December 31 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

In our final devotional, there is both warning and hope, which is an
appropriate way to conclude the year. We are warned that unfaithfulness
to God leads to pain, but staying true to Him brings joy both now and forever.
Happy New Year! –LY

Lectio Divina

“‘I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed….Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.” ~Malachi 3:6-7

OLD TESTAMENT

Malachi was written during a period of spiritual discouragement in the life of the community (somewhere around 430 BCE). The temple has been rebuilt, but the people are already straying from the Lord. (Yes, again!) The priests see their work as a chore and a bore, and the people bring their leftovers to the temple instead of their best. Their pastors say nothing, but God is mad! I hate it when you give Me your leftovers. I want a portion of your best. 

The larger problem is a heart issue, but when the prophet tries to explain, the people are confused. So Malachi uses a specific example, the checkbook. People spend their money, then gave God a few bucks left over from a busted budget. What they can’t seem to understand is that they’re coming up short at the end of the month because they refuse to honor Him. He’s not going to keep blessing people when they snub Him.

God feels like His people have divorced Him! He enumerates the many ways they have broken the covenant while calling on them to return to Him. He promises rich blessing to those who renew their vows and honor Him again. In fact, God invites His people to put Him to the test. Will He not open the windows of heaven and pour out such a large blessing that they won’t have room for it?! Wow! Now that’s a big blessing!

Is there anything wrong with wanting God to bless you or with putting Him to the test? Of course not! In fact, the prophet dares the people to worship faithfully and give generously. He dares them to do it and see what happens!As you think about the coming year, do you long for God to bless you? Are there some changes you need to make right now? Return to Him, and He will return to you and bless you.

NEW TESTAMENT

The final book of the Bible ends with a word of encouragement. Jesus is coming! This is a book for the people of God, the church. It is not all doom and gloom as some people seem to think. John makes it clear that every difficulty and trial is under God’s control. God opens the sealed book. He sends out His angels with trumpets and bowls. He controls the rise and fall of kings. He even allows persecution, although not for long. He will greatly reward His people.

In the end, all wrongs will be made right. This is what C. S. Lewis calls “the weight of glory.” We cannot find a really satisfying answer to the problem of pain and suffering without putting the weight of glory on the balance scale opposite the world’s hurts. When evil (and evil doers) are finally judged and the saints rule and reign with Christ, the weight of eternal glory will more than balance the scales.

FINIS

As we arrive at the end of the biblical narrative, it is worth looking over our shoulder to see from whence we have come. The story began with creation followed by chaos (the fall). But God refused to give up on this world. He called out a community beginning with Abraham, and when the community failed (repeatedly), He sent a Savior—the Christ. Christ suffered and died and rose again for sinful humanity so that all who call upon Him for salvation, believing with conviction He is the Lord, will be saved. They immediately receive His spirit, become part of a new community, and wait with hope for the new creation that will endure forever.  And so we wait—faithful and prepared.

The King says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”


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.

December 30 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.” ~Zechariah 14:9

OLD TESTAMENT

As we draw near to the conclusion of the Old Testament, I want to mention the debate among theologians about the relationship of the Old Testament people of God with the New Testament people of God. In the history of Christian tradition, most theologians have held that the church that will rule and reign with Christ in the kingdom to come is comprised of Jew and Gentile. I certainly lean in this direction.

However, it has become quite popular among many North American fundamentalists to always keep Israel and the church separate. (This is largely due to the influence of the Scofield Reference Bible.) Some interpreters hold that all the promises to Israel and all the promises to the church should be put into separate, airtight categories. These groupings are called dispensations and so purveyors of this viewpoint are called dispensationalists. Dispensationalism even led to a rather curious suggestion that God’s Old Testament people, Israel, would reign on the earth with Christ while the church, the New Testament people, would live in heaven with the Father! While a generation of laypersons and preachers still cling to this outmoded way of reading the Bible, it has been largely abandoned.

