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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


February 2015

Daily Bible thoughts 814: Monday 16th February 2015: Zephaniah 2:4-7

Zephaniah 2:4-7

‘’The LORD their God will care for them; he will restore their fortunes.’’ (7b)

  • Even in tough times, remember that God loves you. He is your ever-caring Shepherd (Psalm 23). He will be with His ‘flock’, even though they ‘’walk through the darkest valley’’ (Ps.23:4amarginal reference.) It is true that this verse in Zephaniah refers to Judah’s future after the exile. Nevertheless, because of God’s unchanging Shepherding nature, He was caring for them even in the distressing days of captivity. If you belong to the Lord, know that He cares for you this He will be with you in the rain and in the sun.
  • God can turn around the worst situations. He can cause unlikely things to happen. When Zephaniah spoke these words, it was probably hard for Jewish people to envisage things being turned on their head in such a dramatic fashion. But the Lord God Almighty is able to do the unthinkable and unimaginable. He is able to restore ‘’fortunes’’, and He does! The Jewish ‘fortunes’ were restored following the Babylonian captivity. But the full restoration awaits the time of Jesus’ second coming.
  • Don’t be overly impressed by people and places that seem impregnable. Don’t trust in them for security. They will fail you. Think about Jesus’ words about the magnificent temple buildings being brought down (Matthew 24: 1, 2). Remember the vision of the destruction of mighty Babylon (Revelation 18). Think about the scene in today’s verses; the picture of Philistia overthrown. There are powerful and impressive people and places in the world that can be (and will be) decimated by God’s judgment. We may imagine them to be perpetual monuments, but nothing will be able to withstand the blast of the firestorm of Divine wrath. In the remainder of chapter 2, God announces His judgment on the nations around Judah. Philistia is the first to be mentioned, and it is represented by four of its leading cities (4). The ‘’Philistines’’ (or ‘’Kerethites’’ ) were ancient and strong enemies of Israel who lived in the western part of Canaan, along the Mediterranean coast (verses 5-6). God says that the faithful ‘’remnant’’ of Judah (those we read about in verse 3) will eventually occupy Philistia. This happened when the Jews returned from Babylonian exile. Let’s not miss the point that God can give His people all He wants them to have, and He can deal thoroughly and decisively with all the enemies of His church. This passage reminds us again of who is in charge. We may go through days when it appears that people are running the show. But this is never the case.

‘’According to Amos 1:6-8, they took Jewish people captive from cities in southern Judah and sold them to other nations as slaves. But the time would come when their populous cities would be empty and their land left desolate, a place for shepherds to feed their flocks. Their coastal cities, made wealthy by vast shipping enterprises, would be destroyed by the enemy and left in ruins. Nebuchadnezzar invaded Philistia and conquered it, and the only remnant of that great nation left today is the name ‘’Palestine,’’ which comes from ‘’Philistine’’ (see Ezek.25:15-28:26).’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘The Wiersbe Bible Commentary’, p.1484. Sin has consequences!

Prayer: Thank you Lord that my life is in your Hands and you are in control, even on days when everything seems wildly out of kilter.

Daily Bible thoughts 813: Friday 13th February 2015: Zephaniah 2:1-3

Zephaniah 2:1-3 (click here for passage)

‘’Seek the LORD, you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility.’’ (3a)

Humility is a prized quality in the Bible. You could say that it is the ‘soil’ in which the other Christian graces flower

You cannot have too much humility. In the above text the ‘’humble’’ are exhorted to ‘’seek humility.’’

Humility is the key to true greatness: ‘’Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.’’ (James 4:10; see 1 Peter 5:6 and Philippians 2:1-11)).

