Daily Devotional: Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020

Today’s prayer is an excerpt from a particularly long prayer in Piercing Heaven:  Prayers of the Puritans.  This is an excellent collection of prayers I have found very useful in my daily devotions. 

“A Prayer for Revival”  by Phillip Doddridge1

Eternal, unchangeable Jehovah!  Your perfections and glories will never change.  Jesus your Son is “the same yesterday, today, and forever”.   The closer the eternal world gets, the more I must consider it.  But sadly, my views, my affections, and my best intentions keep changing—just like my poor body.

Where is the blessing I once had?  My joy in you as my Heavenly Fahter was so obvious that strangers could not miss it.  My heart overflowed with so much love to you, and passion for serving you, that it felt like self-denial not to express it.  Where did I fall? You see me still, but I am not the same. I blush to see how cold and indifferent I have become.

Even when I do speak with you, my prayer is comld and formal.  What happened to the passion I once felt, the intense pursuit of you, O God?

Give me grace to turn toward your testimonies, without further delay, that I may keep your commandments (Ps. 119:59-60).  

Search me, Lord, and try me.  Get toteh root of this disease which spreads itself over my soul, and heal me.  Show me my sin, Lord, that I may see its horror. Show me Jesus in such a light that I may look upon him and mourn, that I may look upon him and love. 

Grant me your abiding presence to stir my affections for you and all things spiritual again.  Amen.

Psalm 106:21, 45  The Perfect Timing

They forgot God, their Savior, who had done  great things in Egypt…45For their sake he [God] remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

This is a longer Psalm, it has 48 verses, and is considered a historical Psalm.  It’s historical because it recounts the history, or at least part of the history, of Israel.  There are other historical Psalms throughout the Psalter, and like this one, most of them, if not all of them, focus on God’s faithfulness.  And sometimes, like Psalm 106, God’s faithfulness is made all the more bright against the backdrop of Israel’s sin and rebellion.

As you read through this Psalm you notice that it follows some chronological pattern after first acknowledging personal sin (we have sinned, v.6) as well as corporate sin (and our fathers, v.6).  So the basis of this Psalm is found in confession of sin and a plea for help. The sins of Israel, like my own sins, are many. 

 They sinned in Egypt.  They sinned right after being freed from Egypt by God’s mighty hand (6-12), they sinned by grumbling (13-15), they sinned in jealousy (16-18), and idolatry (19-23).  That’s just their “wilderness” sins before the 40 years of wandering! The Psalmist goes on to their sins involving the Promised Land and wandering about in the wilderness.  First they refused to enter, they doubted God’s word (24-27), and then they worshiped another god (28-31). In the Promised Land it doesn’t get any better, the Israelites didn’t destroy the Canaanite inhabitants as God commanded, resulting in pagan practices, idolatry, and human sacrifice (34-39).  This eventually resulted in Israel’s exile from the Promised Land (40-46), yet God remembered his covenant for their sake, he relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

Like Israel and like “A Prayer for Revival” above, I’m prone to forget God.  I’m prone to lose my energy and verve for God on an embarrassingly regular basis.  The thing that keeps me going isn’t me at all. It’s God’s faithfulness to his covenant according to the abundance of his steadfast love!  There are days when we might feel like God shouldn’t love us and shouldn’t have sent Jesus to be our savior, but who are we question God? What right has the pot to say to the potter why did you save me when you should have cast off this broken pot and start again?

Yet we do.  We can look at our histories, or even current state of our hearts and just wonder at God’s mercy and timing.  Mercy in that God shows me mercy when I fail him and rebel against him so often. That makes me wonder and be thankful.  And also God’s timing. Timing in that why are you taking your time in fixing this broken pot? Why aren’t you fixing me into the thing you have planned NOW?  That makes me wonder and be, well, be all kinds of things that aren’t thankful.

