Scripture reading for May 13th: 2nd Samuel 3-5, 1st Chronicles 12, Psalm 122, Acts 22
Acts 22: 17-21 “”When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in You. And when the blood of Stephen Your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ And He said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'”
Paul had been a devout Pharisee and orthodox Jew. He had persecuted Christians and had them imprisoned and put to death. He was zealous for the temple and Jerusalem as the place of God’s House and presence in the midst of His people. But when Christ appeared to him on the Damascus road, Paul was confronted with his own blindness and need to repent. After his sight was restored, he returned to Jerusalem and was warned by Jesus to leave there. The Jews would not receive his testimony. God would be with Him as he now was sent to the Gentiles. He could still pray for the peace of Jerusalem as Scripture commanded. Jesus Christ, King David’s offspring, would be with him on this new mission to tell the Good News to the world! The promised New Jerusalem would be the ultimate ‘City of Peace’!
Psalm 122:6-7 “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within you towers!”
Prayer: Father God, thank You for sending the Prince of Peace to Jerusalem! He, too, was rejected there and not received by His own people. He sent His disciples into the whole world with the Good News and promised that He would be with them forever! Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and power to declare the message of peace to Jew and Gentile. Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings!
2nd Samuel 5:9-10 “And David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of Hosts, was with him.”
Scripture reading for December 24th: Revelation 18, Psalm 139-40, Proverbs 9
Key Scriptures: Revelation 18:4-7 “Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, My people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Pay her back as she herself has paid back other, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed. As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, . . “
God’s heart is that all made in His image would not be found in the wicked city of Babylon, involved in its false religion and materialism. John heard a voice from heaven calling out to God’s people and giving stern warning of the impending doom of that city and its residents. God remembered their sins and was about to repay. In contrast, the sins of God’s people had been cast away and carried away by their Savior, the Lord Jesus.
Faith Confession: I am thankful that I heard the call from heaven to come out of ‘Babylon’ and look for God’s City–the New Jerusalem. I thank God that He graciously forgave me through the sacrifice of His Son and remembers my sins no more! Hallelujah!
Proverbs 9:10-11 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. For by Me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.”
Scripture reading for December 23rd: Revelation 17, Psalm 137-38, Proverbs 8
Key Scriptures: Revelation 17:3-6 “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.”
John’s vision portrayed a great scarlet beast that was carrying a woman decked out as a prostitute with a golden cup full of abominations. Abominations are sinful acts that God detests and are in direct rebellion against His holy Word. This woman had caused the downfall and destruction of many men and women on earth and had also orchestrated the persecution and death of the followers of Jesus. She was drunk with their blood!
Faith Confession: I believe the warnings of Scripture and ask my Lord Jesus to keep me safe from the seductions of this evil world system of Babylon’s false religion and humanism. Give me wisdom and let my mind never stray from You and the holy city of Your habitation.
Psalm 137:4-6 “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!”
Scripture reading for August 16th: Isaiah 62-65
Key Scriptures: Isaiah 65:17-19 “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in My people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.”
Isaiah wrote what God revealed about the future of the earth. God would create a new heaven and new earth and what was before would not come to mind again! He was also recreating Jerusalem–the New Jerusalem–to be the joy and delight of the people of God–forever! There would be joy there and no crying or weeping ever heard again! God would take delight in His people and their eternal abode!
Rejoicing over Jerusalem: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling place of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be there God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
Scripture reading for April 18th: 1 Chronicles 9-13
Key Scriptures: 1st Chronicles 11:4-5, 7-9 “David and all the Israelites marched to Jerusalem (that is, Jebus). The Jebusites who lived there said to David, “You will not get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David. . . .David then took up residence in the fortress, and so it was called the City of David. . . .And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him.”
Newly anointed King David led the Israelites to capture the city of Jebus. The Jebusites were adamant that David could not take the city, but God was with him and he conquered the city and set up residence there. It would be known as “Jerusalem”, also as “Zion”, and as the “City of David” along with several other names! From David’s line would come a Son of God, Jesus Christ, who would rule eternally on the throne of that “City of the Great King!”
Rejoice today in Zion: “But you have come to Mt. Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the Living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the Firstborn; whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant. . .” (Hebrews 12:22-24)
Scripture reading for July 3rd: Psalms 146-150
Life is to be lived in worship to the King! Real joy and peace come from a life centered on the goodness and greatness of God the Creator! Worship is not just singing a few songs at church on Sunday. It is a universal duty of everything that has breath!
Psalm 146 begins with a declaration that the psalmist is going to praise the Lord all of his life! Many are caught up in the idea of a king or politician who can save them! But they will die and their plans come to nothing! (Psalm 146:3-4) Only the God who created the heaven and earth can save! He can be counted on by the poor, needy, oppressed and hungry! He watches over the alien, widow, and the fatherless! (Psalm 146:7-9) God alone is worthy of praise!
Psalm 147 is a hymn of praise to the Lord for Jerusalem. God has built up Jerusalem and gathered the exiles of Israel. God’s people are to praise and honor Him for His mighty deeds on their behalf! God’s delight is in those who fear Him! (Psalm 147:11) He blesses them and protects them and deserves their worship! (Psalm 147:12-14) He has given them His Word and laws, making them special among all nations! (Psalm 147:19-20)
Psalms 148 commends all creation for their praise of the Lord! Angels praise Him in the heights. The sun, moon and stars praise Him. (Psalm 148:3-6) From the earth, sea creatures and fish, mountains and valleys, animals large and small praise Him! (Psalm 148:7-10) Man, too, praises the Lord! Young and old, men and women, rich and poor all owe Him praise for His splendor is above all His works! (Psalm 148:14)
Psalm 149 calls upon God’s covenant people, Israel, to praise the Lord! They are to dance, sing, and make music with instruments! The psalm then shifts from praise of God in their mouths to a double edged sword in their hands! They are to praise the Lord as they inflict vengeance on the nations and peoples who have rebelled against the Lord and rejected His Love! (Psalm 149:6-9) This is the “glory of all His saints.”