Here are three thoughts suggested by today’s short reading:

  • Humility shows itself in prayerfulness. Humility and seeking the Lord go together. Humility involves recognition of your smallness, and His bigness. This awareness will drive you into God’s arms. In humility you see your helplessness and God’s power; your need and His ability. Proud people rush on to get things done in their own strength.They are supremely confident of their abilities. Humble people lean on God to get the job done. They do not renege on their responsibilities, but they know they will never do God’s work in their own unaided strength. Day after day will find them on their knees, metaphorically if not literally. They are not too proud to ask for help.
  • Humility shows itself in holiness. There can be no genuine holiness without it. Prayer and obedience go together. If we hold on to favourite sins they will clog up the channel of prayer. Seeking the Lord cannot be divorced from taking active steps to conform your life to God’s Word. In humility you admit that God’s ways are right and best and you endeavour to align yourself with them. It takes humility to admit that you are wrong. Progress in holiness will necessitate the repeated use of this admission.
  • Humility shows itself in repentance. In the Bible we see over and over that sin leads to judgment. But God wants to save people from His judgment. Therefore He is patient, and gives many warnings and calls to change (2 Peter 3:9). In the first three verses of this second chapter, God is calling His people to seek Him ‘’before’’ His judgment sweeps through the land. (Note how the word is used three times in verse 2) ‘’Do it before you’re blown away like leaves in a windstorm.’’ The Message. But it takes humility to repent. It takes humility to say, ‘I/we have done wrong.’ It takes humility to confess your sins. It takes humility to ask for forgiveness. It takes humility to change your mind about the way you have been living, and fully embrace God’s road map for your life.

Such humility is possible. It grows in the lives of those who ‘’seek’’ it; it is cultivated in the people who ‘’Seek the LORD…’’

Prayer: I ask that the mind of Jesus, who humbled Himself, will be in me.

Daily Bible thoughts 812: Thursday 12th February 2015: Zephaniah 1:14-18

Zephaniah 1:14-18 (click here for todays passage)

‘’…for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.’’ (18b).

It’s interesting that it’s not only ‘religious’ people who believe that life on earth cannot continue forever. A recent piece in ‘Time’ magazine, headed: ‘COUNTDOWN TO APOCALYPSE’ said this: ‘’The minute hand of the Doomsday Clock was moved forward two minutes to 11:57 on Jan.22, the first adjustment in three years. The time on the clock, which was created in 1945, is set by a board of scientists and nuclear experts and symbolizes the world’s proximity to global catastrophe.’’

The Bible’s teaching about ‘’The great day of the LORD…’’ should not be taken lightly. It is a major theme in Scripture, and is not there for merely decorative purposes. As we have seen, Zephaniah in speaking about this ‘day’ saw the invasion of the Babylonians in the foreground (15, 16). But he also saw the last judgment in the distance (18b, 1:2, 3). If that is going to come ‘suddenly’ we had better prepare for it now. In view of the end of all things, the big question becomes, ‘In what (or in whom) do you trust?’ It seems that many people in Zephaniah’s day relied on their affluence (10 -13, 18a). The temptation to trust in material possessions remains, but wealth is an unreliable idol. It is a poor substitute for the living God! ‘’Don’t plan on buying your way out. Your money is worthless for this.’’ The Message.

‘’Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.’’ (1 Timothy 6:17 – underling mine).

‘’Let others boast of heaps of gold, Christ for me; His riches never can be told, Christ for me. Your gold will rust and wear away; your honours perish in a day. But while I’ve breath I mean to say, Christ for me.’’

The hymn writer was on to something! The only way to be ready for the ‘flood’ of judgment that will one day engulf the earth, is to trust in the ‘Ark’ of safety that is Jesus. He bore your judgment in His death on the cross. If you step into Him by faith you will be safe.

‘’This is the Day of GOD’s Judgment –my wrath! I care about sin with fiery passion – A fire to burn up the corrupted world, a wildfire finish to the corrupting people.’’ The Message.

