Pastor Steve has personally written a daily devotional of every chapter of the Bible.
Move your relationship with the Lord beyond weekly church attendance to include a
daily appointment with the Holy Spirit
through these chapter-by-chapter Bible teachings.
"Haman was furious when he saw that Mordekhai was not kneeling and bowing down..."
“Haman was furious when he saw that Mordekhai was not kneeling and bowing down to him. However, on learning what people Mordekhai belonged to, it seemed like a waste to lay hands on Mordekhai alone. Rather he decided to destroy all of Mordekhai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole of Achashverosh’s kingdom.” Esther 3:5-6 (CJB)
We live in difficult times, and our nation has an unclear financial future. As anyone who has ever had money in the stock market knows, there are no sure bets on Wall Street! Israel was about to learn this lesson the hard way.
Life for the Jews in exile could not have been much better. One of their own was queen (although most would not have been aware of that because of the secret pact in chapter 2:1, 20). Furthermore, one of their own had just rescued the King and was sure to be rewarded for that heroic act. There is an old saying: Rising tide lifts all boats. What that means (in the context of chapter 2) is that when a couple of Jews are favored in the King’s eyes, it should raise the profile and prospects of the Jewish community as a whole. Humanly speaking, they were as secure as any exiled people could be. All of that, however, would quickly change. The Jewish “stock” on the “Susa Board of Exchange,” which in chapter 2 reaches all-time heights, plummets in chapter 3 to all-time lows.
Chapter 3 begins easily enough – a promotion of one individual and a seemingly insignificant act of defiance on the part of another. However, the chapter ends with the shocking revelation of an entire nation of people being placed under a death sentence. It is a death sentence that has been repeated throughout the generations and tragically will be repeated again.
“In the first month, the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of Achashverosh, they began throwing Pur (that is, they cast lots) before Haman every day and every month until the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. Then Haman said to Achashverosh, ‘There is a particular people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people; moreover, they don’t observe the King’s laws. It doesn’t befit the King to tolerate them. If it please the King, have a decree written for their destruction; and I will hand over 330 tons of silver to officials in charge of the King’s affairs to deposit in the royal treasury.” Esther 3:7-9 (CJB)
The entire Jewish people are made to pay for a crime committed by one of their own. Ironically, the same individual, who in chapter 2 is instrumental in bringing about the meteoric rise in Jewish stock, now becomes the reason for its dramatic drop.
Looking at the big picture, it is clear that Satan is positioning His people while God is positioning His. That’s not to say that good & evil exist in some balance. God has no equal, evil or otherwise. It simply reminds us to expect Satan always to attempt to foil the Lord’s plans.
But fear not! Greater is He who is in us!! 1 John 4:4
“Remember the instruction of Moses My servant, the statutes and ordinances I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Look, I am going to send you Elijah... ”
“Remember the instruction of Moses My servant, the statutes and ordinances I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes. And He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.” Malachi 4:4-6
“And His disciples asked Him, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ And He answered and said, ‘Elijah is coming and will restore all things; But I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that he was talking about John the Baptist.” Matthew 17:10-13
What was John the Baptist’s message? It was the same message of return & repentance that Malachi foretold.
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, because the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Matthew 3:1-2
Isaiah is another prophet who foretold John’s coming. “For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said: a voice of one crying out in the wilderness, saying ‘Prepare the way for the Lord. Make His paths straight!’” Matthew 3:3, Isaiah 57:14
John the Baptist’s ministry is even mentioned in the Psalms.
“Righteousness will go before Him to prepare the way for His steps.” Psalm 85:13
And how was the Lord’s way to be prepared? The way was prepared when people repented and turned their hearts toward the Lord.
If you have ever walked against the flow on a Manhattan sidewalk, you understand that it is easier to reach your destination when everyone walks in the same direction as you!
Repentance reverses the flow of spiritual and moral traffic, so to speak. By turning hearts toward the Lord and His Word, men become educated as to God’s character, His commandments, the concepts of holiness & man’s depravity, and the world’s need for Messiah. In short, repentance prepares the heart to receive the gospel.