Don’t forget God.  He has all of life worked out and the way he works it out is through a Redeemer, through Jesus.  The law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, could only save if it was kept perfectly, in body and soul.  Which means all of us were excluded because of our union with Adam, the first sinner, our first human father.  “21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-25)  

In our timing, well in my timing anyway, I think I wouldn’t have redeemed Adam and Eve at all, but if I were going to I’d have done it right away.  That’s not God’s plan, and his plan is perfect! If there’s one thing I know about my plans, it is that they are very far from perfect! Eve though Cain and Abel might be the promised seed, then she put her hope on Seth.  Abraham wanted Ishmael to be the promised son, but even Isaac wasn’t the ultimate son. Israel looked to Moses as the final deliverer, then Aaron as the priest, then Joshua as the conqueror. The list goes on and on, the point is Israel was looking for Jesus to come for a long time—why did God wait?  He waited for the perfect time.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Gal. 4:4-7)  

God’s timing in our lives is perfect, too.  His timing in our trials. His timing in our sanctification.  His timing in our children’s faith. God remembers his covenant for our sake according to the abundance of his steadfast love!  Part of God’s covenant includes being called children of God and receiving the Spirit of Adoption to pray to him in heaven, crying out for renewal, revival, restoration, and rejuvenation!  

May God be present with you today in all that you do.  May he grant you to see the fruits of your labors and encourage you with his perfect steadfast love and timing.

Pastor Matt

1Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans. Robert Elmer, ed.  Bellingham, WA: Lexham press, 2019. P. 76-79.

Daily Devotional: Mon , March 30, 2020

WE beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.1

Haggai 2:20-23 God’s Choice is Perfect

20 The word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, 21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.”

This is the second prophecy Haggai received from God on twenty-fourth day of the ninth month of King Darius.  Each of the prophecies has been to the people of God, as does this one, but this one is first given to one individual, “Zerubbabel, governor of Judah”. 

Zerubbabel and Joshua, the priest, are credited in Ezra 3:2 with rebuilding the altar in Jerusalem following the nation’s return.  In Zechariah, Joshua (alternately spelled Jeshua in some places) received specific prophesies (Zech. 3,6). And remember Haggai and Zechariah are the “post-exilic prophets” along with Malachi—they are all prophesying in the same time period, to the same circumstances of God’s people.  

Haggai is told by Yahweh to speak to Zerubbabel, “I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother.” We’ve seen this language before, back in 2:6, “For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.”  This is the language of Theophany (God appearing), similar to His descent on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 20, but God has expanded it here.  

Not only will he be “shaking heaven and earth” and the nations, now kingdom, nations and their armies are referred to specifically.  The inclusion of these specifics intensifies God’s plan, making his resoluteness clear to those who have “ears to hear”. Not only will God be removing the foundation of the kingdoms so that will totter and fall, but he is going to throw them into such turmoil that they will crumble from within—“every one by the sword of his brother” (cf. Ezekiel 38:19-23, Zech. 14:13-14).  But God’s kingdom will last forever, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

Which brings us to the security of God’s perfect choice.  That’s what we’re seeing here in this prophecy concerning Zerubbabel.  “Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.”   

God’s choice of His people isn’t based on anything in and of themselves—it’s based on and continued in His love. Deuteronomy 7:6-7, ““For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you.”  

His choice is according to His plan, which He is always trustworthy to fulfil.   God had made a covenant with David many years before that his descendent would be king of Israel, which pointed to the immediate future as well as the distant future and true fulfilment in Jesus.  But, because of Judah’s reckless sin and idolatry, God sent His people into exile. Before Jerusalem was destroyed, Jeremiah came and prophesied to the King, ““As I live, declares the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off and give you into the hand of those who seek your life, into the hand of those of whom you are afraid, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of the Chaldeans.”  God’s signet ring had figuratively been removed and given to Babylon, leaving the Davidic promise of King left up in the air, so to speak.

Now, in Zerubbabel, God was declaring that thought it looked bleak His promise would never be broken.  Zerubbabel would be God’s signet; Zerubbabel would be the one through whom the righteous seed2 would be spared and eventually come to deliver God’s people.   This is confirmed in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1:12, “And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.”

