Tag Archives: sovereignty

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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Today’s Scripture – June 17, 2013

Isaiah 45:3-6 (NIV):  I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.  For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.

 

God is the LORD, and there is no other.  No matter what people do, no matter how many band together, there is nothing that they can do that will thwart His will or obstruct His plans.  He has a plan that He is working right now, and it will be accomplished.  Even before He sent the tribe of Judah into exile in Babylon, He had already selected Cyrus and planned his rise to power.  Before Cyrus’ grandfather was even born, God had already told Isaiah that He would raise him up so that he would let God’s people go, sending them back to Jerusalem, and even giving them supplies and equipment to rebuild the city and the temple.  Cyrus was not a person who worshipped God, or followed Him; he never acknowledged that it was the Lord who had brought him to his exalted position.  But still God raised him up, provided him with riches of the earth, put him above his followers, strengthened him, gave him wisdom and intelligence, and finally gave him victory over those who held God’s people.  As He did with Pharaoh ages before, God moved his heart to obey His will – in this case, to let God’s people go without the need for plagues or disaster.  Cyrus never knew that it was God who was moving his heart – he thought it was his own idea.

God moves those who follow Him, molding and shaping their circumstances, their thoughts, and their actions, to further His agenda.  He does this with their permission, because they have surrendered themselves to Him.  But God also moves those who do not follow Him when He needs to use them to further His agenda.  He does this without their permission, because they refuse to acknowledge Him as the sovereign Lord.

Obviously, if someone is willing to be moved by God’s hand, He can provide abundant blessings in their lives.  But those who set themselves against Him do so to their own ruin.  God will still accomplish His will, using them in the process, but they usually will end up destroying themselves by trying to resist His will, much as Pharaoh did in his hard-hearted resistance to God’s will.

 

Father, I consider it a privilege to be used by You to help others find salvation.  I am Yours to command, to move, to use for Your glory and the accomplishment of Your will.  May Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Start with me.  Amen.

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