‘’Sin attracts with its offer of pleasure, but in the end he who indulges finds that he has no pleasure at all.’ David H.Wheaton (writing about 2 Peter 2:13). Reading verse 17 reminded me of that quote. Sin has a great marketing strategy. It makes itself look good. But when you ‘buy’ you find yourself worse off. In some ways we sin because we are blind. But it is also true to say that more and more sin leads to a deeper, darker blindness. Sin leads nowhere good. It results in damage and destruction. Ultimately it leads to judgment. When the end comes, as come it will, where will your confidence be?

Prayer: We live in a scary world Lord, but thank you that there is nothing to fear for all who trust in you.

Daily Bible thoughts 811: Wednesday 11th February 2015: Zephaniah 1:4-13

Zephaniah 1:4-13 (click here for todays passage)

The book of ‘Zephaniah’ opens with God speaking. He says that He is going to ‘’sweep’’ the whole world clean (2, 3). However, He was going to start with His own people (see 1 Peter 4:17, 18). He was going to start pushing His broom around Judah and Jerusalem.

Here are some extracts from The Message: ‘’I’ll start with Judah and everybody who lives in Jerusalem. I’ll sweep the place clean of every trace of the sex-and-religion Baal shrines and their priests. I’ll get rid of the people who sneak up to their rooftops at night to worship the star gods and goddesses; Also those who continue to worship GOD but cover their bases by worshipping other king-gods as well; Not to mention those who’ve dumped GOD altogether, no longer giving him a thought or offering a prayer…I will punish those who dress up like foreign priests and priestesses, Who introduce pagan prayers and practices; And I’ll punish all who import pagan superstitions that turn holy places into hellholes…Wail, you shopkeepers on Market Street! Moneymaking has had its day. The god Money is dead. On Judgment Day, I’ll search through every closet and alley in Jerusalem. I’ll find and punish those who are sitting it out, fat and lazy, amusing themselves and taking it easy, Who think, ‘God doesn’t do anything, good or bad. He isn’t involved, so neither are we.’ But just wait. They’ll lose everything they have, money and house and land. ‘’

So here are some things God is going to ‘’sweep away’’:

  • Idolatry (4, 5a, 8, 9; see Leviticus 18:2; Judges 2:11-13): God hates false religion. It breaks His commandments and steals from His glory;
  • Syncretism (5b): This is the mixing of the worship of the Lord with strange ‘ingredients’ from other religions. It results in a bitter tasting ‘cake’ that God hates. It does not please Him. People may have been ‘hedging their bets’ in worshipping several gods. If so, this exposed their lack of faith in and loyalty towards the true God;
  • Backsliding/apostasy (6);
  • Complacency (12, 13): In spite of repeated prophetic warnings, and ‘signs of the times’, there were many people who refused to listen or see. Their view was that things would just carry on as normal and God wouldn’t do anything. They saw Him as inactive; as being indifferent to sin (see 2 Peter 3:3-7; Deuteronomy 28:30-33). So they kept their heads down and enjoyed their comfortable lifestyles. But they would be in for a rude awakening. God said that He had ‘’prepared a sacrifice’’ (the people of Judah). He had ‘’invited’’ the Babylonians to be the ‘’consecrated’’ priests at this sacrifice (7). This judgment came upon Judah about thirty years after Zephaniah spoke these words (see 2 Kings 25:1-11). We may not like to read words about judgment, but if you ignore them you will be avoiding much of the Bible. It is because God loves people so much that He hates evil so much. Whenever judgment is spoken about, the thing to always remember is that forgiveness is available to all who repent and trust in Christ. He died in our place. That is good news! But first we need to receive the bad news of how ‘sick’ we are before we will put ourselves in the hands of the ‘Doctor’.

Prayer: Help me to permit no idols to cross the threshold of my heart. I pray that you will reign supreme in me.

