A Lamb Without Blemish – Malachi 1

The Bible clearly teaches that the fruit of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.  Jesus went to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, taking upon Himself a brutal death in our place so that we may enjoy a blameless life with Him into eternity.

Long before Jesus was born to His appointed hour, sin sacrifices were spelled out in the Old Testament law to point towards Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.  Without the shedding of blood, there could be no remission of sins. 

19 For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. 22 And almost all things are cleansed with blood, according to the Law, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  Hebrews 9:19-21 (NASB)

As scripture later clarifies, the blood of lambs, bulls, and goats could never truly atone for the sins of people.  These observances were necessary in God’s eyes until the purifying sacrifice of Christ could satisfy heavenly accounts, wiping clean all of our sin once and for all.

Insufficient as they were, these sin sacrifices prescribed by God were still vital to purify people in His eyes and to establish a holy covenant between Himself and people of faith.  These sacrifices must be done with all reverence and respect, and through the prophet Malachi, God let the people of Judah know that He was having an issue with their approach.

After assuring them that God really does love them, the prophet Malachi shared some stiff correction from the Lord on how the people were conducting their sacred sacrifices.

“‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of armies to you, the priests who despise My name! But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is to be despised.’ And when you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not evil? Or when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not evil? So offer it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you, or would he receive you kindly?” says the Lord of armies.  Malachi 1:6-8 (NASB)

The people were selling off their best animals for personal profit and using the less saleable ones for their sacrifices to the Lord.  As God the Father would one day offer His most precious Son for the eternal benefit of believers, it is understandable that He would be strongly displeased by these half-hearted offerings to Him.

The Lord continued to speak through Malachi to open the eyes of the people and to convict them in their hearts for these actions.

11 “For My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense and pure offerings will be presented in My name in every place because My name will be great among the nations,” says Yahweh of Hosts.

12 But you are profaning it when you say: “The Lord’s table is defiled, and its product, its food, is contemptible.” 13 You also say: “Look, what a nuisance!” “And you scorn it,” says the Lord of Hosts. “You bring stolen, lame, or sick animals. You bring this as an offering! Am I to accept that from your hands?” asks the Lord.

14 “The deceiver is cursed who has an acceptable male in his flock and makes a vow but sacrifices a defective animal to the Lord. For I am a great King,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “and My name will be feared among the nations.  Malachi 1:11-14 (HCSB)

Jesus will one day return to reign as King over the entire earth.  In that day, He will be worshiped by every tongue and nation everywhere.  By the blood of Christ, He is extending grace, mercy, and forgiveness to all who will open their hearts to Him today.

17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.  1 Peter 1:17-19 (NASB)

May you have an encounter of peace and joy with the spotless Lamb of God, a lamb without blemish.


How can I give my best to God?  What am I holding back on?

Lord, show us the things in our lives that we are holding back from You.  Help us to surrender them so that they may be multiplied in fruitfulness to the glory of God.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Faith and Love – Malachi 1

Returned to their land after a long and hard exile in Babylon, the people of Judah wondered if the Lord really did love them.  In response, God sent them the final prophet writer in the Old Testament, Malachi.  He assured them that God deeply loved them as He always had but did have a few concerns to share with them.

This is the message that the Lord gave to Israel through the prophet Malachi.

“I have always loved you,” says the Lord.

But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?”

And the Lord replies, “This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob, but I rejected his brother, Esau, and devastated his hill country. I turned Esau’s inheritance into a desert for jackals.”  Malachi 1:1-3 (NLT)

God chose to initiate a loving faith relationship with His chosen people through the call of Abram, later named Abraham.  Though God promised to make Abraham a great nation through his descendants, he waited twenty-five years for his promised son, Isaac, to be born.  After Isaac was grown, he and Rebekah had twin sons, Esau and Jacob.  God chose the younger child, Jacob, to be father of the twelve tribes of Israel, including the line of Judah, through whom Jesus Christ the Messiah would appear.  Through this line, God would extend His loving gift of salvation to all the world.

But on the surface, Jacob is one of the last people one might select for such an important position.  Often crafty, manipulative, or outright deceptive in his youth, Jacob was one we would probably have wanted to shy away from.  But God saw the great potential for faith in his heart.  Jacob’s hard edges would be whittled down by another, even more cunning and deceitful than him, his uncle and future father-in-law Laban. Their relationship would prove to be a humbling challenge for Jacob, bringing him to the point of surrender to a loving God for relief and deliverance through faith. 

