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Bible Insights

When God Says Enough

Despite God’s longstanding patience giving us time to shape up, judgement will eventually come

The book of Ezekiel is an interesting one, packed with evocative prophetic imagery that portrays God’s power, patience, and eventual judgement. As follows through much of the Old Testament the people disobey God. He warns them to turn things around and is patient, hoping they will avoid the consequences of their wayward actions. He wishes for the best, and the people let him down.

But Ezekiel is confronted with a peculiar response to his messages of impending punishment. Like the boy who cried “wolf,” the people dismiss Ezekiel’s warnings (actually God’s warnings). They say, “Time passes on but these threats never happen.”

They stop taking Ezekiel (and God) seriously, which they never fully did to begin with. They feel quite justified in ignoring the word of God because they think there is no downside for disobedience.

There are consequences for disobeying God, and our time is up. Click To Tweet

There are Consequences

To this God says “enough.” He will withhold their punishment no longer and will fulfill all that he said. There will be no more delays.

I wonder how much we today are like these people of old, viewing God’s warnings as meaningless threats that will never happen. Since our wrong behavior receives no immediate punishment, perhaps we’re not so bad after all. Maybe God doesn’t really mean it when he says our wrong actions are sin.

To this I hear God again saying “Enough.”

There are consequences for disobeying God, and I fear our time is up.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 9-12, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 12:21-28.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

An Astounding Turnaround for Egypt

Isaiah’s Shocking Prophecies about the Nation of Egypt

Isaiah often mentions the nation of Egypt in his prophecies. Egypt appears in the book of Isaiah forty-three times. Many, but not all, of these mentions relate to judgment and punishment. In a surprising passage, Isaiah looks forward to the day when Egypt will openly and intentionally embrace God as their Lord.

In the time between Isaiah’s prophecy and now, I’m not aware of this spiritual turnaround having happened. And it certainly isn’t the situation today. We’re still waiting for this prophecy’s fulfillment. That means we anticipate a future time when Egypt will turn to God and fear him as their true Lord.

Looking forward, Isaiah sees this coming age when the people of Egypt will erect an altar to God in the heart of their country. In addition, they will place a monument honoring him on their border. This will serve as a witness to all regarding the Lord Almighty. Egypt will pursue a state-sanctioned embrace of biblical God.

Also, they will worship God with sacrifices, grain offerings, and vows. And they won’t make their promises in haste. Rather, they’ll honor the pledges they make to the Lord God.

How Will This Come to Be?

Isaiah says that Egypt will face a time of oppression. They will call out to God for help. He will send them a savior, a defender, a rescuer. Though this opposition could come from a foreign power, it could also come from above. Isaiah says that God will strike the Egyptians with the plague.

Remember, he did this before to get their attention. He sent them ten plagues of increasing severity so that Egypt would give God’s enslaved people their freedom. (Read about Moses and Egypt’s plagues in Exodus 6–12.)

God will reveal himself to them, and they will accept him as their Lord. Click To Tweet

In the future, God will send one more plague, which will hit Egypt hard. But then he will hear their pleas for help, respond to their agony, and heal them from their affliction. He will save them, defend them, and rescue them.

In this way, he will reveal himself to them. And they will accept him as their Lord.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 18-20 and today’s post is on Isaiah 19:19.]

Read more about the book of Isaiah in For Unto Us: 40 Prophetic Insights About Jesus, Justice, and Gentiles from the Prophet Isaiah available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Micah Speaks Truth, but the People Won’t Listen

Stop it Micah!

The prophet Micah gives some strong words from God to his chosen people. Although Micah’s proclamation—his prophecy—should convict them, instead they take offense.

At one point the people even tell him to stop talking—they say, “Stop it Micah”—as if his silence would keep God’s plans from happening.

Micah’s sarcastic retort is that if a prophet proclaimed plenty of wine and beer for everyone, the people would flock to him. Apparently, rather than face the truth, the people prefer to anesthetize themselves from it.

