Zephaniah 1-3

The Day of the Lord Is Near!

Zephaniah 1-3

Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near. ­– Zephaniah 1:7 ESV

The words of Zephaniah were written during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. He was a good king who had instituted many religious and moral reforms among the people of God. Upon rediscovery of the Law, he was convicted by the sins of his people and motivated to bring about change, using his official capacity as king to reinstitute the celebration of Passover and put in place a program for the removal of the many idols that had become common place in Judah. But Josiah’s reforms had failed to change the hearts of the people. They remained rebellious, hard-hearted, stubborn and unfaithful to God. They were guilty of having turned back from following God and did not seek Him or His counsel. In fact, they no longer took the Lord seriously. Instead, their attitude was, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill” (Zephaniah 1:12 ESV). Their view of God was that He was incompetent, indifferent, or simply impotent. They truly believed that He was not going to do anything. In spite of the fact that Israel, their neighbors to the north, had been defeated and taken captive by the Syrians, just as God had said they would be, the people of Judah ignored the warnings of prophets like Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Nahum and Habakkuk. But God reminded them, “The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast” (Zephaniah 1:14 ESV). They could deny it, ignore it, or simply refuse to think about it. But its reality was inevitable and unavoidable.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God’s will is a powerful force that cannot and will not be stopped by men. He is going to do what He has planned to do. He will accomplish His will regarding mankind and His creation. His sovereignty over all that He has made remains intact and invincible. Throughout these three short chapters of the book of Zephaniah, we see the repeated phrase, “I will…” God is letting His people know that while they are saying, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill,” nothing could be further from the truth.

“I will utterly sweep away everything…” – Zephaniah 1:2 ESV

“I will sweep away man and beast…” – Zephaniah 1:3 ESV

“I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea…” – Zephaniah 1:3 ESV

“I will cut off mankind…” – Zephaniah 1:4 ESV

“I will stretch out my hand against Judah…” – Zephaniah 1:4 ESV

Why? “Because they have sinned against the Lord” (Zephaniah 1:17 ESV). Nothing and no one will be able to stand against the Lord when that day comes when He decides to bring judgment upon the world. No nation on earth will be able to resist His will or avoid His wrath. It will be “a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements” (Zephaniah 1:18-19 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

For millennium, mankind has made a habit out of attempting to either deny God’s existence or resist His rule. The human race has gone out of its way to replace God as the rightful King over His creation with sub-par substitutes. They have attempted to run the world and, by extension, their own lives according to their own desires, replacing God’s will with their own. Even the people of God, chosen by Him to be His children and a living example of His grace, mercy and love; regularly rejected Him in favor of false gods and pseudo-saviors. Their lives were marked by pride, arrogance, injustice, and indifference to the ways of God. While God had proven Himself faithful, they had regularly displayed their unfaithfulness to Him. “The Lord within her is righteous; he does not injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail, but the unjust knows no shame” (Zephaniah 3:5 ESV). God had gone out of His way to show them His power and convince them of His love, “but all the more they were eager to make all their deeds corrupt” (Zephaniah 3:7 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

What do you get when you mix a holy, righteous God with an unholy, sinful and rebellious people? For one thing, you get judgment. God will judge wickedness because He is holy and just and must deal rightly with unrighteousness. But at the same time, you get mercy, forgiveness, redemption and restoration. The amazing thing about God is that He had a plan for dealing with man’s sin that would allow Him to remain just and holy, yet loving and merciful at the same time. He sent His own Son to pay for the sins of mankind and satisfy His righteous wrath. He provided a means by which men might be saved from the inevitability of the death sentence against them due to their open rebellion against him. He gave His Son as their sin substitute. He died in their place. But they must accept that free gift, acknowledging their own inability to meet God’s exacting standards and their insufficiency in satisfying the debt they owed. Even the rebellious people of Israel will find grace, mercy and forgiveness in the form of the very one they rejected – Jesus Christ, their Messiah. When all is said and done, God will redeem and restore a remnant of His chosen people, fulfilling His promises to Abraham and satisfying every facet of the covenant He made with them. “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will exult over you with loud singing. I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach” (Zephaniah 3:16-18 ESV).

Father, the day of the Lord is near. It is closer than it has ever been. That day when You will make all things right and complete Your redemptive work for mankind and the restoration of Your creation is right around the corner. May we learn to live in the reality of that thought. May we recognize and rest in the hope that we have in You. You have told Your people, Israel, of the day when You will “restore your fortunes before your eyes.” You WILL do what You have promised to do. And the day when Your work will be done is coming soon. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Daniel 11-12, Revelation 22

He Is Coming!

Daniel 11-12, Revelation 22

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!– Revelation 22:20 ESV

As the books of Daniel and Revelation both come to a close, they provide encouraging reminders that the events recorded in them will take place. Daniel is told to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4 ESV). He is to seal up what is contained in the prophesies provided by God and preserve them. God was not telling Daniel to hide them, but to make sure that he preserved them so that the words contained within them would be proven true when all took place just as God had said. In the book of Revelation, John is told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Revelation 22:10 ESV). This was an indication that the end was close. The culmination of all God’s plans for the redemption of mankind were nearer than they had ever been. There is a surety and a certainty contained in both of these books. What God has said will take place. What He has prophesied will come to pass. There will be much that will happen between now and the end of time. Daniel was told of events involving the nations of the world that would result in all kinds of political and military upheaval in the centuries to come. The Persians, Egyptians, Seleucids, and Greeks would jockey for power, conquering one another and making the Middle East a volatile and unstable environment for years to come. All the way up until the rise of the Roman empire, Palestine would find itself in the middle of a power struggle between powerful nations, leaving the people of Israel as helpless pawns and easy preys for their enemies. The 400 years between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament were some of the most tumultuous times on earth – just as God had said they would be. But they would end with the coming of the Son of God as an innocent human baby.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But Christ’s first advent was designed to pay for sin and offer salvation and justification to all who would believe in Him. His first coming was to satisfy the just demands of a holy and righteous God who had to punish mankind for their rebellion against His sovereign rule. Jesus became the sin substitute, accomplishing for man what he could not have done for himself. Jesus lived a sinless life and lived in perfect obedience to the just requirements of God’s holy law. He became the perfect, spotless Lamb who was sacrificed as a payment for the sins of mankind. His death made eternal life possible. He exchanged His righteousness for man’s sins. He bore our burden and died the death we deserved. All in fulfillment of God’s divine plan. But while His redemptive work is finished, His job is not yet done. He is coming again. He has unfinished business. The point of all prophesy is the future. In Daniel’s case, he was given insight into events that would take place over the coming centuries. And all of what was recorded in chapter 11, verses 1-35 has taken place. The various kings and nations mentioned can be easily traced and the accuracy of the prophecies contained in these verses can be easily proven. So if what God said would happen has actually taken place, why would we not believe that everything else He promised would be fulfilled as well. God told Daniel that “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Daniel 12:1 ESV). He was speaking of the Great Tribulation, the missing seventieth week spoken of in Daniel 9. It will be a time of great trouble. Jesus Himself described it in these sobering terms: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21 ESV). But God had good news for Daniel. “But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1b ESV). God would redeem a remnant of His people. He even told Daniel, “But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13 ESV). This does not mean that Daniel would live to see the end, but that he would be part of the faithful remnant who would undergo resurrection from the dead and stand before “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:3 ESV).     