God later revealed through Moses the great love He always had for Israel.

14 “Look, the highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the Lord your God. 15 Yet the Lord chose your ancestors as the objects of his love. And he chose you, their descendants, above all other nations, as is evident today.  Deuteronomy 10:15 (NLT)

Yet despite their mutual bloodline, God rejected Esau and extended tremendous grace to Jacob.  Why is that?  I believe it is because Jacob ultimately opened his heart to God while Esau rejected God all the days of his life.

The relationship between the twin brothers had been very contentious.  While Esau was often out hunting and bringing back delicious meals for his father Isaac, Jacob stayed close to home and was a favorite of their mother.  Over time, Esau came to hate Jacob.  He believed that Jacob “stole” two things from him, 1) his birthright as the first born and 2) their father Isaac’s spiritual blessing.  This blessing was a major event, and all the family members were aware of its reality and power in God.  God honored the blessing, even though it was acquired by Jacob through deceit rather than faith.

In the end, God’s love for Jacob and his line was because of their potential for faith.  The same was true for Israel in Malachi’s time and is true for us today.  The Lord loves us all, and if at some point in our life we have even just a kernel of faith, His love and protection will flow over us like a river.  This is not because of any great thing we have done, but simply because of the loving character and nature of God, our Creator and Sustainer.

God is biding His time before the final judgment, making sure that every possible accommodation is being made to draw as many people as possible to Himself in a saving faith relationship.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)

The apostle Paul prayed that the eyes of the new believers in Ephesus would be open to the love God has for each one of us.  It is a good section of scripture to pray over our loved ones and others God that has placed in our lives:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. 16 I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, 17 and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:14-19 (HCSB)

May you experience all the blessings and love offered to Abraham through faith in the Lord today.


Who is the Lord placing on your heart to pray for today?

Father God, we pray that the individuals You have placed on our heart be strengthened in their inner being through Your Spirit, that the Messiah may dwell in their hearts through faith.  May they be able to experience and know the length, height, and depth of the great love Messiah Jesus’ has for them, love so great that He went to the cross for them.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

God’s Timing is Everything – Esther 6

The evil Haman had manipulated King Ahasuerus (also called Xerxes) to issue an irrevocable decree calling for the murder and plunder of all Jewish residents throughout the Medo-Persian empire on a certain day.  To counter this, God had placed Esther in the palace as Queen, but thus far she had kept her heritage secret, and the king did not know she would be directly impacted by the decree.  Furthermore, Queen Esther was not permitted to approach the king without being summoned by him first, under the penalty of death.  The king had already acted with impulsive rage on multiple occasions, so there was good reason for her to fear for her life.

When Esther’s relative Mordecai informed her of the specifics of the decree through her messengers, she was not sure how to respond or what steps to take.  Sensing her hesitation, Mordecai sent this response:

13 Mordecai told them to reply to Esther with this answer, “Do not think in your soul that you will escape in the king’s household more than all the Jews. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place—but you and your father’s house will perish. Who knows whether you have attained royal status for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:13 (TLV)

In hindsight, it is clear that the Lord granted Queen Esther her royal status in order to preserve His people, but it still required bold action on her part to take the initiative to save them.  Like the prophet Daniel before her with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Esther asked her support community to fast for her first, then she would approach King Ahasuerus no matter the consequence.

 16 “Go! Gather together all the Jews who are in Shushan and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast in the same way. Afterwards, I will go in to the king, even though it is not according to the law. So if I perish, I perish!” Esther 4:16 (TLV)

God heard their petitions and Esther was able to safely approach the king.  She then invited both the king and the evil Haman to a banquet the next day where she planned to confront them both with the facts of Haman’s underhanded manipulation.  Haman assumed the banquet was being prepared to honor him.

Meanwhile, after another encounter, Haman decided not to wait until the appointed date to kill Mordecai, who opposed him.  At home that evening, he heard and joyfully approved of his wife and friends’ cruel suggestion:

14 Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, “Let them set up a gallows 50 cubits high, and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go happily with the king to the banquet.” This idea delighted Haman and he ordered the gallows to be built.  Esther 5:14 (TLV)

Things looked very bleak indeed for Mordecai.  But this very evening, God would intervene in the situation, using a little insomnia and refreshing a memory in the king’s mind.

