1st December: Daniel 7:1-8:14; 1 John 2:12-27; Psalm 136:13-26
Daniel 7:13-14 looks forward, prophetically, to the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the future towards which history is moving, the future towards which God is working, the future of the Kingdom of God. This world is passing away, “but the man who does the will of God lives for ever” (1 John 2:17). Psalm 136 continues to emphasize, over and over again, that “His love endures for ever.” This love does not guarantee salvation to those who refuse to welcome God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as their Saviour. Responding to God’s love by doing His will, we receive, eternal life. Those who belong to the Lord, those whom He has redeemed, are His for ever. Psalm 136 contains the contrast between Israel and Egypt. Israel are brought through the midst of the Red Sea. Pharaoh and his army are swept into the Red Sea (Psalm 136:13-15). The Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will bring the ultimate division of men and women. There are those who belong to Christ. For them, there is salvation. There are those who have refused Christ. For them, there is judgment.
2nd December: Daniel 8:15-9:19; 1 John 2:28-3:10; Proverbs 29:10-18
There is real urgency about Daniel’s prayer: “O Lord, look with favour on Your desolate sanctuary … O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act!” (Daniel 9:17,19). We do need to pray with urgency. There are many who seek to lead us astray (1 John 3:7) – “Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity and seek to kill the upright” (Proverbs 29:10). Who can help us in this situation? – Only the Lord: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). He alone will give us strength to “continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His Coming” (1 John 2:28).
3rd December: Daniel 9:20-11:1; 1 John 3:11-4:6; Psalm 137:1-9
“When He spoke to me, I was strengthened” (Daniel 10:19). The strength we receive from the Lord is a greater strength than the temptations we face – “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). To know that we receive such strength from the Lord is very encouraging when we are mocked by “our tormentors” (Psalm 137:3). Their scorn makes us wonder, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). When this question arises in our hearts, “God who is greater than our hearts” (1 John 3:20) speaks His Word, and we are strengthened with the strength which comes from Him, His strength. With His strength, we are able to sing “songs of joy” (Psalm 137:3). We have this testimony – “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” By ourselves, we are cast down with weeping (Psalm 137:1). Strengthened by the Lord, we have joy. We rejoice in Him.
4th December: Daniel 11:2-35; 1 John 4:7-21; Psalm 138:1-8
Daniel 11 is concerned with conflict. This is part of our spiritual experience as well as Israel’s military experience. There is an enemy who opposes the Lord and His people. Nevertheless, “the people who know their God will firmly resist him” (Daniel 11:32). How are we able to resist the enemy? We are strengthened by love, the love of God. We learn to love God as we learn to appreciate His love for us: “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This love, His love, gives us the strength to firmly resist the enemy. God’s love is a faithful love – “Your love, O Lord, endures for ever” (Psalm 138:8). His love and His faithfulness belong together – “Your love and Your faithfulness” (Psalm 138:2). How do we know of the faithful love of God? – Through His Name and His Word: “You have exalted above all things Your Name and Your Word” (Psalm 138:2). As the Name of the Lord and the Word of the Lord become precious to us, so the love of the Lord becomes real to us, the strength of the Lord is given to us and the enemy is firmly resisted
5th December: Daniel 11:36-12:13; 1 John 5:1-21; Psalm 139:1-10
Scripture speaks of “the time of wrath” (Daniel 11:36), “a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then” (Daniel 12:1). For some, this will bring “shame and everlasting contempt.” Through the grace of God, others will receive “everlasting life” (Daniel 12:20). This “everlasting life” is in Christ – “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life.” Scripture also contains the Word of warning – “He who does not have the Son does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12). As we hear Scripture speaking to us concerning eternal life, we say in our hearts, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (Psalm 139:6). Too wonderful? Too lofty? – Yes, but, by the grace of God, it is given to us – “I write these things to you who believe in the Name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
6th December: Haggai 1:1-2:23; 2 John 1-13; Proverbs 29:19-27
God calls His people – “Be strong” (Haggai 2:4). This call comes to the “governor”, “the high priest” and “all you people of the land” (Haggai 2:2). We need spiritual strength in government, in the Church and throughout the land. This strength is needed if we are to build upon the sure foundation of truth. The Lord’s work is to be built up. This can only be done when we stand for the truth in the face of “many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 7). John tells us that we must take care to ensure fruitfulness in the Lord’s work – “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully” (2 John 8). The danger we must take care to avoid is described pictorially in Haggai 1:6 – “You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” When we hear a message such as this, we must receive it with humility and not with pride – “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honour” (Proverbs 29:23).
