Category Archives: Today in the Word

Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – Joseph and God’s Plan

 

JUDAH ASSUMES LEADERSHIP

Genesis 43:1–15

Can people change? The answer has been debated for generations by philosophers, psychologists, and poets. Some argue we are born as blank slates to be shaped by our circumstances. Others claim we come into this world with our personalities and proclivities already determined. Christians believe that faith in God can transform anyone through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Joseph’s test of whether his brothers had changed from selfish vindictiveness ran into an obstacle. He would not provide any more food for the family unless they brought Benjamin with them—but Jacob refused to let him go. Reuben tried to convince his father by offering the lives of his own two sons as a guarantee that he would bring Benjamin back (42:37). Jacob would not listen.

Judah now stepped up to the challenge of leadership among his family. With food running out, Judah analyzed the situation and decides: “Send the boy along with me . . . so that we and you and our children may live and not die” (v. 8). Yes, it is a risk to send Benjamin. But if they do not take that risk, Benjamin will die of starvation.

Notice especially that Judah is no longer derailed by his father’s clear favoritism. As one commentator says, “Judah’s reference to Benjamin as ‘our brother’ (43:4) counters Jacob’s label (‘my son’) and the exclusivity (‘he alone is left’) with which he talks of Benjamin (42:38).”

Judah offered himself as a pledge of Benjamin’s safety (v. 9). The last time Judah offered a pledge, it was a foolish gift to a prostitute. The last time he made a convincing speech to his family, it was to sell Joseph to a traveling band of Ishmaelites. His priorities had been transformed.

APPLY THE WORD

Ephesians 2 says, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins . . . But God . . . made us alive with Christ.” When God transforms us, it becomes possible to restore broken relationships. Do you have relationships that need God’s healing? Rejoice today that we worship a God that allows for and enables radical change in people’s lives.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – Joseph and God’s Plan

 

Family Reunion: Part 2

Genesis 42:18–38

In Shakespeare’s masterpiece Macbeth, the title character murders King Duncan to fulfill his own ambition of becoming king of Scotland. Wracked by guilt and the fear of being found out, he is unable to enjoy his royal position. Ultimately, he falls into madness.

After three days in prison, Joseph presented his brothers with their test. One of them must stay behind in prison while the rest bring food back to their households. Then they are to bring the youngest brother, Benjamin, to Egypt to prove that their story was true (v. 20).

This harsh treatment was not what Joseph’s brothers expected. Why were they being singled out? Their minds immediately went back to what they had done to Joseph. Verse 21 makes clear that they all felt responsibility for the crime they had committed: “They said to one another, ‘Surely we are being punished because of our brother. . . .’” They vividly recalled Joseph’s distress and his pleading with them from the pit. How often had those words and that image come into their minds in the last twenty years? They had been living in their own kind of prison created by the guilt from their sin.

Joseph had been communicating to his brothers through an interpreter, and they did not know he could understand their conversation. Though he was deeply moved by their words, he was still not ready to confront them directly. His test of their character must continue.

Now Joseph’s brothers faced another difficult conversation, this time with Jacob, who demonstrated little sympathy for their plight. He was too focused on his own grief and loss: “You have deprived me of my children . . . Everything is against me! . . . My son will not go down there with you” (vv. 36–38).

APPLY THE WORD

In Psalm 32, David describes what it was like for him to live with guilt: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long” (v. 3). But God has provided freedom from the prison of our guilt! “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – Joseph and God’s Plan

 

Family Reunion: Part 1

Genesis 42:1–17

During World War II, Corrie ten Boom was arrested for hiding Jewish people from the Nazi regime. She was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where her sister Betsie died. After the war, she was speaking on forgiveness at a church in Munich where she saw a former prison guard. She later described seeing him: “Suddenly it was all there—the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.” What would she do when seeing this guard face to face?

Joseph finally came face to face with his brothers after twenty long years. Undoubtedly, the memory of how they treated him came to the surface. But Joseph also remembered something else: the dreams that God had given him (v. 9).

Joseph—and the reader—must wonder at this point whether his brothers have changed. This chapter opens with Jacob urging ten of the remaining brothers to go down to Egypt to buy food because of the famine. But Jacob did not want to send Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin, with them because “he was afraid that harm might come to him” (v. 4). Jacob was still heartbroken with grief over the loss of Joseph. He still had a favorite son who received preferential treatment. Did the brothers harbor resentment against Benjamin like they did against Joseph?