Why is this discussion important? Because if one separates the promises to Israel from the promises made to the church, then many of the Old Testament passages (like the one here in Zechariah) are irrelevant to the church. It is better, in my strong opinion, to read the Bible as a story of redemption from beginning to end. The story begins with Adam and the fall and continues with God working in scattered communities and families like Adam, Noah, and the curious Melchizadek, king of Salem (Gen. 14:18-20). The story gets bigger and better when He gathers His people into one community through the “calling” (election) of Abraham.

God gives this special community new laws to live by. They are to love Him and each other. He gives them priests, generals, judges, kings, poets, sages, and prophets to shepherd them. Although the community struggles to be faithful, God does not give up on them. He often disciplines them for their good, even sending them into exile. And He promises to send a Hero, a Christ, to save them.

When Christ comes, the story goes global (Acts 2). People from every tribe, tongue, and nation are part of the community, which gives rise to the moniker, “the Third Race,”—a people neither Jew nor Gentile, but rather one great family (Gal. 3:29, Eph. 2-3). Today, the church is comprised of Jews, Americans, Palestinians (yes, there are many Palestinian Christians), Canadians, Africans, Europeans, Asians, and people from every other tribe, tongue, and nation. God’s promises in Zechariah 13-14 are for all of us. Christ the Shepherd will return. His feet will literally touch this earth, and He will save His people and establish His kingdom here. He will return to the place long considered the center of the world so that life will flow from Jerusalem to the east and the west—and the earth will be made new.

NEW TESTAMENT

The language of Revelation 21 provides a bookend for the redemptive narrative that began in Genesis. Moses wrote, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). John wrote, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). God is on a mission to save creation, and nothing short of total success will do.

Some hold that God will literally destroy the world and start from scratch. I side with those interpreters who see significant continuity between this world and the new world. The few passages that use language of total destruction appear to be hyperbolic in nature. (This is a common feature of apocalyptic language.) Think of the headlines describing New Orleans as completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Of course, we accepted the hyperbole as a fitting description of the devastation, but we did not take it literally and expect a hole in the ground where New Orleans used to be.

There will be changes in the new earth, even geographical ones, but it is abundantly clear that Christ will come to this earth and that God’s dwelling will be here. He will make new what He has already created.


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.

December 29 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! May his arm be completely withered, his right eye totally blinded!” ~Zechariah 11:17

OLD TESTAMENT

God is angry with the prophet, the priest, and the king for their failure to properly shepherd the people of God. They do their work for sordid gain and care only for themselves, which explains why they never tell the people anything they don’t want to hear. They view their position as a means to an end rather than as a means to bless the people of God! God will judge them, and He will replace them.

Ironically, when God replaces the false shepherds with true ones, the people snub them. Zechariah shepherds the people with integrity, he cares for them, and he shows them favor while working to bring unity. In this way, Zechariah is a forerunner of the Christ who will come. However, while the people willingly lined the pockets of false prophets, they reject both Zechariah and Christ. They even refuse to pay them for their work. Here’s some pocket change Zechariah; thanks for the sermon.(See Zechariah 11:12. Thirty pieces of silver was the price for an injured slave!) Later, Judas will show how much he values Jesus by betraying Him for chump change.

This is a lesson in following the right people. The recently returned exiles refused to listen to Zechariah, the wise shepherd provided for them, and their children will crucify the true Shepherd (Zech. 12:10). Meanwhile, both the false shepherds and the sheep that prop them up will be judged. Who are you following? Do you realize there are true and false shepherds? Do you know how to tell the difference? True shepherds love their flocks, they constantly point people to the true Shepherd, and they proclaim the whole counsel of God, even when it is difficult to do so. Don’t despise them or treat them with contempt for their work. We all follow someone. Follow the shepherds who lovingly teach you how to follow the true Shepherd.