We aren’t much different today. We flock to pastors who give us feel-good messages that overflow with positive platitudes and memorable sound bites. However, when a pastor must deliver a God-honoring message that criticizes us or convicts our conscience, we often turn on our teacher.

We may attack the messenger, attempt to remove them, or run off to sit under the teaching of someone who will make us feel good about ourselves.

Our reaction is to respond as consumers, leaving the teacher of an unpalatable message and seeking someone who will tell us what we want to hear.

That’s approaching faith with a consumerism mindset: looking for what is pleasant and nice—even if it’s wrong. It happened to Micah and it’s still happening today.

Telling the people what they want to hear—as opposed to the truth—is making a false prophecy. Regarding these false prophets, Micah further notes that when the prophets are fed, they pronounce that peace will occur, but if they don’t say what the people want, the people turn against them.

How much does money affect what our ministers today say or don’t say?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Micah 1-4, and today’s post is on Micah 2:6.]

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s new book, Dear Theophilus, Minor Prophets: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Be Careful What You Say

Advice for Prophets and to Us

The book of Deuteronomy has a curious passage about prophecy. It teaches if a prophet says something God didn’t instruct him or her to say, the prophet must be executed. That should certainly cause prophets to be careful with their words, saying only what God commands and nothing else.

A few verses later, it says if a prophet declares something that doesn’t come true, to just disregard that person. There seems little distinction between these two situations, but with drastically different outcomes: killing versus ignoring.

I wonder if the distinction might be intent, where the first instance is willful and the second, accidental.

A third situation, which this passage doesn’t address, is the opposite of the first. Instead of saying what God doesn’t tell them, they don’t say what God tells them.

They are disobedient, but in this case their error isn’t public. Only they and God know about it, so there cannot be a response from the people. Yet I suspect that not saying what we should say is almost as bad as saying what we shouldn’t.

While not everyone is a prophet, most of us do talk about God—and we must take care in what we say as well as in what we don’t say. Much is at stake.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 16-18, and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 18:20-22.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Even if Someone Rises From the Dead, Not Everyone Will be Convinced

A Parable about Lazarus

In the parable about the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, Jesus shares an intriguing story. In it, both men die. Lazarus goes to heaven, but the rich man ends up in hell.

Desperate to spare his family from the torment he is suffering, the rich man makes a request of Father Abraham to send Lazarus back, warning those he loves. Abraham reminds him that they have already failed to heed the prior warnings that others have given.

The man persists, asserting that they would surely listen to someone who has returned from the dead. Abraham’s’ words are somber, saying “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

This was later proved to be correct. After Jesus’ resurrection, hundreds of dead people came back to life, went into the city, and appeared to many. Yet despite hundreds of formerly dead people walking around the city, only a 120 believed and were waiting in the upper room as Jesus commanded.

What happened to all the rest? They saw the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and hundreds of the undead, but they remained unchanged.

Jesus’s prophecy was correct, that “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

Though not everyone will be convinced, some will be. I am; are you?

[Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 27:51-53, Acts 1:14-15]

Read more about the book of Acts in Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. [Originally published as Dear Theophilus Acts.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

The Valley of Dry Bones

Ezekiel Prophesies to Dry Bones and Breathes Life into Them

One of the most evocative images in the book of Ezekiel is him speaking to dry bones scattered before him. It’s a valley of dry bones. The bones animate and reassemble. Tendons connect them. Flesh covers the skeletons. Breath enters these reconstituted bodies, mere corpses, and they live again.

It’s powerful imagery, the dead becoming alive. But what does it mean?

Fortunately, God explains it to Ezekiel

The bones represent the people of Israel. They are dried up. Their hope is gone. Cut off. Effectively, they are dead.

God will open their graves, resurrecting them to bring them home.

In addition to restoring their physical life, he will give them a spiritual life too. He will put his spirit in them. Then they will live. Truly live.

As with most prophecies, this one contains multiple applications.

Israel

The first is for his audience of that day, Israel. The people overflow with discouragement and are without hope. God reminds them that they can place their hope in him. He will restore them as a nation and bring them back from captivity and return them to the land he promised for them.