Joseph is in an interesting position to test his brothers. He recognized them at once, but they do not recognize him (v. 8). He is dressed like an Egyptian official, and surely, it never occurred to them that their enslaved brother could possibly be an important leader. Joseph devised a test for his brothers’ honesty and character: he has all but one put in prison, and they must choose one brother to return with Benjamin to authenticate their story.

APPLY THE WORD

This passage illustrates the tension and difficulty of forgiveness and reconciliation. Can Joseph trust his brothers? What would it take for him to do so? Participating in God’s work of forgiveness and reconciliation might require us to walk slowly toward someone else, trusting that God will provide the answers and healing we need.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – Joseph and God’s Plan – A Change of Perspective

Genesis 38:12–30

In the opening line of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin observes, “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: knowledge of God and of ourselves.” Our Scripture passage today is a story about recognition. Judah comes to know himself more truthfully, which leads to a significant change in his life.

Years passed since Tamar was dismissed by Judah to go back to her father’s house (v. 12). She realized Judah deceived her by not giving her his youngest son in marriage. Cast aside by Judah, she acted in desperation.

The time of shearing sheep was frequently accompanied by parties and social gatherings. When Tamar heard that Judah was coming to Timnah for this festival, she decided to act. She posed as a prostitute, and Judah took the bait. He propositioned her, and she took his seal, cord, and staff as a pledge until her payment arrived. Her scheme succeeded, and she became pregnant with Judah’s child (v. 18).

His lack of sexual restraint stands in sharp contrast to Joseph’s response to temptation in the next chapter.

When Judah discovered that Tamar was pregnant, he responded: “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” (v. 24). Tamar then played her trump card. She used the same words that Judah and his brothers said when showing the bloody garment of Joseph to Jacob: She asked Judah to “recognize” the seal, cord, and staff she had taken (v. 25).

The deceiver had been deceived. Judah’s response is a model of repentance and change. He acknowledged his wrongdoing, and as we’ll see later in the story, for the rest of his life he was a changed man.

APPLY THE WORD

The sons of Tamar and Judah are Perez and Zerah. Perez is an ancestor of David (see Ruth 4:18). The Gospel of Matthew reminds us that Perez is also in the line of the Messiah, Jesus (see Matt. 1:3). God can use and redeem every part of our lives, even what we’ve deemed shameful or embarrassing. Praise Him for His redemption in your life!

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – The Book of Isaiah: Seeing the Glory of God

Isaiah 60, Isaiah 59–61

“If you build it, he will come.” In the movie Field of Dreams, Iowa corn farmer Ray Kinsella kept hearing a voice in his head repeat this phrase. Kinsella understood the voice to be directing him to build a baseball diamond on his farm—a place where eventually his father comes in order for father and son to be reconciled. In the final scene of the movie, one sees cars for miles lining the road to Kinsella’s field. Their coming fulfills the words of Kinsella’s friend, Terence Mann: “Ray, people will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom.”

Isaiah envisions a day when the people of the nations will come to Jerusalem. They are coming to the exalted city, made radiant by the glory of the Lord’s light resting upon the city. This is one picture of the glorification of God’s people. The shining city will point the way to God, even as it points the way to the glory of God’s work in His people. In fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, many will bring their riches from every country and will serve the people of Jerusalem.

The exaltation of Jerusalem means that the city and its inhabitants will be glorified. The Lord will place His character upon us, and for all eternity we will experience the fullness of all of His attributes, the fullness of Christ, and the fullness of the Spirit. We will know God fully and experience being fully known (see 1 Cor. 13:12; 15:28; Eph. 1:23; 3:19; 4:13; Gal. 4:9).

At that time, the Mighty One of Jacob will make the enemies of His people bow down (vv. 14–16). They will see His glory and be forced to submit to His perfect will.

APPLY THE WORD

Ephesians 5:26–27 says that Christ will make His bride perfect in holiness, “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” All believers will be holy with the complete holiness of God. Revelation 21 describes the bride of Christ as a radiant city. Awesome is the God who will share His glory with us!

 

 

 

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – The Called Servant

 

Isaiah 42:1–9, Isaiah 42–43

The Book of Isaiah: Seeing the Glory of God

One of literature’s most memorable miscarriages of justice occurs in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov. After he makes several blunders on the witness stand, Dimitry, the protagonist, is found guilty of a murder he did not commit. Evidence that could exonerate him is withdrawn and destroyed. His attorney, Fetyukovich, makes powerful cross-examinations that are certain to discredit false witnesses and clear his client. In the end, however, Dimitry is convicted and sentenced.