7th December: Zechariah 1:1-4:14; 3 John 1-13; Psalm 139:11-16
The removal of sin (Zechariah 3:4,9) and the restoration of glory: Here, we have a great description of salvation, wiping out the sin of the past, giving an anticipatory glimpse of the glory to come. The past is forgiven. The future is promised. What about the present – “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). This life in the Spirit – lived between the forgiven sin (the past) and the glory to come (the future) – is to be a life of “working together for the truth” (3 John 4). As we live this life in the Spirit, we enjoy the “peace” of God (3 John 140. This peace arises in our hearts as we learn to praise God. we praise Him for His work of creation – “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” This praise – “Your works are wonderful” – causes us to reflect also on His works of providence – “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:14,16). It also causes us to reflect on God’s work of redemption. The thought of creation leads on to the thought of re-creation: “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The thought of providence also leads us to think of redemption: God’s “book” (Psalm 139:16) turns our thoughts to “the book of life” – the book of eternal life which we receive through faith in “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
8th December: Zechariah 5:1-8:23; Jude 1-25; Psalm 139:17-24
Again and again, in Zechariah, we find the phrase, “the Word of the Lord (Almighty) came to me” (Zechariah 6:9; Zechariah 7;1,4,8). Another recurring phrase, with similar meaning, is “This is what the Lord (Almighty) says” (Zechariah 6:12; Zechariah 8:3,4,6,7,9,14,20,23). The Word of revelation – This is the basis of our faith. It’s God speaking His Word to us. His Word is a Word of salvation (Zechariah 8:7-8). This salvation is not only for the Jews. It is for “countries of the east and the west” (Zechariah 8:7). It is for “men from all languages and nations” (Zechariah 8:23). This “salvation we share” (Jude 3), a salvation which goes from nation to nation, from generation to generation, is to be preserved by God’s people “contending for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). In today’s world, many proudly dismiss the whole idea of divine revelation. The Lord’s people must not be deceived. Over against those who oppose God and His Word of revelation, we must speak the Word of rebuke: “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9). We have been forewarned: “In the last times there will be scoffers, who will follow their own ungodly desires” (Jude 18). In the face of this, we must “build ourselves up in our most holy faith” (Jude 20), always trusting in “Him who is able to keep us from falling” (Jude 24). How does He keep us from falling? How does He keep us standing up for Him in the face of such opposition? – “How precious are Your thoughts, O God!” (Psalm 139:17). We are to feed upon the Word of God, with this constant prayer: “Search me, O God … Lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:24).
9th December: Zechariah 9:1-11:17; Revelation 1:1-20; Psalm 140:1-5
“Rejoice greatly … your King comes to you … having salvation … because of the blood of My covenant with you” (Zechariah 9:9,11). “The Ruler of the kings of the earth … who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood” (Revelation 1:5). The King of love is revealed in both Zechariah and Revelation. We see, however, different aspects of His Kingship. We see His two comings. There is His first coming – “Your King comes to you … gentle and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9) – and His second coming – “He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). The Lord’s way – “gentle” is to be our way. We trust in Him when we are confronted by “men of violence” (Psalm 140:1). We know that, when the King comes again, the men of violence will be exposed – “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of Him” (Revelation 1:7).
10th December: Zechariah 12:1-14:21; Revelation 2:1-17; Proverbs 30:1-10
God “pours out … a spirit of supplication” upon His people. As a result of this, they look on Him, “the One they have pierced.” In doing so, they come to “a fountain … to cleanse them from sin and impurity” (Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 13:1). Mourning for the One they pierced and receiving cleansing from sin, we enter into a new relationship in which God says, “They are My people” and we say, “The Lord is our God” (Zechariah 13:9). This new life is to be characterized by “worship.” “Holy to the Lord” is to be the central feature of our new life (Zechariah 14:16,20). This is “the new name” (Revelation 2:17) of God’s people – “Holy to the Lord.” It is inscribed upon us, written over our lives. It is “known only to him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). Only those who are beginning to experience what it means to be “holy to the Lord” will understand its meaning. Experience and understanding belong together. They are united in the act of receiving. Faith is the tie which binds together experience and understanding. By faith, we hold out our empty hands that they might be filled with God’s gift of grace. There is no way to “a man’s understanding”, no way to “wisdom”, no way to “knowledge of the Holy One”, no way which begins with “I”. Concerning ourselves, we must make this confession: “I am the most ignorant of men” (Proverbs 30:2-3). The question is asked: “Who has gone up to heaven and come down? … What is his name …? Tell me if you know!” (Proverbs 30:4). There is no answer to this question. The Gospel does not begin with man, reaching up to heaven. It begins with God, reaching down to earth – “Who came down from heaven to earth? Jesus Christ our Saviour”. It is God who pours out His grace. This is the foundation on which our life of faith is based.