What does this passage reveal about man?

Jesus told us, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:7-8 ESV). The centuries have recorded a wide range of events, from wars to natural disasters. We continue to watch as the influence of sin on the world manifests itself in a variety of unsettling forms. There are days when it would appear as if the end was near. We even question whether it can get any worse. But Jesus said these things are simply the birth pains. They are the precursor to something even greater yet to come. Man’s rebellion against God will continue to increase up until the bitter end. The period of the Great Tribulation will see the rise of the Antichrist and the greatest outpouring of persecution on the Jews that the world has ever seen. Sin will have reached its apex. Man’s rebellion against God and Satan’s war against God’s people will come to a climax. And then God will step in.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

John records the stirring words of Jesus Himself, predicting His second advent. “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12-13 ESV). He is coming again. God predicted it and He will bring it to pass. Again, Jesus says, “Surely I am coming soon”  and the response of those of us who call Him our Lord and Savior should be, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20 ESV). We should long for His coming. We should pray for His return. And while we wait, we should issue the words found in Revelation 22:17: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17 ESV). Jesus is coming again. And while there may appear to be plenty of time before that event takes place, we must live with a sense of urgency. We are to live soberly and righteously, as if His return could take place at any minute. We are to issue an invitation to everyone we meet, inviting them to “Come!” We are to point all those who are thirsty to the source of living water – Jesus Christ. And while we wait for His return, we are to do exactly what the angel told John, “Worship God” (Revelation 22:9 ESV). He is to be our focus. He is to be our source of hope. He is to be our help in times of trouble and our strength when we feel weak. We must constantly remind ourselves that God is not done yet. His will WILL be done. His plan WILL be fulfilled. His Son WILL return. His Kingdom WILL come. And sin WILL be no more.

Father, You are worthy of worship. You are deserving of my praise and my trust. You have proven Yourself trustworthy and true time and time again – in history and in my life. Your Words always come true. Your prophecies always get fulfilled. Your will always comes to pass. Help me to live in light of those realities. And, come Lord Jesus, come! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Daniel 9-10, Revelation 21

The Dwelling Place of God.

Daniel 9-10, Revelation 21

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” – Revelation 21:3 ESV

Daniel and his contemporaries had been in captivity in Babylon for nearly 68 years. He was probably in his 80s at the time these two chapters were written, and had spent the majority of his life living in exile, away from the city of God, and unable to worship in the temple of God. When Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C, he had completely destroyed the temple, the dwelling place of God. So since that time there had been no place for the people of Israel to go in which they might worship and offer sacrifices to their God. For almost 70 years, the people of Israel had endured exile and had lived with the awareness that their great temple lay in ruins. But by the time Daniel received his vision recorded in chapter 10, a group of Jews had been able to return to Jerusalem and had begun the restoration of the city of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple – all by virtue of a decree issued by King Cyrus. God had miraculously provided a means by which His people would be returned to the land and the city of Jerusalem could be rebuilt – all in keeping with His promise. But the real emphasis in these two chapters seems to be the presence of God. In spite of the fact that Daniel lived in a foreign land, far away from the city of Jerusalem and the temple where God’s presence was supposed to have dwelt, He received word from God Himself. When he prayed to God, He answered. “At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision” (Daniel 9:23 ESV). God then proceeded to give Daniel a glimpse into the future as it related to the people of Israel. He provided Daniel with the assurance of His ongoing presence and unwavering commitment to His people – the Jews. God told Daniel, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage” (Daniel 10:19 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

Much of what God shared with Daniel regarding the future of Israel was confusing and disturbing. He received news of “a troubled time” in which “desolations are decreed.” He heard about floods and war, abominations and destruction of the city of God. But Daniel also received encouragement. He was told not to fear. He was given news from God Himself, providing him with a reassurance that everything was going to be okay. God was working behind the scenes, orchestrating the affairs of men and implementing His divine plan, according to His perfect timeline. God sent an angel to Daniel who told him that he “came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come” (Daniel 10:14 ESV). God was sharing with Daniel news about the future. He was reminding that He had not forsaken His people. He had seen Daniel and had been aware of His mourning. He had heard Daniel and responded to His cries for mercy. God was not restricted to heaven or relegated to a temple built by human hands. He was the transcendent God who omnipresent, able to be everywhere at once and capable of being with His people wherever they were at any moment and at any time. He is not hindered by time or space. And in spite of the sins of the people of Israel, He was still with them and would one day restore them to a right relationship with Him.    

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man’s greatest need is God. And yet our greatest weakness seems to be our insatiable desire to try and live without Him or simply in place of Him. When Adam and Eve were created, they enjoyed unbroken fellowship and intimacy with God. But sin changed all that. They went from having unrestricted access to God to being physically removed from His presence and denied entrance into the garden where they once walked and talked with Him. The story of the Bible is about God’s plan to make right what sin destroyed. Sin marred the world. So God is going to make it new again. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1 ESV). He will start fresh. He will recreate. He will even make a new Jerusalem. “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2 ESV). When the remnant of Jews returned to Jerusalem during the days of Daniel, they were able to rebuild the temple, but the finished product was a shadow of its former glory. It was nothing like the once-glorious temple that Solomon had built. Because man cannot restore like God can restore. Man can’t fix what is wrong in the world. Everything we do is little more than a band-aid on a problem that requires extensive restoration and healing. Even Daniel understood that his people were helpless to fix the problem they were experiencing. Their own sins had gotten them where they were. But God had not abandoned them. He was still among them. And He was always giving them assurances of His ongoing presence and power. But any glimpses they got of God were nothing compared to what was to come. Sin still mars God’s creation and damages man’s relationship with God. But the day is coming when those things will be remedied once and for all.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Man was created to have a relationship with God. Sin threw a monkey wrench into the plan, driving a wedge between man and God, and requiring God to do something radical to remedy the problem. God sent His Son to pay for the sins of man and to make possible the restoration of the relationship between God and His creation. But even now, sin continues to make it difficult for man to experience God’s indwelling, ongoing presence perfectly, without interruption. So God has one last thing He needs to do. He is going to eliminate sin and its devastating influence. He will destroy Satan and remove him completely from the equation. John was told that God would “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV). God reminds us, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). A new heaven and a new earth. A new Jerusalem. A new relationship between God and man. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3 ESV). Over in his gospel, John writes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). The word for “dwelt” in this verse means to “fix one’s tabernacle” and it pictures God’s choice to dwell among men in a physical form. In Revelation 21:3, John records the noun version of the same word when he writes, “the dwelling place of God is with man.” When Jesus came to earth, He made God visible to men. But the day is coming when God Himself will dwell with men once again. We will enjoy unbroken, unhindered fellowship with God. Sin will be eliminated. Confession for sin will no longer necessary. There will be nothing to get in the way of our relationship with God. He will be our God and we will be His children.