1 That night sleep deserted the king, so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, be brought in and read before the king. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had revealed that Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the door, had conspired to kill King Ahasuerus.

The king asked, “What honor or recognition has been shown to Mordecai for this?”

The king’s servants that attended him replied, “Nothing has been done for him.”  Esther 6:1-3 (TLV)

The following morning, the king asked the evil Haman what should be done for a person the king wished to honor.  Assuming that the king was talking about him, Haman listed off several honors that he would love to receive:

So Haman replied, “For the man whom the king desires to honor, let them bring a royal robe that the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on his head. Then let the robe and the horse be placed into the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them clothe the man whom the king desires to honor and parade him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming, ‘This is what is done for a man the king desires to honor!’”

10 The king said to Haman, “Go quickly! Take the robe and the horse, just as you suggested, for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate! Do not neglect anything that you recommended.”  Esther 6:7-10 (TLV)

Nothing could deflate and embitter Haman faster than being forced to grant these honors to Mordecai, whom he had planned to hang on high gallows.  But Haman’s day was about to get much worse at the banquet, where Queen Esther revealed her heritage to the king and showed that the full blame for the dreadful decree belonged to Haman.

So Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in the eyes of the king, and if it pleases the king, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare the life of my people—this is my request! For we have been sold, I and my people, for destruction, slaughter and annihilation. If we had simply been sold as male and female slaves, I would have remained silent, for such distress would not be worth disturbing the king.”

King Ahasuerus responded to Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is the man that presumed to do this?”

Esther replied, “The man—the adversary and foe—is this wicked Haman!”

Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen.  Esther 7:3-6 (TLV)

At this, King Ahasuerus began to have another of his famous temper tantrums.  Looking for ways to punish the guilty Haman, he got some timely advice.

Harbonah, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “Look, a gallows fifty cubits high is standing next to Haman’s house. Haman himself made it for Mordecai, who spoke good on behalf of the king!”

The king said, “Hang him on it!” 10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s rage subsided.  Esther 7:9-10 (TLV)

This being done, the king felt relief, then granted all of Haman’s estate to Mordecai, who took Haman’s place as the king’s chief advisor.  They were then able to issue a second decree which allowed the Jewish people throughout the empire to defend themselves, which they did quite effectively.  This event is celebrated each year by the Jewish festival of Purim.


Though the name of God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, His presence is revealed all through it by the many timely events that blessed and protected His people.

What events in your life have produced blessings for you, perhaps without realizing that God was behind it?

Lord, we thank You for Your loving presence in our lives, often before we even know You are there.  We thank You for the beauty of Your creation in the heavens and on earth, and for Your glory that we see reflected in it.  Help us to reflect Your loving presence and glory to those around us.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

An Evil Manipulation – Esther 3

11 Though they plot evil against you
    and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed.  Psalm 21:11 (NIV)

Throughout history, cunning people have often been able to manipulate their way into positions of power and influence.  This was true back in the time of Esther, whom God had elevated to Queen of Persia in order to protect and preserve His people.

The evil Haman was an advisor to King Ahasuerus who was able to charm his way into the king’s favor.  The king promoted prideful Haman into a position where he must now be bowed down to by all people in the empire as he represented the king himself.  But faithful Mordecai saw through Haman and refused to do so. 

Some time later King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, son of Hammedatha the Agagite, elevating him and setting his chair above all the officials who were with him. All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded it. But Mordecai would not bow down or pay him honor.

Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why are you disobeying the king’s command?” Day after day, they spoke to him but he would not listen to them. Therefore they told Haman in order to see whether Mordecai’s resolve would prevail, for he had told them that he was a Jew.

When Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing down or paying him honor, Haman was filled with rage. But it was repugnant in his eyes to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him the identity of Mordecai’s people. So Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.  Esther 3:1-6 (TLV)

Haman was not only evil and prideful in his heart, but he was also under the influence of dark spiritual forces.  These forces oppose God and His chosen people and seek to destroy not only them, but the Messiah that King David’s line would bring forth.  Under such dark influences, Haman concluded that destroying Mordecai for dishonoring him was not enough; he would come up with a plan to manipulate the king into killing off all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout all the empire.

