January 2 – Christ is better!

Read Hebrews 1:1-14

Christ is better!

You cannot read the book of Hebrews without walking away with that basic truth.  He is a better than the priests of old.  He offers a better covenant and serves in a better sanctuary (4:14-10:18).  He is better than Moses offering a better rest (3:1-4:13).  And, as you have just read in these first two chapters, He is better than the angels.

If you are following along in our current devotional series, you have already realized that.  But this point cannot be overstated.  While we must understand the important role that angelic beings play, all of our worship must be directed to the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

How does the author make clear that unmistakable priority of the Christ?

  • Jesus is the glorious, divine Creator! (v. 3) Angels are part of His creation.
  • Christ finished His work and sat down! (v. 3) Meanwhile, angels are still working.  (v. 14)
  • The Messiah has a much better name than the angels! He is called the Son of God! (v. 5)
  • The Savior is worshiped! (v. 6) Angels are among those that worship Him.
  • He reigns on a throne! (v. 8) Angels, on the other hand, are his servants.  (vv. 8, 9)
  • He is seated at the right hand of the Father! (vv. 13, 14)

While Christ is, without a doubt, better than the angels, we dare not miss the fact that angels play an important and specific role.  Even though we are created “lower than the angels” (Ps. 8:5), they are, nonetheless, “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (v. 14).  If you are one who has experienced salvation, you have apparently been on the receiving end of their ministry.  While I cannot describe all of what that looks like, it seems reasonable that their ministry includes their role in proclaiming (Dan. 9, 10), providing (Matt. 4:1-11), and protecting (Ps. 91:11).

Although you may never knowingly encounter an angel, rest assured that you have benefited from their ministry on your behalf!

sbk

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January 1 – Angelic messengers

Read Luke 1:1-382:1-21

From the readings for today, you might think that we are like the retail stores around us…trying to get an early start on Christmas.  Indeed, these are some of the classic pre-Christmas and Christmas Bible texts.  Regardless of the time of year, it is always appropriate to remind ourselves of the truths surrounding the coming of Christ and John the Baptist into the world.

But, while keeping those realities in mind, there is yet another purpose for selecting the passages we did.  We want to point out an important aspect of the ministry of angels.  Their work, you see, has been more than that of only worshiping God (as all-important as that is).  In addition, some have served as messengers of God.  Angels have had the privilege of carrying news from God to select individuals or groups.

Old Zechariah was one of those individuals.  While others waited outside wondering why he was taking so burning incense in the temple, he encountered an angel.  To be honest, the angel scared the begeebers out of him.  It wasn’t every day that people saw these created beings.  And, for him, it was the first time.  But the message the angel brought was one of encouragement and hope.  He and his aged, barren wife would bear a son, who would be the forerunner for Jesus.

Just a few months later, a young girl named Mary had a similar encounter.  To her, the angel also announced the fact that she too would give birth.  He told her that this birth would be different.  The Spirit of God would enable her as a virgin to conceive.  This baby would be the incarnate Son of God!

Though you probably didn’t read it today, you could also turn to Matthew 1:18-25 to discover that Joseph also heard from an angelic messenger.  This angel assured Joseph of Mary’s purity and informed him of the child’s identity.

While I am not sure that I have ever personally experienced that, I celebrate the fact that others have.  With the completion of the word of God, the 66 books of the Bible, and with the coming of Christ, I suppose that the Father’s need to use angelic beings in this manner is diminished.  Still, throughout history, angels have served as a mouthpiece for the Father.

sbk

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December 31 – Angels worship

Read Revelation 5:1-14

At the time the apostle John wrote this apocalyptic book, he was likely in his 90’s.  His life had been filled with loving service for his Savior.  He had certainly suffered for the name of Christ.  Historical records indicate that he had been sentenced to death in a cauldron of boiling oil…but he survived!  And, even as John took pen in hand here, he had been sent into exile on the island of Patmos.