11th December: Esther 1:1-2:18; Revelation 2:18-3:6; Psalm 140:6-13
God is at work in the life of both the Church and the nation. He has a message for His Church. It is the message of the Spirit: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6). This message of the Lord concerns His Church. It also concerns the world. On the surface, the story of Esther is not a very spiritual story. Nevertheless, God is there. Amid all the talk of “twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics” (Esther 2:12), God was working out His purpose. He was revealing Himself as the “Sovereign Lord”, the “strong defender” of His people. The plans of men – “the wicked” – did not succeed. The pride of man was brought to nothing so that the glory belong to God alone (Psalm 140:7-8). This is the message of the book of Esther. In order to hear this message clearly, we must read between the lines. This message may not be spelled out in detail. Nevertheless, it is there for the believing reader who is attentive to the Lord, speaking through the events of history. God’s concern is that there may be “justice for the poor”, that “the cause of the needy” may be upheld (Psalm 140:12). This is a concern which will take us beyond the fairly narrow and well-defined scope of the Church. God’s concern takes us into the world with a desire to see the quality of life improved by God so that the people will be more deeply moved to praise His Name and live in His presence (Psalm 140:13).
12th December: Esther 2:19-5:14; Revelation 3:7-22; Psalm 141:1-10
There are doors which can only be opened by God – “See, I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut” (Revelation 3:8). There are doors which must be opened by man - “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). This is illustrated in the story of Esther. She became the Queen of Persia according to the sovereign purpose of God. God opened the door. Nevertheless, there were doors which had to be opened by Esther. As the Queen of Persia, she had to act in a wise and courageous way in order to carry out the purpose of God. In everything, we must say, with the Psalmist, “My eyes are fixed on You, O Sovereign Lord” (Psalm 141:8). This is not, however, to be the kind of heavenly-mindedness which makes us oblivious to what is going on around us. We must keep a close eye on events. We must direct our prayers towards the fulfilment of God’s purpose through the particular course of events which are taking place here-and-now. This is precisely what the Psalmist does. He sees what is happening, and he prays, “Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil” (Psalm 141:4). His “prayer is ever against the deeds of evildoers” (Psalm 141:5-6). This, again, is a combination of God opening and closing doors – “What He opens no-one can shut and what He shuts no-one can open” (Revelation 3:7) – and ourselves opening and closing doors as, looking at what is going on around us, we choose God’s way rather than the world’s way. Concerning this opening and closing of doors, we say, “O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).
13th December: Esther 6:1-8:17; Revelation 4:1-11; Psalm 142:1-7
In the book of Esther, we see the people of God in conflict. There were enemies against whom they had to contend. In this battle, there are victories which lead to “joyous celebration” (Esther 8:15). Such times of victory are times of “happiness and joy, gladness and honour” (Esther 8:16). Such times point toward the final victory, the glorious celebration which will take place in God’s eternal Kingdom. Worship will “never stop.” The Lord’s people will “give glory, honour and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever” (Revelation 4:8-9). Concerning the Lord, we say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:5). He is our refuge and portion in both this life and the life to come. “The land of the living” does not only speak of the “land” which will come to an end. It speaks also of the “land” that endures forevermore. In this life, there are many times when we say of our enemies, “They are too strong for me.” In the life to come, we will be fully “set free from our prison”, set free by God to “praise His Name” (Psalm 142:6-7).