Daily Bible thoughts 810: Tuesday 10th February 2015: Zephaniah 1:1-3

Zephaniah 1:1-3 (click here for todays passage~)

‘’We humans keep looking for a religion that will give us access to God without having to bother with people…This determination to get ourselves a religion that gives us an inside track with God, but leaves us free to deal with people however we like is age-old…It is also the sort of religion that the biblical prophets are determined to root out. They are dead set against it. Because the root of the solid spiritual life is embedded in a relationship between people and God, it is easy to develop the misunderstanding that my spiritual life is something personal between God and me – a private thing to be nurtured by prayers and singing, spiritual readings that comfort and inspire, and worship with like-minded friends. If we think this way for very long, we will assume that the way we treat the people we don’t like or who don’t like us has nothing to do with God. That’s when the prophets step in and interrupt us, insisting, ‘’Everything you do or think or feel has to do with God. Every person you meet has to do with God.’’ We live in a vast world of interconnectedness, and the connections have consequences, either in things or in people – and all the consequences come together in God…We can’t be reminded too often or too forcefully of this reckoning. Zephaniah’s voice in the choir of prophets sustains the intensity, the urgency.’’ From Eugene Peterson’s introduction to ‘Zephaniah’ in ‘The Message’.

‘’I will sweep away…I will sweep away…I will sweep away…’’ (2 and 3).

As I walked around my office this morning, I thought, ‘This place needs a good sweeping out.’ It will definitely happen. It’s on my ‘to do list.’ This office needs cleaning!

That’s trivial, I know. Yet it is also important.

But God has a cleaning project on a larger scale:

‘’I’m going to make a clean sweep of the earth, a thorough housecleaning.’’ GOD’s Decree. Men and animals, including birds and fish – Anything and everything that causes sin – will go, but especially people.’’ The Message.

This clean will certainly take place. There are things that have to go. Think about what God has done in the past. He has ‘swept away’ before. Remember the flood. Consider Sodom and Gomorrah. Take into account the Exodus. In history there have been, and may yet be, many ‘mini’ days of judgment. But they are just ‘tasters’ of the big day of reckoning ahead. God, through Zephaniah, was speaking about the Babylonian invasion in 606 B.C. But this foreshadows the ‘’day of the LORD’’ (7) that will ultimately come. Clearly a world-wide judgment is in view in (2, 3)

Zephaniah was a great-great grandson of the godly King Hezekiah. ‘’Zephaniah may be the only Old Testament prophet who had royal blood in his veins. But his kinship with King Josiah didn’t prevent his preaching a message of judgment at a time when the king was leading the nation in a religious reformation (2 Kings 22-23). Both Jeremiah and Zephaniah saw that the ‘’reform’’ was not true revival, for it never got to the hearts of the people. It was only a surface change because the king promoted it and the people went along with whatever was popular…Preaching a message of judgment at a time of national religious reformation would not be easy; but a true prophet not only sees farther, he also sees deeper.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.605.

Prayer: Help me Lord to sweep out my ‘office’ before you have to come and do it forcibly.

Daily Bible thoughts 809: Monday 9th February 2015: Psalm 114

Psalm 114 (click here to view todays passage)

‘’Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.’’ (2).

The Christian is ‘’God’s sanctuary’’. So is the local church (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 6:19, 20). God does not live in a building. He dwells in people.

But a believer is also God’s ‘’dominion’’. He not only lives in us, but He rules over us – if we allow Him to. In 1 Cor.6, where Paul writes about the Christian’s body being ‘’a temple of the Holy Spirit’’ , he also talks about the moral implications of our belonging to God. The Christian life is not just about Christ in you, but Christ over you.

Now if God lives in you and reigns over you, he will work miracles for you on this pilgrimage, as you travel to His appointed destination. In some ways, we can anticipate that the experience of Judah and Israel in the past will be ours today. We serve the same God who indwells us and is King over us. What caused the mighty miracles in nature as the Israelites journeyed from Egypt to Canaan? The answer is a ‘Who’ (7). It was the presence of the ruling and reigning God in His people that caused these wonders (see Exodus 14:21; Josh.3:15-17; Exodus 19:18; 17:16 and Numbers 20:11).

