December 25 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways.’”
~Haggai 1:5

Merry Christmas!

OLD TESTAMENT

While several of the minor prophets lived and worked during the tumultuous years surrounding Israel and Judah’s downfalls (722 BCE and 597 and 586 BCE, respectively), this book dates to after the period of the exile, when the people of God living in Babylon were allowed to return to their homeland under the new Persian king (538 BCE). As we have already witnessed through the narratives of Ezra and Nehemiah, they were given instructions and encouragement to rebuild their homes and the temple of the Lord.

The people enthusiastically began their work but are discouraged and distracted within a few years. They face opposition from regional rivals who oppose both rebuilding the temple and restoring the city of Jerusalem. At home, some adopted a what’s-the-use attitude when they compared their modest plans with the former glories of Solomon’s temple. In addition, many of the people (perhaps most) are distracted from building the Lord’s house by their work on their own homes.

The people have all kinds of excuses for the delay. The timing just isn’t right,many claim, although they sure have time to furnish their places—complete with imported wood paneling! God responds in sarcasm: “Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Hag. 1:3). Hmm. Since God’s people do not have their priorities in the right order, He hits them where it hurts, right in the pocket book. They will come up short at the end of the month until they learn to put Him first.

What the people don’t seem to grasp is that just because they are back in the “holy land” doesn’t mean they are holy (see Haggai 2:10-14). Defiled people don’t become holy by touching holy things. On the contrary, holy things become defiled when unholy things come into contact with them. (Consider the proverbial rotten apple in the barrel.) The people need to purify their hearts. The worship of God must be their first delight and this should be evidenced in how they spend their time and money. Then everything they touch will turn to gold, so to speak. When they love Him fully and completely and worship Him first above all things, they’ll receive blessing aplenty.

On this Christmas Day, let us remember that God is not opposed to us living in “paneled houses” and enjoying all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. However, let us never become so in love with the blessings that we fail to make the worship of the Blesser the greatest priority of our lives! He has given us life, He has given us Christ, He has given us salvation, He has given us each other, He has given us everything, and He has given us forever! If we honor Him, He will continue to bless us.

NEW TESTAMENT

With the Seven Bowls of God’s wrath, the great tribulation intensifies. God goes on the offensive, pursuing and punishing Satan and his minions for what they have done to His world and to His children. Again, there is a beautiful dissonance in this chapter as we hear poetic praise lifted up to God even as He pours out His wrath.

Imagine a beautiful symphonic masterpiece being performed as war breaks out over the entire earth. (Modern movie directors use this very technique in their productions.) What is happening is both tragic and beautiful. The earth is suffering, but justice is finally coming. It is, we might say, a beautiful tragedy.

The denouement is the great Battle of Armageddon[1] when the Ancient of Days seated on the throne says, “It is done!” (Rev. 16:17). This is the signal that it is almost over, the second advent is very close, and He will soon make His grand entrance “like a thief” (Rev. 16:15). The decisive battle for the throne of the universe will end with the Beast (Satan) and Babylon (secular powers who hate God and his people) going down. Be encouraged, people of God. Our King will soon make His appearance. He came, and He is coming again to set all wrongs right and to bring to this earth a reign of peace!

[1] Armageddon may refer to an actual place northwest of Jerusalem known as the Plain of Megiddo. This wide open plain was often the site of great battles. Alternatively, it may be symbolic for the name of the greatest battle every fought.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.