Zechariah 3-4

“…this man is like a burning stick that has been snatched from the fire.” 3:2b

What a beautiful analogy of the way God rescues us. If you aren’t reading along with us, at least read the beginning of chapter three. 

What’s your story with God? When did he snatch you out of the fire, crackling in a pile of kindling you built with your own hands? And then washed you of your sins and clothed you in something new. 

Zechariah’s vision graphically portrays the way we often relate to God. Standing there, being accused by Satan. Reminding us of the dirt on our hands. God, waiting for us to repent and come to him to be washed cleaned. 

Do you need to be pulled out of the fire? Grab hold of the Branch he extends us, shut down the lies of the Satan the accuser and step in to your new identity in God. 

I recently came across stacks and stacks of old journals. I’ve been writing in notebooks my whole life, tiring out my hand in an effort to untangle my thoughts. I flipped through, my eyes skimming a sentence or two on each page. I decided to destroy all the notebooks I filled before I was submitting my life to God. There isn’t anything particularly terrible in them (besides my penmanship, perhaps), I just don’t want that part of my life documented anymore. Yes, there are a few memories I want to hold on to, but I believe God cleaned the slate and I wanted to as well. I kept the journal I wrote in the summer God got a hold of my heart, because I love that story. I don’t want to hold on to that part of life, the one I lived without Him. I want to step into new clothes, and for me, destroying those journals was part of that. 

Is there something you’re holding on to that you need to let go? A relationship, an item or an activity that haunts you of your past? Throw it back into the fire. For if you are saved; your sins are as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) 
-Carly 

Zechariah 1-2

Here’s the Bible Project Overview to start.

“Then the angel of the LORD said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?” The LORD answered the angel who was speaking with me with gracious words, comforting words.” (1:12-13)

Even this angel has some questions about the timing of God. Patience is hard! How does God respond, though? With grace and comfort. 

The people have been in exile. Israel has been humbled. Their place as God’s chosen made them a bit careless. What does it mean for us to be God’s people? 1 Peter 2:9-10 says:

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.”

We are now a part of “the future” Zechariah was talking about:

“Many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people.” (2:11)

This Kingdom was inaugurated with the coming of Christ and is still growing in to what it will become. We are the nations who were once excluded and are now included. We’ve begun to see and experience the fulfillment of God’s promises made 2,537 years ago. We are God’s children. That means we are loved, we have an identity and we are subject to discipline. It doesn’t mean we are the best and everyone else is the worst and we can be exclusive. 

The heart cry of Zechariah is this: Your parents were disciplined, they were disobedient and experienced consequences.  You’ve been given their second chance. Will you listen and chose life? Will you learn from their mistakes? Will you seek to the blessing of God in obedience or will you roll the dice again with your freedom?

We have a beautiful gift. We have an incredible identity in God’s family. We have examples to follow and not follow. What will we do with all this? In humility will we not presume to know how to best run our lives? Will we look to our Father for His guidance?

Lead me Father!!

-Bethany

Haggai

Lucky for us, there’s a video about the two-chapter book of Haggai. You can watch it here. I learned so much from it!

This verse grabbed me: “Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai: ‘Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?’” The people have misplaced their priorities and instead of focusing on rebuilding God’s destroyed temple, they pour their time and resources into their destroyed homes.

How relatable is that? 

You get where I’m going with this; it doesn’t need to be spelled out. We are distracted people, often guilty of prioritizing everything but our relationship with God. Maybe you’re carving out time for the gym instead of time in your Bible, investing your money in earthly things rather than eternal or simply ignoring your relationship with God, but spending hours pouring into your on-again-off-again significant other.

Ask yourself, what do you invest in? 

Everything else will fade. Our bodies will fail us, our homes will break down, our relationships will change. Obeying God and putting work into what’s broken or destroyed between you two is eternal work, which means it has eternal benefits. 

Something that’s always strained, or broken, between God and me is my tendency to be anxious and doubt his love and sovereignty. In those moments, I don’t believe that he’s enough for me. I prioritize my worries over him.

What’s something in your relationship with God that needs restoring?

 

-Carly

Zephaniah 

Here’s the Bible Project Overview.

“Neither their silver nor their gold Will be able to deliver them On the day of the LORD’s wrath; And all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete end, Indeed a terrifying one, Of all the inhabitants of the earth.” (1:18)

The powerful and wealthy may feel they’ve reached a status outside God’s judgement, but they are wrong. The oppressor, the short sighted, the bully, will answer to the Everlasting God who cares for all people and will not share His glory with idols. 

But the whole earth? Will He sweep away the righteous with the evil?? Never.

“And the coast will be For the remnant of the house of Judah, They will pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; For the LORD their God will care for them And restore their fortune.” (2:7)

As in the case of Lot’s family and Noah’s, the LORD makes distinctions. The LORD has mercy and He reserves His wrath for the idolatrous. But take heed, because most of Israel thought they were untouchable based on their family blood line. “We are God’s people, we can do as we please and still be better than the nations.”

No no no no no no! What does He say to His city, Jerusalem?

“Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, The tyrannical city! She heeded no voice, She accepted no instruction. She did not trust in the LORD, She did not draw near to her God.” (3:1-2)

Jerusalem experiences the fire of God along with all the cities it feels superior to, but in the midst of it all, we catch a glimpse of our LORD’s father heart. His fire purifies:

“For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, That all of them may call on the name of the LORD, To serve Him shoulder to shoulder.” (3:9)

This book ends beautifully hopeful. The humble, the hurt. Their shame is removed and the LORD rejoiced over them with singing. 

What do I learn about God in this?