Using the same manipulation that brought him into the king’s favor, Haman tricked the king into enforcing a day when all the Jews in the land would be killed because they worshiped their own God and would not follow all of the king’s commands.  Foolishly, the king agreed and issued an irrevocable decree to do so.  The new law was translated into the various languages of the land and sent out into all the empire.  Haman and the king celebrated this act with the seal of alcohol.

15 The couriers went out hurriedly with the king’s command and the edict was issued in the palace in Shushan. The king and Haman then sat down to drink. But the city of Shushan was dumbfounded.  Esther 3:15 (TLV)

Haman’s evil plan looked foolproof.  The king’s decree was now irrevocable, so the day was soon approaching when all the Jews throughout the kingdom would be killed, and their possessions plundered by their neighbors.

But God is greater than any evil that comes against Him.  Until God has spoken the final word, the end of the story is not seen.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 (ESV)

The seeds which God had planted through Esther and Mordecai were about to bear divine fruit.


Have you had encounters with people who plotted evil schemes against you?  How did God intervene?  What was the result for you and for them?

Lord, thank You for caring enough to watch out for us even when we were totally unaware of Your presence and protections.  We ask for continued blessing and preservation for ourselves and our loved ones.  Help us to reflect Your love to others as we walk in Your divine light and grace today.  We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Esther Queen of Persia – Esther 2

When the people of Judah had begun to return to Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon to rebuild the city and its temple, they were still under the jurisdiction of Medo-Persian empire.  Though they had been granted permission by King Cyrus to return home, there would still be demonic forces opposing them every step of the way, persistently seeking to destroy both them and the lineage of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

While many people returned home to Judah after the seventy-year exile was up, a large number stayed behind to live comfortable lives throughout the Persian empire.  King Xerxes, called King Ahasuerus in this biblical account, was fair and generous to all of his people.  A highly respected warrior in his battles against an emerging empire of Greece, Ahasuerus’ biggest flaw was his attraction to alcohol, and the foolish behavior and decisions he would make while under its influence.

Though dark spiritual forces were at work against the Jewish people, God would use two seemingly unrelated events in the lives of two of them to preserve the Jewish nation as well as the lineage of Jesus: 1) the rise and establishment of Esther as Queen of Persia, and 2) her relative, Mordecai, learning of a plot to kill the king and thus saving his life.

There was a Jewish man in the Shushan palace whose name was Mordecai, son of Jair son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjamite, who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the captives that had been carried away with King Jeconiah of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken away. He had raised Hadassah—that is Esther—his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The girl was attractive and had a beautiful figure. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her to him as his own daughter.  Esther 2:5-7 (TLV)

Mordecai raised Esther as if she were his own child.  Although Esther was also of Jewish descent, she kept this to herself, at Mordecai’s direction.

10 Esther had not disclosed her people or her lineage, because Mordecai had commanded her not to make them known.  Esther 2:10 (TLV)

In one long, drunken, and pride-filled escapade, King Ahasuerus deposed his innocent wife, Vashti.  His decree being irrevocable, the king now looked about to find a replacement for queen.  After reviewing numerous candidates from throughout the kingdom, the Lord worked behind the scenes to present Esther before him.  The king was smitten with her and chose Esther to be the new Queen of Persia.

17 Now the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she won his grace and favor more than all the other virgins. So he placed the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

18 Then the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his princes and servants. He proclaimed a holiday for the provinces and distributed gifts in keeping with the king’s wealth.  Esther 2:17-18 (TLV)

Queen Esther was now in a position of great influence alongside one of the most powerful people on earth at the time.  Step one of God’s plans to save His people was now in place. 

Meanwhile, during one of the king’s ceremonies:

21 In those days while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Ahasuerus. 22 But Mordecai found out about the plot and told it to Queen Esther. Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name. 23 When the matter was investigated and found to be so, they were both hanged on a gallows. It was then written in the book of the chronicles in the king’s presence.  Esther 2:21-23 (TLV)

God used both Esther and Mordecai to achieve His purposes without them even realizing it.  In fact, Mordecai’s important role in saving the king’s life was quietly recorded in a chronicle and quickly forgotten.  But God did not forget.  And Mordecai’s action would come back into prominence one special day down the road.