This doesn’t make our situations any easier, but it reminds us who is in charge.  God controlled Babylon as an agent of punishment for His people. God also controlled Persia as an agent of positive change for Judah.  God directed Judah’s steps, He had chosen this nation, and this leader, Zerubbabel, and this priest, Joshua to show them his love. Our God’s choice is perfect, we can and should take comfort in that.  We should also understand that He understands us. He knows our frames, He knows we are nothing more than dust, so He understands our weakness. Cry out to him, He’s promised to love you, and as we’ve seen His word never fails.  

I pray today that each of you are blessed with the divine comfort, hope, and presence of God.  I leave you today with the peace of God, and this passage from Psalm 105.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! 

Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

Pastor Matt

1The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. (1976). The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church (p. 132). New York: The Seabury Press.

2  Zerubbabel means the seed of Babylon.  He was born in exile in Babylon, but the word seed points back to Gen. 3:15 and ultimately forward to Jesus.

Daily Devotional: Sat., March 28, 2020

Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word!

Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word!  

Father, most gracious, most glorious God of heaven and earth, we seek your presence and ask for your assistance this and each day to do your will.  Grant, gracious God, that we would be comforted within your loving watch-care and restored from our sinful depth into your kind and generous light. We know that to know you is the most blessed kindness of life and you are known in your word.  May we be ever-mindful to read, study, mark and inwardly digest your word this day and every day that follows. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 The Importance of Daily Sustaining Grace

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

We’re taking a break from Haggai today to focus our attention on how important it is to have practice the daily habit of feeding our souls.  Deuteronomy 6:4 is called the “Shema” because in Hebrew it begins, “Shema Israel Yahweh elohenu Yahweh ahad.” Shema comes from the first word in the verse—it means “hear”.   The Israelites were to practice the habit of “hearing” 

God’s truths, one of which is who God is.  He is one. Of course, in the New Testament, it is revealed that God is one but He is also three.  It’s as correct to say that God is one in three as it is to say He is three in one. God is a Trinity, three persons who make up the God-head.

From our passage today, the Israelites also knew God by His character revealed through his law.  Here in Dt. 6:5 we are told to love God with all of who we are, at the heart of this command as with all of God’s commands is His character.  God commands His people to imitate Him, because His way is perfect, His character isn’t self-serving, it’s creation providing (Ps. 104)!

Then the Israelites were told to teach God’s laws, God’s covenant, to their children.  Have God’s word written on the doorposts, so that when they leave the house they read them.  We cannot be God’s people without His word! This week and in the weeks to follow where it seems likely we won’t be able to congregate together as a body of Christ, it is so important for us all to maintain these disciplines, to feed our souls with the Word of God.  Jesus said we have to eat his body and drink his blood, He wasn’t referring to the Lord’s Supper in John 6, He was talking about receiving Him in faith. Making Him a part of us, so that He grows within us to change us into sanctified sinners!  

Jesus is at work restoring the image of God in His people now.  The Dutch theologian, looking at you Marshall! Herman Bavinck wrote, Man “is a creature who, right from the beginning was created after God’s image and likeness, and this Divine origin and Divine kinship he can never erase or destroy.  Even though he has, because of sin, lost the glorious attributes of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness which lay contained in that image of God, nevertheless there are still present in him ‘small remains’ of the endowments granted him at creation; and these are enough not merely to constitute him guilty but also to testify of his former grandeur  and to remind him continually of his Divine calling and heavenly destiny.”

God’s image in us reminding us of God’s grandeur and grace in imparting it to us in a small degree is why some days when you pray, when you read, when you meditate on God’s word is so, so special.  God’s presence, God’s sweet communion with you, and your family, reminds you all of your Divine origin and Divine kinship, because you are made in His image. Feed that daily.  

May the Lord bless you and keep you; 

May the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.  Amen.