NEW TESTAMENT

Revelation 20 introduces a new idea to biblical prophecy—a millennial kingdom. A few scattered Old Testament prophets may allude to a millennial kingdom, but no other passage in Scripture teaches it so clearly. With just these verses to go on, interpreters have sorted themselves into three main camps: postmillennials, premillennials, and amillenials.

Postmillennial interpreters hold that Jesus will return after (post) the thousand years recounted in Revelation 20 is over. That’s when the new heavens and the new earth finally make their grand entrance (Rev. 21). Postmillennials believe that the coming of Christ in Revelation 19 is figurative; He ushers in His reign of peace through the church. They do not believe the church accomplishes peace on her own, but rather through the strength and power of Christ. The postmillennial view fell out of fashion after two world wars in the twentieth century, when hopes for a triumphant church were dashed. It remains the weakest of the three interpretations.

Premillennial interpreters believe Jesus will return prior to the tribulation period and reign on the earth for a literal thousand years. After that, Satan and his minions will be released for one last attempt to take down the King of Kings. There are variations within the interpretation as theologians account for the unusual details John relates. This view is very popular among many North American evangelicals today.

Amillennial interpreters have been around since at least Augustine (d. 430 AD), and they reigned supreme in the church until the nineteenth century. The prefix “a” means not or without, so in short, this is the view that the thousand years described in Revelation 21 is to be understood figuratively. Christ will reign, but the term thousand years is not a literal time frame. Those who hold to this position believe that Christ will solidify His kingdom over a period of time. They hold that He may give Satan “a second chance,” perhaps only to show how evil he really is, after which He will judge all those who have died. (There are variations within this viewpoint as well.)

In all actuality, there is little difference in the final outcome between the second and third views. I find both to be fairly acceptable interpretations of the text. The main point is of course that Christ is coming to reign over the earth. When He does, Satan will be defeated, the saints will reign with their Lord, and all living creatures will be judged. Whether Jesus takes His sweet time to bring all this about or accomplishes it swiftly, all that matters is that He reigns in the end.


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.

December 28 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’” ~Zechariah 7:9-10

OLD TESTAMENT

The people come to the priests and ask about keeping the traditional fasts. During exile, the people observed periods of mourning to commemorate events surrounding the destruction of the temple and their homeland in 586 BCE. They did this for nearly 70 years (70 is most likely a rounded-off number) and now wondered aloud if they should keep it up during the rebuilding? God answers with a question, “…was it really for me that you fasted?” For that same span of 70 years, God sent His prophets to point out that He wasn’t their reason for fasting or mourning. He couldn’t be since all their crying didn’t amount to anything. They were not truly repentant. They just felt sorry for themselves. These were pity parties!

What God really wanted from the people was change. In so many words the Lord says, If you want to observe a fast that pleases me, give up your selfishness to do justice, show mercy, care for the poor, and keep from hurting each other! What a beautiful summary of the expectations God has for His people. He wants us to do justice, which means He wants us to treat people fairly in the home, the church, and the community. God loves it when His people pursue just laws and take up just causes. He is a fair God so He wants His people to be fair in their treatment of other image bearers.

God also wants us to love mercy. People mess up, fail, and get themselves into trouble. If they are truly sorry for what they have done, we should make every effort to give them another go at it. However, God doesn’t show mercy to stubborn people who show no remorse, and neither should we. That being said, when we have cause to show mercy, we show the glory of God, whose mercies never fail and are new every morning.

God also expects us to care for the orphan and the widow, who represent the poor of the earth in biblical literature. There are those in the world who are poor through no fault of their own. Death, abandonment, oppression, or some other evil has left them without help. God is pleased when we, like Him, do something about this. To act on behalf of those in need is “pure religion,” God says in James 1:27, but ignoring the duty brings His displeasure. Finally, we must not hurt each other. In fact, we should have no intention of hurting each other even in our hearts.

Yes, the day is coming when God will restore everything. In the meantime, we must begin, in the strength He provides, to do what is just, to love mercy, to help the poor, and to love each other. This is the kind of self-denial and service to God that He delights in.

