Tag Archives: sovereignty

Today’s Scripture – June 17, 2018

Luke 23:13-25 (NIV) Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”
With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)
Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”
But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

This was the worst day Pilate could ever remember. He had breathed a little easier after he sent Jesus to Herod, believing that Herod would take the whole case off his hands. But then, not an hour later, the priests and leaders showed up again with Jesus still in tow.

Pilate told them clearly that neither he nor, apparently, Herod, had found Jesus guilty of anything deserving punishment, certainly not of being an agitator of the people. But, for some reason that he couldn’t quite fathom, the whole crowd seemed thirsty for blood. So, Pilate tried to placate them by promising to whip Jesus as punishment for any small crimes that He may have committed, before letting Him go.

But, to his surprise and dismay, the crowd shouted him down, demanding over and over again that if anyone was released to them, it be a REAL insurrectionist and murderer named Barabbas. And, even more alarming, they were shouting that Jesus be crucified, the most heinous penalty that Rome every dished out, and typically only for the most heinous of crimes, crimes that he was sure Jesus had never gotten near.

Pilate tried to reason with the leaders and the crowd, but the more he tried, the more rabid their response became. In fact, they were dangerously close to starting a riot. If that happened, Pilate would have to respond harshly to put it down, which would reflect poorly on him with his superiors, all the way up to the emperor. Governors were supposed to maintain the peace with as little bloodshed as possible.

In the end, it was simple math that caused Pilate to turn Jesus over for crucifixion. Better for one likely innocent man to die than for a rebellion to be sparked that would cost the lives of dozens, perhaps hundreds. With a deep sigh, Pilate gave the order, and unwittingly set in motion the end-game that God had determined would happen from before time began.

Father, so much of the time we lose track of the fact that You are working Your plan in the world. We have the privilege as Your people to work alongside You, or we can choose to defy Your will, try to work against Your purposes, and end up crushed in the gears You are turning. How much better to simply keep our ears and eyes open and our hearts soft so that You can use us to work Your plans. Lord, help me to never defy Your will, to never say no to You, to never get in Your way. If I work with You, I understand that I will be swimming upstream against the culture of the world, but I will also be working in the sphere of your love, Your power, Your grace. MUCH preferred. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 16, 2018

Luke 19:47-48 (NIV) Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

Jesus’ life was in imminent danger. The powers that be had it in for Him, and were waiting for a single slip, a single word from His lips that could be turned against Him and used to build a case against Him in court, preferably charges that could be used as a basis for a death sentence.

But Jesus showed not the least concern. He knew that his time was up, and that before the end of the week, God would move His defenses aside and open the way for Him to be arrested, tried, and even executed.

But He would not hurry the process. He would not intentionally set Himself up for the fall that He knew was coming. He was in no way suicidal, and would not fall on His own sword. He would simply continue His kingdom work until the very moment that the trap of His enemies was laid and sprung.

On the other side, the Jewish leaders were in a high state of turmoil. Their hatred of Jesus had become all-consuming. But they found themselves completely impotent, unable to move on their hatred. If they confronted Jesus, He calmly cut them to pieces with the words of His well-reasoned and entirely biblical theology. If they laid out the cleverest traps they could devise, He deftly sidestepped them, often turning their own logic against them, sending them away with their tails between their legs.

They knew that their only other option, simply marching in and arresting Jesus while He taught in the temple, would be useless at best. The crowds that constantly surrounded Jesus were so caught up by His teachings that it was most likely that they would turn on them and cause a riot. They had no idea where Jesus was staying at night, although they knew that it was not in the city where He could be taken out under cover of darkness. Unless they caught a break somehow, He was going to escape their clutches again!

Father, I can see two things very clearly here. One is that You were working in this situation the whole time, so that even when Jesus’ enemies succeeded in arresting and executing Him, they had to wait for You to enable it, and then it would happen exactly as You had planned and foretold it. The second is that Jesus had absolute peace, even in the midst of His enemies, because He knew that He was 100% within Your will, and that they couldn’t lay a finger on Him until You orchestrated it. And, even then, He would still remain 100% within Your will. Help me to live every moment of my life that same way, and with that same level of trust and peace. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 28, 2018

Luke 19:14 (NIV) “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’”

The people who hated this nobleman were not his servants (although one of the servants had a low opinion of his master – verse 21), but were the people who would be subject to him when he was granted the kingship. If the nobleman in the story represents Jesus, which is clearly the case, these people who rejected the nobleman and his claim to rule over them are the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, and the high priests. They continually refused to acknowledge Jesus’ authority to do what God had called Him to do, and their worst fear was that the people would elevate Him to the throne, and then they would have no choice but to acknowledge His authority.