Pastor Matt

Daily Devotional: Friday, Mar. 27, 2020

“Permit us not, O Lord, to hear your word in vain. Convince us of its truth, cause us to feel its power and bind us to yourself with cords of faith and hope and love that never shall be broken. We bind to ourselves today, you our God: your power to hold us, your hand to guide us, your eye to watch us, your ear to hear us, your wisdom to teach us, your word to give us speech, your presence to defend us, this day and every day; in the name of the blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to whom be the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever and forever. Amen. ” – Patrick1

Haggai 2:10-19 Turning to God

10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, 11 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: 12 ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ ” The priests answered and said, “No.” 13 Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” 14 Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. 15 Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, 16 how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. 17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. 18 Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider: 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”

What is the point of suffering?  If God is good why are there bad things happening in His world?  Is He not in control? Can God only cause the nice things to happen, but the evil of life is out of His control?  

There are times when acknowledging God’s sovereignty makes our theology difficult.  It’s usually times of great trial and suffering. Like being locked up in your house for two weeks because of COVID-19.  It’s nothing nearly as bad as the Indonesian Tsunami of 2007, or the Haitian earthquake of 2010 in some ways. But in its widespread effect across the globe, it’s much worse.  

My systematic theology professor, Derek Thomas, once noted that God’s providence is typically seen as the supplier of good things.  Even in our Reformed and Presbyterian circles. When something good happens, we attribute it to God’s kind providence, but when we park on a hill and the car door slams shut on our fingers, well that’s not providence.  It’s my stupidity.  

The Westminster Confession acknowledges both truths.  The car door slamming shut on my hand is both God’s providence and my stupid forgetfulness of the law of gravity.  God ordains each result in life as well as the secondary means that accomplish this result (i.e. gravity).  

These verses in Haggai 2 reflect one of those hard teachings of the Bible, that bad things happen because our good God causes them.  The purpose for difficult times can be varied in their specific applications, but one thing is always true. Look at v. 17, God explains, “I struck you…yet you did not turn to me”.  Israel didn’t honor God, they honored themselves leaving His house in shambles while living in their paneled houses. But then God called them back with the words of Haggai, and now God promises to bless them.  

Not that God striking them was the absence of blessing, no it was evidence of his love.  God strikes the son He loves to reprove him and bring him back. Our current state of affairs with COVID-19 isn’t due to anyone’s particular sin, but it is, like all calamities given by God for a purpose.  Ultimately to turn our attention to Him.

Our quarantine reminds us of reality in many ways, I’ll name a few.  

First, it reminds us of our inability and dependence on God.  Our nation has been brought to a standstill by a microscopic organism that isn’t technically alive (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-viruses-alive-2004/; https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/cells/viruses/a/are-viruses-dead-or-alive).

Second, in it we see God’s power and ability.  He orders everything and all things serve his command.  This is a foretaste of the judgment that believers are spared, it should be a call to spread the gospel and treasure the gospel even more.  M’Cheyne said, “the trials and sufferings of this life are all the hell the believer will have to endure”.  

Finally, this too will pass or the end of it will be even better than we could ever imagine!  What a thought! Think about all the catastrophes of history—none of them have been the end of the world.  Think about what the Church has endured, horrific persecution early on, God used it to spread the gospel and strengthen Jesus’ bride, not to destroy her.  Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

And if it is the end of the world (I truly don’t think it is, but would love to be proven wrong), then Jesus is mounting His return as we speak!  Which means we should be at work in faith, hope, and love for Jesus, His bride, and even His world—like the five wise virgins from Matthew 25:1-13.  

Rest in the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus and in the sure hope of his return today and forever, 

Pastor Matt

1Oden, T. C., & Crosby, C. (Eds.). (2007). Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle A (p. 86). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.  Patrick, here, is likely St. Patrick of Ireland though this particular book doesn’t specify.

Daily Devotional: Thurs., March 26, 2020

“Fighting the Daily Fight” by Robert Parker1

Dear God, it is so hard for us to fight against ourselves.  It is very difficult to overcome an enemy that lies so close and hidden within us as our flesh does.  And unless you arm me with divine power, I am in great danger of yielding to this treacherous foe.

Help me to die to myself daily, I beg you.  Do not let me be eternally separated by the attractions of the flesh from the life that is in Christ my Savior.