It was Sunday.  While worshiping, John saw a vision of the glorious Christ.  He was instructed to write what he had seen, letters to seven key churches, and then about things yet to come.  At the beginning of the fourth chapter, he was translated to heaven.  There, he was permitted to see what man had never before seen.  There was an amazing throne surrounded by twenty-four other thrones occupied by twenty-four elders – perhaps reminiscent of the twelve descendants of Jacob in the Old Testament and the twelve apostles of the New Testament.  There were four living creatures with similarities to a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle.  And yet each had multiple sets of wings and could fly.  But John also witnessed innumerable angels, more than 100,000,000 (10,000 x 10,000).  This must have been an awe-inspiring experience!

But not one of these – not the creatures, not the elders, not the angels – was worthy to open a special scroll.  Only the Lamb was worthy.  Only the Lion of the tribe of Judah was qualified.  Only the Root of David had the right.  Before Him, the four creatures and the elders bowed.  To Him, these created beings lifted their voices in praise.  And, in what must have been a thunderous voice, the millions of angels chanted in unison, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”  (v. 12)

One of the important responsibilities of angels, you see, is to worship God.  As we, in this study, draw attention to the existence and ministry of angels, don’t lose sight of the fact that there is One greater.  He is the One that even the seraphim and cherubim worship.  He is the One before whom you should bow!

sbk

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December 30 – It is a real world!

Read Psalm 148:1-14

The Lord is to be praised!

One cannot read this psalm without recognizing that.  Clearly, God has designed that every created entity was designed for His adulation.  You probably noticed that this is not only a responsibility of young, old, kings, princes, and rulers (vv. 11, 12).  It was also for this purpose that all living creatures in the sea, in the air, and on the earth exist (vv. 7, 10).  And even inanimate objects like sun, moon, stars, clouds, winds, lightning, and hail enable us to grasp the grandeur and glory of the Creator.

But there is yet one more dimension of created entities that were designed to give Him praise.  They are indicated in verse 2.  They are “His angels,” which are sometimes collectively referred to as the “heavenly hosts.”

Over the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at these created beings.

Let’s take a quick tour of the things we will discover.  They were among the first of all of God’s creation, rejoicing as God created the rest of the world (Job 38:1-7).  They make repeated appearances in both the Old and New Testaments.  In fact, as we will later learn, perhaps you have seen one (or more) and not been aware of it (Heb. 13:2). Jesus refers to them numerous times.  These spiritual beings were created apparently at many different hierarchical levels.  Angels can be divided into two basic camps of good (angels) that do God’s bidding and serve people and bad (demons), who serve Satan and seek to ultimately harm people.

As those in the post-Enlightenment western world, we may quickly dismiss the idea that there is a real spiritual world in which beings that are mostly invisible to mankind exist.  For many of us, our upbringing and education might cause us to roll our eyes and shake our heads.  But, friends, as we will see in the days ahead, these are real entities created by God.  Those who choose to ignore their existence, do so at their own detriment.

sbk

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December 29 – News to share

Read Amos 7:1-8:14

My wife tells a story of her grandmother who lived to be nearly 90.  At one point she went to the doctor with symptoms.   His diagnosis was not a positive one.  She had a life-threatening illness.  Her response?  She never went back to that doctor…and lived several more decades!  Separating herself from the source of bad news worked!

Jeroboam, king of Israel, seems to have reacted similarly.  After catching wind of the prophecies of Amos (which included the king’s own painful death and the nation’s own judgment by exile) he asked Amos to leave and take his prophecy gig to the southern tribes of Judah.  Perhaps the king concluded that Amos had control over the prophetic content, and that, by changing his surroundings, the judgment would be redirected towards another group.

But the prophetic office was not something that Amos had sought out for himself.  He had been minding his own business as a shepherd and an orchard worker.  God Himself had called Amos to prophesy…and to prophesy to the people of Israel.

Let’s push pause here for an important application question.  Are you attentive to God’s promptings in your own life…even those that may not be understood and embraced by others?

Now, back to the story…

Included in the prophecies of Amos were the four visions of chapters 7 and 8.  As Amos saw an initial vision pointing to judgment by locusts, he asked God to forgive.  And God relented.  Then there was the vision of fire which would have utterly devastated the nation and its resources.  Once again, Amos asked, and God relented.  But the visions of the plumb line and of the summer fruit would stand.