Can you think of a time when God was working in your life to arrange a future event without you realizing it?  God is always working for good and will even use the foolish or harmful behavior of others to achieve His holy purposes.

One way that God reveals His presence around us is through “coincidences”, favorable things that happen in our lives or unlikely people we run into that we assume are just a matter of chance.  Yet over time, as more and more of these types of events occur, we realize that the hand of God is behind them.  Some have referred to these occasions as “God-incidences”.

Have you observed any “God-incidences” lately?

Lord, thank You for being present in our lives, for blessing us, and protecting us from evil.  Help us to walk a holy path, following You today and always.  Free us from harmful addictions and behaviors that bring heartache to ourselves and others.  May Your divine word burn within our hearts, strengthening us and encouraging us to live pure lives to reflect You and Your love to those around us.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Lord Sings – Zephaniah 3

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made the following declaration:

“Blessed are the meek,
    for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:5 (TLV)

This statement gets ignored by many of us, as it appears to be just the opposite of what we observe in our day-to-day lives.  The meek and humble almost always seem to get brushed aside as the proud and confident gather more and more of the abundance of the earth and its possessions.

But Jesus is speaking of what will happen in the last days, sometimes referred to as the Day of the Lord.  Multiple prophets refer to this time of extreme trial and tribulation when all nations will gather to battle against Jerusalem.  It will be a purifying trial for the nation and the world.  The Lord Himself in the person of Jesus Christ will return on the scene to defeat all of God’s enemies in the physical and spiritual world and to hand the kingdom over to the meek and humble of the earth.  He will reside in their midst as King and Lord.

The prophet Zechariah shares God’s words with His beloved people about the new era which will be brought in by this coming event:

11 On that day you will no longer need to be ashamed,
    for you will no longer be rebels against me.
I will remove all proud and arrogant people from among you.
    There will be no more haughtiness on my holy mountain.
12 Those who are left will be the lowly and humble,
    for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord.
13 The remnant of Israel will do no wrong;
    they will never tell lies or deceive one another.
They will eat and sleep in safety,
    and no one will make them afraid.”

14 Sing, O daughter of Zion;
    shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
    O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment
    and will disperse the armies of your enemy.
And the Lord himself, the King of Israel,
    will live among you!
At last your troubles will be over,
    and you will never again fear disaster.
16 On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be,
    “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!
17 For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”  Zephaniah 3:11-17 (NLT)

God will not only live and reign among His people, but He will even sing over them with joyful songs.

In fact, for those living today under the grace of God who have been forgiven and purified through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lord is likely singing over us today whenever we are walking in His will, just as we might whistle or hum a tune when we are feeling happy.

We are all works in progress.  Pride or anger can erupt at any time, and we and others will be the worse off for it.  But as believers, God’s Holy Spirit is alive within us.  Though our poor behavior will grieve the Spirit, we can quickly reconcile with the Lord by humbly confessing our sins and seeking to make restitution with others.  And God promises that the fruit of the Holy Spirit will continue to grow within us if we let Him.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23 (HCSB)

The fruit of God’s love exhibits patience, gentleness, and self-control.  For some, these can be the most difficult fruits to bear, especially when we have been provoked.  Zephaniah tells us that a day will come when we will no longer encounter provocations such as lies and deceptions.  But in the meantime, we are living in an imperfect world, and without leaning upon the fruits of the Spirit, we can easily be drawn right into the worst of it.

May the Holy Spirit continue to grant us restraint, humility and love even in the midst of trial.  When we prevail, likely the Lord will smile and perhaps sing a joyful song over us.  May you enjoy His great blessing today.


Lord, we turn to You for help to live a humble, honest, and generous life.  May the fruits of the Holy Spirit grow within us and help us to share the love of Christ with those around us in all circumstances.  Forgive us for the times we have failed and help us to make amends with those we have hurt.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Spirit of Grace – Zechariah 12

God has promised through multiple prophets that the great world empires of history, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and its modern-day derivatives, will all one day be replaced by a different kind of government led by God Himself, Jesus Christ.