Father, on this earth we only get glimpses of what fellowship with You can be like. Sin continues to make it difficult to see You, hear You, and experience You. The world can be a constant reminder of sin’s reality and make it feel like You are distant and removed from everyday life. But the day is coming when we will experience You in uninterrupted glory. You will dwell among us and we will enjoy Your presence. Help me to stay focused on reality of that promise. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Daniel 7-8, Revelation 20

Thy Kingdom Come.

Daniel 7-8, Revelation 20

…and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. – Daniel 7:13-14 ESV

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He gave them the following model to follow. “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10 NLT). Jesus began His prayer with a request that His Father’s Kingdom be established on the earth and that the will of His Father be perfectly fulfilled here on earth just as it is in heaven. This was a request for something to be done that was yet future in its fulfillment. Jesus was teaching His disciples to long for and look for a day when the Kingdom of God would be established on earth in a real and final sense. While we see a partial fulfillment of God’s Kingdom as we live on this earth as citizens of that Kingdom, and enjoy the Kingship of Christ in our lives; we do not yet see His Kingdom fulfilled in all its glory. That day is yet future. It is reserved for what Daniel records as “the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17 ESV). Daniel was given a glimpse into the distant future, a time called “the latter end” (Daniel 8:23 ESV), “many days from now” (Daniel 8:26 ESV), when God will bring all things to a close and establish His Kingdom on earth. The kingdoms of this earth will cease. The kings of this earth will be removed from power. The one true King will sit on His throne in Jerusalem where He will reign in righteousness and glory for 1,000 years. John was given insight into this event and shown that a day was coming when Jesus Christ would return to earth, defeat Satan and the armies of this world, set up His Kingdom and reward those who had been faithful to Him throughout the time of the Great Tribulation and had suffered martyrdom on His behalf. “They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4 ESV). “…but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6 ESV). This refers to that yet future time period called the Millennial Kingdom, when God will establish His Kingdom on earth once and for all. His Kingdom will come and His will will be done, perfectly and completely. The prayer Jesus prayed will be fulfilled.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God showed Daniel and John things that no man had ever seen. He revealed to them things that had yet to happen, but that would most certainly take place because they were part of His divine plan for the redemption of His creation. Much of what was revealed to Daniel would have a short-term fulfillment. He was shown the various kingdoms that would come to power in the not-too-distant future. He was told of the coming of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), the eighth king of the Seleucid dynasty, who would lead Syria to great power and prominence and become of the greatest persecutors of the people of God that had ever lived. He would kill thousands of Jews. He would desecrate the temple of God by setting up an idol dedicated to Zeus and offer a sacrifice of swine to this false god. But these events were just a precursor of something even greater and far more sinister to come. Antiochus would be the partial fulfillment of the Antichrist who was to come in “ the appointed time of the end” (Daniel 8:19 ESV). What Daniel saw had to do with events to come that have already taken place, but it also had to do with a future time that has yet to be fulfilled. God’s focus is on the end. He is involved in the here and now, but His emphasis is on culmination of all things. He is all about answering the prayer that Jesus prayed. He is all about the coming of His Kingdom and the ultimate fulfillment of His divine will on earth.   

What does this passage reveal about man?

Much must take place before the end comes. Jesus Himself warned that things were going to get worse long before they got better. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:6-8 ESV). We have been witness to the reality of His prediction. We have been eyewitnesses to countless wars, tragic famines, devastating earthquakes and other seemingly end time events. But Jesus told us not to be alarmed. These things are not necessarily a sign of the end. They are simply evidence of the devastating influence the fall and the presence of sin will have on God’s creation and on mankind. Kingdoms will rise and fall. Nations will wage war against one another. Injustice and unrighteousness will become commonplace. The sin of man will reach epic proportions and the darkness of man’s rebellion against God will appear overwhelming. The actions of an Antiochus Epiphanes will pale in comparison to those of the Antichrist. “His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand” (Daniel 8:24-25 ESV). Man’s capacity for evil will reach it apex in this one individual. He will rule and reign over the world and turn his wrath against the people of Israel. Jesus described this period of time in very harsh terms: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

News of these yet-future events had a devastating impact on Daniel. “And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it” (Daniel 8:27 ESV). But rather than fear, we must be ready. Rather than live with a sense of trepidation, we should live with expectation. Jesus told us, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 ESV). He is coming back. And when He returns the second time, He will come to defeat the kingdoms of this world, along with Satan, the prince of this world. God will take back what rightfully belongs to Him. He will establish His Kingdom and set up His Son as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. “…and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV). God’s Kingdom will come. His will will be done. His Son will reign. His enemies will be defeated. Sin will be eliminated. The unrighteous will be judged. The redeemed will be rewarded. The God of the universe will have the final say. So as Jesus modeled for us, our constant prayer should be that God’s Kingdom come and His will be done – on earth, just as it is in heaven. That day is coming. And it is for that day we hope and the creation moans in eager anticipation.

Father, while things appear to be getting progressively worse, we know that man’s capacity for sin and rebellion knows no limits. Sin will increase. Unrighteousness will spread like a cancer. But Your Kingdom IS coming. Your will will be done. Your Son is going to return and set everything right. Help us to live with that reality in mind. This story has an ending and it is an unbelievably good one. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Daniel 5-6, Revelation 19

An Instrument For God’s Glory.