The Lord’s people never need to fear the divine justice system. His justice on the earth rests in His character of holiness, and He has the power to enact His righteousness over creation.

Our text today continues the section of Isaiah often called the “Servant Songs.” This Servant (41:8; 43:10) is one on whom the Lord will set His Spirit. This Servant will be full of compassion and will have strength to be untiring in His pursuit of justice for Israel. The Lord will give this Servant as His sworn promise that He will act in righteousness on behalf of His people.

The New Testament writers identify Jesus as the Servant of whom Isaiah spoke. Luke’s Gospel says He is the “light for the Gentiles” and those in the prisons of darkness (Isa. 42:6–7; Luke 1:79; 2:32). All four Gospels say that He fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy to “open eyes that are blind” (Matt. 11:5; Mark 8:25; Luke 7:22; John 9:25). He is the One who comes to serve in order to bring about the righteousness required by God (Mark 10:45; Acts 3:14; Rom. 3:22).

Complete righteousness must come from outside of us; full justice must come from above. Thankfully, Christ brings both without fail.

APPLY THE WORD

Second Corinthians 1:20 declares, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” Seeing how Jesus has fulfilled God’s promises can increase our faith and praise for Him. Thank Him for the light of salvation and His perfect righteousness.

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – The Book of Isaiah: Seeing the Glory of God

 

A MOUNT SWALLOWED IN JOY

Isaiah 25:1–12, Isaiah 25–26

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby, the character Nick describes the Saturday evening parties he sees at Gatsby’s home: “The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside. . . . The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word.” So great are the parties that it takes eight house servants working all day each Monday to clean up the mess from the extravagant celebration.

Compared to the party that Judah will have on Mount Zion, Gatsby’s parties will seem like one insignificant candle flickering on a poorly made cake! The Lord Almighty Himself will make this festival for His people (v. 6). He will serve only the richest wine and best meats, swallowing up the mountain in His joy.

Four things will turn the day that the Lord saves Judah into a party like no other (v. 8). First, He will destroy death, the great enemy to life. No more will we feel the loss of the deterioration of a body. Second, the Lord will remove the sorrow we have experienced in this present world. Sadness from our own mistakes or from the wrongs of others will be wiped away.

Third, the guilt of our sin will be removed; no more will this weight plague us or destroy our fellowship with the Lord. Fourth, the pride of those who have exalted themselves against the Lord and His people will be brought low. Never again will believers be persecuted or hear someone mock our God. Instead we will hear, “Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation” (v. 9)!

APPLY THE WORD

These points can help guide our celebrations. Rather than debauched parties, we can have times of feasting and festival that remind us that our God delights in praise. Our times of celebration now on earth should celebrate life, encourage joy, resist sinfulness, and provide opportunities for God’s people to come together in worship and rejoicing.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – The Book of Isaiah: Seeing the Glory of God

 

WELLS OF SALVATION

Isaiah 11–12

In recent decades a number of groups have focused efforts on digging and maintaining wells for access to fresh water throughout the developing world. One group in Burkina Faso, in West Africa, says that a single well that is 50 meters deep can provide clean water for 2,000 people. The ability to drink, wash, and cook with clean water is a life-saving and life-changing opportunity for many.

In a similar way, God’s people had a life-changing experience with the Lord’s wells—the “wells of salvation.” Isaiah uses the metaphor to speak of the depths or greatness of the Lord’s salvation toward His people. The prophet considers the outpouring of God’s Spirit and the subsequent peace on the earth and restoration of the remnant. He sees salvation as deep wells of water, representing many aspects of salvation. Christ will gather Israel from the distant lands to which they have fled and plant them back in Jerusalem, the holy mountain of the Lord. The Lord will destroy the enemies of God’s people.

In the day of the Lord, the celebrations of Israel will exalt the depths of the Lord’s salvation. Isaiah foretells a day when the Lord’s people will rejoice in Him with thanksgiving, remember His mercy, ascribe strength to Him, sing songs of gladness, declare His deeds to the earth, and exalt the Holy One. In that day, the Lord will fulfill His covenant promises to make the nations of the earth know His glory, and to dwell forever in the midst of His people. As Paul writes, “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).