14th December: Esther 9:1-10:3; Revelation 5:1-14; Proverbs 30:11-23
Esther 9 speaks of days of feasting and joy (Esther 9:17-19,22-23,28). If the Jews had cause to rejoice in Esther’s day, we have much more cause for rejoicing in the Lord – “Do not weep! Se, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed” (Revelation 5:5). The praise of God’s people does not arise only from the Jewish nation. It comes from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). Our rejoicing is in Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God”: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12). This praise will continue throughout eternity: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13). Proverbs 30:18 speaks of things that are “too amazing” for us, things that we “do not understand.” This is the Gospel. It stretches far beyond our understanding. Through amazing grace, such great things have been revealed to us. This is why praise arises in the hearts of God’s people as a song which will continue for all eternity.
15th December: Malachi 1:1-2:16; Revelation 6:1-17; Psalm 143:1-12
”Come! … Come! … Come! … Come!” (Revelation 6:1,3,5,7). The invitation is clear. We are to come to the Lord. How are we to come to Him? If we are to learn how we are to come to Him, we should learn also how we are not to come to Him. Malachi 1 stresses that we are not to come to Him with blemished sacrifices. Bringing such sacrifices shows contempt for the Name of the Lord (Malachi 1:6-9). We are not to show contempt for “the Lord’s table” (Malachi 1:7). We are not to say of the Lord’s table, “It is defiled.” We are not to say of the food of the Lord’s table, “It is contemptible.” We are not come to the Lord’s table, saying, “What a burden!” (Malachi 1:12). This is no way to come to the Lord. We are to come with “pure offerings”, acknowledging the greatness of the Lord’s Name (Malachi 1:11). He is the “great King” whose “Name is to be feared among the nations” (Malachi 1:14). The invitation comes from “the Lamb” (Revelation 6:1,3,5,7). Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God. He is the pure Sacrifice. He has been slain for us. He is the foundation of our worship. He is the basis on which we come to God the Father. When we cry to God, “O Lord … Listen to my cry for mercy” (Psalm 143:1), we come to Him in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we plead His “faithfulness and righteousness” (Psalm 143:1), our attention is fixed on the Cross of Christ. There, God’s faithfulness and righteousness are revealed to us. When, in our morning meditation, we pray, “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You” (Psalm 143:8), we are looking, in faith, to the Christ of Calvary from whom blessing flows to us. When we pray, “In Your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant” (Psalm 143:12), we are seeking God’s forgiveness and new life and are committing ourselves to be His servants.
16th December: Malachi 2:17-4:6; Revelation 7:1-17; Psalm 144:1-8
Malachi 4:5 speaks of “that great and dreadful Day of the Lord.” The Day of the Lord will be a Day of Judgment. This is not, however, the full story. It will also be the great Day of salvation. This comes through clearly in Revelation 7 – “a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb … wearing white robes and … holding palm branches … cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10). This is our great encouragement as we wage spiritual warfare against the enemies of God. The glorious celebration in the Kingdom of God is the outcome of our life of faith. Saved by grace, we are victors in Christ. “These in white robes … have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:13-14). That is the glorious finale of God’s gracious work of salvation. Here-and-now, we face spiritual warfare. In the midst of the battle, we say, “Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my Fortress, my Stronghold and my Deliverer, my Shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues people under me” (Psalm 144:1-2). We, who have had a glimpse of heavenly glory, a foretaste of glory divine, now pray, “Part Your heavens, O Lord, and come down” (Psalm 144:5).
17th December: Ezra 1:1-2:67; Revelation 8:1-9:12; Psalm 144:9-15
We read of “gold” in both Ezra and Revelation (Ezra 1:3,6,9-11; Revelation 8:3; Revelation 9:7). In Ezra 1:6, “gold” is set alongside “valuable gifts” and “all the freewill offerings.” “Gold” is a valuable thing. The “gold” of our lives is truly valuable when it is given freely, as a “freewill offering.” In Revelation 8:3, “gold” is associated with “the prayers of all the saints.” The “gold” of our lives is truly valuable when it is given prayerfully to the Lord. In Revelation 9:7, the reference to “gold” is of a different kind. It refers to “the locusts.” It does not refer directly to “gold.” It uses the intriguing phrase – “something like crowns of gold.” This phrase speaks to us of the counterfeit, something which is like the real thing but is not the real thing. Like “the locusts”, we must be “prepared for battle” (Revelation 9:7). We must be watchful. We must guard against the counterfeit. We must keep ourselves for God so that we may be presented to Him as that which is truly “gold.” “Prepared for battle”, we must wage war as those who trust in the Lord, “the One who gives victory” (Psalm 144:2). This is the way of blessing: “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 144:15).
