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Bible Insights

God’s Wall of Fire Will Protect

Zechariah’s Vision

One night the prophet Zechariah has a vision. It’s about a wall of fire. In this supernatural dream, he talks to an angel who is about to measure the city of Jerusalem to see just how big it has become. But before he leaves to do this, another angel arrives. He tells the first angel that it doesn’t matter. There are now so many people in Jerusalem that erecting walls around them to keep them safe isn’t an option. The city is too big, and building a wall isn’t feasible.

Protection

Living in an unwalled city would normally leave the residents vulnerable to attack and abuse from their enemies. But now there’s no need for concern. In this case, the Lord God will himself become the city’s wall. He will protect his people. He’ll do this by becoming a wall of fire around the city. And then his glory will shine from within.

What a powerful image.

There is now no need for a physical wall. In its place will be a spiritual barrier, an incredible wall of blazing fire. But God will not merely provide this fiery fume. Instead, he himself will be this supernatural wall of flames.

No enemy—physical or spiritual—can pass through God’s holy wall of fire. He will protect us. He will keep us secure. We’ll have nothing to fear—provided we stay inside. If we’re within the Lord’s city, his hedge of fire will surround us. God, through his blazing defensive shield, will envelop us with his protection.

Illumination

But there’s more to God’s fiery fortification.

Remember, God will become this wall of fire. Fire gives off light. God’s glory from his ring of fire will illuminate the city and fill it. His glory will surround all who live there.

Though Zechariah’s vision looks toward our future, we can be sure God will protect us today. Let us bask in the glory of his presence.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Zechariah 1-4 and today’s post is on Zechariah 2:5.]

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

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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Christian Living

Jeremiah Issues Three Warnings to Church Leaders

Beware of Slacking Shepherds, Godless Pastors, and Misleading Ministers

The prophet Jeremiah doesn’t just warn the people about judgment for their sins, he also warns their religious leaders too. The twenty-third chapter of the book of Jeremiah details three leadership failures. Most troublesome is the third item about misleading ministers. Everyone in leadership should heed Jeremiah’s cautionary words and seek God’s help to avoid repeating these errors.

1. Slacking Shepherds

Jeremiah proclaims woe to the shepherds (a metaphor for religious leaders) because they fail to take care of the sheep (a metaphor for God’s people). The prophet gives three examples to demonstrate the shepherds’ failure. First, they have scattered the sheep. Second, they have driven the lambs away. Third, they have neglected to care for their flock.

God pledges to punish these failed shepherds. Then he will replace them with good ones (Jeremiah 23:11-12).

2. Godless Pastors

Next, Jeremiah condemns godless prophets and priests. Imagine that. These men should represent God to his people, but they don’t. Even in the temple (the church building), God finds them full of wickedness.

He promises to banish them to the darkness, where they will fall. He proclaims disaster for them (Jeremiah 23:11-12).

3. Misleading Ministers

Jeremiah continues rebuking prophets who proclaim lies. They fill the people with false hope. These religious leaders don’t have the mind of God. They don’t hear what the Lord says. Instead, they make up things to tell the people (Jeremiah 23:16-17).

In short, they fail to speak God’s truth.

God’s punishment for these misleading ministers is that he will forget them and cast them from his presence (Jeremiah 23:39).

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation responds. Click To Tweet

Today’s Preachers

This issue of misleading ministers happens today at too many churches, albeit with a modern twist. Preachers speak what the people want to hear and not what the Bible says. They avoid proclaiming the parts of God’s Word that may upset their congregation. They water down the good news of Jesus by removing what may offend. Instead of speaking biblical truth, they substitute it with nice sounding messages of their own making that delights listeners, avoids confrontation, and minimizes conflict.

God wasn’t pleased in Jeremiah’s day by the leaders who did this. And he is not pleased today.

Our preachers today must listen to God and teach what he and his Word says. We don’t need any more slacking shepherds, godless pastors, or misleading ministers.

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation reacts.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 23-25 and today’s post is on Jeremiah 23:16-17.]

We need leaders who will speak God’s truth regardless of what the world thinks or how their congregation responds.

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

See How Jesus Fulfills the Law and the Prophets

Jesus does three things to complete what the Old Testament started

Jesus draws people to him. The words he speaks and the hope he communicates attract them. Some people assume he had come to replace the Old Testament Law and the work of the prophets. Instead, Jesus fulfills it.

Jesus doesn’t come to do away with what the Old Testament teaches. Instead his mission is to bring the Old Testament into fruition, according to God’s plan from the beginning.

