Read Daniel 9-10, 12.
What’s going to happen? We ask this question all the time, probably every day. We can make guesses about the future, but it is not something that we can ever know with certainty. Because it is a constant unknown, we can often look toward the future with a range of emotions, from excitement to anxiety.
8 I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” 9 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.”Daniel 12:8-9, ESV
In Daniel 12, we see a reminder that it is not our place to be focused on the future, specifically the details of the time of the end. “Go your way,” Daniel is told in verse 9. If we are constantly asking ourselves what’s going to happen or how everything is going to end, we can lose sight of the plan and purpose God has for our lives in the here and now. The response we see in this passage pretty much lets us know that the end is none of our business until we get there. So, instead of being preoccupied with the future, let us maintain our focus on the ways the God is using us for His plan right now.
Read Jonah 3-4.
My favorite part of the book of Jonah is not the part about the great fish. I actually think this is the best part:
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.Jonah 3:10, ESV
Jonah thought the whole time that he was supposed to go to Nineveh to let the people know that they were doomed. God intended to punish the people of Nineveh for their evil ways. In the end, it turned out that Jonah’s warning was a catalyst for repentance. The people humbled themselves before God, and His response was to spare them the disaster they deserved.
We should see ourselves in this story. We are all sinners, and our evil ways put us in opposition of God’s design. Like the Ninevites, we deserve death for our sins. But instead of the punishment we deserve, we are given another chance through the blood of Christ. From a different perspective, we are like Jonah. We never know fully how God may use us to draw others back to Him.
Read 1 Kings 18-19.
Have you ever had someone stop returning your calls? Ghost your texts? Radio silence. Ignored. Blocked. When we call out but do not receive an answer, we can feel disappointed, confused, and even betrayed. If the silence persists, we may even come to the conclusion that the person we were trying to reach wasn’t who we thought they were or was never there at all.
In 1 Kings 18, we see Elijah challenge the prophets of Baal to call out to their god, but Baal doesn’t answer them.
29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.1 Kings 18:29, ESV
If you read this chapter, you know that God’s response to Elijah in the next few verses is practically explosive. God does not ignore Elijah, and He effectively proves His existence to all who witnessed the response.
If we’re calling out to anyone or anything other than God, we are no better off than the prophets of Baal, raving on into the afternoon to the sound of silence. While we may not always get the fiery response that Elijah got, we know that God is always there. So, instead of wondering if we’re being ignored by the world or by people or by anything, let us always call out to the God who hears us.
Read Psalms 148-150.
Have you every played the tambourine? It’s tremendously fun. When you hold a tambourine, you can’t help put shake it around and try out some rhythms. They’re loud, they’re fun, and they make music more exciting. Some people even bring their own tambourines to church.
In these three psalms, we see a clear theme: Praise the Lord! These psalms encourage all of creation to praise God with everything we’ve got.
3 Praise him with trumpet sound;Psalm 150:3-6, ESV
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
Trumpets! Strings and pipe! Lute and harp! Loud clashing cymbals! Tambourine and dance!
I do not think this is an extensive or exclusive list of tools we can use to praise our God, but it is a great frame of reference for how we should approach worship. Worship should be exciting and celebratory because God is worthy of that response and so much more. The references to praising Him with tambourines in Psalms 149 and 150 give us a great parallel for our worship today. When you’re holding a tambourine, you can’t help but play it. When you behold the glory of God, you can’t help but praise Him.
Read 2 Samuel 24, Psalm 24.
Reading through Psalm 24, I was drawn to these verses:
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?Psalm 24:3-6, ESV
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
These are great questions. Who can approach God? What are the requirements to be with Him? David writes in the psalm that it requires clean hands and a pure heart, and that with those things we may receive blessing and righteousness. But our hands are not clean; they are stained. Our hearts are not pure; they are contaminated and deceitful.
Who possesses these qualities? Jesus is the only one. His death on the cross was payment for our sins. Because of His sacrifice our hands are clean and our hearts are His. It is only because of Jesus that we have any hope to ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in his holy place. It is only through Jesus that we will receive blessing and righteousness.
Read 1 Samuel 3, 8.
9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”1 Samuel 3:9-10, ESV
In 1 Samuel 3, we see this almost-comical situation. The Lord is calling out to Samuel, but Samuel has never heard the Lord before. Naturally, he assumes that Eli is calling him. When you hear someone call your name, your first guess is probably that it was someone in the next room, not the Creator of the universe. With Eli’s help, Samuel is able to respond correctly on the fourth try.
How many tries would it take God to reach you? Maybe we don’t hear an audible voice, but we can experience God calling us in different ways. We can feel the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When the Lord calls, we should all strive to respond the way Samuel does. “Speak, for your servant hears.”
Read Judges 13-14.
In Judges 13 and 14, we get a thorough introduction of Samson, the twelfth judge of Israel.
24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him.Judges 13:24, ESV
You may have heard of Samson before. In these chapters we see his birth foretold as well as a list of things he should not do as a Nazirite, someone set apart for service to God. After he is born, the text jumps ahead to show an adult Samson doing some crazy things. He picks out a fiance. He tears a lion apart with his bare hands. Later on, he eats honey that he finds in the carcass of that same lion. He presents a riddle about said honey and lion. He loses a bet regarding said riddle and kills thirty men in order to use their belongings to square up on that bet.
Why is Samson’s story, even just what we’ve seen in Judges 14, important? So far we’ve seen him killing guys and breaking lion’s faces. Eating honey. By today’s standards, Samson is a fairly chaotic person. But he is also one of the judges sent by God to rescue Israel from their enemies. God’s plans are being accomplished in part by the actions of this long-haired strongman. We can learn so much from Samson’s story, but for today, the main point is that God can work through anybody.
Read Deuteronomy 30-31.
When I was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, I forgot my retainer at home. Fearing that my teeth would take advantage of the newfound wiggle room, I called home and asked my mother to send it in the mail. Everything turned out fine. For a few days, though, my retainer was too far away to keep my teeth on the straight and narrow.
11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.Deuteronomy 30:11-14, ESV
The people of Israel are being reminded in this passage that what they are supposed to do is not a mystery. It’s not too far away or too hard to grasp. We are called to do the same things today: love God and obey His commands. Like teeth after braces we sometimes need help to keep us on the straight and narrow, but that help is never too far away. We have the Bible available to us and the Holy Spirit guiding us from within.
Read Numbers 34-35.
What are your limits? Where are your borders?
We know that God is all-powerful and that through Him all things are possible, but that doesn’t mean we as humans are capable of growing infinitely and accomplishing endlessly. Just as God gives us the power to overcome obstacles and do great things for His glory, He also establishes our limits.
12 And the border shall go down to the Jordan, and its limit shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land as defined by its borders all around.Numbers 34:12, ESV
In Numbers 34, God is laying out clearly-defined borders for the land of Canaan. While His provision and plan for us at the current moment may not always come with such explicit detail, His plan is just as intricate and specific as it was in these chapters. We have been placed in a specific time and place on purpose, so that we can respond to God and live for Him in a way that serves His greater plan.
Read Leviticus 26.
In Leviticus 26 we see a fairly extensive list of blessings that God would give Israel for their obedience, followed by an equally extensive list of punishments for their disobedience. The people are left with a pretty clear image of possible results for their choice to follow or not follow, but God has already given them a reason to obey. Take a look at verse 13:
13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.Leviticus 26:13, ESV
God had already proven that He wanted the best for the Israelites by freeing them from slavery, and the continued call for the people to follow Him is woven into this chapter. The same message is true for us today. He is the Lord our God; He freed us from our sin, and He is calling us to choose to follow His commands.