18th December: Ezra 2:68-4:5; Revelation 9:13-10:11; Proverbs 30:24-33
At the heart of the rebuilding of the Temple, there was worship -“With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: ‘He is good; His love to Israel endures for ever” (Ezra 7:11). Those who worship the Lord are set within the context of a world that refuses to worship Him: “The rest of mankind … did not stop worshipping demons” (Revelation 9:20). Even when the call to conversion is sounded out clearly and often, we must reckon with the fact that many will refuse to come to Christ for salvation. His way is still the narrow way, while many take the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Part of God’s Word to today’s world is a word of rebuke: “If you have played the fool and exalted yourself, or if you have planned evil, clap your hands over your mouth!” (Proverbs 30:32). Stop answering back! Stop protesting against the Lord! Start listening to the Lord! Listen to His Word! The Lord has much to say to this generation, if only the people would listen. If the word of rebuke is heeded, perhaps, there will be a real opening for the word of salvation.
19th December: Ezra 4:6-5:17; Revelation 11:1-19; Psalm 145:1-7
Ezra speaks of the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem (Ezra 5:11). Revelation speaks of “God’s Temple in heaven” (Revelation 11:19). Both belong together – building the Church here on earth and building for the Kingdom of heaven. We must never be content with a measure of success in building the Church here on earth. God’s calling is heavenly. We look beyond the Church here on earth. We work towards the full and final fulfilment of God’s eternal purpose: “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). Here, on earth, we are learning to praise God – “I will exalt You, my God the King … Every day I will praise You” (Psalm 145:1-2). This praise will be complete in the glory of God’s heavenly and eternal Kingdom: “I will praise Your Name for ever and ever … and extol Your Name for ever and ever” (Psalm 145:1-2). However much God may bless our worship here on earth, there will always be an inadequacy about our worship in this earthly life: “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no-one can fathom” (Psalm 145:3). Psalm 145:4-7 gives a great description of the joyful celebration, which is true worship (Psalm 145:7). This joyful celebration will reach its fullness in the glory of heaven. There, we will see the most marvellous fulfilment of the words of Psalm 145:7: “They will celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness.”
20th December: Ezra 6:1-7:28
God’s work makes good progress when God’s people receive strength from God’s Word. Haggai and Zechariah were faithful in preaching God’s Word to the people. Their preaching ministry was very important. It was just what the builders needed. It inspired them to keep working. God’s House was rebuilt and God’s people rejoiced (Ezra 6:14-16). The rebuilding of God’s House was followed by the ministry of God’s servant, Ezra. ‘The hand of the Lord was upon Ezra’ (Ezra 7:6,28). His ministry was blessed by the Lord. In Ezra’s ministry of the Word, there are three vital elements – studying, doing and teaching (Ezra 7:10). Ezra did not only study and teach God’s Word. He did God’s Word. Obedience lies at the heart of true ministry. This is the kind of ministry that God blesses – an obedient ministry.
21st December: Ezra 8:1-9:15
The return of God’s people to Jerusalem was not simply a geographical return – moving from one place to another. It was a spiritual return. They were returning to the Lord. They were seeking His blessing (Ezra 8:21). Without God’s blessing, we are nothing. We may have happy memories of better days, recalling ‘the good old days’. We may look back to times of blessing, remembering how the hand of the Lord was upon us. If this is all we have, we have nothing. We are no longer in the place of blessing. We need to return to the Lord. The times of blessing can come again. God gives us His promise: ‘The hand of our God is for good upon all that seek Him’ (Ezra 8:22). God wants to bless us. How much do we want to be blessed by Him? If the times of blessing are to return to us, we must ‘return to the Lord’ (Isaiah 55:6-13).
The return of God’s blessing begins with a real confession of sin – ‘our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens’ (Ezra 9:6). If God chooses to bless us, it is not because we deserve to be blessed by Him. It is because He loves us and wants more than anything else to pour out His blessing upon us. Despite all of our sin, God’s Word encourages us to believe that the Lord may yet ‘grant us a little reviving’. Pray that God will ‘grant us some reviving to set up the House of our God’ (Ezra 9:8-9). This was Ezra’s prayer. It was the prayer of ‘a very great assembly of men, women and children’ (Ezra 10:1). If prayer for revival is real, it will be much more than pulpit prayer. There will be much prayer, arising from the hearts of many people: ‘If My people pray… I will heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14).
