September 11 — Ezekiel 44-45 — Keeping the Charge (about 573 BC). Zadok was the priest during the time of David. He was faithful and his sons were faithful. For about 425 years Zadok’s male descendants had been faithful throughout the ups and downs of Israel until the destruction of Jerusalem. Then, in Ezekiel’s vision, they were honored and rewarded for their faithfulness. They had “kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me” (44:15). Oh, how important it is to remain faithful to the Lord when the world around us deteriorates and some Christians follow the sinful world. Be a Zadok of influence for your children and grandchildren, impressing upon them the supreme value of being faithful to God no matter what others are doing!
September 12 — Ezekiel 46-48 — The Lord is There (about 573 BC). This book ends with a description of a New Jerusalem. Earlier, Ezekiel described seeing the glory of God entering the temple through the eastern gate: “…and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (43:5). Now, in the final verse of his book, Ezekiel provided a new name for the New Jerusalem: Yahweh Shammah, “The LORD is There” (48:35). The final chapter of John’s Revelation is a parallel chapter that also describes this city, including the “river of the water of life” (Rev. 22:1) that was lined on both sides with “the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month” (Rev. 22:2; cf. Ezk. 47:12). Part of John’s vision notes that “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it” (Rev. 22:3). The Lord is there! That is true even today, as Jesus promised: “…where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” (Matt. 18:20). God is in us and in our gathered presence now but one day, “The LORD is There” will be literal and permanent.
September 13 — Joel 1-3 — The Call (about 535 BC). Most Bible scholars place the book of Joel around the time of Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon. This reading schedule placed it about 50 years after the destruction of that great city of Zion. Certainly, the disaster of judgment is featured here with a conquering army pictured as a plague of waves of locusts. However, there is also a future hope projected for God’s people in the Promised Land. The hope of the pouring out of the Spirit even extended to the time of Christ, as Peter quoted and applied Joel’s prophecy of 2:28-32 in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:17-21). God has broadened “His people” to include the Church and we live in that time of experienced hope. God’s heart of compassion echoes throughout this book with His call to “return to me with all your heart” (2:12) and “everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (2:32). Is your whole heart turned toward God today? He calls and He forgives.
September 14 — Daniel 1-3 — Show Me! (about 605 – 585 BC). Nebuchadnezzar marveled at the God of Daniel who could reveal not only the interpretation of his dream but also the content of the dream itself. The king’s amazed response was, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings” (2:47). He was convinced, wasn’t he? He had all the evidence he needed that Daniel’s God was the only real God and was alone worthy of worship. Yet, three verses later, we see that “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold” (3:1) and commanded everyone “to fall down and worship the golden image” (v. 5). Although he acknowledged Yahweh as the “God of gods,” he wouldn’t let go of his own gods (3:12, 14). The dream miracle wasn’t enough evidence for him to turn exclusively to Yahweh. Was the miracle of the delivery of the three men in the furnace enough evidence? The king’s response was, again, pretty convincing: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach …” (3:28); he also made a law against anyone speaking against this miraculous God (v. 29). Was that enough for his “conversion”? We will see more about that tomorrow. Most people who cry for evidence before they will believe are not convinced by the evidence revealed. The problem goes deeper than what the eyes see; it goes to what the heart accepts.
September 15 — Daniel 4-6 — The Most High Rules (about 582 – 539 BC). Eight times in this reading, Yahweh is referred to as “the Most High.” In chapter 4, we hear a story told by King Nebuchadnezzar, who desired to show what “the Most High God has done for me” (4:2). In four different places, it was said that the purpose of the king’s dream and its fulfillment was that it would become known “that the Most High rules” (4:17, 25, 26, 32). His prophesied threat of receiving seven years of madness (4:25) apparently sobered him for only 12 months (v. 29), however, and pride became his downfall (v. 30). What happened to the king after that should have been convincing, and it seemed to be so as he “blessed the Most High” (v. 34) and acknowledged the learned lesson that “those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (v. 37). That same Most High God still rules today, controlling the direction of nations and their leaders. Please spend some time today praying for the leaders of your nation, asking for them to be humble and sensitive to what God wants for their people.
September 16 — Daniel 7-9 — Three Books (about 539 BC). Daniel mentions three different books in these chapters. The first, chronologically, that Daniel mentioned in his prayer of confession to the Lord, was the Book of the Law given to Moses and to “his servants the prophets” (9:10). Israel had strayed away from it, disobeyed it, and ignored it, which brought on the exile and destruction of Jerusalem. The second book was a Book of Prophecy recorded by Jeremiah who predicted the length of Judah’s exile—70 years (9:1). Although it was written in Jerusalem, at least a copy of it had made its way to Babylon, where it was kept in a sacred collection, and it was believed by Daniel. The third book was a Book of Judgment that would be opened when the final court would sit in judgment (7:10). There is actually a fourth book, one that contains both law and prophecy, and much more. It is God’s whole book, the Bible, which is His message to us for instruction, direction, and empowerment. Its power is at work, changing us gradually as we read it and apply its instruction to our lives.
September 17 — Daniel 10-12 — The North-South Struggle (about 539 BC). Chapter 11 may be understood a lot better with the knowledge of how these prophecies were fulfilled regarding the struggles between the kings of the south and the north following the four-way division (11:4) of the Greek empire after the death of Alexander the Great. I found the following historical paragraph from the ESV Study Bible to be helpful: “Geographically, Judea was wedged in the middle of the aggressive struggle between the kings ‘of the south’ (Egyptian Ptolemies) and ‘of the north’ (Syrian Seleucids) … God’s people received their most degrading attack when the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 B.C.) set up ‘the abomination that makes desolate’ (Dan. 11:31) in the Jerusalem temple. This event precipitated the Maccabean Revolt (c. 167 B.C.) and the re-establishment of Jewish rule in Judea through the Hasmonean dynasty (Mattathias and his sons). Independent Hasmonean rule lasted for over a century until Judea was finally conquered by the Roman general Pompey in 63 B.C.”