Failure and Success

Day 365

Prayer for the day

Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another. Before the mountains were brought forth, or the land and the earth were born, from age to age you are God.

Scripture for the day

Malachi 1-4, Revelation 22

The end of each Testament bears witness to success, and to failure. The end of the First Testament, the book of Malachi, bears witness to the failure of the people of God to adequately worship their God. They fail to sacrifice properly, fail to pray properly, fail to intercede properly. They do not call out to God properly, nor do they understand how God desires them to live.

Their failure is ultimately a misunderstanding of what success truly is: success, according to Malachi, is faithfulness. Success is refusing to search elsewhere for the relationship that God has established with the people of Israel. Success is living as God’s people, according to God’s desires. Success is becoming the people God created them to be.

There are a few, says Malachi, who will remain, a few who will be the faithful remnant, who will be the ones who will succeed according to God’s benchmark. They will succeed by loving God and one another.

In the book of Revelation, defines failure clearly. Failure belongs to those those who “practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Failure belongs to the people who have refused to follow the law of God.

Success, according to John, belongs to the one who is faithful to God. Success belongs to the one who worships God. Success belongs to the one who follows Christ, who remains true to the end, to the one who belongs to God.

On this, the last day of the year, will you choose to be one who succeeds, or will you succumb to failure? The choice is yours.

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All Things New

Day 364

Prayer for the day

Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

Scripture for the day

Zechariah 13-14, Revelation 21

The day of the LORD. It’s a recurring theme as we move toward the end of the scriptures. The day of the LORD is an unknown day in the future, a day that may have already happened but will happen more fully in the future, a day of fear and joy mixed together. It is the day when all things are put into their proper place, when all things are made new. It is the day of redemption and re-creation, the day when God sets things right.

In Zechariah, this is a fearful and yet eventually wonderful day. Eventually, it is the day when the people of God belong to God, and when God belongs to the people. It is a day when God will say “they are my people” and the people will answer “YHWH is our God.” This is the day when the people will finally recognize who they are, when God will declare who they are for everyone to hear, and they will, in the end, live up to the name.

In Revelation, the same thing is declared! God’s people are God’s people, and God is their God. God works out his program for re-creation, for new creation, and as he does so, the identity of the people of God is clarified. When this identity is declared, there is a new place for us to stay, a new creation for us to inhabit. The scriptures describe this place as a place where we are finally at peace with God, and where God actually lives with us in person, so that there is no more fear, no more uncertainty. It is the place, it is the day, when faith and sight are married together.

May we see, someday, such a glorious day.

Bad Folks

Day 363

Prayer for the day

Come, we will go up to YAHWEH’s mountain, to the Temple of the God of Jacob so that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths.

Scripture for the day

Zechariah 9-12, Revelation 20

“Where do bad folks go when they die? They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly. They go to a lake of fire and fry. Won’t see ’em again ’til the fourth of July.” -The Meatpuppets

It’s a pretty grim song, especially Nirvana’s cover version. Doesn’t leave the listener with all that much hope. Yet in the lyrics we read of a very real part of life…the end part. The scriptures are quick to give pictures of hope and love, but they also paint a picture of people who reap the negative punishment for their actions here on earth.

The prophet Zechariah is shown a whole lot of terrible things, but many of the worst are the things that God will do to the people whom he has called, but who have rejected that call in order to serve their own selfish pleasure and desire. God does not deal kindly with those who intentionally and ultimately reject the plans he has for them. This is not capriciousness on God’s part, but a product of his love and justice.

The writer of Revelation has a similar experience of the justice and judgment of God when he sees those who have followed the devil cast into the lake of fire, which the Bible calls the “second death.”

Neither of these descriptions is pretty, and both of them cause us to uncomfortable. Why, we ask, would God be so cruel? Why would he cause this pain and devastation? What we fail to take into account is that this is not cruelty. This is cause and effect. This is not meant to make us triumphant or terrified. This is meant to allow us to see what the outcome will be, so that none of us is caught unawares. This allows us the chance to change!

The Judgments of God

Day 362

Prayer for the day

Sing to the LORD and bless his Name; proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations and his wonders among all peoples. For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; he is more to be feared than all gods.

Scripture for the day

Zechariah 5-8, Revelation 19

It’s a contentious issue, judgment. People say that it’s not right for us to judge, that only God can judge us, yet at the same time, live as though God will not. We often deceive ourselves, believing that because we are not nearly as bad as him, or as bad as her, that we will not receive judgment. We believe ourselves worse than him or worse than her, and so we will be judged more harshly.