NEW TESTAMENT

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords makes His grand entrance. Remember that Christ is fully God, but while on this earth, He laid aside all the powers and privileges of God (while remaining divine). When He returns, He will be human and He will be divine with all the powers of God. For me, John’s description of Jesus entering the world wearing a bloodstained robe evokes images of Mel Gibson in Braveheart or Russell Crowe in Gladiator. An epic entrance fit for a warrior king.

Christ will arrive with the vast armies of heaven, and upon His arrival there will be a great battle—a battle that He will win to end the war for the world. Then, He will rule the nations with an iron scepter. Throughout John’s prophecy (and the books of the prophets) God’s kingdom is envisioned as multi-national, thus the expression “King of Kings.”

When Jesus establishes His kingdom, His people will be invited to a great feast called “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” (This will most likely take place following the end of the war.) I like how author John Eldredge describes this gathering in Journey of Desire: “The wedding feast of the Lamb will be a great party. Now, you’ve got to get images of Baptist receptions entirely out of your mind. Folks mulling around in the church gym holding Styrofoam cups of punch, wondering what to do with themselves. You’ve got to picture an Italian wedding. Or better, a Jewish wedding. There is dancing. There is feasting. There is drinking. In fact, at his Last Supper our Bridegroom said he will not drink of ‘the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’ (Luke 22:18, NIV). Then he’ll pop a cork.” Our King is coming to save us and to eat with us!


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.

December 27 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.’” ~Zechariah 4:6

OLD TESTAMENT

How will God restore His people? Not by human might or power, but by His spirit! What an encouragement to Zerubabbel, the governor, who had the thankless task of trying to rouse the people to rebuild their lives. God gives the prophet Zechariah a vision of seven lamps fed by an elevated central bowl that is always overflowing with oil. There is a constant source of energy providing a constant source of light. The olive oil is sourced from two olive trees representing the governor or secular authority and the high priest or religious authority (see Zech. 4:14 and notes).

The vision is another way for God to communicate His promise to provide enduring strength to His people through His Spirit. Whatever mountains they face, they will level (Zech. 4:7). Whatever discouragement they face, especially from those who call their work “a small thing,” they will overcome (Zech. 4:10). Men will one day rejoice over the work God’s people accomplish, all because the Spirit of the Lord is at work among them.

In fact, a flying scroll (envision an advertisement pulled behind an airplane) announces judgment on everyone who opposes the work (Zech. 5:1-4). Wickedness will be packed up and shipped off to Babylon (Zech. 5:5-11). The kingdom of God’s people will be rebuilt and someday ruled by the Messiah, who will rule the nations from the very city of Jerusalem. Zechariah’s vision blends the near future with the distant future. Restoration begins now—in his lifetime—and stretches into eternity to the new heavens and the new earth.

The governor and the priest had their work cut out for them providing leadership for this beleaguered people, who desperately need restoration. But HE strengthened them for their good work. In fact, God Almighty was a constant source of strength for His leaders and for the Israelites, as He is for us. Relying upon the Lord does not mean that you “let go and let God,” as the saying goes.[1] (It’s a catchy phrase but terrible theology.) It means that if you have returned to the Lord and you want to be restored, “there ain’t no mountain high enough” to keep that from happening. Put one foot in front of the other and diligently obey the Lord (see Zechariah 6:15). He will return to those who return to Him. He will restore and bless them right now and forever!

[1] Relying on the strength the Lord provides does not mean we become passive in our own restoration. No! It means that we roll up our sleeves and do all that He calls us to do (see Zechariah 6:15) while praying for His Spirit to help us do what we cannot do on our own. It is a cooperative effort, and with His help we will succeed.

