Week 24: See Christ in the Old Testament
As the end of days approaches, you can find hope as you see Christ in the Old Testament—from Nahum to Malachi!
SUNDAY: Nahum Says to Worship Our God of Judgment
The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him. … What do you conspire against the LORD? He will make an utter end of it. Affliction will not rise up a second time.
—Nahum 1:7, 9
Nahum (663-612 B.C.) was a contemporary with Zephaniah (640-621 B.C.). Two of the Minor Prophets, Jonah and Nahum, wrote their books totally about Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Over a century before Nahum, Jonah spoke on God’s behalf to the Ninevites and, from the king on down, they repented, at least for a season. Initially, they appeared grateful for His mercy. However, not too long afterward they presumptuously began to live in even greater wickedness than before.
The Assyrian monarch may have been checked by God in 701 B.C., but these were still great days for Nineveh. Sennacherib more than doubled the city’s size, making it the world’s largest city at that time. “A wall surrounded the inner city eight miles in circumference. It was one hundred feet high and so wide that three chariots could race around it abreast. It had twelve hundred towers and fourteen gates. Beyond this was a much longer, outer wall. There was an inner city, an outer city, and what we would call extensive suburbs beyond that. In Jonah this wide expanse was termed a “three days” journey (Jonah 3:3)”.1
In their tremendous pride, wealth, and power, the Ninevites saw no need of God. They thus made a grave error in thinking of the Lord as being “slow to anger” but failing to recognize that “God is jealous” and “will take vengeance on His adversaries …” (Nahum 1:2-3a). As Boice has well said, “There is one inescapable fact of the Universe: the wrath of God may not be evaded. It is so great that it hunted down and sacrificed no less than the Son of God, Christ Jesus! And if God spared not His Son, what will happen to the rebels at the Day of Judgment?”2
Nahum’s prophecy concerning Nineveh’s doom has three main parts. In chapter 1, God’s judgment on Nineveh is determined; chapter 2 describes its destruction; chapter 3 reveals that judgment is deserved. Nahum, whose name means comfort, found solace in knowing that our sovereign, righteous God of judgment is in absolute control, and that He would right all wrongs in due season. Therefore, He worshiped our perfect God of judgment’s character, as reflected in these verses:
• Nahum worshiped by respecting God’s vengeance: God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; … He reserves wrath for His enemies … (Nahum 1:2).
• Nahum worshiped by trusting God’s patience: The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked … (Nahum 1:3).
• Nahum worshiped by resting in God’s omnipotence: Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? … (Nahum 1:6).
• Nahum worshiped by waiting for God’s good justice: The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him. … Behold, … the feet of him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace! … For the wicked one shall no more pass through you; he is utterly cut off (Nahum 1:7, 15).
“That this prophecy of Nahum actually is a product of Divine inspiration, and not just a vehement thirst for human revenge, is made sure, of course, by the fact that it was fulfilled to the very letter. And in these days when monstrosities of wickedness terrorize the earth, on a scale never known before, when Christian and godly and innocent people in many lands suffer coldly calculated or brutally inflicted cruelties for the sake of upright principles, it is a thoroughly Christian attitude to pray for and to take refuge in the soon-coming final vengeance of God on the wicked, and His vindication of the upright”.3
My Prayer for You This Week: Father, we are so thankful that You have chosen to call us Your beloved. As You said through Malachi, “I have loved you.” I pray that of all things we would worship You, the God of Love—that You may be pleased to acknowledge Your ownership of us. Help us to be less acquainted with the evil going on around us and more acquainted with Your righteous holiness within us in Your Word. May we be in Your Word regularly, respond to Your Word, speak for You, and see You at all times! May the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ rest upon us. In His precious name we pray. Amen.
MONDAY: Habakkuk Says to Worship Our God of Sovereignty
Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills …
—Habakkuk 3:17-19, emphasis added
Habbakuk (612-588 B.C.) was a contemporary with Jeremiah (627-586 B.C.), Daniel (605-536 B.C.), and Ezekiel (593-571 B.C.). God is watching us as we live in a nation suffering the same disease that ancient Israel suffered—a collective societal amnesia about our spiritual heritage. In ancient Israel it had to do with closing the temple down, hiding the Law of God, and neglecting His worship. In America it is found in the growing skepticism about objective truth. It is the dismantling of language, texts, and history to the point that history is eroded; society thus has no tradition and disintegrates! This is the proven lesson of history: when a godly nation turns from its spiritual heritage, judgment is inevitable and inescapable.
