Day 342

Desperate

Wisdom Psalm 139:17–24
New Testament Jude 1:1–25
Old Testament Zechariah 5:1–8:23

Introduction

You were created for an intimate relationship with God. Jesus came to make that possible. Sometimes I find I get distracted, caught up with other things – even my work for God can distract me from my relationship with him. At other times, I am absolutely desperate for God’s presence, his mercy and grace. When we find ourselves in this place of desperation, nothing but the presence of God will satisfy.

Wisdom

Psalm 139:17–24

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
  How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
  they would outnumber the grains of sand —
  when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
  Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
  your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
  and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
  I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
  test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
  and lead me in the way everlasting.

Commentary

Desperate for God’s thoughts

It is an amazing blessing to be able to wake up each morning and know that God is with you and that he wants to speak to you: ‘Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!’ (v.18, MSG). This is why I love to read the Bible first thing in the morning. I am desperate to know God’s thoughts.

David is desperate for God. He wants to know God’s thoughts: ‘How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you’ (vv.17–18).

David is also desperate not to offend God in any way:

|Search me, O God, and know my heart;
||test me and know my anxious thoughts.
|See if there is any offensive way in me,
||and lead me in the way everlasting (vv.23–24).

Prayer

Lord, I am desperate to know your thoughts and to hear your voice. Lead me into your presence, I pray. Draw me close to you.

New Testament

Jude 1:1–25

1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,

To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

2 Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

The Sin and Doom of Ungodly People

3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

8 In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.

11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted —twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

A Call to Persevere

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Doxology

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Commentary

Desperate for God’s truth

Not long ago, I discovered that a dishonest and deceptive South Korean cult called Shincheonji had been trying to infiltrate our church and churches all over the world. These false teachers invite young people to a ‘Bible study’, lead them astray and teach them to deceive other people.

Jude is desperate for his readers to hold on to God’s truth and not to be led astray by false teaching: ‘I have to write insisting – begging! – that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish’ (v.3, MSG).

Jude encourages his readers to stick to the teaching they were originally given, and to ‘contend for the faith’ (v.3). The truth really matters. You have been entrusted with it (v.3). You must contend for the truth – against false teachers and false teaching. Why?

First, because we know that God’s judgment is on them – and that is serious (vv.5–10). Second, because we know the harm they can do, which is also serious (vv.11–16): ‘[They] split churches, thinking only of themselves’ (v.19, MSG).

Jude gives a description of the characteristics of false teachers and false teaching. Typically, cults will display at least one of these:

  • They are deceptive. They ‘have secretly slipped in among you’ (v.4)
  • They reject authority. They want to replace ‘sheer grace’ with ‘sheer license’ (v.4, MSG)
  • They deny Jesus Christ ‘as our one and only Master’ (v.4, MSG)
  • They look down on and ‘sneer at anything they can’t understand’ (v.10, MSG)
  • They ‘do whatever they feel like doing’ (v.10, MSG)
  • They are immoral: ‘carousing shamelessly’ (v.12, MSG)
  • They grumble, complain and find fault (v.16)
  • They grab for themselves ‘the biggest piece of the pie’ (v.16, MSG)
  • They are ambitious, ‘saying anything they think will get them ahead’ (v.16, MSG).

God’s people are encouraged to be desperate for God’s truth. The beginning and the end of the letter speak of an intimacy with God and how to live as those desperate for God’s truth.

I love the way that Jude begins this letter. He sees himself as ‘a servant of Jesus Christ’ (v.1). There is no higher calling or a more liberating job than to see every day as an opportunity to serve Jesus Christ.

He then reassures his readers that they are ‘called’ and ‘loved’ by God the Father ‘and kept for Jesus Christ’ (v.1). This is true of every Christian. What he wants for his readers is ‘mercy’, ‘peace’ and ‘love in abundance’ (v.2). If these were the only verses we had in the whole Bible, we could meditate on them for the rest of our lives.

He ends by urging them to:

  • Study the truth: ‘Build yourselves up in your most holy faith’ (v.20)
  • Pray: ‘Pray in the Holy Spirit’ (v.20). The Holy Spirit will guide you into the truth
  • Stay close to God: ‘Keep yourselves in God’s love’ (v.21)
  • Be merciful: ‘Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin’ (v.23, MSG)

Prayer

Lord, help us to be desperate to hold on to your truth and to contend for the faith (v.3).

Old Testament

Zechariah 5:1–8:23

The Flying Scroll

5I looked again, and there before me was a flying scroll.

2 He asked me, “What do you see?”

I answered, “I see a flying scroll, twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide.”

3 And he said to me, “This is the curse that is going out over the whole land; for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished, and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished. 4 The Lord Almighty declares, ‘I will send it out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name. It will remain in that house and destroy it completely, both its timbers and its stones. ’”

The Woman in a Basket

5 Then the angel who was speaking to me came forward and said to me, “Look up and see what is appearing.”

6 I asked, “What is it?”

He replied, “It is a basket. ” And he added, “This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land.”