Repentance is not, in & of itself, salvation. It simply prepares the way for it. That’s why John said, “…but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I”. Matthew 3: 11
Moving into the New Testament, let’s continue turning our hearts to God’s Word. Let’s commit to advancing His kingdom by sharing the Truth of Messiah, which His Spirit reveals to us, one chapter at a time.
“At that time, those who feared the Lord spoke to one another. The Lord took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written... ”
“At that time, those who feared the Lord spoke to one another. The Lord took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who feared YHWH and had high regard for His name. ‘They will be Mine.’ says the Lord of Hosts, ‘a special possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked between the one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.’” Malachi 3:16-18
I love this passage because it reminds me of the people who study the Bible with me in coffeehouses. Those of us who fear the Lord are getting together and speaking about Him openly and publicly. Scripture says that the Lord is with us when we gather in Messiah’s Name. He takes notice and listens.
“For where two or three have gathered in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:19
Two factors distinguish the believers Malachi speaks of 1) They fear the Lord, and 2) They have high regard for His name. Remember the third commandment: Do not receive the Lord’s name in vain. A “Book of Remembrance” is written before the Lord. All who fear YHWH are set apart as “a special possession” on the day of the Lord: the day when the Lord will judge the world. Malachi’s words are obviously Messianic.
Consider how the Lord will have compassion on those whose names are written in the book: “as a man would have compassion on his son.” Those who follow Jesus are called sons and daughters, co-inheritors with Messiah. (Rom 8:16-17) As God raised Jesus from the dead, so He will also raise those who, by faith, believe in Jesus. Finally, a distinction is drawn between those of Israel who fear the Lord and those who do not: righteous and wicked, servants and self-servers. Compare God’s offer of compassion (toward Israel’s repentant) in Malachi 3 with His attitude toward Israel’s wickedness in Exodus 32.
“The Lord replied to Moses: ‘Whoever has sinned against Me I will erase from My book. Now go, lead the people to the place I told you about; see, My angel will go before you. But on the day I settle accounts, I will hold them accountable for their sin.’ And behold, the Lord inflicted a plague on the people for what they did with the calf Aaron made.” Exodus 32:33-35
The idea that salvation is secured to the Jew simply by virtue of having been born Jewish is not supported even by the Old Testament. It is as ridiculous as the notion that damnation is unavoidable for the Gentile by being born a non-Jew. Righteousness must be imputed into each believer’s account, by God’s grace, alone. That transaction occurs when individuals turn from their sin and faithfully fear the Lord by trusting God’s Word concerning Messiah. This is how men are saved. This is how our names are recorded in the Book of Remembrance. (Revelation 21:27)
“You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you ask, ‘How have we wearied the Lord?’ When you say, ‘Everyone who does evil... ”
“You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you ask, ‘How have we wearied the Lord?’ When you say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the Lord’s sight, and He is pleased with them,’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’” Malachi 2:17
Here is a saying that bears repeating. Two things confound a fool: 1) How slow God is to respond to sin, and 2) How quickly He shows up to judge.
The religious contradictions in Israel had reached their peak by the end of the first prophetic age. On the one hand, the religious leaders were teaching that God was overly gracious, to the point that He was pleased with those who practice evil. On the other hand, they demanded God’s justice for their enemies.
How can a God, who is pleased with evil, serve justice? Justice demands that God hates what is evil.
Today’s verse reminds me of a conversation I had with a gentleman in Israel a few years back. This young man told me he didn’t believe anyone was going to Hell. He thought we shouldn’t risk personal confrontation by preaching about judgment and redemption because God would pardon the whole world at the last moment.
Later that day, the issue of suicide bombers came up. The same fellow’s comment was, “I hope those suicide bombers get what they deserve!” Contradiction. When we refuse the Bible as the standard, we allow feelings, politics, and secular philosophy to determine our theology. With this approach, our opinions “seem” to make sense in isolated situations, but they don’t collectively agree. We elevate our intellect to be the judge and humiliate the Bible to be “just another opinion.”