Jesus makes this clear. He says, “I have not come to abolish the Law and the prophets but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). How does Jesus do this?

Jesus Becomes the Ultimate Sacrifice

The Old Testament is packed with instructions for making sacrificial offerings, commands that showed the people’s relationship with God. These sacrifices had various meanings, but one key sacrifice occurred to redress sin.

An animal had to die because the people had sinned. Because the people continued to sin, animal sacrifices continued to be required. These sin sacrifices happened over and over, year after year, century after century.

Jesus, in his sacrificial death on the cross, becomes the ultimate sacrifice for sin to end all sin sacrifices. In his once-and-for-all sacrifice, he dies to make us right with God, to reconcile us into right relationship with the Almighty.

Jesus Turns Law into Love

Despite Jesus’s fresh way of looking at the understandings of his people, most of his followers struggle to fully comprehend what he means. They wrestle to reconcile his teachings with their traditions.

One such person asks Jesus to identify the greatest commandment in the Old Testament. Jesus’s answer is love. He says to “love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.”

This stands as the greatest commandment, but then he adds one more. He says to “love others as much as we love ourselves” (Matthew 22:36-40). These two simple principles summarize all the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets.

Jesus removes a set of impossible-to-please laws and replaces them with one principle: love.

Jesus Changes Our Perspectives

Jesus likes to review what the Hebrew Bible says, and then he expands on it. He often makes this transition by saying “but I tell you…” Then he gives his enlightened explanation about what God meant.

We’ll do well to carefully study what Jesus says immediately after his words “but I tell you…” Read about what he says in this post.

Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets. Click To Tweet

What’s important to understand when we consider that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament law and the writings of the prophets is that we must put the Old Testament in proper perspective.

This doesn’t mean to ignore the Old Testament because Jesus fulfills it, but it does mean we need to consider the Old Testament in the context to which it was given. In addition to teaching people how to live back then, the Law and the prophets also points them to the coming Savior, Jesus.

As we read the Old Testament we see allusions to Jesus and the freedom he represents. And if we read the Old Testament with care, we will also see that this future revelation about Jesus applies to all people, not just God’s chosen nation of Israel.

Jesus Fulfills the Old Testament Law and Prophets

Yes, Jesus fulfills the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets. And we are the benefactor of that.

Thank you Jesus.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, 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

How to Confront Someone: Lead with a Story

Nathan takes a wise approach when confronting David about his sins

King David, a man after God’s own heart, is far from perfect. After the Bathsheba affair and the subsequent murder of her husband at the hand of scheming David, God wants to deal with David and restore him to right relationship. This story provides an example of how to confront someone.

The Prophet Nathan Confronts David

God sends his prophet Nathan to confront David. This is not an assignment I would want: to go tell the king, who as the power to summarily kill me, that he’s a filthy sinner.

Nathan could have marched up to David’s throne, pointed an accusatory finger, and yelled, “You’re a sinner, and you’re going to hell.” I don’t think this would have gone over well.

Instead Nathan takes an indirect approach. He tells David a story. If this tactic sounds familiar, Jesus does the same thing, teaching the people through parables, which give folks an identifiable tale with an underlying spiritual truth.

Nathan’s story begins with “There were two men…” One is rich and one is poor. One is greedy and one is righteous. The greedy one steels from the poor one and…

King David Responds

King David can’t contain himself. He pronounces judgement, void of mercy, on the wealthy, greedy man.

Then Nathan drives his point to the heart of David. “You are that man.”

David feels conviction. He simply says, “I have sinned.”

His road to restoration begins. But David’s repentance doesn’t absolve him of the consequences. He will still face punishment. Though God is merciful, he is also just. The two go together. 

Though God is merciful, he is also just. Ask King David. Click To Tweet

Though the child of his adultery dies, David and Bathsheba later have another son. His name is Solomon and he succeeds David as king.

I wonder how events might have unfolded had Nathan not began his meeting with David by sharing a story.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 2 Samuel 10-12, and today’s post is on 2 Samuel 12:1-8, 11-12.]

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

Our Present and Future Hope

God Will Answer When We Pray

After Zechariah’s discouraging implication that God is weary of his people and will no longer be their Shepherd, Zechariah has some good news. He concludes his prophetic writings with an optimistic prophecy of a better tomorrow, a future hope. This is a hope that the people of his day can anticipate. But it’s also a hope we can claim today.

What is this grand, future expectation?

For the people of Zechariah’s day, when they pray to God, he will again answer. They can count on him to be there for them. He will again call them his people, and they will again call him their Lord. They will turn to each other. Reunited.