Jesus

We can also see this passage looking forward prophetically to Jesus. Consider two items: the prophecy of graves opening and God putting his spirit in his people so they can truly live.

When Jesus dies the curtain in the temple rips in half from top to bottom, symbolically allowing us to directly approach God. There is an earthquake and tombs break open. Bodies of many holy people come to life. We don’t know who they are or have a count, just that there are many, and they lived holy lives (Matthew 27:51-53).

Next, consider Pentecost. Jesus’s squad waits in Jerusalem for the special gift that Papa will send them. A violent wind sounds. Something like tongues of fire hover over each person. And the Holy Spirit fills them with supernatural power (Acts 2:1-4).

When Jesus dies the curtain in the temple is torn open from top to bottom, symbolically allowing us to directly approach God. Click To Tweet

End Times

In John’s epic vision as recorded in the book of Revelation, we also see dead bodies become alive (Revelation 11:7-11 and Revelation 20:11-13), just like Ezekiel said.

To wrap things up, the Holy Spirit and Jesus invites them—and us—to come and receive the gift of life (Revelation 22:17).

These are some of the key things we can learn from Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 37-39, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 37:13-14.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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When God Calls Us to Act, We Better Act

May We Never Be Lax about Doing the Work of God

The book of Jeremiah contains prophecies about many of the countries that surround God’s people, many countries that tormented them in the past or are tormenting them during Jeremiah’s time. One of these countries is Moab.

Here’s the backstory.

Lot’s oldest daughter has a son. His name is Moab, and he becomes the father of the Moabites. Later it is the Moabites who hire Balaam to curse the people of Israel, but that backfires. Moab does this even though God told Moses to not harass or provoke the people of Moab.

Yet throughout the centuries the people of Moab repeatedly harassed the people of Israel. Along comes Jeremiah who prophesies against Moab. Everyone will come against Moab to destroy her.

Then in the middle of his prophecy, Jeremiah inserts a curious phrase, placing a curse on anyone who is lax in doing God’s work against Moab.

May we never be lax in doing God’s work. Click To Tweet

Don’t Be Lax in Doing God’s Work

Though this curse specifically relates to God’s goal of punishing Moab, I wonder if we can extrapolate a general principle for us today. Specifically, God is not pleased with us if we are lax about doing his work.

May we never displease God. May we never be lax about doing his work. Instead may we diligently do all he calls us to do. He can call us to action through Scripture, the written word of God. And he can call us to action through the Holy Spirit, the spoken word of God.

Though I don’t suspect God will call us to punish another nation, he does call us to promote the kingdom of God, in the spiritual sense. May we hear what he calls us to do, and may we follow through with all diligence.

May we never be lax in doing God’s work.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 46-48, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 48:10.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Read the Bible as Literature

Studying scripture teaches us about classic literature and writing to inform our literary perspective

My post “13 Reasons Why I Love the Bible” started out as a top ten list, but I couldn’t stop at a round number. I kept going and couldn’t pare my list down to just ten reasons. And if I had kept thinking about it, I would likely have come up with more.

A related topic is considering the Bible as literature, the classic of classics. So much of what we read today has allusions, though sometimes subtle, to scripture. We see biblical themes repeated in TV and movies.

Knowing the Bible helps us to more fully understand God but also to better appreciate literature and entertainment. Consider what the Bible has to offer:

Variety of Genres

The Bible contains different styles of writing. Much of it is history, with some biography and even autobiography. There are several poetry portions (albeit without rhyming and meter), which reveal ancient poetic styles and can inform modern day poets. The books of prophecy reveal the future, some of which has already come to pass and other portions, not. Books of wisdom give as wise advice. Other sections reveal God, serving as the first theology text. The Bible also contains letters from teachers to their students. There are epic dreams documented for us to ponder. And two books, Job and Song of Songs, read much like the modern-day screenplay.