We find a similar situation in the book of the Judges.
“In those days, there was no king in Israel. Every man did whatever he wanted.” Judges 21:25
Paul lists several manifestations of moral relativism displayed in the last days.
“But know this: difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of religion, but denying its power. Avoid these people!” 2 Timothy 2: 1-5
The same perversion of truth, which brought judgment upon Israel before Messiah’s first coming, will eventually bring judgment upon the whole earth. It signals the approach of Jesus’ second coming, not as a Suffering Servant but as the Righteous Judge.
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am your father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me? ”
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am your father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me? Thus says the Lord of Hosts to you priests, who despise My name. ” Malachi 1:6
It may not sound very hip, but I am concerned with what corporate worship services have become for many congregations. I say this from the perspective of having performed over 1,000 concerts in worship settings worldwide.
There is a growing sense, present in many churches, that following God is all about us as individuals. The music, theatrics, marketing & promotion, and message series seem to be focused on our pleasure. The whole production seems to be at the expense of simply teaching the Bible comprehensively and living out God’s Word in a community of accountability.
This was very much the case with Israel in the days of Malachi. Prophets and priests tickled the ears of the public and showed favor to whoever contributed the most money. The religious leaders spoke of the positive and popular aspects of God’s blessing, and they steered clear of the negative and unpopular elements of His standard.
Selective preaching perpetuated an ignorance of God’s Word. Ignorance of His Word leads to a diminished view of God’s character. A diminished view of God leads to a heightened view of oneself.
Ultimately, the leaders were more concerned with the approval of men than with glorifying God, at the risk of man’s rejection. As a result, Israel heralded Adonai neither as Father nor Lord.
Most modern-day production-centered churches assume that their methods result in the spiritual growth of their congregants. Research has discovered that this may not be the case. Please understand, I’m a showbiz guy. The music business is my professional background. I love a great worship experience when music, media, and message are artfully woven together. But problems arise when a congregation focuses more on gathering, retaining, and (dare I say) entertaining congregants rather than graciously yet comprehensively teaching the Bible.
“The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7
“So faith comes by hearing; and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10: 7
When we acknowledge God as Father AND Lord, we will worship Him as such.
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man Who is My Companion,” says the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered...”
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man Who is My Companion,” says the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; then I will turn My hand against the little ones. And it shall come to pass in all the land,” says the Lord, “That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; and each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Zechariah 13:7-9
Zechariah, speaking of Messiah, the great Shepherd of Israel, reminds us of Messiah’s primary role in His first coming: Atonement for sin. He does not come first as the great King, whom so many people among the Jewish community are awaiting today. While He will return as the triumphant King in His second coming (Revelation 19:11-16), Messiah first comes to atone for the sin of the flesh with His own flesh, offering atonement, even to the rebels who opposed Him.
“Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.” Isaiah 53:12
Of course, we know Messiah has been revealed in the person of Jesus. A portion of our evidence (that Jesus is Messiah) comes from His fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy (and Micah’s (Micah 5:2), David’s (Psalm 22), and Isaiah’s (Isaiah 53), to name a few. He was struck down, and His crucifixion resulted in the scattering of His “sheep,” aka, His disciples.
“Then Jesus to them, all of you shall be offended because of Me this night: for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” Matthew 26:31 (see also: Mark 14:27; John 10:12)
But more than fulfilling prophecy, the scattering of Jesus’ “sheep” also had a therapeutic result. It separated His disciples from the vicious “wolves” posing as shepherds in Jerusalem, separated “wheat-from-tare” among those who called themselves His disciples, and it helped spread the gospel by 1) Scattering the evangelists around the world and 2) Ensuring that the gospel preached was pure. Job spoke of the purifying nature of his own hardships.
“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10
A great thing about God’s chastening & refining His people is that the season of chastening & refinement does not last forever. Hence, He fulfills Hosea’s words.