Daniel 5-6, Revelation 19

He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions. Daniel 6:27 ESV

Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God… – Revelation 19:1 ESV

The story recorded in chapter six of Daniel is a familiar one. It tells us of the time when Daniel was cast into the den of lions for having worshiped God rather than bow down and worship King Darius. The temptation, when reading this story, is to make much of Daniel and his faith. But the point of the story is not the faith of Daniel, but the God whom Daniel worshiped and in whom he had placed his faith. Daniel worshiped God. Darius wanted everyone to worship himself. In chapter five we read of the story of Belshazzar, the young son of the king who, while serving during one of his father’s long absences from Babylon, threw a party where he and his guests drank out of the sacred vessels that had been pillaged from the temple in Jerusalem years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar. These vessels, which had sanctified and set apart for the worship of God, were used by Belshazzar and his drunken guests to worship the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. Both Belshazzar and Darius were guilty of having worshiped something other than the Most High God. And in both of these stories, Daniel was simply an instrument through whom God displayed His greatness and glory. While Daniel was recognized for his “understanding and excellent wisdom” (Daniel 5:14 ESV), and we are told “an excellent spirit was in him” (Daniel 6:3 ESV), he is not the focus of this story. Daniel existed for God’s glory. He was used by God to deliver a powerful word of judgment against Belshazzar, condemning him of his pride, arrogance and for having lifted himself against the Lord of heaven. He accused Belshazzar of not honoring “the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways” (Daniel 5:23 ESV). And Daniel would be used by God to reveal His power and prominence over the king, his governmental representatives and even a pack of lions. Daniel had a reputation, but his life was intended to point others to God, not himself. While Daniel had received praise and a promotion, he remained dedicated and totally submitted to his God.    

What does this passage reveal about God?

Daniel knew that His God was great. He was fully aware that God was in control of the affairs of men, including the various kings who sat on the throne of Babylon, whether it was Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar or Darius. When chapter five opens us, Daniel would have been in his 80s, having served as part of the court in Babylon for well over 60 years. He had seen the rise and fall of Nebuchadnezzar. He would watch as Belshazzar was killed for his pride and profaning of God. He would live to see Darius come to power and watch as he followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, forsaking the greatness of God and demanding the worship of man instead. Yet Daniel knew that God alone was to be worshiped. He warned Belshazzar, “And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored” (Daniel 5:23 ESV). When he was made aware of King Darius’ decree that all men should bow down and worship him, forsaking the worship of any other gods, Daniel “went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:10 ESV). God is mentioned sixteen times in these two chapters. It was His hand that wrote on the wall, throwing a wet blanket on Belshazzar’s party. It was His hand that protected Daniel from the lions in the den. It was to Him that Daniel bowed and prayed, not to King Darius. It was God in whom Daniel trusted and placed His faith. And it was God of whom Darius would decree, “that all in my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:26 ESV). Because Daniel was willing to be an instrument in the hands of God, this pagan king would end up exclaiming, “he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:26-27 ESV).  

What does this passage reveal about man?

We exist for God’s glory, not our own. Daniel was simply an instrument through whom God revealed His greatness, glory, and power, and proved His prominence over kings, nature, and the wisdom of men. As children of God, we are to be His instruments. We are to recognize that we exist for His glory. As we rightfully worship Him in the midst of a culture that worships anything and everything but Him, we provide Him with opportunities to prove His power and presence. We become vessels through whom He reveals His glory. Paul writes about this very thing in one of his letters to Timothy. “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21 ESV). Like those vessels that Darius used from the temple, we have been set apart as holy, useful to the Master. We are to be used for His glory and to bring Him honor. Daniel, in spite of his apparent success, had not lost sight of the fact that he existed for God and was intended to bring Him glory, being ready for every good work. He was even willing to die, as long as God was honored in the process. He knew that even his martyrdom would honor God because he would have remained faithful to the end. But should God spare him, God would receive honor as well. Living for God must include a willingness to die for Him, if necessary. Honoring Him is best achieved when I recognize my role as a vessel for His glory. My life exists for His glory, not my own. John the Baptist understood this. He revealed it in his simply statement regarding Jesus, in which he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30 NLT).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The goal of my life should be that God and His Son be lifted up through me. My life should reveal the power of God. My life should reflect that transforming presence of Christ. I must continually see myself as an instrument in God’s hand. I am a vessel into which He has placed His glory and through that glory must be revealed to a lost and dying world. In the end, my life should be living proof of the reality that “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just” (Revelation 19:1-2 ESV). As people look at my life, they should be able to see God’s power in me. My actions should point them to Christ as I live in dependence upon Him and place my faith in Him. Over in the book of Revelation, we are reminded that our great God is one day going to bring His plan of redemption to a close. He is going to send His Son one last time to the earth. The Word of God will appear one last time, and He will come in power, bringing judgment against all those who have chosen to worship someone or something other than God Most High. And He will bring with Him, “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure” (Revelation 19:14 ESV). Once again, God will use His people as His instruments, through whom He will accomplish His will and bring Himself glory. But the battle will be His. The victory will be His. It will be He alone who wears the title, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16 ESV). When all is said and done, the point of it all will revealed: “Worship God!” (Revelation 19:10 ESV). That is why we were created. It is why we exist. And it will be what we do for eternity. Because He has been, is, and always will be the point of it all.

Father, we exist for Your glory. We have one purpose and one purpose – to worship You and bring You glory as we allow You to work in and through our lives. May Your power be revealed in our lives. May Your presence be seen in our lives. May Your will be done in our lives. For Your glory and Your glory alone. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Daniel 3-4, Revelation 18

The Most High Rules.

Daniel 3-4, Revelation 18

…and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.. Daniel 4:32 ESV

During the time period recorded in the book of Daniel, Babylon was the post powerful nation in the world. It was a pagan nation that had experienced tremendous success militarily. Its armies had conquered many nations and its influence could be seen throughout the Middle East. Nebuchadnezzar ruled over a vast kingdom and was a force to be reckoned with. But the book of Daniel is all about a much more powerful, sovereign and almighty King than the one who sat on a throne in the great city of Babylon. From the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace to the shocking case of Nebuchadnezzar’s bout with insanity, the greatness of God is the resounding theme. Repeatedly we see Nebuchadnezzar struggling with pride and attempting to set himself up as the sovereign ruler of the world. His decision to erect a giant idol and demand its worship stands in direct opposition to the sovereign power revealed in chapter two. When the three young Jews refused to bow down before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, he arrogantly responded, “who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15 ESV). But when God miraculously preserved the lives of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Nebuchadnezzar changed his tune, exclaiming, “How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:3 ESV). But apparently, Nebuchadnezzar’s awareness of God’s dominion and rule was short lived. Given enough time to consider his own greatness and all that he had accomplished, Nebuchadnezzar would end up putting himself back on the pedestal of his own mind. “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30 ESV).    

