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Joel 2:18-3:21; Amos 1-4

Then the Lord was jealous for his land and took pity on his people.

Joel 2:18, NIV

I read of God’s jealousy and mercy. Other verses that follow in this reading hold special meaning to me, but this start grabs my attention. It ignites an old memory of when we were in our first small group, and began to read a part of the Bible. The group leader asked me what I had learned about God in the reading, and I said, “He is jealous.”

I read today of all the ways he tries to get Israel’s attention:

“I gave you empty stomachs in every city
    and lack of bread in every town,
    yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the Lord.

“I also withheld rain from you
    when the harvest was still three months away.
I sent rain on one town,
    but withheld it from another.
One field had rain;
    another had none and dried up.
People staggered from town to town for water
    but did not get enough to drink,
    yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the Lord.

“Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards,
    destroying them with blight and mildew.
Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees,
    yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the Lord.

10 “I sent plagues among you
    as I did to Egypt.
I killed your young men with the sword,
    along with your captured horses.
I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps,
    yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the Lord.

Amos 4:6-10, NIV

Lord, you call me close to you again and again. You feed me encouragement from others and underscore your love in your word. Like a teacher getting through to a student, you get my attention to tell me: this is important. I listen. I refocus. I remember the verses you’ve given me, and highlight the words you’ve given me in this season. You formed the mountains, created the wind, revealed your thoughts to mankind. You turn dawn to darkness, and tread on the heights of the earth—the Lord God Almighty is your name.

Courtney (66books365)

He who forms the mountains,
    who creates the wind,
    and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,
who turns dawn to darkness,
    and treads on the heights of the earth—
    the Lord God Almighty is his name.

Amos 4:13, NIV

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Ezekiel 48; Daniel 1:1-2:30

This is what I know when I meet Daniel–he was physically fit, attractive, teachable and capable, educated, and qualified. He was going to be treated (somewhat) like a king–at least with a measure of respect and dignity–eating food and drinking wine from the king’s table. And he was going to be taught the language and literature of the Babylonians.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

Daniel 1:3-8, NIV

And though he was enlisted to be part of the king’s service and immersed in the culture of the Babylonians, he drew a line he wouldn’t cross: he would not defile himself with the royal food and wine. I take special note of this.

I learn a lot about Daniel and his friends in these opening scriptures. And I see how God works in their lives.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

Daniel 1:17, NIV, emphasis mine

I also take special notice of what happens when Daniel is under extreme pressure. He’s on the cusp of execution because all the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers are unable to tell the king the content of his dream or its meaning.

14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact.

Daniel 2:14, NIV

Daniel speaks with wisdom and tact.

He also takes the issue to the Lord in prayer and expectation.

17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
    You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel 2:17-23, NIV

I think again on the quote, “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.” Finding himself a captive of sorts, enlisted, and facing great stresses, I see the level of Daniel’s training–a foundation of solid boundaries, discipline, faith, and humility.

Lord, these days I find myself leaning more and more into you. I’m thankful for a reading today that highlights your presence and provision. And I’m also grateful for a reminder of my own personal responsibility to stick to boundaries and maintain a focus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 25:1-28:10

Ammon … said “Aha!” over my sanctuary when it was desecrated and over the land of Israel when it was laid waste and over the people of Judah when they went into exile … you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet, rejoicing with all the malice of your heart against the land of Israel (Ezekiel 25:3b, 6b, NIV)

Moab … Moab and Seir said, “Look, Judah has become like all the other nations.” (Ezekiel 25:8b, NIV)

Edom … took revenge on Judah and became very guilty by doing so (Ezekiel 25:12b, NIV)

Philistia … acted in vengeance and took revenge with malice in their hearts, and with ancient hostility sought to destroy Judah (Ezekiel 25:15b, NIV)

Tyre … said of Jerusalem, ‘Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me; now that she lies in ruins I will prosper,’ (Ezekiel 26:2b, NIV)

As I was reading these scriptures and noticing the penalties and punishments being listed, I decided to go back again and read from a different perspective–the why that prompted the Lord’s response. The Lord speaks out against these places, stating the why behind his justice, and I’ve noted them here.