NEW TESTAMENT

Babylon, as we have already learned, represents the great city of Rome. Rome persecuted the people of God, and although the city is rich and powerful, God would bring her down for the way she hurt the saints. If you are having a difficult time following the back and forth timeline, remember that all of these events are future from John’s perspective. From ours, some events, like the fall of Rome, have already taken place while others await fulfillment.

This prophecy is in John’s future and in our past. We have previously touched on the lesson God’s people can take from this passage. It bears repeating more emphatically. All secular powers are under the sovereign rule of God even now. Yes, even before His grand entrance, He controls the rise and fall of nations and the rise and fall of political powers. We need to stop wringing our hands and watching Fox News in frustration! Sometimes He allows His people to go through dangers, toils, and snares (for a season). His grace has led us safe thus far, and His grace will lead us home. Soon the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will enter this world.


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.

December 26 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.” ~Zechariah 1:3

OLD TESTAMENT

Zechariah is a contemporary of Haggai and so he also is a prophet of the restoration period (also known as a post-exilic prophet). Haggai told the people living in their wood-paneled houses to stop making excuses and get to work on the place of worship. Zechariah assures them of God’s determination to bless them. You might say that Haggai brought the stick while Zechariah held out the carrot.

As this new generation settles back into Jerusalem with all their hopes and dreams of rebuilding, the prophet reminds them of the past. Their parents and grandparents were unfaithful to the Lord, and although He gave them opportunity after opportunity to change their ways, they refused to listen and so God brought them into exile. However, God promises to return His presence and His blessing to those who return to Him. He is coming to the aid of His people because they are precious to Him; they are the “apple of my eye” (Zech. 2:8). This Hebrew idiom simply means the most precious thing in the world to me. He will prosper His people until the walls of the city cannot contain their wealth. “Jerusalem will be a city without walls” (Zech. 2:4).

God will rebuild the lives of His people. That’s what the vision of the man with a measuring rod in his hand is all about. You know when you see surveyors measuring that construction is going to commence! Let the rebuilding begin! In another of Zechariah’s visions, Satan accuses God’s people, who are represented by the high priest, of the sinful deeds of the past (Zech. 3:1-2). However, the Lord removes the priest’s old filthy clothes to replace them with rich, clean garments. God will forgive His people, and He will rebuild their lives!

The Old Testament prophets are not all doom and gloom. Their sermons are filled with hope, especially to those who have failed in the past. We all have things in our past we wish were different, but here is the good news. A fresh start is possible right here, right now. God wants to forgive you and rebuild your life. He will remove your old garments and cloth you in clean ones. Return to Him and He will return to you. You are the apple of His eye, and He longs to bless you!

NEW TESTAMENT

There are two beasts in Revelation. One represents faux religion while the other represents secular power. In Revelation 17, a woman rides on the beast representing secular power, which means that she (whoever she represents) is providing direction for the beast. The scholarly consensus is that this woman symbolizes the power of the greatest city in the world during John’s day—the city of Rome (see Revelation 17:9, 18 along with commentaries). Rome held the reins of power over the other kingdoms of the world. The woman is referred to as a prostitute because of the city’s idolatrous practices.

What John appears to be seeing in this vision is the destruction of Rome, the city that persecuted the people of God until at least the early fourth century, followed by the rise of more secular powers (“ten kings”). These powers take up the persecution of the church after the fall of Rome in the fifth century. (John’s vision in this chapter is very similar to Daniel’s.)

The take-away from this chapter is that God is sovereign, even over the secular powers that hurt His people. Soon they all will be defeated. Take heart, church. God controls the rise and fall of nations, and the rise and fall of kings and presidents, and He is coming again to make all things new. Stay faithful!


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.

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.

December 24 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you in his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” ~Zephaniah 3:17 

OLD TESTAMENT

Zephaniah is a prophet and a man of royal descent. More than likely, he is one of the court prophets, someone comparable to a fiery senate chaplain from our own day. Like so many of the prophets, he addresses several nations with his sermons, but he has a particular message for his own people. It is wrong to take vengeance into their own hands, and actually there is no need to do so. God sees their hurt and pain, and He will deal justly with those who wrong them.