Preserve me this day in your fear and favor, and in the end bring me to your everlasting kingdom, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Haggai 2:6-9—the Glory of the Temple

For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’ ” 

When God says that He will shake the heavens and the earth, this was typical language concerning theophanies (appearances [phany] of God [theos]).  It’s similar to what Moses and Israel saw at Mount Sinai when the fire of God descended on the mountain though everything else was covered in a thick cloud of darkness.  And the earth shook at what must have felt like God’s very footsteps as He stooped to earth and met His people. God is promising something big here.  

Heavens and earth will shake.  The sea and the dry land will quake as God shakes creation removing the treasures of the earth’s kingdoms bringing them into his temple.  In the Ancient Near East (ANE) the pagan gods were rulers over one of those realms. Worshippers of a sky god couldn’t count on that to help them in earthly matters, and vice versa.  Gods of the dry land were no use when you were on the sea.  

We see this truth vividly reflected in the runaway prophet, Jonah’s story.  Jonah 1:7-10, “And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.”

Notice that the sailors were afraid before, but once Jonah said “I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land”, then they were exceedingly afraid!  It’s commonplace for us to see God as omnipotent over all things, which is good we recognize God’s sovereignty but it should also help us to proceed each day in the fear and favor of God.  

The reason God shakes out all the treasures of the earth to fill his temple is because of the preciousness of that temple.  Remember again that Solomon’s temple was absolutely gorgeous and this temple was pretty unimpressive. Yet God says, “the latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, and in this place I will give peace.”  

The Jews of Jesus’ day probably felt pretty secure they were in the partial fulfilment of this prophecy.  Herod’s temple dwarfed Solomon’s temple, all they thought they were waiting for was the peace and prosperity God promised.  The Sadducees thought it would come through the earthly rulers and aligned themselves with Rome, more or less. The Pharisees did not believe that, they believed peace could only come through deliverance from Rome.  Both of them looked for God’s work with eyes of flesh.

God’s work of shaking the heavens and earth next was felt in a stable in Bethlehem Ephrathah when Jesus was born.  God’s treasures of silver and gold are treasures of his love poured out on His people. One day the fulfillment will include all the treasures of the world, but for now we must be content with the greatest treasure of all:  our Lord Jesus. In John 2 Jesus claimed that He was temple. He is the fulfillment of the OT prophecies concerning God’s dwelling place! Jesus is the latter glory of God revealed in human flesh, but there’s more than that.  Because of his work, Jesus’ believers are now the temple of God by the unifying, indwelling, work of the Holy Spirit. 

 May the Lord shine his face upon you today and give you peace knowing the maker of Heaven and Earth has made you into His most treasured possession.  Even now, as hard as it is to believe because of what our eyes of flesh see, God is shaking all the silver and gold of the earth into His temple-people.  

In Jesus’ perfect work and covenant love,

Pastor Matt

 1Piercing Heaven, a collection of Puritan Prayers. Robert Elmer, ed.  Bellingham, WA: Lexham press, 2019. P.264.  Robert Parker (c.1564–1614) was an English Puritan clergyman and scholar. He became minister of a separatist congregation in Holland where he died while in exile for his heterodoxy.[1][2] The Revd. Cotton Mather wrote of Parker as “one of the greatest scholars in the English Nation, and in some sort the father of all Nonconformists of our day.”

Daily Devotional: Wed, Mar. 25, 2020

“The Deeps” from The Valley of Vision.  Ed. By Arthur Bennet. (Banner of Truth:  Edinburgh, 1975), 134-135.

Lord Jesus, 

Give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach;

Help me chastely to flee it, and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be thine alone.  

Give me a deeper knowledge of thyself as Savior, Master, Lord, and King.

Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in they Word, more steadfast grip on its truth.

Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly Husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until thou alone art seen in me, thy beauty golden like summer harvest, thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I am nothing but that thou makest me, I have nothing but that I receive from thee, I can be nothing but that grace adorns me. 

Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.  Amen.

Haggai 2:1-5—Take Strength in God

1In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.