7 Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman! 8 He said, “This is wickedness,” and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed its lead cover down on it.

9 Then I looked up—and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings! They had wings like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between heaven and earth.

10 “Where are they taking the basket?” I asked the angel who was speaking to me.

11 He replied, “To the country of Babylonia to build a house for it. When the house is ready, the basket will be set there in its place.”

Four Chariots

6I looked up again, and there before me were four chariots coming out from between two mountains—mountains of bronze. 2 The first chariot had red horses, the second black, 3 the third white, and the fourth dappled—all of them powerful. 4 I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these, my lord?”

5 The angel answered me, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world. 6 The one with the black horses is going toward the north country, the one with the white horses toward the west, and the one with the dappled horses toward the south.”

7 When the powerful horses went out, they were straining to go throughout the earth. And he said, “Go throughout the earth!” So they went throughout the earth.

8 Then he called to me, “Look, those going toward the north country have given my Spirit rest in the land of the north.”

A Crown for Joshua

9 The word of the Lord came to me: 10 “Take silver and gold from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon. Go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. 11 Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jozadak. 12 Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’ 14 The crown will be given to Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen son of Zephaniah as a memorial in the temple of the Lord. 15 Those who are far away will come and help to build the temple of the Lord, and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the Lord your God.”

Justice and Mercy, Not Fasting

7In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev. 2 The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melek, together with their men, to entreat the Lord 3 by asking the priests of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”

4 Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: 5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? 7 Are these not the words the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?’”

8 And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’

11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.

13 “‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. 14 ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one traveled through it. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate. ’”

The Lord Promises to Bless Jerusalem

8The word of the Lord Almighty came to me.

2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.”

3 This is what the Lord says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain. ”

4 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. 5 The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there. ”

6 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me? ” declares the Lord Almighty.

7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. 8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God. ”

9 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Now hear these words, ‘Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.’ This is also what the prophets said who were present when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty. 10 Before that time there were no wages for people or hire for animals. No one could go about their business safely because of their enemies, since I had turned everyone against their neighbor. 11 But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,” declares the Lord Almighty.

12 “The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. 13 Just as you, Judah and Israel, have been a curse among the nations, so I will save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong. ”

14 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster on you and showed no pity when your ancestors angered me,” says the Lord Almighty, 15 “so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. 16 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; 17 do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.

18 The word of the Lord Almighty came to me.

19 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”

20 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.”

23 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”

Commentary

Desperate for God’s Justice and God’s Blessing

Zechariah warns of God’s judgment and the need for God’s justice (chapter 5). There is also great hope here as the prophet foresees the rebuilding of the temple and the restoration of God’s presence at the heart of his people.

Joshua the high priest foreshadows Christ. He has a crown on his head (6:11) and he is named ‘the Branch’ (v.12). He will rebuild the temple of the Lord and be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. He will be a priest on his throne (v.13). Like Melchizedek, he combines the kingly and the priestly role, which was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, the King of kings (Revelation 17:14) and our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).

You, like God’s people back then, are called to clean up your act and enable justice for all: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other”’ (Zechariah 7:9–10).

There is such a passion in the heart of God that it could almost be said that it verges on desperation in his own heart: ‘The Lord Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her… I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain”’ (8:2–3).

The Lord Almighty speaks of an amazing future for God’s people. There is peace, harmony, prosperity, joy and truth. Both for the people back then, and for us now, some of these blessings are for now, and some are not yet. God says, ‘now I will not deal with the remnant of the people as I did in the past’ (v.11), and ‘now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah’ (v.15).

You experience many blessings now through your connection to Christ, but some blessings you will only experience in full measure in the future, in the new heaven and the new earth.

However, right now we are to work to bring this blessing into being: ‘O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong’ (v.13).

For example, God is concerned for everyone whatever their age. We too should be concerned for both old and young: ‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with a cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there’ (vv.4–5).

Again, God is concerned for truth and peace, and so we too must be concerned for these things: ‘These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgments in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbour, and do not love to swear falsely… Therefore love truth and peace’ (vv.16–19).

Above all, God is concerned that as many people as possible experience the blessing of his presence. You are to be a blessing to those around you who do not yet know God through Christ, and a pointer to God through your actions and your words. When others see the difference that God makes, they will be drawn to him. ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”’ (v.23).

When you are desperate to be a channel of God’s love, justice and blessing, then others will come to know God’s presence.

Prayer

Lord, we are desperate for you. Please fill your church with your presence. Help us to be a place that ministers to the poor and needy, and a place of truth and peace, where people bring their friends and family because they have heard that ‘God is with you’.

Pippa adds

Psalm 139:23–24

|‘Search me, O God, and know my heart;
||test me and know my anxious thoughts.
|See if there is any offensive way in me,
||and lead me in the way everlasting.’

Let God search our hearts today, as we can deceive ourselves so easily. I have many anxious thoughts but God knows them all. I need to hand them over, let go and allow him to guide me.

Verse of the Day

Jude 1

‘Called…loved…and kept by Jesus Christ.’
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The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Unless otherwise stated.

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