In the end with both of these, we forget that the judgment of God is better than our own judgment, and that God will judge justly what we deserve. The prophet Zechariah is shown both the justice and the mercy of God when God describes how he will treat the people of God from then on. Instead of dealing always harshly with them, he will take them under his wing again. This treatment is based on his desire that they would “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.”

God’s justice is clearly seen in his judgment of the peoples in the book of Revelation as well. Christ the coming conqueror has a sword coming out of his mouth, a sword that will strike down those who have rebelled, those who have struggled against him, and he will do this not with sin, but with justice. The judgments of God are based on God’s knowledge of our whole lives, not just what we think of ourselves.

May we live, then, according to his desire.

Come out of her!

Day 361

Prayer for the day

Hallelujah! Praise the Name of the LORD; give praise, you servants of the LORD, You who stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God. Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing praises to his Name, for it is lovely.

Scripture for the day

Zechariah 1-4, Revelation 18

The call to holiness isn’t always popular. It’s a call that God has been extending since the beginning of time, and it’s been a call humanity has been assiduously ignoring for as long. We hate the idea of holiness, of being outside of the norm, because it moves us away from a place of belonging and comfort into a place of fear. How will we make it on our own?

The book of Zechariah tells the story of a people who were too afraid to be set apart, who wanted to look, act, and be like everyone else. Yet when they were like everyone else, they suffered the same fate as everyone else!

Finally, when they had been disciplined, God called them to return to a place of holiness, a place of being set-apart from the nations around them who refused to follow the ways of God. And when they responded, the blessings were incredible.

In the book of Revelation, John hears and sees oracles against the great nation of Babylon, predicting her doom for the destruction she has wrought. In the midst of the doom oracle is the call of God to the people: Come out of her. God is drawing the holy people away from the destruction to come, asking them to renounce the ways of BAbylon and to reconnect with the way God has designed for them to live. They may be in Babylon, but they are to separate themselves from the way of Babylon.

May you be in the world, but separate yourself from the way of the world, to live holy and blameless.

He Will Triumph

Day 360

Prayer for the day

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Scripture for the day

Haggai 1-2, Revelation 17

Triumphalism can be a dangerous thing if it is not tempered by realism. However, in the scriptures, we have the language of victory and triumph set up as the overarching theme for the work of God. The scriptures make it clear that while there is a cosmic battle being waged, the outcome of that cosmic battle is determined already. God has already been declared the winner, and history just has to play itself toward that inevitable conclusion!

In the book of Revelation, the visions of John shift and move, from comforting to terrifying. Yet for all the terror and confusion, for all the scary imagery, for all the beasts and horns and prostitutes and locusts, one theme resounds loud and clear through all of the visions: this is not the final state. Things, John tells us, are not going to finish this way. Something better is coming, and that something better is the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

The glory of God and his victory is on display even in the First Testament. In the book of Haggai, the victorious God displays his victory when he calls the people of God to rebuild his home. For the people, this is the declaration that their God has not died, but still inhabits the land, still owns everything, still gives and takes away at his own schedule. The rebuilding of the house of God is the declaration that God wins, and that the God who wins is THEIR God.

Whether it’s building the house of God to declare his victory, or declaring that victory through miraculous visions, the glory of God is written throughout creation to declare his victory.

Join the victorious one!

A Special People

Day 359

Prayer for the day

Your statutes have been like songs to me wherever I have lived as a stranger.

Scripture for the day

Zephaniah 1-3, Revelation 16

It doesn’t really seem fair to us that God has a special people. What’s so great, we ask, about the Israelites, that God would choose them, that God would bless them, that God would pay attention tot hem more than all the other people of the earth? Why do they get to be the apple of God’s eye?

In the book of Zephaniah, God punishes those who have been unkind to the people of Israel. Because they have been unkind, God says, they will suffer. They will see the wrath of God poured out on them because they hurt the people of God, because they didn’t see or refused to acknowledge God’s ownership of God’s people.

While this may seem tremendously unfair, we also see in Zephaniah that the Lord’s people are not held to be guiltless either. They are punished not for abusing their own neighbours, but for failing to live in such a way that their neighbours would recognize them as the people of God. Because they failed in their task, they caused their neighbours to fail as well!

In the book of Revelation, one of the bowls of God’s wrath is poured out because those who are being afflicted were violent toward the people of God, particularly the prophets. The justice of God rolls down on those who have not heeded his words, and instead have hurt and killed those who spoke them.

Is God playing favourites, or is it simply that God has assigned tasks to each, and when each fails in the task set, the punishment fits the crime, so to speak? God is certainly not unjust, and so we believe that the discipline, the punishment, and the wrath meted out are appropriate to the sin, rather than God playing favourites.