On Monday we noted how good the Persians were at keeping records of the date (2nd year of Darius=520 BC), here in chapter 2 we see Haggai is keeping close records as well.  It’s the seventh month on the twenty-first day of the month—to us that’s July 21st, but not so with ancient Israel.  Their calendar began in mid-March (the month of Nisan lasted from mid-March through mid-April), so the seventh month was September/October (Tishri).  

I know you don’t really care about the day or month Haggai was prophesying to the people of Israel, neither do I, but this date is significant.  The 21st day of the seventh month, Tishri, was the last day of the feast of Tabernacles.  This was also called the Feast of Booths. In this fest the Jews celebrated God’s provision in the wilderness as they journeyed toward the Promised Land.  So, we see how Haggai’s prophesy at this moment corresponded very nicely with the feast Israel was celebrating.

At the feast of Tabernacles, the Jews built little Tabernacles/booths to live in temporarily commemorating their pilgrimage when they didn’t have a permanent home.  It also commemorated that God’s home wasn’t permanent either—Yahweh traveled in a tent (The Tabernacle) with His people. So as Haggai came forward with God’s message on this day, it had very timely relevance.  They were celebrating God’s presence being with them even in the wilderness, when they didn’t have a permanent home and God’s house was still mobile too. 

 This feast pointed forward to the day when the Temple would be built first by Solomon, fulfilling the requirement of Dt. 12:4-7 (You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.).  Wonderfully appropriate considering they are currently, in Haggai’s time, looking forward to finishing the Temple again.  

But, there’s a problem.  It’s the same problem we noted yesterday—v.3 “‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?”  They are caught in the tension between what theologians call “the already but not yet”. They’ve already experienced the greater redemption from Exile, greater even than the Exodus (Jer. 16:14-15).  That’s HUGE!! 

It’s even part of the Ten Commandments—Dt. 5:12,13,15 (Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. . . You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.).  But now the saying will be Yahweh delivered Israel from the north countries (Babylon, Assyria, Persia). So, according to God’s word Israel is currently experiencing a greater redemption than they previously had. That’s the already.

But the problem is what they see in the temple.  That’s the not yet. The foundation was a rinky-dink little structure that caused the old men who remembered Solomon’s temple to cry because it was so little (Ezra 3:12).  God’s answer is “take courage, fear not”.  

Does that mean God is telling us, “buck up little camper” or “keep a stiff upper lip” (read that in a British accent)?  If that’s what he means, then we don’t really need God, do we? We can do it all by ourselves already!  

That’s not what God means by take courage and fear not.   Just look at how God says it, “Be strong, all you people of the land, declares Yahweh.  Work, for I am with you, declares Yahweh Sabaoth (LORD of hosts), according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt.  My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.”

This statement is telling God’s people there’s something for us to do, the Christian life isn’t a spectator activity.  Be strong—decide to follow, to rely, to seek God.  Work—like doing your chores no matter your age, they need to get done, work.  But the foundation of the commands is found in the essence of why God says, fear not.  

Yahweh doesn’t say fear not because Israel is so great at doing what they should, nor are we.  No, the reason we don’t need to fear is because God is a covenant making and covenant keeping God.  We see this revealed in reminders and fulfillment here. First the reminder: “the covenant that I made when you came out of Egypt”.  This isn’t any new agreement. God committed himself to His sinners much, much, before any of these people were born. You can rely on God because He’s never let us down!  And fulfillment, he brought them out of Egypt under Moses. He’s brought them out of Exile under Shealtiel now. And God himself is with them, His Spirit is in their midst.

At the end of one of the angriest books in the Bible comes one of the sweetest truths of God’s love for his people:  The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (Zeph 3:17).  Remember today God’s Spirit is in our midst and He quiets us by his love and exults over even us, as the least deserving disciples we are, he exults over us with singing! FEAR NOT your Father in heaven is keeping you in his plans and protecting you with his might!  In that peace, we can work and be strong to His glory and for the good of His people, equipped by his covenant faithfulness.