The people of God have done wrong themselves. Judah sinned against the Lord, and the Lord will see to it that they are disciplined accordingly. However, He will also make sure that the surrounding nations—Moab, Ammon, Cush (Ethiopia), and Assyria—will be judged for the harm they have caused God’s people. “I have heard the insults of Moab and the taunts of the Ammonites, who insulted my people and made threats against their land…This is what they will get in return for insulting and mocking the people of the Lord Almighty…” (Zeph. 2:8, 10).

Through the prophet Zephaniah, God comforts and assures His people. You have done wrong, and I will discipline you for your good, God tells them. However, you have also been wronged, and I will punish those who had a hand in it.God’s people have made sizeable mistakes, but God does not leave them to fend for themselves when they are provoked and harmed.

There is a temptation to take matters into your own hands when you have been wronged, cheated, forsaken, abandoned, hurt, or swindled. The pursuit of justice in the right ways and for the right reasons is certainly acceptable; however, you should not waste your time and energy on the empty pursuit of a pound of flesh. It’s wrong and it sows a root of bitterness in you. Let God deal with those who wrong you. You need not get even because God is just and will handle matters in His time and in His way.

NEW TESTAMENT

The outline I have suggested for understanding the last days is fairly simple (and very old). We are living in difficult days, which will be followed by the great tribulation sometime in the future. The King will return and usher in the new heavens and the new earth after the great tribulation (Rev. 21). I do not see in the text a return of Christ before the tribulation, and I think the existence and message of the book of Revelation points us away from this nineteenth-century innovation.  Why share all this news with the churches, telling them to be ready and faithful, if all Christians are going to be evacuated?

Revelation 15 is the climax toward the end of the great tribulation, and the figurative language continues as the seven seals and seven trumpets are followed by the seven bowls of God’s wrath. The dissonance of chapter 15 is palpable. God is pouring out wrath on the Evil One and all who follow him while worship music is playing. Imagine watching a movie where people are being slaughtered to the refrain of the Hallelujah Chorus! Dissonance. So why is this worship appropriate?  Because as the seven bowls of wrath are being poured out, God is settling every imaginable wrong that has ever being committed on the face of the earth.

There is something glorious about this final scene. There is a certain beauty to seeing the bad guys get their just deserts. God’s wrath is completed and at last the day arrives when all wrongs are made right (Rev. 15:1). All the wrongs in your life, in your world, made right. Wow! Come Lord, Jesus. And until You do, help us trust You and worship You. We know that You will make all things new.  


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.

December 23 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” ~Habakkuk 3:2

OLD TESTAMENT

The prophet Habakkuk (pronounced ha-BACK-ook) was a contemporary of Jeremiah ministering in Judah. He lived sometime after the fall of the northern kingdom (722 BCE) but before the fall of the southern kingdom (597 BCE). This little book is written in antiphonal form, a recounting of a two-way conversation between God and someone else.

The prophet complains that God is tolerating oppression and perversion (vv. 1:2-4), but God responds that He will not turn a blind eye to injustice forever (vv. 1:5-11). The prophet then complains about the instrument God will use to bring justice, the wicked Babylonians (vv. 1:12-2:1), and God responds that He will judge Babylon as well—and He will restore His people in time. (vv. 2:2-2:20).

All the prophet can do is respond in faith and with the beautiful prayer written above (Hab. 3). I love his prayer. The prophet wants God to do amazing things while he can see them. He loves hearing about amazing stories of the past, but he wants God to renew him, the people, and the land in his own lifetime! What a great prayer!

The prophet concludes with a beautiful expression of faith in God’s sovereignty. “Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength” (Hab. 3:16-19). Wow! This calls for prayer:

Lord, renew us in our day! Do great things that will bless us and glorify Your name. While we wait for Your renewal, we will trust that You know what You are doing, even if we don’t fully understand it. Though our bank accounts grow thin and our plates are empty, we will delight in our Savior. Strengthen us, we pray, and give us joy that only You can give. Help us to wait in anticipation for Your deliverance and blessing. Amen.