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“‘In the pride of your heart
    you say, “I am a god;
I sit on the throne of a god
    in the heart of the seas.”
But you are a mere mortal and not a god,
    though you think you are as wise as a god.
Are you wiser than Daniel?
    Is no secret hidden from you?
By your wisdom and understanding
    you have gained wealth for yourself
and amassed gold and silver
    in your treasuries.
By your great skill in trading
    you have increased your wealth,
and because of your wealth
    your heart has grown proud.

“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“‘Because you think you are wise,
    as wise as a god,
I am going to bring foreigners against you,
    the most ruthless of nations;
they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom
    and pierce your shining splendor.
They will bring you down to the pit,
    and you will die a violent death
    in the heart of the seas.
Will you then say, “I am a god,”
    in the presence of those who kill you?
You will be but a mortal, not a god,
    in the hands of those who slay you.
10 You will die the death of the uncircumcised
    at the hands of foreigners.

I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (Ezekiel 28:1-10, NIV)

I notice lately, in the scriptures I’ve read, how often the Lord is speaking. When I know that: 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV), am I listening to be taught, admonished, corrected, and trained?

I read a quote recently that sticks with me: “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.” (Quote credited to an anonymous Navy SEAL)

Lord, when you speak, I want to listen. Help me to identify and root out haughtiness, judgment, apathy, greed, pride and malice from my thoughts and heart. I want to be useful in your kingdom, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Courtney (66books365)

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Lamentations 3:52-5:22; Ezekiel 1-2

Lord, when you speak, I pray that I would listen.

55 I called on your name, Lord,
    from the depths of the pit.
56 You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears
    to my cry for relief.”
57 You came near when I called you,
    and you said, “Do not fear.” (Lamentations 3:55-57, NIV, emphasis added)

The passages that mention fear stand out to me, and not because I’m facing an acute, frightening situation, but mostly because the Lord speaks here. And he says, “Do not fear.” When I immerse myself in the words of today’s scriptures and read of the details in each chapter, the details speak of big, scary things (that were happening or could happen).

He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” (Ezekiel 2:1-8, NIV, emphasis added)

Lord, sometimes you save (us) from out of the pit, and sometimes you send (us) into the battle (or big, scary situations). May I always listen for your voice. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4, NIV)

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 34-36

Following God doesn’t mean there won’t be trouble.

While Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms and peoples in the empire he ruled were fighting against Jerusalem and all its surrounding towns, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Go to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am about to give this city into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down. You will not escape from his grasp but will surely be captured and given into his hands. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes, and he will speak with you face to face. And you will go to Babylon.

“‘Yet hear the Lord’s promise to you, Zedekiah king of Judah. This is what the Lord says concerning you: You will not die by the sword; you will die peacefully. (Jeremiah 34:1-5a, NIV)

God doesn’t spare us from trouble, but he goes with us through it.

As I read, I see Zedekiah and the people switch gears, and in doing so, change their fate. I read of another leader who hears the words from the Lord and sets them on fire, with blatant disregard–like saying, “I don’t want to hear it, and I don’t want to see it either.”

These chapters highlight pride, sin, integrity, faith, and so much more. Throughout all of it, I see how God, in his love, sends a warning, time and again.

12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying: 13 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the Lord. 14 ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab ordered his descendants not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me. 15 Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, “Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.” But you have not paid attention or listened to me. 16 The descendants of Jehonadab son of Rekab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.’

17 “Therefore this is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.’” (Jeremiah 35:12-17, NIV, emphasis mine)

There’s a lot going on in these chapters, and a lot of people. I wanted to get clear on who is who, so I searched for “whatever happened to Zedekiah,” not reading ahead. I got the story on him.

Lord, your word is full of real life examples. How often have I been negligent to listen to you? I want to listen well trust you. You give me your word in my hands. You want me to know you and follow you and love you. You’ve always pursued me. You are so faithful. And I am so grateful.

Courtney (66books365)

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