What does this passage reveal about God?

Nebuchadnezzar arrogantly and sarcastically asked Daniel’s three young friends, “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15 ESV0. God would provide him with the answer. Three different times in the passage God made it clear that He was going to do something so that there would be no doubt about who was in control. “…that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17 ESV). “…till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:25 ESV). “…until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:32 ESV). The story found in Daniel is not about the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but about the God in whom they placed their faith. The real message of these chapters is God’s sovereignty and rule over the affairs of men. Nebuchadnezzar, as great as he may have thought himself to be, was nothing more than “the lowliest of men” in God’s eyes. He was simply another creation formed from nothing by the hand of the Creator. His very life and the throne on which he sat were the work of God, not himself. God had the power to remove not only Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, but his sanity as well. God could control the king’s dreams. He could alter the king’s behavior. He could do with His creation whatever He chose to do. And the ultimate goal is that all men will some day know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men.   

What does this passage reveal about man?

There has been a power struggle taking place ever since Adam and Eve decided to reject God’s will for them, and buy the lie of the enemy that promised them, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5 ESV). Ever since that fateful day, men and women have been at war with the God of the universe, attempting to wrest control from His hands so that they might be the arbiters of their own fate and the masters of their own domains. Acceptance of God’s sovereign rule and willing submission to His control over the lives of men continues to be an epic, ongoing struggle. Even in the lives of the godly, submission to God’s rule can be difficult to live out. Our sin natures continue to tempt us to demand our own way and to fight for what we believe to be our rights. Our pride rises up within us, causing us to wrongfully assume that we are responsible for our successes and the best determiners of our own fate. In other words, we know what is best for us and we will do whatever we have to in order to get what we want. But God would have us know “that the Most High rules over the kingdom of men.” And that includes our own petty kingdoms and personal domains. Interestingly enough, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego seemed to have come to grips with the sovereignty of their God. When confronted with the choice to worship the king’s statue or remain faithful to their God, they didn’t flinch. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18 ESV). They were willing to put their lives in the hands of God. They were wiling to face death rather than put someone or something else in His place as the Most High. And their faith wasn’t academic or intellectual. It was real, taking the form of an actual commitment to face death in a fiery furnace rather than turn their back on God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The entire Bible, from beginning to end, is about the Most High God. It starts with His miraculous creation of the entire universe. It contains His sovereign interactions with mankind that spans the centuries and influences the lives of countless generations. It peaks with the coming of His Son as the divine solution to man’s inherent problem of sin. And it culminates with a depiction of God’s final plan for the restoration of His creation and His victory over Satan, sin and death. Even in the book of Revelation, we see the return of the image of Babylon. This once great pagan nation returns to the scene, but now as a representative picture of the satanic system of evil that will dominate the world scene in the end times. Whether or not the Babylon spoken of in chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation is a literal city is not clear. But there is no doubt that it symbolizes all that is evil with the world. Babylonianism is makred by pride, idolatry, injustice, immorality, greed, avarice, lust, materialism, and human glory. It is the attitude found in the life of Nebuchadnezzar, but on steroids. During the time of the Great Tribulation, pictured for us in the book of Revelation, the moral decline of man will reach its apex. The decadence and debauchery for which Babylon was famous will be worldwide and will impact everything from religion to commerce. Sinful, pride-filled, arrogant man will literally go to war with God Himself. “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is the Lord of lords and the King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14 ESV). Babylon will fall, “for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her” (Revelation 18:8 ESV). When all is said and done, God will once again prove that He is the Most High God and rules over the kingdom of men. He will put to rest any debate regarding His sovereignty and defeat once and for all any rebellion to His rule and attempt to usurp His throne or His glory.

Father, You rule and reign, not just in heaven, but over all the earth. You are the sovereign God over all men, all kingdoms, and the entire universe. Your desire is that we might recognize You are the Most High and live as if we truly believe You are in control. Give us the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, so that we might be willing to submit to Your rule and even suffer death out of reverence for Your name and respect for Your righteous reign over our lives. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Daniel 1-2, Revelation 17

God of gods.

Daniel 1-2, Revelation 17

Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery. Daniel 2:47 ESV

When studying a book like Daniel, there is a real temptation to make it all about the one whose name it bears. Many of us know the stories found in Daniel. We probably heard them as little children in Sunday School. We know about Daniel and the lion’s den. We’ve heard about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. And it would be easy to make this story all about Daniel and his friends. But to do so would be to miss the whole point of the book of Daniel. It was written, not to deify Daniel, but to reveal the power and glory of God in the midst of what was a very difficult and hard to understand circumstance for the people of God. Everything Isaiah the prophet had warned would happen had taken place. The Babylonians had come into the territory of Judah, besieged the city of Jerusalem, and in 605 B.C., had taken captive the first group of the city’s occupants. Daniel was included in this first wave of exiles. The book of Daniel was written for Jews who were living long after this events occurred. It was a history lesson, revealing not just the details of past events concerning the Israelites, but the reminding them of the sovereign hand of God over their lives. Ultimately, this book is about God. His influence can been seen on virtually every page. He is the one who is orchestrating every circumstance, from the fall of Jerusalem into the hands of the Babylonians to the captivity of Daniel and his subsequent promotion into the king’s favor and service. God was behind Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s ability to interpret it. God is not only the star of the story, but its author.  

What does this passage reveal about God?

For the Jews who had to live through the fall of Jerusalem and the deportation of its citizens into captivity in Babylon, there would have been ample reasons to wonder whether their God was either impotent or indifferent. Had He lost His power or had He simply lost interest in the people of God. It would have been easy for them to feel abandoned by God and left to fend for themselves. Even though God had warned them repeatedly that judgment was coming, they still would have found their circumstances hard to understand and difficult to endure. But the book of Daniel was intended to remind the people of Israel that their God was in control. Throughout the first two chapters, His hand is revealed and His involvement behind the scenes can be clearly seen. “And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1:9 ESV). “As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17 ESV). Why would God give Daniel favor? Why would He give Daniel the ability to understand dreams and visions? Better yet, why had God allowed Daniel and his companions to be taken captive in the first place? There is much that happens in life that we question. There are circumstances that occur that cause us to doubt God’s goodness, power, wisdom or presence. But the story of Daniel reminds us that God is always there. He is the ever-present God of the present and also the God of the future. What happens today, while difficult to understand, has implications for tomorrow. God’s plan is far greater than our current conditions. Daniel’s captivity, while difficult, was a necessary part of God’s divine plan. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

The book of Daniel juxtaposes the weakness of man with the power of God. While Babylon was the most powerful nation in the world at the time, and King Nebuchadnezzar was feared and revered; they were no match for God. Daniel would even tell the great king, “You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all…” (Daniel 2:37-38 ESV). God had given Nebuchadnezzar his power. In his prayer of thanksgiving to God, recorded in chapter two, Daniel says, “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2:21 ESV). Man is no match for God. Even the magicians, wise men and enchanters of Babylon are exposed as weak, ineffective, and unable to tell the king the meaning of his dream. They confess, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Daniel 2:10-11 ESV). They were right. Not a man alive could do what the king was asking. Not even Daniel. Even he would admit that. “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries…” (Daniel 2:27-28 ESV). 

