Wednesday, December 13, 2017

December 13

Obadiah 1:1-21; Revelation 4:1-11; Psalm 132:1-18; Proverbs 29:24-25

A friend once told me that she got so tired of the "7-11" songs that they sang at her church.  "It's the same eleven words and we sing them seven times over."  Her not-so-implicit criticism revealed that she thought the more modern worship songs were a bit light on significance.  I smiled at her view, but I've never forgotten it.  I, too, like the old hymns with their great theological truths, harmonies, and weight.  

When I come to this passage in the New Testament, though, I'm forced to reconsider.  The four living creatures sing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come" (Rev. 4:8).  Um, that's sixteen words, and some of those are repeated words.  That leaves only eleven distinct words!  And when it comes to singing those words seven times, the creatures have that beat: "day and night they never stop saying" (vs. 8) this profound truth.  So much for a 7-11 song having little or no substance!  It goes to show that the great old hymns (like the Israelites' liturgy, the Psalms) are valid expressions of praise, just as the contemporary songs (like the creatures' worship) are.  

And then, of course, there are the words sung by the twenty-four elders.  How I wish I could write music to go with such profound, powerful words!  This expression of praise echoes the gospel that John wrote before he received the vision that we now read as the book of Revelation.  "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made" (Jn. 1:3) says his gospel; "you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being" (Rev. 4:11) sings his vision.  I love the cohesiveness of Scripture, and these writings by John are inextricably tied together.  How beautiful.  How amazing.

There is no better way for me to end this post today than by praising God.

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being" (Rev. 4:11). Amen and amen.

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

December 12

Amos 7:1-9:15; Revelation 3:7-22; Psalm 131:1-3; Proverbs 29:23

I can't believe we are almost done with this year!! Christmas is quickly sneaking up on us. Are you enjoying this Christmas season? I know I am. I love all the decorations, lights, and yummy foods that this season brings. However, in the 20+ years that I have been reading the OYB, I have often lamented that the OYB readings did not better coincide with the Christmas season. It almost seems like our readings have nothing to do with Advent.  But God is so good in revealing himself to us. I am actually really enjoying the readings through the minor prophets, and even Revelation is growing on me just a bit. 

Let's look at today's passages and see if we can find some good truth and maybe even a little something that reminds us of Advent and the birth of our Savior. Let's start by looking at some common themes found in all the biblical prophetic writings and lives.

Amos is again warning Israel that their time of judgment is coming. "The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer" (Amos 8:2), says the Lord. We see Amos repeating this warning over and over again throughout this book – a call to repentance and a warning for those who persist in disobedience.

In the conversation between Amos and the priest Amaziah, we encounter another common theme among the biblical prophets – the reluctance to become a prophet of Yahweh. Amos basically states that he never sought out the office of prophet and was happy being a shepherd and caring for sycamore-fig trees (7:14). But God called an ordinary man to go and prophesy to his people, and Amos was obedient to do just that. 

Finally, let's look at one last common theme found in all the major and minor prophets -- the hope for eventual redemption and restoration.  At the end of Amos 9, we once again see the Lord promising to bring back his exiled people, to rebuild their ruined cities, and even to cause the land to flourish with fruit and goodness.

I can't help but think about the United States when I read these passages. They are so applicable to our post-Christian nation today. The Lord will use a plumb line on us as well. Will we line up or be found wanting? And what about the prophets and people who speak his hard words of truth to us today? Do we listen? Or turn away and tell them to stop saying these words? Do we think them ridiculous for their "old school" beliefs? We just want to skip to the part about the flourishing and blessing.

Honestly, I worry about our nation. I worry about myself. We read in Revelation, "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (3:17). Doesn't that just sound like so many of us today? We are so sure of our own right-ness that we are so blind to our true state of depravity. Lord, have mercy.

Okay, so far this doesn't sound too much like an Advent post, does it? Well, for me it is, and here's why. Jesus is the answer!! His birth and death answered all of the calls for judgment spoken by the prophets. He also, just like the prophets, brought a message of repentance and restoration. He, too, was an ordinary man with a message for all humanity. Am I stretching it? Maybe, but these are good truths. May we have the humility to accept them. May we, and all those in our great nation, actually listen, truly listen, to the message Jesus brings to us today.

- Mary Matthias

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.