Pastor Matt

Daily Devotional: Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2020

“In Time of Suffering” a prayer by Robert Hawker1

Nothing can reconcile us to you better than to humbly and patiently learn obedience in the school of suffering.  

We learn by knowing that Jesus, though you are the Son of God, in the eternity of your nature you were pleased in your human nature to learn obedience by the things which you suffered.

Come then, blessed Lord, in all your fullness.  I desire only you. Surely you will come in deed and in truth and be the tree of life to my weary soul.  Lord, show me your person, glory, grace, and love, and fill every portion of my heart.

As I wait for your coming, I pray that my view of your grace and sense of my unworthiness may melt my whole soul before you and your presence. 

So, when my poor heart is afflicted, when Satan storms, or the world frowns, when I suffer sickness, or when all your waves and storms seem to go over me, what relief it is to know that you, Jesus, see me.  And that you care!

So, help me, Lord, to look to you, and remember you.  And oh! That blessed Scripture: “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.” (Is. 63:9) Amen.

Haggai chapter 1—Immanuel, God with Us

The Command to Rebuild the Temple

In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. 

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.” 

The People Obey the Lord

12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” 14 And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

____

Yesterday, I said the people had forgotten God.  It’s clear from verse 3 that’s what they did. After the jubilation of returning to the Promised Land, God’s people suffered great disappointment.  The land of Israel wasn’t nearly as great as it used to be, and the temple itself, their pride and joy, the emblem pointing to their unique status as Yahweh’s chosen people was a disappointment too.  So, for sixteen years they left it unfinished.

But then something truly remarkable happens when Haggai comes.  They hear God’s word and obey! Just think about what you know about the Bible.  God’s people aren’t the most responsive people to His word. We aren’t the most humble before Him.  We aren’t the most ardent followers of our God. (Not that the World is, but they aren’t supposed to be.)

Haggai experiences great success because God is gracious to a people who continually turn away from their father in heaven.  Even though they had been brought back from exile, they expected more when they returned. When God didn’t come through in the way they wanted, they basically found a way more suitable to them (Hagar method, anyone?).  Their way involved shoring up their houses while leaving God’s house in ruins. Yet, God said, “I am with you”. Then the work He commanded them to do, the LORD equipped them to do, “And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.”  

As we enjoy the confines of our paneled houses for the next foreseeable future, let us pray with Robert Hawker that we should see the light of God’s grace clearly against the blackness of our sinfulness.  May we understand more and more the person of our Lord Jesus who is Immanuel, and who we’ll see soon in Haggai that it is Jesus their temple was pointing to.  

May the good shepherd of the sheep equip you today by his blood of the eternal covenant.   In Jesus’ love and protection, 

Pastor Matt

1Piercing Heaven, a collection of Puritan Prayers. Robert Elmer, ed.  Bellingham, WA: Lexham press, 2019. P. 70-71.  Robert Hawker (1753-1827) was originally a surgeon, but in later life trained to be and served as an Anglican priest.  He is known for producing Poor Man’s Commentaries on the Whole Bible and Poor Man’s Morning and Evening Portions (Devotionals).  Charles Spurgeon would tell his students, “if you want something full of marrow and fatness…buy Dr. Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary”.

Daily Devotional: Mon, Mar. 23, 2020

“From One Degree of Faith to the Next” a Prayer by Philip Doddridge1

“Blessed God, I acknowledge before you my own weakness and insufficiency for anything that is spiritually good. 

I have experienced it a thousand times, and yet my foolish heart would again trust itself and resolve to move ahead in its own weakness. 

But let this be the firstfruits of your gracious influence:  to bring it to a humble distrust of itself, and to rest in you.

I rejoice, O Lord, in your assurance that you are ready to shower me with rich benefits.  So, because of your kind initiation, I boldly approach your throne, to find grace for help in every time of need.

I do not mean to turn your grace into a license for immorality or to make my weaknesses an excuse for negligence and laziness.  You have already given me more strength than I have used.

I want to be found diligent in the use of everything you supply.  If not, any petition like this one would probably provoke you to take away what I have, not impart more.

