Today’s Readings: Psalm 107, Psalm 116, Psalm 118, Psalm 125
Highlights: A common theme in these Psalms is thanksgiving. Psalm 107:8 says “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men”. Note how the Psalm repeats this statement 4 times (v1, 8, 15, 31).
These Psalms fit in well with the history of the return from captivity. They were in great trouble but God’s unfailing love had rescued them.
God’s most wonderful deed of all is in mind in Psalm 118. Verse 22 is a key messianic prophecy quoted by Jesus and Peter in the New Testament and applied to how God builds his church through the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus.
What is the parallel in our lives to the captivity and restoration? In light of these Psalms how should we respond to what God has done? How are we showing our thanksgiving to God?
Today’s Text: Psalm 78
Psalm 78 reviews the nation’s history. Sadly, the chapter has been called, “God’s goodness and Israel’s ingratitude”. The author, goes back and forth between the great things God did for his people and the nations persistence in sin. “Again and again – they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel” (41). A similar statement is made about God’s mercy: “Time after time – he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath” (38).
Why, in spite of God’s goodness, do people persist in sin? What does verse 39 suggest? Does this excuse sin? Finally, why do you think it was important for them to be reminded of this history, even commemorate it in song?
Today’s Reading: Ezra 4:6-6:13
Highlights: In chapter 4, the enemies of the Jews, led by Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, stop the re-building of the temple by accusing them before the Persian King. Haggai and Zechariah get the Jews back to work (we will read their prophecies in the next few days.) A second attempt is made to halt the work but the Persian king researches the matter and discovers the history of Jerusalem and the details about the decree of Cyrus and gives full authorization to continue the work of rebuilding the temple.
Look carefully at the final letter from Darius to Tattaniah (especially 6:6-12). How do you think Tattenai and those who were opposing the Jews felt when they read this? How do you think the Jews felt when they heard this response?
Today’s Reading: Daniel 10-12
Highlights: The book of Daniel closes with what is perhaps the books most challenging vision. In 10:14 an awesome messenger (some think he is the pre-incarnate Jesus) tells Daniel, “I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come” (NIV).
The beginning of chapter 11 seems to give as a starting point for these events the 4 kingdoms that divided up the Greek empire of Alexander the Great. Other parts (beginning of chapter 12) sound like the final judgment.
We should remember that starting when Daniel wrote, for the next 500 years there are many tribulations and troublemakers for the Jews. The book of Esther (about 80 years after this) tells of a decree that on a certain day every Jewish person will be killed. Antiochus Epiphanes (a Syrian king who thought he was Zeus) will desecrate the temple around 160 bc, and ultimately the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Its possible this vision refers to these events.
Even though we may have difficulty deciphering the details, what do 11:36 and 12:1 say that can give us comfort?
Text: Ezra 1 – 4:5
Highlights: Persian King Cyrus decrees that the Jews can return to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of God. 50,000 return led by Jeshua and Zerubbabel.
After 7 months they gather in Jerusalem, build the altar, and begin offering sacrifices and observing feasts. In the 2nd month of the 2nd year they begin working on the house of the Lord.
In chapter 4 Zerubbabel and Jeshua refuse to let enemies help with the construction.
There was great excitement when the foundation of the temple was laid (Chapter 3). There was also weeping. Why were some so excited? Why were some weeping?
Text: Daniel 6, 1:21.
Highlights: Daniel 1:21 makes note that Daniel’s career in Babylon lasted until the first year of Cyrus. He was in Babylon about 65 years. We will read tomorrow about how Cyrus decrees that the Jews can return and rebuild Jerusalem.
In Daniel 6 an evil conspiracy is formed specifically targeting Daniel (now around 80 years old). Darius the king is persuaded to sign a decree stating “whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except (Darius), shall be cast into the den of lions.”
Daniel’s faith is steadfast and God saves him. Darius is relieved. He throws the evil conspirators into the den of lions and makes a new decree glorifying the God of Daniel!
What impresses you most about Daniel’s faith? Consider especially verses 5, 10, and 21.
Today’s Reading: Daniel 5 and 9
Highlights: Chapter 5 is the famous “handwriting on the wall” for Belshazzar. It describes the circumstances that lead to the fall of Babylon. Chapter 5 ends, “that very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans was slain and Darius the Mede received the kingdom” (5:30-31).
Chapter 9 takes place in the first year of Darius. Daniel begins to consider God’s promise of a return from captivity and it prompts him to pray and ask for God to act.
The angel Gabriel is sent to Daniel with the message “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city” (9:24). These seem to be highly symbolic numbers and seem to foresee not only the return to Jerusalem from captivity (which we will read about in 2 days) but also the coming of the Messiah and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Consider Belshazzar’s sin in chapter 5. What did he do that was so offensive to God?
Today’s Reading: Daniel 7 and 8.
Highlights: Today we go back to Daniel who was in captivity in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar died and his son Belshazzar is King. Chapter 6 and 8 are two visions Daniel received during this time period.
What these visions have in common are (1) future kingdoms (similar to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2), (2) a conspicuously evil king who harasses God’s people, and (3) God eventually judging the evil king and firmly establishing His kingdom. The two visions are not necessarily talking about the same event (I believe they are not) , but do describe similar circumstances: in the future God’s people will be harassed by evil kings. Eventually God will win.
How do 8:20-22 specifically identify the Ram and Goat?
Note the end of chapter 8. Did Daniel fully grasp the meaning of this vision? How did it affect him? Why do you think it affected him this way?
Today’s Reading: 102, 106, 123, 137
Highlights: Psalms 102 begins “A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the LORD.” Perhaps we feel like that sometime and can find encouragement in these words. It speaks of hope that God will restore his people. Psalm 106 retells the sad history of the nation from Egypt to their idolatry in Canaan. The writer is acknowledging sin before asking for mercy. Psalm 137 describes the sorrow of the captives in Babylon as they remembered Zion.
Psalm 123 is also a song asking for forgiveness. What two illustrations does he use to describe the people’s relationship to God and why are these appropriate ways to think of ourselves before God?
Today’s Reading:44, 74, 79, 80, 85, 89
Highlights: Back to some of the Psalms. They were not all written by David or during the period of the United Kingdom. These seem to be included together because of a common theme which is similar to the theme of the book of Job: Why is God allowing his people to experience hardship?
Chapter 89 emphasizes the covenant God made with David and calls for God to restore His people and fulfill the promises.
Psalm 44:22 says “Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” This is quoted in Romans 8 applied to the trials and persecutions Christians may have to face. So this theme applies to Job, the nation of Judah and to us as well. What do these chapters say that encourage you today?