22nd December: Revelation 12:1-14:13
In Genesis 3:1, we read of ‘the serpent’. Here he is again – ‘that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan’. He is a powerful enemy. He ‘leads the whole world astray’. He is a determined enemy. ‘Day and night’, he is busy, accusing God’s children. He is a defeated enemy. ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb…’. This is not only Christ’s victory over Satan. This is our victory in Christ, the victory Christ has won for us. Why is Satan so busy? It’s because ‘he knows his time is short’ (Revelation 12:9-12). How are we to take our stand against Satan? We must listen to the Word of God: ‘He who has an ear, let him hear’. We must obey the Word of God: ‘This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness…’ (Revelation 13:9). Christ has won the victory for us. Let us claim His victory by faith.
With ‘patient endurance’, we are to ‘obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus’ (Revelation 14:12), This will not be easy. Satan will do all that he can to defeat us. How can we be ‘victorious’ over him? We must rejoice in all that God has done for His people, Israel. He delivered them from their bondage in Egypt. We sing ‘the song of Moses’. Beyond the great event of the Exodus, there is something even more wonderful. We rejoice in what God has done for us – ‘In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself’. We sing ‘the song of the Lamb’ (Revelation 15:2-3; Deuteronomy 7:7-8; 2 Corinthians 5:19). we hear God’s call – ‘Fear God and give Him glory’. We consider His ‘great and marvellous deeds’. In our hearts, we say, ‘Who will not fear You, O Lord, and bring glory to Your Name’ (Revelation 14:7; Revelation 15:3-4).
23rd December: Psalm 145 & Proverbs 31
‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. His greatness is beyond understanding’. Let us worship our great God: ‘I will exalt You, my God the King. I will praise Your Name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:1-3). The God whom we worship is so much greater than the worship we bring to Him. Our worship is to be a ‘joyful celebration’. We celebrate His great love: ‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’. We rejoice in His great faithfulness: ‘The Lord is faithful to all His promises’. Here on earth, we have only begun to worship our great God. Our worship will continue in His ‘everlasting Kingdom’. There, we will ‘praise His Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:7-8,13,21).
‘A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies… Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised’ (Proverbs 31:10,30). We are to seek ‘treasures in heaven’ rather than ‘treasures on earth’ (Matthew 6:19-21). The riches of this world will not last for ever: ‘All your riches and splendour have vanished, never to be recovered… “Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!”’. There is one treasure which lasts forever – the treasure of salvation. Let us praise our Saviour: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and power and glory belong to our God’ (Revelation 18:14-17; 19:1).
24th December: Ezra 10:1-44; Revelation 14:14-15:8; Psalm 146:1-10
God’s people are to belong to Him alone. Influences which are foreign to the Gospel of Christ, alien to the Word of God, are to be excluded from our lives so that we might be, more truly and more fully, the people of God. This is the message of Ezra 10, as it emphasizes the sinfulness of God’s people intermarrying with those who worship false gods. From our lives as well as our lips, there is to be the song of praise, found in Revelation 15:3-4. It is a song of praise which gives God His rightful place in our lives. We acknowledge Him as the holy God, the God of righteousness. We affirm that His ways are just and true. We submit to Him – “Who would not fear You, O Lord.” We seek His glory – “and bring glory to Your Name?” (Revelation 15:4). This commitment to singing the praise of the Lord involves the whole of our life – “I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live” (Psalm 146:2). This lifelong commitment is not to be fulfilled in our own strength. We need the strength of the Lord. “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Israel” (Psalm 146:5).