APPLY THE WORD

Look at your life prior to salvation, and sing to the Lord a song of praise or thanksgiving for turning away His anger from you by pouring out His wrath on Christ. Think of the many things the Lord has changed for you since you became a Christian. Rejoice in these wells of God’s salvation!

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – Hearing God in the Silence

 

Silence and the Gospel: Jesus as the Logos

John 1:1–5

Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Middle East in the days of Jesus. Everyone spoke it. Parts of the Bible are written in it. Though Arabic replaced it as the key language for the region in the seventh century A.D., Aramaic endured through the centuries. But linguists now believe it is dying, with its last two generations of speakers driven from their homes by war and persecution now spread out around the world.

Human languages may die, but Jesus is the divine Word who has conquered death and given eternal life to all who believe on His name. Our month’s study now moves into its final section, “Silence and the Gospel.” In light of the fact that Jesus is God’s final Logos, what roles has silence played in the Gospel narrative?

John knew both the Jewish and Greek senses of the word Logos and clearly intended to signify both as well as to transcend both. To the Jewish mind, Logos meant God’s words, specifically the Law, and by extension God’s creation and governance of the world. To the Greek mind, Logos referred to both spoken and unspoken language and more importantly to an impersonal principle of reason or rationality.

The coming of Christ the Logos is like light in a dark place—the best Word humanity has ever heard! Just as God spoke light into creation, now comes His Son to speak life where there had been only death. Darkness and death have been overcome once and for all by the victorious Christ.

The theme of silence and the gospel must be situated within the context of Christ as the Divine Word. He broke four centuries of “prophetic silence” to accomplish God’s mission of redemption and bring hope to us all!

APPLY THE WORD

The apostle John opened his Gospel with words that directly evoke Genesis 1. If you have time, we suggest you read Genesis 1 as part of your devotional time today. Set the two passages side-by-side in order to better examine the themes and parallels. Creation and Incarnation are inextricably intertwined and life-changing realities!

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – SILENCE AND SPIRITUAL WALK: RESISTING CONVICTION

 

Psalm 32

Augustine said about confession of sin: “Because I have sinned, I must declare my unrighteousness, confess my sins to the Lord, and stop trying to hide my guilt. The emphasis must be on that I did it myself. It was not fate, not my horoscope, not the devil. He did not force me to sin, but I consented to his persuasive temptations. And when I confess my rebellion to the Lord, I can say with the psalmist, ‘And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.’”

Psalm 32 is a beautiful poem about the blessing and beauty of God’s forgiveness (vv. 1–2, 11). David had at first resisted this blessing—His silence here is the silence of resisting God’s conviction of sin. His rebellious refusal to confess his sin brought about much inner suffering (vv. 3–4). In the end, God broke through and David repented and experienced the profound relief and blessing of forgiveness (v. 5).

The psalmist exhorted his fellow worshipers to do the same (vv. 6–8). God loves us. He can be trusted with our shameful secrets—in fact, He already knows them. He’s not waiting to ambush or punish us, but to forgive us. Sin interferes with closeness to God, so He also wants to teach us how to avoid sin and live righteously. To be under conviction of sin means God is graciously driving us to do what’s right and what’s good for us.

Why, then, would we act like a stubborn mule (vv. 9–10)? Don’t do what I did, David warns. Only an idiot would refuse to confess and repent! The “woes of the wicked” and the unrepentant are self-inflicted, but if we confess and repent, we can trade inner anguish for being immersed in God’s unfailing love (v. 10).

APPLY THE WORD

Confession of sin should be a regular habit. Our society doesn’t talk much about sin, preferring to say people make mistakes or are trapped in systems or “act out” and need therapy. But by repenting of sin and accepting God’s forgiveness, we demonstrate that repentance brings peace and joy in our relationship with God and brings glory to Him.

PRAY WITH US

Please pray for the ministry of Mollie Bond, who serves in Foundations and Corporate Relations, as she establishes relationships with various companies and organizations, involving interested partners in Moody’s ministries.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – DIVINE SILENCE? OUR FEELING OF BEING PUNISHED

 

Isaiah 64:8–12

In centuries past, a “cage of shame” was used for public punishments in many European towns and villages. The offender—who was deemed guilty of anything from adultery to public drunkenness to gossip—was placed inside a large metal cage and put on display in the town square, often during market days or festivals. He or she would often be spit upon or even pelted with rocks and rotten vegetables by the crowds.

Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?ISAIAH 64:12

Divine silence can make us feel as if God is punishing or shaming us like this. In today’s reading, the relationship between God and His people seems broken. At first, the relationship was close and trusting (v. 8). He was the Father, and the Israelites were His children. He was the Potter, they were the clay (cf. Isa. 29:16; 45:9). When they sinned against Him, Isaiah prayed for forgiveness (v. 9). His anger was just, but surely He would forgive, look on them again with favor, and restore the relationship.

Now the Promised Land has become a wasteland (v. 10). Solomon’s great temple has been burned to the ground. The people have been conquered and sent into exile. Will there be no end to God’s judgments? These events and feelings culminate in God’s silence as the most severe of all the punishments (v. 12). In light of all that had happened, would He really continue to hold out or withhold Himself? That is the real misery, the worst affliction, the most painful humiliation of all!

Isaiah’s faith and hope is revealed by the fact that all this is embedded in a prayer. He still cried out to the Lord. He did not believe that the relationship is over or that God will remain silent forever. God’s covenant with Israel is based not on Israel’s merit but on God’s faithful love (Isa. 65:1–3).

APPLY THE WORD

In Scripture and elsewhere, language and silence are often relational metaphors: to speak indicates a strong relationship, presence, and blessing, while to be silent indicates an impaired relationship, absence, and judgment. To explore more, visit the Today in the Word website, todayintheword.com, and check out the October 2012 study.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – DIVINE SILENCE? OUR FEELING OF DESPAIR

 

Psalm 28 DEVOTIONS

Rodrigues, a seventeenth-century missionary in Japan in the novel Silence by Shusaku Endo, wrestled with the silence of God. Where was God, he wondered, when His church was suffering? Where was He when powerful and godless authorities exploited the poor and insulted His name? Where was He when new converts and young believers were tortured and martyred for their faith?

For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit.

PSALM 28:1

Despair is a natural feeling in response to the silence of God. As in Psalm 35 yesterday, Psalm 28 cries out to God not to be silent (v. 1). If the Rock turns a deaf ear, David feels he might as well be “like those who go down to the pit” (which is death)—or as it has been translated elsewhere, “I might as well give up and die.”

God’s silence is an absence not only of words but also of actions. So David prayed that the Lord would show mercy and rescue him, as well as repay the hypocritical evildoers what they deserved (vv. 2–4). The main reason they have earned His punishment is their disregard for the Lord (v. 5).

The psalm then turns from despair to joy (vv. 6–9). This shift in David’s emotional journey is raw, heartfelt, anguished—and full of faith. The psalms are emotionally honest, but they never wallow in self-centeredness. Despite his feelings, David still knows God to be his strength, shield, and shepherd. Though He seems silent now, He is a God who hears, speaks, saves, and blesses, and He will be true to His character.

Anticipating this, the psalmist trusts and sings praises to God. In fact, he “leaps for joy” (v. 7)! His knowledge of God goes deeper than his present circumstances, and so the joy of faith overcomes the despair he feels from God’s momentary silence.

APPLY THE WORD

Like the psalmist, we can take our feelings—any feelings—to the Lord. He can handle them. But also like the psalmist, we should not wallow in self-centeredness or turn our emotions into an idol. We should express our feelings in faith. In the end, the arc of faith, however long it takes, leads to the joy of the Lord. He is our Rock!

PRAY WITH US

Please join us in prayer for our Communications faculty, asking the Father that everything our students learn from David Fetzer, Karyn Hecht, Kelli Worrall, and Matthew Moore carry the message of God’s goodness, love, and salvation—to change lives!

Brad Baurain

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – HUMAN SILENCE: AARON AND THE SILENCE OF GUILT

 

Leviticus 10:1–7 DEVOTIONS

Computer scientists recently used new techniques to read a 1,500-year-old text known as the Ein Gedi scroll. Because it had been badly burned, archaeologists had been afraid to open it lest it crumble into dust. So researchers at the University of Kentucky used X-ray scan data and special software to digitally “unwind” the scroll—and read the first verse of Leviticus, “The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him.”

This is what the Lord spoke . . . “In the sight of all the people I will be honored.” Aaron remained silent.