Listen to what the mighty prophet Habakkuk had to say:
• Chapter 1—The burdened prophet talked to his sovereign God. He asked some tough questions, such as: “Why do You, oh God, allow evil to continue?” Habakkuk concluded: God raises up adversaries to punish the wicked (vv. 5-11). But that raised another difficult question in his mind: “Why do You punish evil by using someone far more wicked?” (vv. 12-17).
• Chapter 2—The bended prophet listened to his sovereign God. He took his weighty problem to the Lord and patiently awaited His reply (vv. 1-4). In verses 5-20, he saw the perils of the wicked in which five woes were pronounced against sins. Habakkuk concluded: the righteous live by faith as a way of life, but the wicked have no hiding place.
• Chapter 3—The blessed prophet praised his sovereign God. Through prayer, he was comforted as he praised God for His great person (3:1-2), His glorious power (3:3-15), and His gracious plan (3:16-19). Habakkuk concluded: hope in God despite any hopeless situation.
What can we learn from Habakkuk? We should tremble at God’s Word: When I heard, my body trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered my bones; and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble. When he comes up to the people, He will invade them with his troops (Habakkuk 3:16).
God expects each of His children to praise His holy name. The Scriptures teach that we can do so through echoing His attributes and His actions. One way to do this is by affirming these action truths before the Lord: When I am burdened, I will talk to You; when I am bended, I will listen to You; when I am blessed, I will praise You!
TUESDAY: Zephaniah Says to Worship Our God of Hope
“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
—Zephaniah 3:17, emphasis added
Zephaniah (640-621 B.C.) was a contemporary with Jeremiah (627-586 B.C.). The Minor Prophets often seem to have a despairing tone. Evil appears to run unchecked. The wicked die, apparently unaccountable for their deeds of cruelty and greed. God’s people fail to obey. Death takes them all away. But there is a light in the distance; rays of hope stream from the promise that the righteous judge will make all things right some day. And on the horizon is a brand-new world. Impossible? No, God has already planned the ending. Zephaniah traced a bit of it in his closing words.
Because Zephaniah is a summary of the previous prophets, his content and style are very similar to the other eight. To best learn from Zephaniah, let’s focus on the third chapter where we see “the Lord in the midst.” Chapter 3 contains a beautiful spiritual lesson. It describes the sinful condition of a soul apart from Christ (vv. 1-2). Those who should have been leaders in righteousness are leaders in iniquity: the princes, judges, prophets, and priests. So the Lord himself takes the place of these leaders, and we see Him “in the midst,” fulfilling each office in turn.
Like Zephaniah, we can truly worship our God of hope:
• Christ is our perfect judge—who first comes to our hearts to convict us of all that is sinful there, and to bring His perfect judgment to light (3:5-7).
• Christ is our perfect prophet—who comes to teach us to call upon His name with pure lips. Still “in the midst,” He deals with the pride of heart, and brings us low into the place of blessing, in the presence of His holiness (3:8-13).
• Christ is our perfect King—who comes “into our midst” as King, to reign in undisputed sway in the heart that is surrendered to Him. When the Lord fully reigns, the song thus begins (3:14-16).
• Christ is our perfect High Priest—who is “in the midst” as our Great High Priest, bringing us into the place of communion with himself (3:17).
Trusting God in Zephaniah: The third chapter closes with the six beautiful “I wills” of what the Lord will do for us:
1. “I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly, who are among you, to whom its reproach is a burden” (v. 18). God looks for genuine contrition over sin!
2. “I will deal with all who afflict you …” (v. 19a). God deals with our adversaries in His time!
3. “I will save the lame, and gather those who were driven out …” (v. 19b). God is the defender of the weak!
4. “I will appoint them for praise and fame in every land where they were put to shame” (v. 19c). God will give back for all we have lost for Him!
5. “ I will bring you back, even at the time I gather you …” (v. 20a). God has the timing and sequence of His kingdom plans all in order!
6. “ I will give you fame and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I return your captives before your eyes,” says the LORD. (v. 20b). God has chosen to restore Israel to the head of the nations in the Millennium!