This union with God reminds us of how Adam and Eve walked in the garden of Eden with their Creator. In the cool of the evening, they hung out and enjoyed one another’s company. They lived in community with God in his creation, spending time with one another.

We can also anticipate community with our Creator today. Though we don’t physically walk with him in a garden each evening, when we call out to him, he answers. He is our Lord, and we are his people.

Our Future Hope

But Zechariah has more. This message for the people’s future is for our future too (Zechariah 14:9). We await it in eager expectation . . . but for what?

Centuries after Zechariah, the disciple John has a compelling vision of the future, a look into our future. In his forward-looking revelation, John writes of a time when all nations and all kings will come together in the holy temple of the Lord and the Lamb (Revelation 21:22–26).

Where do we place our hope? Do we live lives that reflect both our present hope and our future hope? Click To Tweet

What a day that will be, a day we hope for and long to see. We can look forward to this time with great anticipation, the day when God will reign as King over the whole earth. He will become the Lord of everyone. His name will stand as the only name for people to call on for their rescue, for their salvation.

This will restore our community with God, just as he intended from the beginning.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Zechariah 12-14, and today’s post is on Zechariah 13:9.]

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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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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Peter DeHaan News

Peter DeHaan Releases Second Box Set

The Dear Theophilus series Books 1 through 5

The first five books in the popular Dear Theophilus series are now available in a convenient e-book box set. This Dear Theophilus box set includes:

  • Dear Theophilus: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke
  • Dear Theophilus Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church
  • Dear Theophilus Isaiah: 40 Prophetic Insights about Jesus, Justice, and Gentiles
  • Dear Theophilus Minor Prophets: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope
  • Dear Theophilus Job: 40 Insights About Moving from Despair to Deliverance
Dear Theophilus Books 1-5: Exploring Luke, Acts, Isaiah, the Minor Prophets, and Job

In Dear Theophilus Books 1–5: Exploring Luke, Acts, Isaiah, Job, and the Minor Prophets, lifetime student of the Bible and ABibleADay.com founder, Peter DeHaan, PhD., digs deep into the beloved Gospel of Luke to unearth 40 thought-provoking gems that can inform your beliefs and transform your life.

Next, he builds on that foundation by exploring 40 more jewels from the book of Acts.

Then, he examines Isaiah, the Minor Prophets, and the book of Job for 120 more nuggets of gold.

In this five-book box set treasure, you’ll discover:

  • The way Luke viewed God, and how his view might change your view
  • How Jesus’s followers in Acts met daily in people’s homes and public spaces, which ignited church growth
  • The parallels between the books of Isaiah and Revelation, about peace, woe, and salvation
  • The Minor Prophets’ place in the biblical timeline—because the Bible doesn’t list them chronologically
  • How the book of Job resembles a play and the way that can enlighten our understanding of suffering, Satan, and God’s sovereignty.

The Dear Theophilus series explores Scripture like you’ve never seen before. It’s part devotional, part bible study, and fully life changing.

Explore the powerful way the words of these books of the Bible can speak to you today, as you increase your understanding and grow in faith.

In Dear Theophilus Books 1–5, you’ll encounter eye-opening insights from passages you thought were familiar. Find fresh truths as you gain a broader appreciation of what the Bible says and how this ancient book is still relevant for us today.

Ideal for both individual and group study, these books includes Scripture references and questions inviting further discussion.

Get the Dear Theophilus Books 15 box set today to deepen your understanding of Jesus and his church.

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Bible Insights

From Haggai: Lessons about Priority

Discover More About Haggai

In the short book of Haggai, the central theme is that God’s house (the temple) needs to be rebuilt. It lay in ruins. But the people have not done so because they are focused on their own houses and comfort.

As far as God is concerned, their priorities are wrong. They’re putting themselves first and not concerned about him.

Three times God points this out, asking them to consider the quality of their lives. Things aren’t going well for them. Their efforts fail to produce the results they want, their plans don’t work out the way they expect, and they lack what they need.

After Haggai delivers God’s message to the leaders and the people, their response is to rebuild the temple. Then God promises to bless them.

When their priorities were wrong, things went wrong. When their priorities became right, God’s blessings resulted.

Although the conclusion isn’t absolute, it’s worth considering that when things are going wrong, it might be because our priorities are misaligned with God’s will for our lives and his desire for how we act.

Instead of blaming God when our lives are dissappointing, we might do better to blame ourselves, and then work to fix our priorities. It starts by putting God first.

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

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.