But as I firmly resolve to exert myself, I ask for your grace to fulfill that resolution.

Fill me with the right attitude toward you and my fellow creatures.  Remind me always of your presence, and that every secret of my soul is open to you.  

May I guard against the first sign of sin, and may Satan find no room for his evil suggestions.  Fill my heart with your Holy Spirit, and take up your residence there.

Dwell in me, walk with me, and let my body be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Take me from one degree of faith, love, zeal, and holiness, to the next, until I appear perfect before you through Jesus Christ my Lord.  In him I have righteousness and strength. Amen.”

It’s Easy to Forget God—Haggai 1:1-2

I’m not a big devotional guy by nature.  Or at least I used not to be, I would just read the Bible, verse by verse, book by book.  We can never neglect the reading of God’s true, inspired Word—even for devotional literature—and expect to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus (2 Pt. 3:18).  But over time I’ve found devotional reading to be some of the sweetest literature out there. I love to read prayers and devotional writings of the puritans; they combine theological precision and a yearning for to capture God’s heart in words.  So, as I attempt to give us at Kiski a devotional that is my goal: to give accuracy mingled with heartfelt desire to know God intimately. We’re going to look at the book of Haggai in the next several days.

Haggai 1:1-2  In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.”

Haggai is one of the post exilic prophets (the other two are Malachi and Zechariah; Ezra and Nehemiah describe the history associated with this period).  He prophesied in 520 BC—and yes it was that precise because the Persians, whose king was Darius, were very good at record keeping!  

In Ezra 3 it tells us that the temple’s foundation was laid, but here it is sixteen years later and nothing had been done.  The foundation was still there, but the temple hadn’t been started. Yahweh (LORD in all caps in most English Bibles) spoke to the leaders of Israel, Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest, “these people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD”.  Further down in this chapter we’ll see that the people are living well for themselves, but they’ve left God’s house to lie in basic ruin.

They’ve forgotten God.  When they built the foundation in Ezra 3, it says in v. 12, “But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid”.  It lacked the grandeur of Solomon’s temple. The temple’s foundation wasn’t what they expected, they were disappointed, what they wanted the temple to look like had let them down. They were finally back to the Promised Land of Canaan, and this was just not how the temple should look.  So, they forgot God and what God had done for them.

On a human level, it’s understandable, Jeremiah had come decades before this telling them the hard news that exile was coming.  But in the midst of the curse of the exile, God promised deliverance greater than even the Exodus (kind of like the protoevanglium2 in Gen. 3:15), Jeremiah 16:14-15 14 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.” (ESV)

Haggai’s mission was to remind the people about God and who God is.  How true this is for me today and every day—God’s deliverance is something I love so deeply in my own life, but often I live as if God’s kindness is something owed to me.  I take it for granted instead of seeking “to be found diligent in the use of everything God supplies”. We have a duty to honor God with all of our being and that’s part of what Haggai told Israel.  But he also did it in a way that reminded them of God’s love and kindness.

In chapter 2:4 we read, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.”

Trials are given to us so that we might remember where our strength is to be found—in him.  Our situation now, with a pandemic that will cause economic distress for months at least, not to mention the physical and emotional turmoil, can’t be understood to the smallest detail, but we know this, it is meant to turn God’s people to the one who sustains his people.  

Psalm 103:13-14, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

May the Lord bless you and keep you today. 

In Jesus’ lovingkindness,

Pastor Matt.

 

1Piercing Heaven, a collection of Puritan Prayers. Robert Elmer, ed.  Bellingham, WA: Lexham press, 2019. P. 64-65.  Doddridge was an 18th century English Puritan serving in independent churches.  His The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul was Patrick Henry’s favorite book. 

2 Greek protos, “first,” euangelion, “gospel”; used as a title for the first Messianic promise in Gen. 3:15. This promise contains a prophecy of the coming of a great deliverer of fallen man, who would be born of a virgin (see Virgin Birth) and would utterly defeat the old serpent, Satan,* who had just procured the fall* of the human race.  Dictionary of Theological Terms.