But we are also warned that this final government will not come without birth pains.  With a general lack of God-connection among people in the last days, this will allow them to be misled by one last global leader, the Antichrist.  Without the spiritual discernment that God’s Spirit provides, Antichrist will be able to attract the masses with mesmerizing, devil-empowered signs and wonders.

This false god leader’s final act will be to draw all of the nations of the earth into a battle against Jerusalem.  What initially looks like an easy victory for them will find the attackers coming up against God Himself.  No army of any size could ever hope to overpower Him.

1 The word of the Lord concerning Israel.
A declaration of the Lord,
who stretched out the heavens,
laid the foundation of the earth,
and formed the spirit of man within him.

2 “Look, I will make Jerusalem a cup that causes staggering for the peoples who surround the city. The siege against Jerusalem will also involve Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who try to lift it will injure themselves severely when all the nations of the earth gather against her.  Zechariah 12:1-3 (HCSB)

Attacking Jerusalem will turn out to be a tremendous stumbling block.  The invaders will be repelled by overwhelming divine retribution.

On that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that on that day the one who is weakest among them will be like David on that day, and the house of David will be like God, like the Angel of the Lord, before them. On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  Zechariah 12:8-9 (HCSB)

 On that day Yahweh will become King over all the earth—Yahweh alone, and His name alone. 

11 People will live there, and never again will there be a curse of complete destruction. So Jerusalem will dwell in security.

12 This will be the plague the Lord strikes all the peoples with, who have warred against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. 13 On that day a great panic from the Lord will be among them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of one will rise against the other.  Zechariah 14:9,11-13 (HCSB)

In this remarkable victory, Jesus will be revealed to all of His people as the True and Victorious Messiah.  All vestiges of human government will be eliminated, and a spirit of forgiveness and grace will be poured out upon the people.

10 “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10 (HCSB)

It is hard to imagine what else the prophet Zechariah might be referring to other than a belated recognition of the Messianic credentials of the crucified Jesus Christ.  Zechariah emphasizes the Lord’s mercy and grace being poured out without limit.  God’s forgiveness of sins is extended today to all who come to faith in Christ, no matter what they have done in their past and how late their awakening may be.

1 “On that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the residents of Jerusalem, to wash away sin and impurity. On that day”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts—“I will erase the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered. I will remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.  Zechariah 13:1-2 (HCSB)

As the apostle Paul later wrote in the book of Romans:

25 So that you will not be conceited, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery: A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

The Liberator will come from Zion;
He will turn away godlessness from Jacob.
27 And this will be My covenant with them
when I take away their sins.  Romans 11:25-27 (HCSB)


Jesus wondered if He would find faith when He returned from heaven.  We know from the prophets that His return will come at a time of great world turmoil and rebellion against God, led by a powerful and deceiving Antichrist.  But God has promised to prevail over all opposition, and that He will never forget His beloved,

29 since God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable.  Romans 11:29 (HCSB)

Lord, keep us strong in the faith and grant us patience and self-control to live a holy life through the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Show us where we can be useful to You and to the growth of Your kingdom today.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

The Bad Shepherd – Zechariah 11

In the gospel of John, Jesus differentiates between Himself, the Good Shepherd who loves His sheep, and a hired shepherd, who leads the sheep but has no commitment to them:

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep. John 10:11-13 (HCSB)

Alluding to His coming crucifixion, a voluntary sacrifice which will atone for the sins of His believers, Jesus continues:

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.  John 10:14-15 (HCSB)

Despite Jesus’ deep willingness to die for our salvation, the actual act of rejecting and betraying Him was still a tremendous afront to God.  The prophet Zechariah wrote of Messiah’s rejection and physical wounding at the hands of the Romans, whom temple authorities had handed Jesus over to for execution.

Zechariah writes:

If someone asks him: What are these wounds on your chest?—then he will answer: I received the wounds in the house of my friends.

Sword, awake against My shepherd,
against the man who is My associate—
this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts.
Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
I will also turn My hand against the little ones.  Zechariah 13:6-7 (HCSB)

When Jesus was struck down and crucified, His disciples were scattered in fear until they saw the risen Christ.  After His ascension into heaven forty days later, they gathered together in an upper room in Jerusalem to pray and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had instructed them.  Ten days later, they would receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the feast of Pentecost.  From here onward, they would preach the gospel of salvation with great boldness wherever they went.

