Bible reading for June 7 – 8
Jun 7 – Isaiah 39 and Revelation 9
Jun 8 – Isaiah 40 and Revelation 10
”…but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
NOT A GOOD ENDING (ch 39). Hezekiah was a man of faith who saw God work miracles, but the last part of his life was disappointing. Either he succumbed to pride, or insecurity, or perhaps he was lacking sense in showing these foreign dignitaries (future Babylonian overlords) all his wealth. He should have remembered that Judah’s true wealth and power was the Lord himself. Contrast this interaction with that between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (1 Kgs 10:4-9). She sees the blessings of prosperity God gave to Solomon, but what stands out to her was his wisdom: “Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the LORD your God…” We’re not sure what Hezekiah’s motive was, but it was an unwise gesture, and moreover, Hezekiah seems primarily concerned that the Babylonian captivity would not come in his day. In this chapter he does not come across as a man of faith.
THE BOOK OF COMFORT (ch 40). The next chapters will focus on the nature and character of God. He is not like the gods and idols of the nations. “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” (v 18) He measures the oceans in his palm and marks off the heavens with his fingers. The mountains, along with all the nations, are like dust before him. Yet he gives new strength to the weary ones who look to him. He is the infinitely wise and powerful Creator, but he also is the gentle Shepherd: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (v 11). As God’s child, what truths in this chapter bring comfort to you today?
“So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number.” (Revelation 9:15-16)
THE FIFTH AND SIXTH TRUMPETS (ch 9). The fifth angel sounds his trumpet (vv 1-12). The last three trumpets are also called the “three woes”, meaning that the judgments are becoming especially severe. The main feature of this fifth judgment is the frightening locust invasion. Various explanations have been given: these are actual locusts, these are demonic beings, these are descriptions of weaponry of modern warfare, and so on. One thing we should note is that unseen spiritual realities may lie behind visible geopolitical events. An army may be both natural and physical, and yet be driven by demonic forces (v 11). The sixth angel sounds his trumpet (vv 13-21). The main feature here relates to the unusual horses (vv 17, 19). Whereas locusts are airborne, this judgment involves ground troops, or cavalry (v 16). Again, students differ as to how much of this is symbolic, or language of appearance. And again, angels (probably demonic since they are bound) are involved in bringing these troops from the east to the middle-east (vv 14-15; cf Rev 16:12). Many have thought the number of troops being 200 million is impossibly high. At the time the Apostle John wrote this the entire world population wasn’t that high. And yet, in our day with nations in the far east numbering in the billions, this size of military is no longer unimaginable.
THE PROBLEM OF PAIN. One intended purpose of God’s judgments in history is to bring about repentance (vv 20-21). The Lord shows great longsuffering and kindness toward us in order to lead us to repentance (Rom 2:4). God also gives us a conscience (Rom 2:14-16), though we often choose to ignore it. But divine judgment cannot be avoided. C. S. Lewis wrote about this in The Problem of Pain: “But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” The Lord has patiently given us time to turn back to him and away from sin. The book of Revelation tells us that time will run out. It may be painful to repent, but in the end it will be more painful not to repent.
THE SCROLL (ch 10). Amidst the global judgments the gospel is still being proclaimed (chapter 10). The scroll, containing the words to be announced, recalls Ezekiel 2:7 – 3:7. God’s word – and the unchanging, everlasting gospel – contains both sweet comfort (for those who believe and repent) and bitter judgment (for those who turn away from God and persist in sin). The book of Revelation brings to fulfillment many themes and images from the Old Testament, especially from Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. This demonstrates the continuity and consistency of all the Scriptures. The sixty-six books that became our Bible were written by dozens of human authors over 1500 years. And yet, it is one Book, a divinely inspired book, and its author is God (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21).
Image credit. Locust swarm in the Congo, photo by Ben Curtis / Associated Press. About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M’Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.