6, another Messianic prophecy of blessing and fulfillment of the work of this Joshua to another Joshua (=Jeshua=Jesus) and his kingdom. Chapter 7 has a question from God’s people about fasting. They had been in mourning regarding their sins in exile, and the question is whether they should continue in that situation now that they had returned. In reply, Zechariah…

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    The Scandal of Christmas

    By Josh Moody

    The infancy narratives in the Gospels proclaim Jesus as the fulfillment of messianic hopes and expectations. God, however, didn’t do things the way most people expected. Our familiarity with the Christmas story may cause us to miss the unexpected wonder, shock, and newness accompanying these events. In our book The First Days of Jesus, Alexander Stewart and I discuss a series of scandals: the virgin birth, the incarnation, Jesus’s lowly birth, and the scandal of the cross. At the root of these scandals is the virgin birth, so let’s take a moment to reflect on this remarkable event and its implications as we prepare to celebrate the “scandal” of Christmas. The Scandal of the Virgin Birth Matthew tells us that when Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, became aware of her pregnancy, he was planning to divorce her, apparently because he assumed some form of infidelity, an assumption that would have been shared…

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    December 22: Not by Might

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Zechariah 1-5; Job 40; John 20:19-23; Revelation 19 Zechariah 1-5: Zechariah prophesied, like Haggai, to the exiles who had come back to Jerusalem, now urging them to repent, and giving them assurances and hope of God’s future blessing. He reminds them in chapter 1 of what their forefathers had done, and why they had gone into exile (1:2). He therefore calls on them not to make the same mistake but to “return to” God (1:3). Then come various visions of encouragement of God’s purpose for his people, fulfilled in Christ, and in the expansion of Christ’s kingdom. All people are to “be silent” before this great God (2:13). In essence, God will perform his work by his own power and might, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (4:6). Such greatness may seem unlikely at the time, but instead of despising the day…

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    The Greatest Story Ever Told

    By Josh Moody

    “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining…” Sometimes a moment is so powerful that a hush falls over the crowd. Sometimes a whole throng of people turns, as one body, to stare slack-jawed at the sky. Christmas is such a moment. It’s a simple story, quickly sketched in just 3 chapters of Matthew and Luke—147 verses in all. And yet, 2,000 years later, we still catch our breath to hear it told. Embedded in the little tale is enough to ponder annually for millennia. Here are a few takeaways from the greatest story ever told. See Eternally. Christmas is a mystery play. Like the medieval acting troupes who traveled town to town and performed stories from the back of a rickety wagon, all of the characters in the drama are humble folk—their costumes tattered, their astonishment not eloquent, but too stunned for words. It’s not sophisticated, it’s hardly Shakespeare.…

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    December 21: A Time to Invest

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Haggai 1-2, Job 39, John 20:10-18, Revelation 18 Haggai 1-2: When God’s people returned from exile, they began to rebuild the temple, but after a little while they lost impetus and direction and gave up and stopped the rebuilding. Haggai, under God’s direction and by God’s inspiration, now comes and preaches to God’s people to keep on building. First, he addresses their excuses. They are saying it is not the right time to build (1:2). The economy was bad (2:17), and therefore it was easy enough to make the argument that no more building should be taking place. The budget was not healthy, therefore reduce your expenditures, and certainly do not continue on an expensive capital campaign. But, asks God, if the issue really is the “time,” then how come it is, apparently, nonetheless the right “time” for you to be invested in your “paneled houses” (1:4)? In other words, the…

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    December 20: Promises

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Zephaniah 3, Job 38:22-41, John 20:1-9, Revelation 17 Zephaniah 3: Chapter 3 continues Zephaniah’s denouncement of God’s people, and God’s judgment upon sin and wickedness. In particular, the leaders of God’s people have let her down: Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men; her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law (3:4) But God, nonetheless, has a plan of restoration and one that will include all nations. So that, “all of them may call upon the name of the LORD” (3:9). And now “that day” is also a day of hope and salvation: On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain (3:11) The humble and the lowly “shall seek refuge in the LORD”…

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    December 19: Hide Yourself in Him

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Zephaniah 1-2, Job 38:22-41, John 19:38-42, Revelation 16 Zephaniah 1-2: Zephaniah is prophesying during the days of good King Josiah’s reforms. In his prophecy, he speaks of the “day of the LORD,” a fearsome day of judgment, and then also speaks of the blessing and bounty that will come to those who seek the Lord (more on that in chapter 3). God’s fearsome coming judgment is described in multiple ways: I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth (1:2) This day is, in some sense, imminent, or “near” (1:7). We should not think of it as something long delayed. It will suddenly come—like a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:2). It is near and “hastening fast” (1:14). It will be terrible: A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom,…

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    December 18: Tread on High Places

    By Josh Moody

    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…

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    December 17: Good News

    By Josh Moody

    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…

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