‘’Judah became…’’ Have you come to the point where you have asked God to fill you? Have you invited Jesus to establish His government over your life? Has He yet ‘become’ your Lord? Have you ‘become’ a Christian? It doesn’t happen by default because of where you were born, or the faith of your parents etc.

‘’God brings us out (v.1), takes us through (v.3), and leads us over (v.4). When you are following Him, no obstacle can keep you from the goal He has set for you, except your sin and unbelief. When you are in the will of God, all of creation works for you to accomplish God’s purposes. You are God’s sanctuary (1 Cor.6:19-20); let Him have dominion in your life (v.2).’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.383.

As you go into the world today remember that God lives in you. Look to Him to reign over your every movement. You may be aware of ‘mountains’, ‘seas’ and ‘rivers’ blocking your path as you endeavour to move forward in His purposes. Remember that His presence can deal with every obstacle.

Prayer: Lord, grant that your presence in me will be obvious. Flow out through me into this dry, barren wilderness of a world.

Daily Bible thoughts 808: Friday 6th February 2015: Ephesians 6:21-24

Ephesians 6:21-24 (click here for passage)

This ‘pearl’ of an epistle concludes with a ‘pearl’ of an ending. See in it:

  • A remarkable loyalty (21, 22): ‘’Tychicus’’ was not Paul. He was not nearly so well known as Paul. But he played his part lovingly and responsibly. He did not get to shine ‘centre-stage’, but he shone in the shadows. The important thing is that he was a bright light, and he didn’t hide what he had under a bucket. Not everyone will stand in the spotlight, but everyone can be spotted as a light! You may never become ‘famous’ in the Christian world, but if you can play ‘Tychicus’ to someone else’s ‘Paul’, that’s a big deal. If you can truly be regarded as a ‘’faithful servant’’; if there is someone who regards you as a ‘’dear brother’’ (or sister); if there are people you ‘’encourage’’, that is no small matter. The job Tychicus was entrusted with may seem mundane, but it was important. It needed doing well. I thank God for those who are willing to pick up jobs that don’t dazzle and do them without fanfare. Where would the church be without them?
  • An intelligent relationship (21, 22): While nosiness into the affairs of others is not a welcome trait, fellowship (sharing the same thing) demands a certain transparency from each of us. Paul had been asking the Ephesian Christians to pray for him (18-20). If people are to pray intelligently, they need to know how we are and what we are doing. It may not be wise or helpful to divulge everything that is going on. What to say, when to say it, and just how much to share in any given moment is a judgment call. But to truly experience ‘fellowship’ with you, I have to be willing to let you into my world. It is at the heart of Christian fellowship that we know and are known. Authentic relationships are not built on hiding and lies. One of the ways we receive encouragement is by hearing how the people we pray for are getting on. When we see and hear answers to prayers in their circumstances our spirits are buoyed.
  • An inexhaustible supply (23, 24): You repeatedly see in Paul a strong desire for the churches under his influence to grow spiritually. ‘Ephesians’ closes with what is essentially a prayer for the recipients of his letter. He has asked for their prayers. As we have already seen, he prayed for them; big prayers! His closing prayer is for qualities such as ‘’Peace…and love with faith…’’ Such characteristics can only flow from God the Father and His Son Jesus. They are marks of ‘’Grace’’. So that is why Paul prays. He is asking for something only God can do. When He does it, there is ‘’glory’’ to God ‘’in the church and in Christ Jesus…’’ (3:21). We add our own ‘’Amen’’ to that.

Prayer: Lord I ask that you will form my life into a pearl. Make me beautiful for you.

Daily Bible thoughts 807: Thursday 5th February 2015: Ephesians 6:10-20

Ephesians 6:10-20 (click here for todays passage)

When you become a Christian you not only have new relationships with people. You also have changed relationships with evil powers. At one time you were playing on their team, even if unwittingly. But now you’ve been ‘’transferred’’ (Colossians 1:13, 14). You are kicking the other way. It’s war! (This new antagonism is expressed in the word ‘’against’’ (11, 12).

