October 10, 2018: Power Behind the Drama
The concerns that make up our
mini-narratives can sometimes distract us from the great drama in which we have
been cast. When a mighty angel appears with a scroll in John’s revelation, the
apostle’s part in Elohim’s great redemptive drama suddenly becomes very clear.
He swaps his role of scribe for that of actor, speaking Elohim’s very words:
“And I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll, and he said to me, ‘Take and eat it up, and it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth, it will be sweet as honey.’ And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it up, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth, and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. And they said to me, ‘It is necessary for you to prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings’” (Rev 10:9–11).
John’s new task parallels the prophet Ezekiel’s call to speak Elohim’s words. The prophet eats a scroll to internalize and speak the words of Yahweh, which turn sweet in his mouth (Ezekiel 2:8–36; see Psalm 119:103; Jeremiah 15:16). The words of Elohim are also sweet for John, but the bitterness that follows reveals that a two-fold judgment is coming. Elohim’s words are sweet and comforting for the believers, but they also bring judgment. John has seen what lies behind the curtain, and he is charged with making this drama known to all—even to those who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the Author.
John was charged with
bringing the things he had learned to the people and nations of the earth.
Today we are all cast in this drama of the Lord God, Elohim’s redemptive work.
Our individual narratives should be informed by His greater drama—they should
be seamlessly intertwined so that we display His creative and redemptive work.
We should, together with John, profess this truth to all those we encounter.
October 1, 2018: The Real Reality
John and Ezekiel open their prophetic
books in a similar fashion—to prepare us for an unexpected view:
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his slaves the things which must take place in a short time, and communicated it by sending it through his angel to his slave John, who testified about the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud and blessed are those who hear the words of the prophecy and observe the things written in it, because the time is near!” (Rev 1:1–3).
“And it was in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, and I was in the midst of the exiles by the Kebar River. The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day of the month—it was the fifth year of the exile of the king Jehoiachin—the word of Yahweh came clearly to Ezekiel the son of Buzi, the priest, in the land of the Chaldean's at the Kebar River, and the hand of Yahweh was on him there” (Ezek 1:1–3).
Both authors open with heavenly visions—God testifying to His people. Both place their prophecies in a particular setting, and both articulate their ideas during tragic, despairing times. We meet John on the island of Patmos, and we meet Ezekiel on a riverbank. But more important than where the visions start is where they take us: to a scenic overlook of reality, not as it appears, but as it is. God is about to reveal what’s really going on.
Prophets speak truth about what others cannot see and urge them to heed that truth. John and Ezekiel call us to something greater, something unknown. They urge us to act as if time were running out—because it is. It’s only a matter of time until Jesus comes again.
The visions of both
these prophets declare that God wants to use us here and now for a grand
purpose—one that we may not yet comprehend but that we must nonetheless embrace.
Their message is clear: Our call may be difficult, but real reality demonstrates God working through the pain. He is
bringing goodness into the world and into our lives. All we have to do is
October 2, 2018: When Love is Lost, Labor is in Vain
When zeal lacks love,
faith is rendered useless. Love is the crux of faith. We can study the Bible
like a scholar, pray like a warrior, evangelize like the world is ending
tomorrow, but we still might miss the mark of faith. God desires our love.
The church in Ephesus, one of the most influential communities in the first century ad, patiently endured persecution and held on to their faith. But Ephesus is the first church that Jesus holds accountable in His revelation to John—and not for their lack of zeal:
“And you have patient endurance, and have endured many things because of my name, and have not become weary. But I have this against you: that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the works you did at first. But if you do not, I am coming to you, and I will remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rev 2:3–5).
Although the Ephesian church had remained outwardly faithful in formidable circumstances, Jesus still threatened to remove His favor. The community was doing everything right—maintaining orthodox standards, testing apostles, refusing to tolerate evil—but they no longer delighted in the grace that they first knew. They weren’t motivated by the same love.
We hear the same reprimand when Paul writes to the church in Corinth: Even if we “speak with the tongues of men and angels” or “have the gift of prophecy” or have faith that “can remove mountains,” we are nothing without love (1 Cor 13:1–2). Paul continues with the poetry that speaks a hard but necessary truth: Even if we “parcel out all [our] possessions” and “hand over [our bodies] in order that [we] will be burned”—all without love—it doesn’t benefit us or earn us favor with God (1 Cor 13:3–4).
These passages should shake us. If we are relying on our correct doctrines for approval, we need to take our cue from Jesus’ words to the church in Ephesus. If we think our evangelizing efforts, our church involvement, or our Bible reading merit God’s favor, we are mistaken. Even our suffering profits us nothing without love.
The grace God has shown
us should break our hearts, drive us to Him, deepen our love—and motivate all
of our labors. We must continually return to that grace. It’s His love that
initially motivated our love. And it’s His love that sustains it.