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In reading through these opening chapters of Daniel, it would be so easy to concentrate all our time and energies at trying to understand the vision that Daniel interpreted for the king. The same is true when reading chapter 17 of Revelation. We could spend countless hours trying to determine just what all the imagery means and what each portion of the vision represents. And while there would be inherently wrong in doing so, we could miss out on the most significant point behind it all. God is in control. Even in the book of Revelation, amongst all the imagery of beasts, harlots, heads, and horns, there is a strong and indisputable reminder of God’s sovereignty. “For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled” (Revelation 17:17 ESV). Scholars and theologians have spent their lifetimes trying to determine the meaning behind all the imagery of this passage. There has been much debate and little consensus on just what all the imagery means. But we CAN know this. God is behind it all. He is in charge of all that happens – both now and into the future. Daniel knew that God had not abandoned him, in spite of his circumstances. So he prayed to God and was answered by Him. God revealed to Daniel the details of events that had yet to happen. He gave Daniel insights into the future and never fully explained to him what they all meant. God doesn’t tell us everything. He doesn’t reveal all the details behind His plans. God is not obligated to explain Himself or defend His actions. But I should know that he is God of gods and Lord of kings. He is a revealer of mysteries and the author of the entire story of mankind. He is in complete control and I can have confidence in Him, “until the words of God are fulfilled” (Revelation 17:17b ESV).

Father, it is so easy to miss the point of the Bible and make it all about man. I can spend so much time focusing on the people of the Bible that I miss out on the God of the Bible. Help me to recognize that the Bible is Your personal revelation of Yourself to man. It is not about us. It is about You. We are bit players in the great redemptive story. We are the beneficiaries of Your goodness and the spectators who get to witness Your greatness. Never let me lose sight of the fact that, regardless of what I see or experience, You are in control and Your words and Your will are going to be fulfilled. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 65-66, Revelation 16

A Humility of Heart.

Isaiah 65-66, Revelation 16

But this is the one to whom I will look; he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:2 ESV

Israel’s unique position as God’s chosen people should have produced in them a sense of humility and grateful dependence upon Him. Instead, they developed an arrogance and pride that was marked by a sense of entitlement. They saw themselves as spiritually superior to all the other nations, saying, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you” (Isaiah 65:5 ESV). And yet, God viewed them as rebellious, idolatrous, disobedient, and deserving of His wrath. His assessment of them was not good. “…when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in” (Isaiah 65:12 ESV). But amazingly, there were a few who remained faithful and true to God. There was a remnant of Jews who worshiped Him correctly, exhibiting a healthy awe and respect for who He was and all that He had done for them. God refers to the faithful few as His servants. He says they shall eat, while the rest go hungry. They will drink while everyone else thirsts. They will rejoice while the prideful and arrogant are put to shame. They shall sing for gladness of heart while the unfaithful cry out for pain of heart. God describes this faithful remnant as humble and contrite in spirit, having a healthy fear of Him.  

What does this passage reveal about God?

God prefers humility over the act of sacrifice. He desires relationship over religion. For the majority of the Israelites, the sacrificial system had deteriorated into little more than a means of appeasing God and attempting to curry favor from Him. It had become self-centered and selfishly motivated. Rather than a means of worshiping God for who He was, men had made it little more than a ritual designed to get what they wanted from God. The whole sacrificial system had been intended to remind men of their dependence upon God. They stood as sinful and guilty before a holy and righteous God. They could not come into His presence because of their sinfulness. So they were required to offer Him sacrifices as a means of worshiping Him for who He was – holy, unapproachable, mighty, just, righteous, and worthy of all honor. God reminded Isaiah, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1 ESV). God didn’t need a temple in which to dwell. Even Solomon recognized that the temple he built was insufficient to house the glory of God. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27 ESV). But the temple was designed as a place to which men could come in humility, obedience and repentance – acknowledging their sin and their need for God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness.

What does this passage reveal about man?

God’s grace is reserved for the humble. James would remind us, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 ESV). “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10 ESV). There is a real sense in which humility is a non-negotiable necessity for experiencing the blessings of God. Humility is a recognition that we can do nothing for God and we deserve nothing from God. It is a realization of our desperate need as we stand in the shadow of His glory. There were those Jews who worshiped God for His sake, while others did so for their own benefit. When we make worship man-centered and self-focused, we replace humility with pride and His glory with our own. Pride is one of the most powerful forces in the life of a man. It appears to be self-preserving and protective, but it is really destructive in nature. It sets self up as the center of the universe, in place of God. It attempts to make man like God, and relegates God to little more than a glorified life coach or cosmic genie in a bottle. Man begins to believe that God exists for his benefit. But God made man to bring Him glory. But mankind has made a habit of glorifying itself. Even the Israelites, the people of God, believed that they were the point of the story. They wrongly assumed that they were the focus of God’s attention and the center of the universe. Rather than live in humble awe and wonder at the very thought that the God of the universe would choose to have a relationship with them, they wrongly assumed that they somehow deserved God’s favor and were guaranteed His blessings, regardless of how they lived their lives.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In the end, God gets the glory. Literally, when the end of times comes, it will be God and God alone who gets the glory for what happens. He will send back His Son, not because anyone deserves it, but because God has had it planned all along. Even during the Great Tribulation, God will redeem a remnant of Jews, bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus, the Messiah. Again, not because they deserve it. But because God, in His infinite grace and mercy, has predetermined it. God will save and vindicate Israel, but not so they can revel in the experience and pridefully gloat over their enemies. No God will redeem Israel because He has promised to do so, and His fulfillment of His promises will bring glory to Himself. Twice at the end of chapter 66, God states that in the end times, the nations “shall come and shall see my glory” (Isaiah 66:18 ESV). “…and I will send survivors to the nations…that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations” (Isaiah 66:19 ESV). Ultimately, it is going to be about God’s glory. His redemption of man is all about His glory. His restoration of the nation of Israel will bring Him glory. His judgment of sinful man will bring Him glory. Humility is the recognition of His glory and the staggering realization of our own inability to measure up to His righteous, holy standards. Humility is man’s way of stating his dependence upon God and His divine plan for our redemption and the creation’s restoration. It is a recognition that God alone can restore this sin-ravaged world. It is to acknowledge, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” (Revelation 16:7 ESV). Our humility brings God glory. Our willful dependence upon Him is a form or worship of Him. As we allow God to work through us, it brings Him glory. When we attempt to do things for God, we inevitably rob glory from God. But humility recognizes the truth behind Christ’s words, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV) and “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 ESV).