  • He is patient
  • He is jealous 
  • He is just
  • He follows through
  • His fire is refining
  • He heals
  • He is for all nations
  • He is loving 
  • He is musical

Check your heart. What is the basis of your security? What is your posture toward God the Father? What is your attitude toward those outside His family? What is your reaction to discipline? 

I’m always humbled by the ways God points out the flaws in my judgement of “good” and “evil”. Wasn’t this the problem in the garden? Eve wanted to know the difference for herself? Only God is good. Will I let Him define it? Will I follow Him away from my heart’s idolatry? Will I trust Him in His discipline? Will I ask for His heart for the nations? Will I accept His songs over me and allow His to remove my shame?

-Bethany 

Habakkuk 2-3

Habakkuk isn’t a book I’m very familiar with, and I loved the this video to give me some context. There are so many amazing, free resources out there these days to help you read your Bible. Don’t be discouraged if you get a little lost in the historical context. The more often I read my Bible, the easier it gets, and the better I understand the story. But also, I kind of don’t need to know every historical detail to hear from God. When I just let go, read it anyway and remain open to God’s spirit, he always comes through. It took me at least a year to enjoy reading the Bible. More than anything, I would have questions, concerns or doubts when I opened up the Old Testament. I wanted to stay parked in Paul’s letters, being eternally encouraged.

Give yourself grace. (This is self-talk, join in if you need to.) God’s word is alive, complex and infinitely interesting. What other book could you read every day for the rest of your life and yet, it continues to feel new? If you’re new to reading the Bible regularly: great. We all start somewhere. The more understanding I gain about God’s word, the more humbled I become. Our only goal with this blog is to help you engage with the text, not our own words. More than anything, we love hearing from you!

I love how this book ends. “…I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” 

What does it look like to live by faith?

Where are you putting your joy?

How do we find strength in God and not in ___? (Our country, our circumstances, etc)

 

-Carly

Nahum 3 – Habakkuk 1

Here is the Bible Project’s overview of Nahum

“”Behold, I am against you,” declares the LORD of hosts; “And I will lift up your skirts over your face, And show to the nations your nakedness And to the kingdoms your disgrace.” (3:5)

Think of all the major empires who have ruled the world. They all probably felt invincible, at some point. Strongest military might, striking fear into the hearts of their enemies. No one ever reaches this status through charm and good graces, and this was especially the case for Assyria:

“Horsemen charging, Swords flashing, spears gleaming, Many slain, a mass of corpses, And countless dead bodies- They stumble over the dead bodies!” (3:3)

God will not tolerate this forever. Do not mistake the patience of God for indifference. He is wise, He is just, He has a plan. Here we are in 2017, with Wikipedia listing 49 major empires in history who are no longer in charge. 

Nothing is hopeless. Spring always follows winter. Everything has a cycle and a season. Just because you’re getting away with something now, doesn’t mean you always will.

Which brings us to Habakkuk

While Nahum promises destruction to Nineveh, Habakkuk promises the rise of Babylon. 

“Are You not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge; And You, O Rock, have established them to correct.” (1:12)

World history can feel like an endless parade of atrocities, but God is still enthroned. His King and kingdom is coming and it’s altogether different. 

In the meantime, we are to REST and TRUST. These things seem bonkers, but as the Bible Project video points out: the Righteous live by FAITH. Our hope isn’t coming in the form of a man-made peace in the Middle East model. God is more thorough than that. More powerful and He has already begun to do this. 

The Babylon of each generation may shift and change, but it will always come tumbling down. Only Christ is a solid rock on which to stand. Only He knows who will rise next as Western powers tumble. 

Even America, for all its military might and recent historical influence, could now be described as “having its skirt pulled up over its head”. Our trust cannot be in America. We are citizens of the Kindgom of our LORD and of His Christ. He shall reign forever and ever. Amen!

Enjoy this Easter weekend and glory in this:

“A stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron (Roman Empire), the clay, the bronze (Greek Empire), the silver (Persian Empire) and the gold (Babylonian Empire) were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue (The Kingdom of our LORD and of His Christ) became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”‭‭ (Daniel‬ ‭2:34-35‬)

-Bethany

Nahum 1-2

Moving right along in the minor prophets! 

Today we read about Nahum’s warning to the city of Nineveh. Seem familiar? Jonah came to Nineveh and prophesied there as well, a century earlier. He saw a complete turn around and repentance of the people. But in typical human fashion, as generations of families grew, obedience faded. The people of Nineveh were fattening up in wealth (plundered from other cities) and returning to their evil ways. God sends them another important message of warning. 

I once heard a pastor compare God’s anger to a slow-burning wick. It was always hard for me to balance his grace and holiness; and I’ve had that helpful analogy in my mind ever since. The Old Testament use to scare me, but now I see pages filled with stories of God’s grace and mercy. He gives second chances. And then third chances. He protects and shields those who love and trust him. 

“The Lord is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished. ” 1:3

I am counting on this. When I watch the news, and my stomach churns. When nations battle, destroy and torture each other. (When I watch documentaries about OJ Simpson.) When I overhear racial slurs on the sidewalk outside my house. When hatred and evil seem to run rampant. He has a plan. He is merciful, yes. He is waiting oh, oh, so patiently for repentance and for change. But he is also perfectly just and holy. And no one can escape that outside of the gospel. 

As we near Easter Sunday, I’m thankful for Jesus advocating for me. I am forgiven, washed clean. I’m no more worthy of God’s protection than anyone else, outside of Christ. He didn’t just send a prophet, he sent his beloved son to save us. 

Have hope. “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust him.” 1:7
-Carly