The Bible contains: history, bios, poetry, prophecy, theology, letters, dreams, & screenplay. Click To Tweet

Multiple Viewpoints

The Bible contains four biographies of Jesus (gospels). The four respective authors reveal different aspects of Jesus based on their personal perception and target audience. Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s writing contain the most similarities; John is the most different. Similarly, 1 and 2 Chronicles provides a counterpoint to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. Last, some of the prophets provide additional historical accounts to round out what we learn from the prior six books of history (1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings)

Different Perspectives

Much of the Bible is written in the third person point of view, while some passages are in first person. I especially enjoy these first person accounts as it places me in the middle of the action, as if I am there, living it with the speaker.

Multiple Levels

Reading the Bible is analogous to peeling an onion. Each time we unwrap one layer, we find another that gives us additional insight and added meaning. There are many tiers, virtually unlimited. We will never know all of what the Bible says, but we do strive to learn more of what it reveals. With each successive read we are able to connect different passages together and glean deeper insight into its stories, lessons, and writers – as well as the God who inspired it.

The Bible has much to offer, not only from a spiritual perspective, but also from a literary one. Reading the Bible as literature will increase our appreciation of other things we read, what we write, and the world in which we live.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The Book of Revelation

John’s Epic Vision

The book of Revelation is a curious one; there is none other like it in the Bible. It is perhaps the most scrutinized and misunderstood section. While I will not make any attempt to explain it, I will offer some context as a guide:

  • This book is written by John, but it is not his revelation; it is Jesus’ revelation (Revelation 1:1).
  • John confirms the book is a prophecy, and we are blessed merely by reading it, hearing it, and taking it to heart (Revelation 1:3). But he doesn’t say we need to understand it!
  • This book is a letter to the seven churches in Asia. Just as Paul, Peter, and John write letters to various people and different churches, this is another one of John’s letters (Revelation 1:4).
  • The contents of the letter are supernaturally given to John in a vision when he is communing with God in the spiritual realm (Revelation 1:10).
  • The purpose of the book may be found in Revelation 19:10: to worship God and celebrate Jesus.

We can consider Revelation in three sections:

Revelation 1 is the Introduction

In addition to setting the basis for the rest of the book, chapter 1 is awesome in that is hints at what our relationship with God can be like when we connect with him in the spiritual realm.

We should not consider this unique to John, and we should embrace it as available to us—if we are willing to pursue it.

Revelation 2 and 3 Give Specific Messages to the Seven Churches

The letters to the seven churches are written to them. While we can receive encouragement from their successes and learn from their failures, we need to remember they are the primary audience and we are the secondary one, just like all the other letters in the Bible.

We need to remind ourselves of their context and not make them into more than what they are intended to be.

Revelation 4 through 22 is a Future Prophecy

From the final nineteen chapters of Revelation, the intend is not for us to decode when these events will happen. After all, Jesus says, no one knows the time and date of when the end will occur. There is no secret plan for us to decode.

Instead I see three key things as I read the words in Revelation: God is awesome and worthy of our worship, Jesus is powerful, and for those whose names are written in the book of life (Revelation 20:15), the ending is a happy one.

If you don’t believe me, read the last two chapters (Revelation 21 and 22) and be in awe—even if we can’t comprehend the details.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Who is Joachim of Fiore?

Why is He Important?

I recently happened upon an interesting understanding of time, of the past, present, and future. It identifies three major eras of the God who is revealed in the Bible.

From the perspective of medieval Christendom—as exemplified by Joachim of Fiore—history is prophetically divided into three eras, each lasting two thousand years.

  • There is the past age of the Father, with a primary emphasis of God the Father (circa 2000 to 0 BCE).
  • There is the present age of the Son, with a primary focus on Jesus, the Son of God (circa 0 to 2000 CE).
  • And there will be a future third age of the Spirit, with the primary attention given to the movement and influence of the Holy Spirit, (circa 2000 to 4000 CE).

Although medieval man saw the age of the spirit as the distant future, today’s followers of God are able to experience it as the nascent present.

A significant change is occurring in the workings of God—and we have a front-row seat.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.