LEVITICUS 10:3

The book of Leviticus sets forth God’s Law, His instructions to the nation of Israel. The main purpose of these instructions was to ensure that God’s people could be in a relationship with Him and that God was shown proper respect. The consequences of failing to do so were serious and often deadly. That’s what happened in today’s reading (vv. 1–2). Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu offered “unauthorized fire” at the altar of the Lord. Immediately the fire of God consumed them. Not even priests—especially not priests!—could get away with disregarding God’s instructions and dishonoring His name (v. 3).

Aaron’s silence in this episode was an acknowledgment of guilt. His sons’ motives are unknown to us—drunkenness may have been involved (see the warning in v. 9)—but no reason or rationalization could justify their disobedience. For Aaron to keep his mouth shut was the only appropriate response to Moses’ rebuke.

Furthermore, by staying on duty at their priestly posts while the bodies were disposed of, Aaron and his remaining sons demonstrated that God took precedence over mourning for family (vv. 4–7). This might seem harsh, but it was necessary and proper to show the Israelites the absolute importance of obeying God and worshiping Him rightly.

APPLY THE WORD

When we count the cost of discipleship, following Christ is more important than family responsibilities and relationships. Skipping church during sports season to attend the kids’ games, lying to cover-up a relative’s wrongdoing, or taking lavish vacations while refusing to give financially to support the Lord’s work all turn family into idolatry (Luke 14:26).

PRAY WITH US

Again, our prayers go to God for the staff of Facilities Maintenance: Carl Bjerga, John Addison, Joshua Burkhardt, and Matthew Morris. May God bless their work of repair, replacement, and preventative maintenance of MBI’s equipment and facilities.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE ARRIVAL OF THE KING OF KINGS

 

Revelation 19:11–21

Many people gather at Christmas or Easter to hear a performance of the oratorio Messiah by George Frideric Handel. A highlight of the piece is the “Hallelujah” chorus, which acclaims Jesus as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Anyone who has heard the work cannot read today’s verses without hearing Handel’s resounding music.

Now that the invitation has been issued, the bridegroom appears. But He does not come to take the hand of His bride but rather to make war on the beast. He will overthrow him with “the breath of his mouth” and destroy him “by the splendor of his coming” (2 Thess. 2:8). Jesus does not come alone: “The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean” (v. 14). Their clothing identifies them as the redeemed. Did you notice that when Jesus finally comes, His bride is already with Him?

Once Jesus appears, an angel issues an invitation to a different kind of wedding feast. This one is addressed to the birds, pictured like carrion circling above the battlefield expecting to feast on the corpses below: “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small” (vv. 17–18).

Like the invitation to the wedding of the Lamb, this invitation is issued before the final blow falls. Indeed everything we have read in the past few chapters has been prelude to this announcement of Christ’s victory, the celebration over Babylon’s fall, and the invitation to the Lamb’s wedding. In other words, the victory dance is done before the battle has even been fought.

APPLY THE WORD

The enemies of God gather against Christ to no avail. The beast and the false prophet are thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur and their followers are killed. Notice that no details of the battle are given. That is because there were none. Jesus defeats them with glory of His presence and His word. What an honor to be part of His redeemed people!

 

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – WAR IN HEAVEN

 

Revelation 12:1–17

After the August 1945 surrender of Japan, which ended World War II, a number of Japanese soldiers refused to stop fighting. Some did not believe that the news of the surrender was accurate. Others simply refused to accept it. The last known holdout did not surrender until 1974.

In the same way, the announcement of the kingdom in the previous chapter does not end hostilities. The struggle continues as a great sign appears and a battle ensues.

The “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (v. 1) is likely a sign of Israel, and the child would be Jesus—Israel’s promised Messiah. The woman is followed by “an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads” (v. 3). The dragon, identified as the devil in verse 12, attempts to destroy the child but is thwarted. The child is “snatched up to God and to his throne” and the woman is given a place of protection (vv. 5–6).

The battle depicts Satan’s last-ditch attempt to take heaven by force (vv. 7–9). His defeat at the hands of Michael and his angels illustrates his weakness. Satan knows what this defeat means (v. 12). Victory is beyond reach, and his doom is imminent. He will attempt to vent his anger upon Israel. When his efforts to do so are thwarted, he will turn his attention to “the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus” (v. 17).

These three descriptions use symbolic language to link historical events with those that are yet to come. But the verdict is already in—and Satan himself knows it.