Like Zephaniah, worship Christ, our God of hope, with your whole heart. Ask Him daily: “What can I do for You, oh Lord?” Then give Him your all.
WEDNESDAY: Haggai Says to Worship Our God of Sacrifice
“Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways!”
—Haggai 1:4-5, emphasis added
Haggai (520 B.C.) was a contemporary with Zechariah (520-480 B.C.). There are defining moments that have shaped the course of history, and we remember many of them. For example, when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River (taking his legions inside “the line of no crossing”), he set the stage for the Roman Empire as we know it. Young Martin Luther’s hammer on the Wittenburg church doors rang out a message that altered the course of the church to this day. When Hitler invaded Danzig at the end of August, 1939, it was England’s response that has shaped western history for the past nearly sixty years. Likewise, in redemptive history (the history of God’s work in people) the response of the Jews to a message they heard on September 1, 520 B.C. (the modern equivalent of the date Haggai gives in 1:1) shaped the course of biblical history. In twenty-three short days, what had not happened in sixteen long years took place—the second temple was started. The first temple (Solomon’s) was destroyed in 586 B.C. Later, Herod did not build a new temple but expanded and embellished the second (Zerubbabel’s temple). So this was the beginning of the temple of Christ, the apostles, and of A.D. 70’s destruction—a great turning point in history!
There are seven timeless truths about God that we can trace from the pages of Haggai:
1. The Lord we love is powerful. In this short book, the Lord is called by a name of His power—“the Lord of Hosts”—which was Haggai’s favorite name for God. In using this name, our Lord God Almighty reveals the vastness of His control.
2. The Lord we love is jealous: “Thus speaks the LORD …: ‘This people says, “The time has not come … that the LORD’s house should be built.” ’ ” Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” (Haggai 1:2-4). The Lord often uses the name Jealous to describe himself. He expects to be given top priority, regardless of what is going on in our lives.
3. The Lord we love is expecting a response from us: “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the LORD of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house” (Haggai 1:9).
4. The Lord we love is trustworthy: “ ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’ ” (Haggai 2:5).
5. The Lord we love is changeless: “ ‘The glory of this latter Temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:9). The Lord is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is not tied to our museums of past greatness. God wants to live powerfully in and through us today.
6. The Lord we love is blessing: “ ‘Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you’ ” (Haggai 2:19). Though He had to judge their past sins, there is blessing on the horizon.
7. The Lord we love is personal: “ ‘In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the LORD, ‘and will make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:23). After the word of wrath coming on the nations, the Lord assured an individual named Zerubbabel that he would be specially used of the Lord. God has big plans for each of us. Don’t miss His plans for you!
The Lord we love—our great God of sacrifice—is powerful, jealous, trustworthy, changeless, and personal. And this wonderful Lord expects a response from us: worship. When we give Him the honor in our lives that He deserves, He loves to pour out His blessings upon us! Where does He rank in your own priorities?
THURSDAY: Zechariah Says to Worship Our God Who Jealously Seeks Attention
“Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the LORD of hosts, “and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts.’ ”
—Zechariah 1:3, emphasis added
Zechariah (520 B.C.) was a contemporary with Haggai (520 B.C.). Zechariah is the second of the final three prophets of the Old Testament. His name means “God remembers.” Because each word of the Bible is inspired, this offers us a theme of the book. Unlike the thunder of Haggai, his contemporary, Zechariah, gave comforting messages of encouragement. Born as the son of a priest during the Babylonian exile, he seems to have been an orphan. He was called the son of Iddo, who was his grandfather.
Returning with the faithful remnant numbering 42,360 individuals under Zerubbabel, he joined those who came to restore the temple worship of the Lord. His ministry dates to the second year of the King of Persia named Darius Hystapses (521-520 B.C.). This dates his ministry to two months after Haggai stood at the ruins of the temple and preached his first prophetic sermon.
Just like Haggai, God burdened Zechariah for the neglected repair of the temple. However, God extended his prophetic view far beyond the Jews of his day. God sent him on a prophetic voyage that travels to the very end of redemptive history. He was given detailed insights surrounding the events of the coming Messiah, the Tribulation, the golden millennial age of Israel, and the reign of Christ. Because Bible teachers of the magnitude of Martin Luther believed that God was through with the Jews, they concluded that all of this had to be describing the church. Thus, they chose to not write on some parts of Zechariah’s book.