Father, humility comes hard. It is not natural for us as human beings. Our sin natures make it next to impossible to walk humbly before our God. We live with our eyes focused on ourselves. We think the universe revolves around us. We even think You exist for us. But I want to walk before You humbly and dependently, recognizing my need for You and living my life to bring You glory instead of myself. Thank You for reminding me that I exist for Your glory and not the other way around. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 63-64, Revelation 15

A Desperation For God.

Isaiah 63-64, Revelation 15

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence. Isaiah 64:1 ESV

Isaiah had a first-row seat to the situation going on in Israel. He was a witness to the sin and rebellion of the people and the righteous judgment of God. Every day he could watch how the people neglected their God-given responsibilities to live as His representatives and act as His children. Isaiah had not deluded into believing that they were somehow innocent and undeserving of their punishment. He even included himself when he confessed that they were guilty as charged. “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6 ESV). Isaiah’s assessment of the condition of the people of Israel was bleak. He concluded that, “there is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you” (Isaiah 64:7 ESV). And this was not a new problem. The people of Israel had been unfaithful for a very long time. “…in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?” (Isaiah 64:5 ESV). Things looked dire and desperate. From Isaiah’s perspective, things look hopeless. But it was this very feeling of desperation and hopelessness that led Isaiah to cry out, “Oh that you would rend the heaven and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence…” (Isaiah 64:1 ESV). Even God knew that desperate times call for desperate measures. He had looked down from heaven and concluded, “there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me” (Isaiah 63:5 ESV). Isaiah, as a representative of the people, called out to God for help. He turned to the only one who could do something about their desperate condition. He reminded God of His role as their Father, Redeemer, and Protector. He appealed to God’s zeal, power, mercy and compassion. While they had “become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name,” Isaiah knew that God could be counted on to show goodness, compassion and steadfast love. 

What does this passage reveal about God?

Isaiah knew the rich history of his people. He was fully aware of all that God had done over the generation on behalf of the people of Israel. Which is why he could “recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord” (Isaiah 63:7 ESV). God had been the Savior of Israel on more than one occasion. He had a track record of faithfulness and mercy – in spite of all of Israel’s sin and rebellion. “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9 ESV). God had been with them through all the years. He had been an eyewitness to their sin. He had endured the personal affronts to His holiness as the people worshiped other gods. He had patiently put up with their unfaithfulness. He had redeemed them out of slavery in Egypt. He had led them through the wilderness. He had fed them with manna and quail as they traveled all those years. He miraculously prevented their clothes and sandals from wearing out. He provided them with the assurance of His presence through the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of smoke by day. He had safely delivered them to the Promised Land and given them victory over their enemies. He had allowed them to possess “cities that you did not build and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant” (Deuteronomy 6:10-11 ESV). And then He had watched as they quickly forgot all about Him and began to worship the gods of the nations that had possessed the land before them. “They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies” (Judges 2:13-14 ESV). But whenever the people became desperate enough and cried out to God for help, He sent a deliverer. God would use His judges “who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them” (Judges 2:16 ESV). But once delivered, the people would inevitably turn away from God again. They would forsake God and He would be forced to send their enemies against them as a form of punishment. And when the people became desperate enough, they would cry out to God again. And He would deliver them. Over and over again.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Desperation requires dependence, and dependence is not something mankind finds attractive. We are independent creatures who want to live free from restraints and according to our own rules. At our core, we are rebellious. We tend to bow up at the idea of anyone or anything controlling us. Even the people of God can display a pronounced disgust and disregard for the very idea of His control over their lives. At the end of the book of Judges, we read one of the most revealing statements ever made about men. After years of sin and rebellion, defeat at the hands of their enemies, and desperate cries to God for help, we are told that “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25 ESV). Rather than do what God required of them, they chose to do what they wanted to do. Their deep desire for independence and autonomy stood in direct conflict with God’s desire that they be dependent upon and dedicated to doing His will and bringing Him glory. God wanted to display His power through them. He wanted to shower His blessings on them. He wanted to make His name known to the nations as He ministered to and through His chosen people. But God’s deliverance required dependence. And the state of dependence seemed to require that the people of God be brought to a point of desperation. Over in the book of Jeremiah, we read, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 ESV). In the book of Deuteronomy, God had warned the people of Israel that if they did not obey and serve Him, they would end up exiled in a foreign land where they would worship false gods who could not deliver them in their times of desperation. “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV). They would have to reach the point of desperation. They would have to come to the conclusion that nothing and no one else could deliver them from their predicament. In their desperation and despair, they would recognize their complete dependence upon God. “For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them” (Deuteronomy 4:31 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The sad reality is that we never seem to understand or appreciate our complete dependence upon God until we reach the point of desperation and hopelessness. It is as if we have to finally conclude that we no longer have any other options and no other saviors to whom we can turn. When we finally get tired of doing what is right in our own eyes and suffering the consequences of our desire for independence, we will reach the conclusion that God alone is the answer to our problem. And like Isaiah, we will cry out “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.” We will long to see God do what only He can do. It is sad that it sometimes takes a point of desperation to bring us to an awareness of our dependence upon God. We don’t just need Him for salvation from sin, we need Him to live in righteousness. We don’t just need Him to provide our ticket to heaven, we need Him to provide the strength we need to live on this earth. It is interesting that during one of the most difficult and desperate times that will ever come upon the earth, there will be those who cry out to God. They will recognize His power, mercy, goodness, and desire to redeem what belongs to Him. Toward the end of the Great Tribulation, as God prepares to bring His final judgments upon the earth, those believers who have been martyred during the tribulation will stand before the throne of God and cry out, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!  Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3-4 ESV). They say desperate times call for desperate measures. But as children of God, we should know that desperate times call for dependence upon Him. God alone can save. God alone can redeem. God alone can solve the problem that has plagued mankind since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. We live in desperate times. Which is all the more reason that we live our lives in complete dependence upon God. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 ESV).