In other words, judgment was imminent and unavoidable.  God was going to bring punishment on His people because of their injustices and rebellion.  This judgment would not completely destroy them, for He would faithfully rescue a remnant.

Let’s close with a final word of application.  Although the judgment for the godless of our age is a different one, it is nevertheless real.  For all who do not obey the gospel, there will be punishment by fire (2 Thess. 1:7-9).  As Christ followers, we play an important “prophetic role” of warning them of the coming wrath and pointing them to Christ.

Steve Kern

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December 28 – Don’t be spiritually blind or ignorant

Read Amos 5:1-6:14

I am not proud of the fact that it has happened to me before…probably most often in my marriage.  I have been the guy who was at times simply “blind and ignorant.”  I have been blind to my mistakes and ignorant to the fact that I had hurt my beloved bride.  The painful realization of this is never fun, but it always leads to clarity and healing.

Apparently I am not alone.  In fact, the entire nation of Israel was guilty of a similar blindness and ignorance.  Assuming that everything was just fine, they were celebrating the Jewish feasts and bringing the right kinds of offerings (5:21-24).  They were enjoying some of the best things that life had to offer (6:4-6).  Still they were ignorant of the fact that their “acts of worship” were despised by the God of heaven.  They were blind to the reality of their own pride.  And they did not understand the imminent judgment that awaited them.

Although the Israelites enjoyed luxury, they had neglected just treatment of their fellow man.  Even though they went through the motions of worship, it seemed that God was not the only one to whom they devoted their worship.  As a result, God was going to send the Assyrians upon them.  He would use a godless nation to bring divine judgment upon them.  They would be subjected to the Assyrians and forced into exile.  Indeed, the price for their blind ignorance was high!

How do things look in your relationship with God?  Have you assumed that all is well, but, in reality, you are blind and ignorant?  You may be doing all of the right kinds of things when it comes to church attendance or even practicing spiritual disciplines like Bible reading and prayer.  Still, it is possible that God has a rival in your life.  It is possible that you are giving greater devotion to someone/something else.  It is possible that your spirituality is not currently trickling down into your thoughts and actions toward others.

Open your eyes from any blindness that might be there.  Inform your heart of any ignorance that may have allowed you to overlook something that is obvious to God!  Confess it to Him, and pursue Him with renewed devotion and abandon.

Steve Kern

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December 27 – Family life includes discipline

Read Amos 3:1-4:13

Hebrews 12:6 gives us a general principle of how our heavenly Father interacts with those He calls His own:

“…the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

That principle expressed in the New Testament is restated and illustrated in the Old.  In fact, you read in Amos 3:2 of God’s sovereign selection of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Of all of the families on the face of the earth, He chose them.  What He says in the next breath should not catch us by surprise.  On the basis of His intimate relationship with them, He points out, “therefore I will punish you for all your sins” (3:2b).

Have you ever wondered why godless people seem to “get away with” all kinds of evil?  First of all, it is important to note, that no one “gets away with” anything.  Without the grace offered to us in Christ, each person will reap what he/she has sown (Gal. 6:7).  Even if it seems that God has failed to bring punishment to a person who is not His child, that is only temporary.  Judgment will one day come.  But this apparent lack of discipline may also be the result of the fact that the person is not yet a child of God.  Picture it this way…if you observe a child doing something wrong in public, chances are your response will be different if the child is yours!

Keep in mind, the judgment of Assyrian exile they were about to experience was being added on top of other disciplinary methods He had already attempted.  He had caused them to hunger, withheld rain, destroyed their harvest, and sent plagues.  Still they had not returned to Him.  Through this final act, He was seeking to lovingly catch the attention of those He loved in order that they might turn back to Him.

Has the Lord been using His discipline in your life in order to catch your attention?  That discipline is not always a direct punishment for sin.  Sometimes it is adversity that is designed to strengthen your dependence upon and develop your intimacy with Him.  Rather than angrily rejecting such difficulties, embrace them as loving gifts from Him.

Steve Kern

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