A freshly minted Christian said to the famous preacher, Spurgeon: ‘Mr. Spurgeon, now that I am a Christian, how much of the world must I give up?’ The wise Christian leader replied, ‘Don’t worry; the world will give you up!’ Someone pointed out that when you become a Christian you make a whole lot of new friends, and that’s good. At the same time, you make a whole lot of new enemies, and that’s not so good! Not all those enemies are in ‘earthly’ places, although it might often feel like they are.

We Christians are in a war that is more real, more vicious, and more savage than any fight between nations or people groups. I sometimes think that we would be shocked if God were to lift the veil of time, and give us a peek at what is happening behind the scenes.

Thank God, we have all the strength we require to stay standing in this spiritual battle, and not be knocked off our feet. (You will notice this emphasis on standing in verses 11, 13 and 14). We find our strength; this ‘’mighty power’’ (15), ‘’in the Lord’’ Himself. Essentially, to ‘’Put on the full armour of God…’’ (11 and 13) is to put on God (see also Romans 13:14). The armour is made up of characteristics of God and His Christ. It is unusual weaponry for an unconventional war. (See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, and think about David’s sling and stone!). So, yes, the ‘’struggle’’ (12) is real, but so is the armour God supplies. We have to choose to ‘’put on’’ these spiritual qualities, day by day and even moment by moment. It’s been said that no-one will ‘drift’ into holiness. Nor will they drift into victory. There are regular choices to be made to resist the devil and be like God and His Son Jesus. We choose, by God’s grace, to be people of truth (integrity), righteousness, faith and peace who take the good news of the gospel into the world. We determine to live as saved, prayerful people of the Word. God will help us to make the right choices and fend off the evil one.

It has been pointed out that prayer may not be a piece of the armour, so much as the ‘atmosphere’ in which we put it on. But that seems something of a technicality. Every Christian who has got hold of prayer and used it knows what a mighty weapon it is. It is instructive that Paul regularly asked for the prayers of his fellow-believers, and these requests were by no means a formality. He believed that the prayers of other people would make a material difference in his own life and ministry. He was almost constantly in trouble, and often in danger. He knew he needed courage and that the intercessions of others would help him be a brave soldier of Christ.

Prayer: Help me to pray today like it will make a difference, for I am led to believe that it will.

Daily Bible thoughts 806: Wednesday 4th February 2015: Ephesians 6:5-9

Ephesians 6:5-9 (click here for todays passage)

The call for Christ-centred relationships continues in this passage about slaves and masters. These principles also carry over into the contemporary workplace, and we can apply them to employees and employers.

‘’…just as you would Christ.’’ (5);

‘’…but like slaves of Christ…’’ (6);

‘’…as if you were serving the Lord, not men…’’ (7);

‘’…their Master and yours…’’ (9).

Paul says that slaves should treat their masters as they would Christ, for He truly is their Master. They really are His slaves. Ultimately, He’s the One paying the wages! (8).

If that seems revolutionary, think through what he says, by inference, to Masters (9). The message is, ‘You and your slaves are employees in the same company, and you have the same Boss!’ If Christian slaves were accountable to Christ so were Christian masters. They could only ever be ‘middle-management’, for they had Someone over them. (This is also true of non- Christian masters/bosses, even though they may not be aware of it. They are answerable to a higher authority.)

‘’Servants, respectfully obey your earthy masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ…And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free. Masters, it’s the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.’’ The Message.

If the question should be asked, ‘Why did the early Christians not campaign against slavery, as William Wilberforce was to do in later years in the U.K.?’ The answer probably is that they couldn’t! They didn’t live in a democracy, but under an iron-fisted dictatorship. They couldn’t protest effectively about anything. However, it can be argued that teaching like this undermined the institution of slavery and sowed the seeds for its eventual destruction.

Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus that knowing you and wanting to serve you makes all the difference in every area of life. You change everything for good.

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