25th December: Nehemiah 1:1-2:20; Revelation 16:1-21; Psalm 147:1-11
27th December: Nehemiah 5:1-7:3; Revelation 18:1-17a; Proverbs 31:10-20
Again, the combination of prayer and work is seen in Nehemiah – “I devoted myself to the work on this wall” (Nehemiah 5:16), “I prayed, ‘Now, strengthen my hands.’” (Nehemiah 6:9). “So the wall was completed … this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:15-16). We may contrast the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and the fall of Babylon – “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!” (Revelation 18:2).The contrast between Jerusalem and Babylon – the ‘tale of two cities’ – is the contrast between God and the devil, between holiness and sin, godliness and ungodliness, righteousness and unrighteousness, good and evil. the triumph is the Lord’s. The word of judgment concerning Babylon has been spoken (Revelation 18:10,16-17). Proverbs 31:10 tells us that “noble character … is worth far more than rubies.” Again, what a contrast there is between the rich blessing of noble character and the empty futility of worldly riches: “Woe! Woe, a great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!” (Revelation 18:16-17).
28th December: Nehemiah 7:4-8:18; Revelation 18:17b-19:10; Psalm 148:1-6
We are called to “worship God” (Revelation 19:10). Our worship is to be with reverence and joy. “Be still: “This is the call for reverence (Nehemiah 8:11). Alongside this reverence, there is to be joy: “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). We are to “rejoice” in the Lord (Revelation 18:20). This joy is not a superficial emotion. It is accompanied by the reverence which comes from taking seriously the “woe” that is pronounced on the “great city” that lives for this world only (Revelation 18:19). Joyful worship arises from “a great multitude in heaven” (Revelation 19:1). Four times, in Revelation 19, we read, “Hallelujah!” (Revelation 19:1,3,4,6). “Hallelujah” means ‘Praise the Lord.’ Our praise is to be characterized by joy: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!” (Revelation 19:7). This joy is grounded in an awe-inspiring face: “Our Lord God Almighty reigns” (Revelation 19:6). “Praise the Lord”: These are the first words and the message of Psalm 148. The ‘choir’ which praises the Lord is truly astonishing (Psalm 148:1-4). Our song of praise participates in the song of praise which arises from God’s whole creation. This inspires us to worship Him, more truly and more fully.
29th December: Nehemiah 9:1-37; Revelation 19:1-21; Psalm 148:7-14
In the history of Israel, we read a great deal about the history of human sin. First and foremost, however, it is the story of God’s grace and mercy. Israel’s sin is there in the forefront: “We are slaves today … Because of our sins … We are in great distress” (Nehemiah 9:36-37). Even more significant is the God of grace and mercy: “But in Your great mercy You did not put an end to them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and a merciful God” (Nehemiah 9:31). The God of grace and mercy is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). He reigns in grace and mercy. This is not to suggest that there is no judgment. There will be judgment. People from all walks of life come under the divine judgment (Revelation 19:18). There is, however, a way of escaping judgment. It is the way of coming to the Saviour: “Come, gather together for the great supper of God” (Revelation 19:17). When the redeemed of the Lord are gathered together for the great supper of God, it will be perfectly clear that “His Name alone is exalted: His splendour is above the earth and the heavens” (Psalm 148:13).
30th December: Nehemiah 9:38-11:21; Revelation 20:1-15; Psalm 149:1-9
31st December: Nehemiah 11:22-12:47; Revelation 21:1-27; Proverbs 31:21-31
“At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem”, the keynote of the service was joyful thanksgiving. They gathered together “to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving” (Nehemiah 12:27). “On that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy” (Nehemiah 12:43). They sang “songs of praise and thanksgiving to God” (Nehemiah 12:46). This joyful thanksgiving is only a foretaste of the greater joy and thanksgiving of heaven: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). In the city of God, “the glory of God” will be shining with everlasting brightness (Revelation 21:23). The Church of God will be “prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). The beautiful picture of the godly wife in Proverbs 31 gives us an outline of what God is seeking to do in His people. It is summarized in Proverbs 31:30: “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” This is what God wants to make His Bride, the Church – a people who fear the Lord and bring praise to Him.
1st January: Nehemiah 13:1-31; Revelation 22:1-21; Psalm 150:1-6
Each day, we stand between the past and the future. In our prayers, we call upon God to “remember” (Nehemiah 13:14,22,29,31). There are two different kinds of ‘remembering’ here. God remembers his faithful servants. He also remembers those who have been unfaithful. As we face the future, we must be guided by both the Gospel invitation and the Gospel warning (Revelation 22:17-19). Salvation is offered to all. It is to be received by faith in Christ. There is also judgment for those who refuse to “come” to Him. Whatever our reaction to Him may be, God maintains His saving intention. He waits patiently for us to heed the call to “praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:1,6). “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).