But despite rapid growth of the church through their witness of the risen Christ, much of the world rejected Him, and still do today.  With their rejection of the Good Shepherd, God the Father will permit the rise of a false shepherd, the Antichrist, whose spirit is already in the world wherever Jesus is being mocked, attacked, and rejected.  Antichrist will appear to be a great and wonderful leader but will have nothing but evil in his heart.

16 I am about to raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are going astray, and he will not seek the lost or heal the broken. He will not sustain the healthy, but he will devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off their hooves.  Zechariah 11:16-17 (HCSB)

The book of Revelation speaks of the rise of this physical Antichrist, called the beast, who will be a very popular world leader in the last days.  This false shepherd will assume and hold authority through the power of the devil, who is referred to in Revelation as the dragon. 

Antichrist’s seven-year reign will be split into two parts.  The first three and a half years will bring world peace to the amazement of his many followers.  But his final 42 months will bring great war and suffering in what is called the Great Tribulation period, which according to Jesus will be a time of great trial unlike any the world has ever seen.  Antichrist will finally be defeated when Jesus returns to earth to establish His eternal kingdom.

The apostle John writes about the dragon, or devil, and the beast, or Antichrist:

They worshiped the dragon because he gave authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to wage war against him?”

A mouth was given to him to speak boasts and blasphemies. He was also given authority to act for 42 months. He began to speak blasphemies against God: to blaspheme His name and His dwelling—those who dwell in heaven. And he was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. He was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. All those who live on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered.  Revelation 13:4-8 (HCSB)

Because of a global rejection of the Messiah, the Bad Shepherd will be permitted to flourish in the end times with the full approval and praise of all those under him.  But like the devil himself, Antichrist’s time to mislead and bring suffering to the nations will be limited.  Neither the dragon nor the beast will ever be permitted into the kingdom of God, which will be under the complete authority and protection of the Good, loving, and ever-committed Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He will rule and reign from Jerusalem forever.


Jesus told a parable about a good shepherd with 100 sheep.  When one of His sheep became lost, He left the ninety-nine to go search for it until He found it.  When He found it, there was great joy on earth and in heaven.

The Lord is still searching for lost sheep today, be it in a lonely flat or apartment, a bar, a jail or prison, in a crowd, or anywhere someone has lost their way or their purpose and is searching for a solution.  Jesus is there to fill the emptiness inside with His loving presence. He is right there.

Lord, keep us safe always from the bad shepherds.  Grant us discernment and wisdom to keep us away from their lures and charms.  Help us to walk closely with You, the true Good Shepherd, bathed in Your great light and love, and surrounded with Your protection.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thirty Pieces of Silver – Zechariah 11

After his prophecy about Jesus entering Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, the prophet Zechariah was given another piece of information about the coming Messiah. 

Zechariah writes:

12 Then I said to them, “If it seems right to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” So they weighed my wages, 30 pieces of silver.

13 “Throw it to the potter,” the Lord said to me—this magnificent price I was valued by them. So I took the 30 pieces of silver and threw it into the house of the Lord, to the potter.  Zechariah 11:12-13 (HCSB)

Jesus would be betrayed by one of His twelve apostles, Judas Iscariot, who agreed to sell Him for 30 pieces of silver to the religious leaders who were trying to kill Him.

14 Then one of the Twelve—the man called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?” So they weighed out 30 pieces of silver for him. 16 And from that time he started looking for a good opportunity to betray Him.  Matthew 26:14-16 (HCSB)

Judas told Jesus’ opponents when and where they could find Him to arrest Him in the night.  When they arrived, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss of friendship on the cheek.  As God, Jesus could easily have resisted any kind of attack, but He permitted Himself to be taken into custody without resistance, knowing that He would be brutally beaten and crucified unto death as a result.  He did this voluntarily, knowing that He alone could be the only acceptable sacrifice worthy of providing complete atonement for the sins of the world.

The rest of Zechariah’s prophecy was then fulfilled:

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was full of remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he said.

“What’s that to us?” they said. “See to it yourself!”

So he threw the silver into the sanctuary and departed. Then he went and hanged himself. 