NEW TESTAMENT

We have already met the 144,000, those who represent an incalculable number of people who remain faithful to Christ even during periods of great tribulation. They stand with the Lamb, who is poised to begin the harvest of the earth by separating the followers of the Lamb from the followers of the Beast.

I cannot stress enough that these are images pointing us to Christ and the Evil One. They are battling for the universe, and the inhabitants of the world will be forced to choose sides. Some will remain faithful—others will not. John is reassured that victory is sure for the followers of Christ. Again, the disciple writes, “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obeys God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). The heart of Revelation lies in the admonition to remain faithful to Jesus no matter what. Because in the end—He wins!


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.

December 22 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Ninevah; he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.” ~Nahum 1:7-8

OLD TESTAMENT

Nahum lived and prophesied sometime before the fall of Nineveh in 612 AD. More than a hundred years have passed since the prophet Jonah visited the city, and the Ninevites have resumed their evil ways. In 700 AD, the city became the capital of the vast Assyrian Empire, a warrior people known for their brutal tactics as well as a hunger for power. Thus Nahum says: “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims…who enslaved nations…” (vv. 3:1-4).

God sets Himself against the Assyrians (Nah. 2:13, 3:5). He mocks them and calls their soldiers a bunch of sissies: “Look at your troops—they are all women!” (Nah. 3:13). Go ahead and fortify the land for war, God tells them, but it will do no good. The military superpower is about to be undone and its economic engine destroyed (note the references to merchants in Nahum 3:16).

All of this is consistent with the character of God as it is expounded in Nahum’s opening chapter. He “is a jealous and avenging God,” who is sometimes “filled with wrath” (Nah. 1:2). However, He is also “slow to anger” and “good, a refuge in times of trouble” (Nah. 1:3, 7). Be assured, God is not schizophrenic! Like any caring father, He has a range of emotions. When His children mess up, He does not immediately destroy them for He is patient. Conversely, when evildoers mess with His children, He is jealous and avenging!

God does not sit in the heavens eager to zap you when you fail. He is slow to anger. So seek and enjoy His forgiveness now! If you have been wronged by someone, be patient, and do not take matters into your own hands. Pray, but do not plot evil. God is protective and avenging. He’ll take down the “sissies” who hurt His people! He will be your “refuge in times of trouble” because He cares for those who trust in Him (Nah. 1:7).

NEW TESTAMENT

The book of Daniel provides information that helps us understand the vision in Revelation 13. In Daniel’s vision, the ten horns represent the secular nations of the world who suppress the gospel message and persecute the people of God. In John’s vision, the beast with the ten horns represents opposition to the people of God by political (and cultural?) powers. The beast probably does not represent a “one-world government” as many suppose. Instead, the Evil One harnesses his power through anti-Christian government policies and practices.

The second beast in Revelation 13 represents the abuse of religion for the purpose of opposing the gospel and the people of God. This is happening right now through the spirit of antichrist in the world. However, with the rise of the Antichrist (and we do not know who that is), God’s people will face even greater opposition to their faith (again, compare Mark 13 and 2 Thessalonians 2). There is every indication that believers will recognize this “beast” of a person through some sort of curious number, although attempts to guess at either his identity or the nature of the identifying mark have all proven futile. It is best to say we will know it when it happens.

The main point of this passage and of the book of Revelation is in verse 10. “This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints” (Rev. 13:10). God’s people must be patient and faithful as we face the reality that there is (and will be) ongoing persecution by secular government and deception by counterfeit religion. Jesus wants John and the churches to know that they will face formidable secular and religious foes that will come after them like beasts. He doesn’t want them to be surprised. He wants them to be ready and to be faithful.


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.