"Say to your brethren, ‘My people,’ and to your sisters, ‘Mercy is shown.” Hosea 2:1
“Then I will pour out the Spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they have pierced.”
“Then I will pour out the Spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they have pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning of Hadad-Rimmon in the plains of Meggido. The land will mourn, every family by itself: the family of David’s house by itself and their women by themselves; the family of Nathan’s house by itself and their women by themselves; the family of Levi’s house by itself and their women by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself and their women by themselves; all the remaining families, every family by itself and their women by themselves.” Zechariah 12:10-14
Today’s passage presents a picture of the awakening of Israel when the “veil” begins to be taken away. (Romans 11) Then the call will come to self-humility and contrition of heart for Israel having rejected Messiah and having sinfully refused the testimony of the Holy Spirit as to Jesus’ true identity. This will be, for that Remnant, their great “Yom Kippur” (day-of-atonement). At least two centuries have elapsed since Messiah atoned for the sin of the World, and since that time, the community of Israel has not kept that day of fasting and introspective soul searching, as God commanded. In 70 A.D., the Romans destroyed the Temple, as it lies in ruins today, making Temple sacrifices impossible. So, while the Jewish community may set the day aside, they fall short of God’s desired requirements for the day.
It is important to note that we are studying the words of an ancient prophet who predates Jesus’ earthly advent by almost 600 years! For the sake of discussion, let’s say that Jesus is not Messiah, and the “real” Messiah was to come on the scene today. According to Scripture, the Jewish community would not accept him, either! They would reject him and kill him - simply because it is prophesied, all the way down to their acknowledgment of wrongdoing and grief for having “pierced” him.
Now, back to reality: Jesus IS Messiah! And there will come a time when a Remnant of Israel will not only worship Him; they will grieve, family-by family, for how they had once rejected Him. We see it also in Revelation 1:7
“To Him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by His blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to His God and Father – to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, including those who pierced Him. And all the families of the earth will mourn over Him. This is certain. Amen.” Revelation 1:6-7
It is not a wailing of terror that is described here, but the anguished mourning of the awakened Remnant when they realize the dreadful impiety their fathers were guilty of in crucifying the Lord of glory. Yet God will pour on that believing Remnant of David’s house (and on Jerusalem) His spirit of grace and prayer; not one of judgment & wrath!
“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.”
“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. ‘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. Then I cut in two my second staff, Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. The Lord said to me: ‘Take the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 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 not sustain the healthy, but he will devour the flesh of the fat of sheep and tear off their hooves.’” Zechariah 11:12-16
Reading today’s passage, one might believe they were reading one of the New Testament descriptions of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, for it is a perfect fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy:
“Then one of the twelve – the man called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests 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. And from that time, he started looking for a good opportunity to betray Him.” Matthew 26:14
“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.” Matthew 27:3-7
So, the Good Shepherd has asked for His wages and broken His shepherd staffs, named “Favor” and “Union.” It reminds me of the violinist who not only retired from performing, but he smashed his violin, making a return to the concert stage nearly impossible. But, what of the new shepherd? Contrary to The Who song, for Israel, it was not a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” It was more like, “meet the new boss; he is evil and selfish.” In other words: Meet the Anti-shepherd, “Antichrist.”
The scenes leading up to today’s chapter have contained some lovely pictures of God’s favor for the repentant Remnant of Israel. But the glory of Israel’s full return has been held at a distance from our present generation because of the rejection of the Shepherd upon whom the blessing depends, Jesus. So we are still left with the sorrowful account of the refusal of the Good Shepherd. (Isaiah 53). The spirit of Anti-shepherd, who seeks only his own glory and doesn’t care a bit for the ruin and scattering of the Lord’s “Flock” is rampant. The former passage predicting the events surrounding Jesus’ betrayal was fulfilled precisely as prophesied, so we can expect Anti-messiah to arrive on the scene exactly on time. Already, the signs of the end are appearing. Are you ready? Jesus is coming to redeem and shepherd His Flock. Have you joined His sheepfold?
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