Bible reading for December 13 -- 14
Dec 13 -- Haggai 2 and John 3
Dec 14 -- Zechariah 1 and John 4
"Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts..." (Haggai 2:4)
THE LATTER GLORY (Haggai 2). The Jews, having returned from Babylonian exile, must get to work and finish rebuilding the temple. For this reason, the post-exilic period is called the "second temple" period. King Herod would later enlarge and add many embellishments to the site. But the beginnings in Haggai are so modest compared to the temple originally built by Solomon, and the people were discouraged. The Lord asks, "Is it not as nothing in your eyes?" (v 3) He tells them that they are to be strong and to keep working, for he is with them, no matter how humble the project may seem. This principle applies to us, as well (Matt 28:20; Eph 6:10). We should not become disheartened at the smallness of the return on our labor (1 Cor 15:58; 2 Cor 12:9-10). The "latter glory of this house" (v 9) may be referring to the temple expanded by Herod, which was visited by Jesus, the true Temple. Or perhaps, it's the Millennial temple (Ezek 40-48). Zerubbabel, though not ruling as a king, is nonetheless God's signet ring, that is, the one bearing the authority of the house of David. That authority ultimately would come to Christ, who will judge all the nations. He himself is the presence and glory of God (Jn 14:9; Rev 21:23).
ZECHARIAH (ch 1). This is another post-exilic prophet, who served at the same time as Haggai. The genre of this book is mainly apocalyptic, sharing many of the same images as Daniel and Revelation. Now that the Jews were back in the land, they were not to grow lax, but to continue dealing with the same sins they faced before the exile. The influence of the world, the flesh, and the devil never go away in this life! Watchfulness, confession, and repentance are needed daily. Emily Dickinson wrote, "We both believe and disbelieve a hundred times an hour, which keeps believing nimble." God's people are to live confidently, knowing his angels are patrolling the earth (vv 8-15). The four horns (vv 18-21) represent world powers that would be broken by the Lord. Perhaps in this context the nations of Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome are in view. The lesson for us is this: no earthly power today -- no matter how great -- will thwart God's divine purposes for his people.
Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)
THE NEW BIRTH (Jn 3). Nicodemus visits Jesus and learns of his spiritual need.
AT THE WELL (Jn 4). Here's a contrast: in chapter three, Jesus deals with a morally upright, influential, educated Jewish male. In chapter four, he interacts with a morally-outcast, marginalized Samaritan woman. One visit is at night; the other in broad day. These two individuals -- both alone in their encounter with Jesus -- could not be more culturally and socially different. What they share in common: both do not "get" Jesus; they have trouble understanding his teaching; both have needs and questions; both need grace. Jesus patiently talks to them and teaches them both. What's different: the woman is quicker to believe and soon declares her faith publicly. Nicodemus does come to faith, but does so later, and quieter, but he supports a fair hearing for Christ among the Jerusalem leadership, and later he helps take care of Jesus' burial. What we learn about Christ in these stories: that all of us, no matter who we are, need the grace which God offers to us in the gospel. Education and privilege make absolutely no difference in facing a holy God. Also, we learn that Jesus is not at all hindered by social, educational, cultural, sexual, or economic barriers. He is not put off by sincere questions. With the woman he is unconcerned about any ritual defilement. The Lord Jesus has come to reach every kind and class of person. Are you and I that free and unhindered in reaching out, talking to, and caring for others?
BIBLE READING PROJECT. I am finishing this writing project, begun two years ago. If you joined along the way and would like to complete the cycle of Bible reading (year one: NT, Psalms, first half OT; and year two: NT, Psalms, second half of OT) then go to my website and find where to continue your reading. Just pull down the Archive menu from the upper right corner. We began here on January 1st, 2020.
Image credit: A study for "Nicodemus Visiting Jesus", by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1899), in the public domain. About this newsletter: I'm Sandy Young, and 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.