But Jesus was far more than their deepest fears would even consider Him to be. Jesus had no desire for an earthly throne, even the throne of Israel. That would have been an infinite leap downward from the throne that was rightfully His: the throne of the kingdom of God.

But what these leaders failed to recognize was that rejection of Jesus and His authority over the kingdom of God was rejection of God as well (Luke 10:16). By refusing to accept Jesus’ authority, they were rejecting the authority of God, since God had sent Jesus, and since Jesus did all things at His specific direction (John 5:19). By plotting to overthrow the one that God had sent in His name they were actively rebelling against God and against His authority.

But these leaders could not see these realities. They sincerely believed that their resistance to Jesus, their defiance of His claim to the throne, was upholding God’s holiness. They had blinded themselves by their own self-righteousness, and they couldn’t even see the doom that their rebellion was bringing on them.

Father, how many people are incurring the same doom by refusing to acknowledge Jesus’ sovereignty over their lives. They want so badly to keep their own self-sovereignty that they completely reject Jesus and all that He stands for. Lord, help me to see those around me who are standing in such peril, and to show them the great blessings of Your kingdom by my own life, so that they can see, turn, and be saved. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 5, 2017

Luke 1:8-17 (NIV) Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah had been praying for a son for many long years, but he didn’t understand that God was planning something special for Him and Elizabeth. Now that the time had come, God was going to tell him that his prayers had always been heard, and were now going to be answered. So He arranged for Zechariah’s name to be drawn by lot to burn incense in the temple. For that task, he would be alone in the holy place and focused on God, so He could send His angel and find the man in a very receptive state.

Offering incense in the temple was a rare opportunity. Some priests never got their name chosen their whole life. So Zechariah was thrilled to actually get the chance to enter the temple and do this task for God. Immediately after he put the incense on the hot coals, producing a fragrant cloud of thick smoke, Gabriel, God’s chosen messenger appeared to him. Needless to say, Zechariah was startled at the sight, and instinctively jumped back. But before he could turn and run out of the temple, Gabriel delivered his divine pronouncement.

First of all, he reassured Zechariah that his prayers had not only been heard, but were finally being answered. Elizabeth would give birth to a son, even at her advanced age, and Zechariah was to give him the name John. John was to be a man devoted to God for a special purpose, even from birth. As such, he was never to drink anything fermented. Instead, God would fill him with the Holy Spirit his whole life, even before he was born, something that He had never done for anyone before.

Then Gabriel dropped the real bombshell: John would be the one who would go out in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah Himself, fulfilling Malachi 4:5-6. Zechariah, like many of the people of that day, was waiting expectantly for the Messiah to appear, and now here was a mighty angel of God telling him not only that the Messiah was on His way, but that his own soon-to-be-conceived son would be the Messiah’s forerunner! It was almost more than he could comprehend.

Father, it is interesting to think that Zechariah had prayed so long for this one heart’s desire that he had fallen into habit, and was shocked when he heard that you actually were answering him. And what an answer! So much more than he ever could have imagined. Help me to be both steadfast and faithful in my prayers, so that I always bring them in a state of expectant anticipation until I see Your answer. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 4, 2017

Luke 1:5-7 (NIV) In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

God chose this moment in time to act, because all of the necessary preparations had finally been completed. A large swath of Europe and the Middle East had a single trade language, Greek, and the Romans had built and were continuing to build roads and other infrastructure all of which would enable the messengers of the gospel to get the message out to millions of people quickly and easily. The time had now fully come (Galatians 4:4), so He began to put His plans into motion.

The first item was the promised forerunner, who would go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the hearts of the people for the Messiah, who would follow in his wake (Malachi 4:5-6). To bring this person into existence, God chose a unique couple who were both completely devoted to Him, and who lived their lives uprightly and blamelessly before Him: Zechariah and Elizabeth. Like many couples God chose to have special children, they were childless, and were beyond the normal child-bearing age, so that there would be no question that the child they would have was a special gift from Him.

Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were descendants of Aaron, making Zechariah a priest who served in the temple, an intermediary between God and His people. John, their son, would also be born a priest by birthright, but his intermediation would be different than that of his father and his ancestors. Whereas Zechariah brought people near to God by presenting their sacrifices on the altar, John would bring people near to God by leading them to repentance. Whereas Zechariah presented the blood of the spotless sacrifices so that the sins of the people would be forgiven, John led people to turn away from their sinful attitudes and behaviors and to turn back to God so that they would be in a position to receive the Messiah when He came.

All of that was more than thirty years in the future at this point. But everything had finally been lined up, the key players had been chosen, and the ball was finally beginning to roll.

Father, it is easy to forget that You were moving behind the scenes all through history to bring things to that point where Jesus could come into the world and begin the process of establishing the new covenant. Even the choice of parents for both John and Jesus was not left to chance. It was all too important. The salvation of all of the people of the world, including me, hung in the balance, and you cared enough to get it all exactly right. Thank You! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 25, 2017

Matthew 26:1-5 (NIV) When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away–and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”

Jesus had a far better grasp of the way things would roll out than those who were supposedly in control of the situation. From the beginning, God had decided that the Messiah would be sacrificed at the Passover, and that ultimate sacrifice formed the basis of the symbolism that He included in the first Passover event (Exodus 12:1-13), not the other way around.

Jesus knew that He would be sacrificed on Friday, only two days away, to fulfill all of the Scriptures. But the chief priests and elders shied away from doing anything to Him during the Passover festival, because they had seen the adulation of Jesus by the crowds, and reasonably figured that merely arresting Jesus, let alone trying to execute Him, would cause a riot.

They couldn’t see that early the very next day, one of Jesus’ own disciples would knock at their door, extending an offer to betray Jesus into their hands at His camping spot on the Mount of Olives. That would enable them to arrest Him out of the public eye, and have Him tried and condemned before most people were out of bed.  It would be an opportunity that would change everything, and that they would jump at, completely oblivious to the fact that it was God Himself who was orchestrating the timing.

Father, You are the Sovereign of the universe, and Your planned timing will always come through, no matter what roadblocks we mere humans try to throw in Your path. Help us to fit ourselves into Your plan, instead of breaking ourselves against You by trying to resist it. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 21, 2014

Exodus 3:16-17 (NIV):  “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob– appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.  And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites–a land flowing with milk and honey.’”

The descendants of Israel in Egypt during their 400 year sojourn had lost track of the fact that they were God’s people, and that He was their God.  In the midst of their toiling and suffering oppression, they had no sense that He was present with them, watching over them, and putting the pieces into place that would ultimately lead not only to their salvation from slavery, but to their inheritance of the Promised Land, as He had sworn to their forefathers.

At first the process seemed too hard.  Pharaoh increased their workload in response to God’s demand that he let His people go.  And the people almost lost heart.  They couldn’t yet see how God was working His plan, even in the midst of their trials.  Then came weeks of plagues that God brought on Egypt – plagues that devastated the Egyptians, but left His people untouched.  Only then did the people begin to realize what was really happening:  that the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was really working on their behalf to set them free.  Only then did hope begin to spring up in their hearts.  Only then did the old promises, passed down through the generations, begin to glow with new life.

The thing is, God had been with them the whole time, even in the hardest of times.  He had been watching over them, guiding them, protecting them, and helping them to grow into a great nation (despite varied attempts to slow down the multiplication rate by Pharaoh!).  They were unaware of God’s presence, blind to the actions He was taking on their behalf, and ignorant of the thousands of graces that He showered on them every day; unaware of miracles that He was performing to keep them on track with His plans for them.  It was only when they found the burden too hard to bear, the trials too hot to tolerate, that they called on God to act, and their eyes were opened so that they could see His hand at work on their behalf.

Father, it would be easy to criticize these people for not seeing the many ways in which You were actively present, doing everything necessary to make all of Your promises come true.  But, Lord, how often are we the same as them!  How often do we fail to sense Your presence with us, Your hand protecting us from a thousand things each day that could ruin or kill us, but from which You protect us without us even being aware of the danger!  How many ways have You gone out of Your way to bless us, and we blissfully receive the blessing without even being aware of Your hand; without a single word of thanks!  Forgive us, Lord, for being so blind, so deaf, so senseless, and so lacking in gratitude.  Open all of our senses so that we can clearly see Your hand at work, so we can feel Your presence, so we can take heart that You are near in every trial.  Amen.

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