Psalm 150:6 sums it all up and closes the hymnal! “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.”
Scripture reading for June 3rd: Acts 1:1-26
Today our journey through the New Testament takes us to the book of Acts. Acts was an additional historical book written by the doctor, Luke, documenting the progress of the early church. The first 12 chapters focus on events in and around Jerusalem and the Apostle Peter while the last chapters focus on the missionary efforts of the Apostle Paul. There are over 50 references to the Holy Spirit so we might call this book the ‘Acts of the Holy Spirit’.
Acts begins by Luke recounting briefly his Gospel account of all Jesus began to do and to teach before He was taken up to heaven. Jesus appeared to the apostles for a period of forty days and taught them about the kingdom of God. Jesus gave them a specific command, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)
His disciples, now called ‘apostles’ (sent ones), asked Jesus if this is when He would restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus told them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) These final instructions would shape the work of these apostles and the growth of the early church.
Jesus did not want them focusing on dates or times, but wanted them filled with this special gift of the Father, the Holy Spirit. Their purpose was to be ‘witnesses’ of Jesus Christ. Jesus had a simple message and a world-wide vision. The Holy Spirit would empower these men and the other followers of Jesus to be the witnesses they needed to be.
These simple instructions are still in effect for us today. We are to be focused on the mission of taking the Gospel of Jesus to our own ‘Jerusalem’ and then to the surrounding country and even to the ends of the earth. The power to do that comes from being baptized in the Holy Spirit! Ask the Lord to fill you with His power today!
Scripture reading for June 29th: Psalms 120-127
“I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the House of the Lord.” Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel.” (Psalm 122:1-4)
Psalm 120-134 form a series of writings called the “Song of Ascents”. These psalms were sung or chanted by the Israelites as they made their way from their homes to Jerusalem for the annual feasts at the temple of the Lord. Many of these pilgrims had to travel from the north and others from the south climbing from Jericho through the winding road that climbs nearly 3000 feet in about 20 miles. There were dangers of robbers and wild animals. They left their homes behind and joined others climbing to worship their Lord and God.
The psalmist was glad to go to the “House of the Lord”. God’s presence was and is something to treasure. It is as if the psalmist could envision his feet standing inside the walls of the city and feel the joy and security of being in God’s presence with God’s people. Although God had commanded them to gather there to meet with Him, this was a willing journey done in faith with joyful anticipation. All the tribes of God’s family would join in unity there, packed into the walls of Jerusalem for worship, sacrifice and joyful festival!
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.” (Psalm 122:6-9)
Prayer is the great privilege of God’s people. The psalmist knows that only through prayer can all these tribes and individuals be unified and remain at peace with one another. Brothers and friends sometimes fight and have issues. Conflicts still break out among the family of God. Peace must be prayed for and sought after for others’ sake and for the sake of God’s house! Would you take time today and obey this ancient psalm on your journey to the “House of the Lord”?
Greetings on this day of rest! The beauty of the Christian faith is the rest we have because of God’s grace through the finished work of Jesus Christ! We have been adopted into God’s family and made heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. We have been declared righteous and have been justified in God’s sight. We can only rest in what Jesus Christ has provided and need not add another thing. In fact, we must be faithful to enter that rest by faith or we will miss out entirely!
As I reflected on the readings this week, I immediately thought of Zechariah’s final discourse on Jerusalem and the importance of this city in the plans and purposes of God. Jerusalem was known as the city of David, the beloved king of Israel, who took the city from the Jebusites. It was there that David made plans to build a house for God and purchased the threshing floor of Araunah for a place of sacrifice. (1st Chronicles 21:18-30) Solomon, David’s son, actually built the temple and Israel enjoyed a time of peace for 40 years during his tenure. (2nd Chronicles 7:1-3) As he dedicated the temple, the glory of the Lord filled the house so that the priests could not enter!
Several hundred years later, God’s people had slipped into idolatry and a shallow religion that brought about their captivity. The beautiful temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonian invaders and God’s people went into captivity. After 7o years, Daniel the prophet read the prophecy of Jeremiah and saw that the time was nearly over and began to pray and fast. (Jeremiah 25:11-12) Jerusalem would be rebuilt and the temple again would stand. Nehemiah and Zerubbabel led the rebuilding efforts and the work went forward. God moved miraculously on the heart of King Cyrus and he supplied the authority and finances.
Prophets Haggai and Zechariah both urged the workers to rebuild the city and temple. God had plans for a greater purpose and glory yet to come! (Haggai 2:9) ( Zechariah 8:1-3) According to Zechariah, Jerusalem would be pivotal for God’s end-time program of judging the nations. (Zechariah 12:1-3) The nations will gather around Jerusalem to seek to destroy it in a final battle. In fact, Jesus Christ is coming back to Jerusalem and will again place His feet on the Mt. of Olives, causing it to split and form a way of escape for God’s people. (Zechariah 14:4-5) Following this great battle, the Lord will be king over all the earth and rule from Jerusalem! (Zechariah 14:9)
Jerusalem is the joy of the whole earth because it is the city of the Great King! Psalm 48 was composed by the sons of Korah to extol the virtues of Jerusalem and God’s presence and protection of His people forever! We surely should pray for the peace of Jerusalem! It is the home of our Great King!
“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, His holy mountain. It is beautiful in loftiness, the joy of the whole earth!” Psalm 48:1-2