APPLY THE WORD

God’s faithfulness in the past tells us what to expect from Him in the future. If you keep a spiritual journal or prayer record, review past entries to see how God has answered prayer and provided for you. When you face trials and uncertainties, hold on to the truth that God has worked in your past and He will be faithful in your future.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE POWER OF AN UNREPENTANT HEART

Revelation 11:1–19

After terror attacks on September 11, church attendance spiked. “People thought this type of crisis of national significance would lead people to be more religious, and it did,” Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology at Duke University, observed. “But it was very short-lived. There was a blip in church attendance and then it went back to normal.” A single event doesn’t usually affect a society’s religious practice, and today’s passage is evidence that multiple events may not make a difference, either.

The temple in our passage today most likely refers to a reconstructed temple. The act of measuring the temple is clearly symbolic and seems to indicate something about the nature of God’s unfolding plan. Clearly events are following a divinely set timetable.

Scholars are divided about the identity of the two witnesses. The most reasonable approach is to take the text at face value. These two unnamed prophets bear witness in Jerusalem, perform miracles, and are killed by the beast who comes up from the abyss. Their martyrdom sparks a celebration; people gloat over their deaths and send one another presents. The subsequent resurrection of these two prophets after three-and-a-half days will be accompanied by a great earthquake that will destroy a tenth of the city and kill seven thousand people. Those who survive will “give glory to the God of heaven” (v. 13).

The stage is set for the final act of this redemptive drama. It begins with the sounding of the seventh trumpet, announcing the arrival of the Messiah’s kingdom (v. 18). In an antiphonal response, the temple in heaven opens to display the Ark of the Covenant, along with flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a severe hailstorm.

APPLY THE WORD

Scripture says that one day every knee will bow before the Lord (Phil. 2:10). Will you bow out of love and praise, or will it take the power of God’s judgment to force your knee to bend? Accept His invitation to follow Him, and receive the blessing of His promise to be with you until the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE

 

Revelation 6:1–8

Popular culture has widely appropriated ideas of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It was the nickname of the Notre Dame football team’s backfield in 1924. Rock band Metallica used it as the title for a song. The Four Horsemen made a brief appearance in the movie Hellboy: The Fury and appear in more than one Marvel comic story line. They were even featured in an episode of The Simpsons. All this may blunt the force of our encounter with them in Revelation 6.

The Four Horsemen issue forth from the first four of the seven seals on the scroll mentioned in chapter 5. Each horseman represents a mode of divine judgment, which is progressive. The horseman who conquers is followed by the horseman who takes peace from the earth (v. 4). He gives way to a black horse with scales in his hands who brings want (vv. 5–6). The fourth horseman is the most terrifying: “I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” (v. 8). And this is only the overture. Three more seals will follow and from the seventh seal will come another series of seven judgments.

We must remember that the Four Horsemen are not merely a cultural trope. They point to real events that will take place at the end of the age. These events are not random disasters. Only the Lamb can break the seals and set them in motion. They are an execution of divine judgment that will eventually culminate in God’s ultimate victory.

APPLY THE WORD

The descriptions of the terror unleashed by the Four Horsemen should sober us, but we should not miss a key lesson here: God is in control. The stage is being set for Christ’s return and the establishment of His kingdom. The same is true on a smaller scale in our individual lives. Jesus is the gatekeeper of everything that enters our lives.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – A VIEW OF HEAVEN

Revelation 4:1–11

In recent years many books claim to describe a visit to heaven, usually the result of a near-death experience. Some skeptics view these accounts as fiction, and others attribute them to chemical changes in the dying brain. In a few cases the authors have admitted they made it all up.

Today’s passage is different. John doesn’t describe a near-death experience but rather a vision of the heavenly throne room that he had while “in the Spirit” (v. 2). What John sees is similar to other visions recorded in Scripture by Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The phrase “after this” in verse 1 signals a shift in focus from John’s present to things that will take place in the future (cf. Rev. 1:19).

In his vision John saw a throne with someone sitting on it. This unnamed figure who is clearly divine “had the appearance of jasper and ruby” (v. 3). The throne was encircled by a rainbow and surrounded by twenty-four other thrones. This number suggests the twelve Patriarchs of Israel and the twelve Apostles, though the text does not specifically identify them.

Thunder and lightning emanated from the throne and seven blazing lamps stood before it to represent the fullness of God’s Spirit. John also saw four “living creatures” (v. 6) whose description resembled the cherubim of Ezekiel

1:4–24 and whose cry echoed that of the seraphs of Isaiah 6:3. Whenever these beings gave glory to God, the twenty-four elders lay their crowns before the throne and declared God’s worth.