Father, I want to live in dependence upon You. I don’t want to wait until I reach the point of complete desperation and I have run out of other options. I truly want You to be my first and only option. You have proven Yourself trustworthy and faithful more than enough times in my life. I have proven myself to be a lousy savior and the things of this world have proven themselves to be unreliable deliverers. As we look at the events taking place all around us, may we reach a point of desperation that leads us to complete dependence upon You. Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Isaiah 61-62, Revelation 14

A Glorious Future.

Isaiah 61-62, Revelation 14

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exalt in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…. Isaiah 61:10 ESV

At the time Isaiah was writing the words contained in his book, the nation of Israel was still facing the prospect of their fall at the hands of the Babylonians. God had already told them that they would be defeated, their city and temple destroyed, and the majority of their citizens taken into captivity. But God also told them about their glorious future. He spoke of a coming day of salvation, redemption and restoration. And while they would experience a partial fulfillment of this promise when they returned to the land under the leadership of Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerrubabel, there was a greater, yet future, fulfillment coming. The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write of “the year of the Lord’s favor.” There was a time coming when the poor would receive good news, the brokenhearted would be comforted, the captives would be freed, and imprisoned would be released. These words of comfort spoke of something far greater than a physical salvation from poverty and imprisonment. When the people of Israel would eventually return to the land from captivity in Babylon, they would find themselves free from slavery to a foreign power, but they would still be captive to their own sin natures. They would still be spiritually impoverished, brokenhearted and imprisoned. God’s ultimate salvation was coming at a much-future date. Hundreds of years later, when Jesus Christ appeared at the synagogue in Nazareth, He was handed the scroll containing the writings of Isaiah. “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor’” (Luke 4:18-19 ESV). When Jesus came the first time, He offered salvation from the power of sin. He came to provide men release from captivity to the demands of their own sin natures. Yet, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). This came as no surprise to Jesus or to God the Father. The people of Israel’s rejection of Jesus as their Messiah was foreseen by God and was actually necessary in order to His Son to accomplish His divine mission. Jesus Himself told His disciples, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Matthew 21:42 ESV). He would go on to tell the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the people of Israel, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God has a plan. He is not reacting to events as they occur and coming up with on-the-spot decisions based on circumstances that have caught Him off guard and by surprise. As men, our plans are always subject to unforeseen and unexpected events that can complete derail our well-thought-out objectives. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21 ESV). God’s plans are unalterable. His will is immutable. Jesus came to die. That was God’s plan from the beginning. The rejection of His Son by His own people was not a monkey wrench thrown into the plans of God, but an integral and expected part of His overall strategy. But their rejection of the Messiah would not permanently remove them from God’s favor. Their refusal to accept God’s Anointed One would not cause God to forsake them. Instead, He promised them, “but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God” (Isaiah 61:6 ESV). He would eventually cloth them in “garments of salvation” and “the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Paul wrote to the Gentile believers in Rome, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27 ESV). God has great plans in store for His people. God promises them, “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isaiah 62:3 ESV). Not only that, they will go from being referred to as “forsaken” and “desolate” to being called “My delight is in her” (Isaiah 62:4). God is not done with Israel. He told Isaiah to remind them, “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’ They will be called ‘The Holy People’ and ‘The People Redeemed by the Lord.’ And Jerusalem will be known as ‘The Desirable Place’ and ‘The City No Longer Forsaken’” (Isaiah 62:11-12 NLT).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Israel did not deserve God’s favor. They had earned His wrath and deserved to suffer the consequences for their sins. And for many years, they would find themselves struggling under the discipline of the Lord. But they would also experience the unmerited favor of God. He faithfully restored them to their land. He preserved and protected them for generations. Yes, they would suffer under the rule of various nations. They would go for centuries without a king and experience the humiliation of the poverty and powerlessness that comes with  subjugation and servitude to more powerful nations. Even today, Israel finds itself surrounded by countless enemies who would love to see them wiped off the face of the earth. Even during the Great Tribulation to come, Satan will go out of His way to eliminate the people of Israel. He will wage an unrelenting war against the people of God, in the hopes of destroying them, and along with them, derailing the plans of God for them. And while the Jews continue to forsake Jesus Christ as their Messiah, God refuses to forsake them. Even during the period of the tribulation, God says He will raise up 144,000 Jews, redeeming them as His own and making them followers of Jesus Christ. “These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless” (Revelation 14:5 ESV). These 144,000 redeemed Jews will come from every tribe of Israel. They will be witnesses of God’s salvation and of Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel. Through their testimony, a great many people, both Jews and Gentiles, will come to faith in Christ even during the dark days of the tribulation. Our faithful God has tremendous plans for His people. He has much in store for them. But as in Isaiah’s day, the danger for the people of God is that we would with a myopic perspective that prevents us from living with our eyes on the glorious future God has in store for us. How easy it is for us to take a look at our current circumstances and conclude we are “forsaken” and “desolate.” How important it is for us to always remember that God delights in us as His own. Our current conditions are not a reflection of God’s love, mercy, power or ultimate plans for us.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The world in which we live is temporary. It was not meant to be our final destination. It’s current condition, marred by sin and filled with antagonism toward God, is a less-than-ideal place for us as God’s people. But we have been placed here by God for a reason. We have work to do. We are to live as His ambassadors and representatives, living as lights in the midst of darkness. We are people on a mission to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and model the redemptive work of God in the midst of a people living in spiritual poverty, captive to sin, and enslaved to the powers of this world. But even while we live out our lives on this planet, we are to keep our eyes firmly focused on our glorious future. This is not all there is. The pleasures of this world are but a shadow of what is to come. Any joys we experience in this life pale in comparison to what we will experience in the future God has in store for us. Our sufferings during this life, while real and sometimes devastating, won’t last forever. Paul reminds us, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT). He goes on to tell us, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 4:18-5:1 NLT). What a glorious future God has in store for us. And He will bring it about – in His perfect time and according to His perfect plan.

Father, help me live with my eyes on the future. Help me to judge what I experience and see in this life through the lens of Your faithful, unfailing plan. You are not done yet. There is much in store for us as Your people. You have much yet to accomplish for the people of Israel. Thank You for reminding me of Your faithfulness and love. No matter what I see or experience in this life, I can rest in the fact that I have a glorious future in store for me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org