The chief priests took the silver and said, “It’s not lawful to put it into the temple treasury, since it is blood money.” So they conferred together and bought the potter’s field with it as a burial place for foreigners. Therefore that field has been called “Blood Field” to this day.  Matthew 27:3-8 (HCSB)

Jesus was fully aware of everything that was happening around Him.  This was the reason He had come to earth to begin with – to establish a new covenant between God and People, with complete forgiveness to be provided by faith through His death on the cross and the shedding of His blood.  At His final Passover meal, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper and presented Himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

As the apostle Paul later wrote:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, 24 gave thanks, broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

25 In the same way, after supper He also took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (HCSB)

Forty days after rising from the dead, Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.  He will return one day to rule and reign over the world from Jerusalem as both Lord and King.  In the meantime, He has directed us to remember Him and His loving sacrifice on the cross through the bread and the cup of the new covenant.


As believers in Christ, we are encouraged to participate in the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, to celebrate Jesus’ wonderful sacrifice and the grace that flows to us as a result.  None of us is worthy to stand before God on our own merit or goodness – we require the complete washing and purification that only the death and resurrection of Christ can provide through faith in Him.

If you do not yet have this cleansing, won’t you invite Him into your life to drink of His living water today?  He has been with you every moment of your life, through all the joys and the sorrows, and He deeply loves you.

Lord, thank You for being with me in every moment, through the tears and the laughter, the successes, and the failures.  Help me to walk closely with You and to live a holy and blameless life, one day at a time.  Though I do fail often, I seek to get up and do a better job of reflecting Your love to others at the next opportunity.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Triumphal Entry – Zechariah 9

The prophet Zechariah was privileged to be given this prophecy to share with the world about the coming Messiah:

Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
        Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!
    Behold, your king is coming to you,
        a righteous one bringing salvation.
        He is lowly, riding on a donkey—
        on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  Zechariah 9:9 (TLV)

When the future Leader of God’s kingdom was introduced in Jerusalem, He was recognized by these specific signs and qualities:

  • He will be righteous.  No human being is righteous on their own goodness.  We all have sins and flaws.  Except for one – the only person who lived without sin is Jesus Christ.
  • He will bring salvation.  Only God can give the gift of salvation, eternal life.  The only person who is 100% God and 100% human is Jesus Christ.
  • He will present Himself to His people while riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 

Of all humanity, only Jesus fulfills these Messianic requirements.  As He prepared to enter Jerusalem on the Sunday before His death on the cross, He gave certain instructions to His disciples:

When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”

This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“Look, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
even on a colt,
the foal of a beast of burden.”

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of Him and those who followed kept shouting:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
He who comes in the name
of the Lord is the blessed One!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!  Matthew 21:1-9 (HCSB)

Upon His entry, Jesus was received by the crowd with great fanfare. They fully expected He would assume His kingship immediately and overthrow the oppressive Roman empire.  Jesus’ credentials as Messiah were fulfilled by the countless miracles and healings He performed, so they had no reason to think He would not immediately fulfill this role.  But there was a problem – sin.  Because of people’s sin, they would not be able to live as His righteous subjects in a holy and pure kingdom.  The hard fact was that there first had to be a remedy for sin. 

The solution planned from the beginning of time was for Jesus to lay His life down as the holy sacrifice for the sin of the world.  After three days in the tomb, He would be raised from the dead and bring new life to all believers.  This is the great hope that Christ-followers have to this day.

Jesus will return to Jerusalem one day as glorious King of the final world empire, the Kingdom of God.  So many of the Old Testament prophets write of this day.  But it had (and has) not yet arrived, and the crowds that worshiped Jesus at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem did not understand what was happening.  When Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested on groundless accusations then beaten and crucified as an atonement for sin, almost all of the people around Him abandoned Him in disappointment and fear.

Jesus’ horrible crucifixion was also prophesied about, first in the Psalms:

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.
18 They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.  Psalm 22:14-18 (HCSB)

Then by the prophet Isaiah:

Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,
and He carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded Him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished Him
for the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:4-6 (HCSB)

We believers are eternally grateful that God loved us enough to permit such sacrifice on our behalf. And He is calling all people to Himself through the power of the cross.


Lord Jesus, thank You for going to the cross for us.  We have all sinned and fallen short of Your righteousness.  We ask for Your forgiveness and mercy and for Your help in extending mercy and forgiveness to those around us.  We ask this in Your Name, Amen.