This is the first of several scenes of heavenly worship. The images may seem strange, for they are intended to describe a heavenly reality in earthly terms. But what is clear is that God is at the center of all heavenly worship.

APPLY THE WORD

Worship is not a mode of entertainment. It’s not merely our preferred musical style for church. It is a combination of experiencing God’s presence and praising His worth. The hymn “Crown Him with Many Crowns” by Matthew Bridges attempts to capture the essence of this scene from our passage today. Why not find it in a hymnal and read or sing it?

PRAY WITH US

Moody’s campus library provides our students, faculty, and staff with a wealth of resources. We are grateful for the expertise and faithful service of the staff: April Nelson, Ashley Smith, Blake Walter, and Christine Cherney. Will you pray for them today?

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – SPIRITUAL SLEEPWALKING

 

Revelation 3:1–6

A man walking home at 2 a.m. in Dulwich, England, happened to notice a girl asleep at the top of an inactive crane. It turns out she was a sleepwalker and had climbed 130 feet up and 40 feet across to get there. Sleepwalking is more common than one might think. According to one recent study, 8.4 million Americans—nearly 4 percent of all adults—sleepwalk each year.

The problem Jesus highlights in the church at Sardis could be characterized as spiritual sleepwalking. Sardis had once rivaled Smyrna and Ephesus, but its best days were now in the past. And the church in that city had a reputation for being alive, but was in fact dead (v. 1). It had the motions of a living church but lacked the vitality of the Spirit. This church had started well but had failed to follow through. As a result, Jesus found its deeds “unfinished” (v. 2).

Jesus commanded the church in Sardis to wake up and remember what they had “received and heard” (v. 3). This is the language of biblical tradition (see 1 Cor. 11:2, 23; 15:2–3). The way to break out of spiritual lethargy is to recall the truth of Scripture, hold fast to it, and repent.

Jesus promised to come to this church like a thief and catch those who were spiritually asleep (see Luke 12:39–40; 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev. 16:15). Despite some similarity in language, this warning likely does not refer to the Second Coming. It is a promise to discipline this church in a way that will be both certain and unexpected.

And those in Sardis who were spiritually alive need not be afraid. Jesus promised that they would be dressed in white, and their names would never be erased from the book of life (v. 5).

APPLY THE WORD

This is a sober warning for the church. Do we rely more on systems and structures than we do on God’s Spirit? Do you appreciate your church because it has exciting programs or because people are growing in the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:22–23)? It is possible to appear to be a “successful” church when we are really in spiritual decline.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE TROUBLE WITH TOLERANCE

 

Revelation 2:18–29

In recent years, debates have flared up over the limits of free speech. Should anyone be given a platform, no matter his views? Can someone attempt to silence a person whom she finds dangerous or threatening? Some observers condemn the students for their intellectual intolerance, while others argue that reprehensible ideas should not be tolerated.

Are there limits to tolerance? The Bible’s answer is yes. When it comes to the church, some practices should not be tolerated. The same is true for doctrine. False teaching should not be tolerated but must be rooted out. The church in Thyatira had permitted a false teacher who claimed to possess the gift of prophecy to mislead others. This had opened the door to both sinful practices and false teaching. Jesus nicknamed this false teacher “Jezebel,” after the wicked queen who killed the true prophets of Israel and enticed God’s people to worship Baal (v. 20; see 1 Kings 19).

The nature of Jezebel’s teaching was what Jesus had condemned in Pergamum. She claimed to reveal secret truth, enticing her followers to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. God had “tolerated” her ministry for a time, but only in order to give her a chance to repent (v. 21). Now the time for patience was over.

Jesus promised to “cast her on a bed of suffering” and “strike her children dead” (vv. 22–23). To a culture that values tolerance, this response seems harsh. But Jesus understood the destructive nature of her teaching and the vulnerability of this church. The cultural environment in Thyatira was so toxic that the only command Jesus gave to those who had not yet succumbed to Jezebel’s false teaching was to “hold on” until His return (v. 25).

APPLY THE WORD

False teaching opens the door to immoral practice, and moral compromise is frequently justified by modifying biblical doctrine. Consider what beliefs or practices you have been willing to tolerate that might lead you away from the truth. Take the opportunity from God that Jezebel refused: repent from sin and hold on to Jesus.

 

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