Making Choices to Live in Hope: We can choose today to reflect truths from this great Old Testament prophet that can change us.
• Sin will bring God’s judgment: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Pause and examine your heart. Is there a sin that you are trying to hide? Since God sees all things, instead of trying to hide it, turn from it in your heart by seeing sin as primarily against God. Do not blame anyone for your sin; tell God that you have sinned against Him and want to stop. Ask for cleansing grace to start over. Then decide to obey even the little things that God reveals.
• God’s past dealings with sin should cause us to repent: “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented [turned from sin] at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41). Since God has told us that He resists us when we cling to sin in any form, speak to Him and say that you want to love Him and serve Him more than anything else. Remember that there are only two choices we can make in each decision of life—pleasing God or pleasing ourselves. Only what is done for God through Christ will last!
• Turning from sin brings blessing: “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the LORD of hosts, "and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts’ ” (Zechariah 1:3). Even the most wicked, like Ahab, found mercy in turning. Manasseh, likewise, was forgiven (2 Chronicles 33:9-13). The instant we forsake sin we are blessed, the Spirit of God flows again through our lives, and we experience the new beginning that is our spiritual heritage in Christ. Do not wait, seek Him and find Him right now. Bow and yield, ask and receive.
• God, like His Word, can never be evaded for long: “Yet surely My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they returned and said: ‘Just as the LORD of hosts determined to do to us, according to our ways and according to our deeds, so He has dealt with us’ ” (Zechariah 1:6). God is not mocked and He is full of pardon. He delights in forgiving, cleansing, and giving us a fresh start. He longs to live the best life through us that is possible. Just give the helm to Him, and walk in obedience today.
FRIDAY: Malachi Says to Worship the God of Our First Love
“I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved ….”
—Malachi 1:2, emphasis added
Malachi (430 B.C.) was a contemporary with Ezra. In Malachi we find the last words from God in the Old Testament—words of His love! Last words are very important. Christ’s last words contained His legacy for us, His body, the church. Our God is a God of love; He has shown that love ever since He came on a search and rescue mission to the Garden of Eden. As soon as Adam and Eve had fallen, God came to their rescue. And He loves with the same depth today.
Malachi is all about loving God, and what He expects from His special people. In just a glance at the book, we can see many problems among those special people, so the Lord points out and questions them about key areas lacking in their lives.
If you read Malachi section by section, you will find powerful spiritual lessons that teach about responding to the love of God (1:1-5), honoring the love of God (1:6-2:9), exposing God’s unloving people (2:10-16), trusting the love of God 2:17-3:6), and acknowledging God’s loving ownership (3:7-12).
In Malachi 3:7-8, God calls it theft when we disregard His ownership of our lives: “… You have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” The whole tithe is an expression of God’s ownership, or giving of ourselves back to God. Anything less is denying His complete title deed to us. God wants us to see Christ the crucified as the glorious King of Kings, and to rest beneath His wings as we worship our God of first love who owns us.
Because He bought us at such a high price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), we should give ourselves completely to Him. In Malachi 3:10-12, the Lord is saying that if you give all, and hold nothing back (unlike Ananias and Sapphira of Acts 5), He will “open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”
The Old Testament prophets all spoke of seeing Christ as the One who rules our lives. He is the One whom we can trust to carry out everything. He is our God of hope, the One who will bring everything to pass just as He promised.
We have now come to the end of our study of the last twelve books of the Old Testament—a time when God’s people fluctuated between listening, and refusing to listen, to the prophets of God. I pray that you have truly seen Jesus Christ in these books of prophecy and have worshiped Him all through these weeks!
The Inter-Testamental Period: After Malachi came the Inter-Testamental Period, which was the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew. Many call these years the “silent period” because of the absence of any new inspired scriptures; however, those years are far from silent because God’s Word mapped out the events of the entire period in advance.
From studying this period, we learn that the Jews were triumphant as they kept the Word, but were defeated when they lost sight of it. During this time, the four main Jewish religious groups of Christ’s day developed: the Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots. Additionally, the Apocrypha and the conclusion of Nehemiah, Ezra, and Malachi’s ministry is clearly recorded. Finally, we see the fulfillment of the most explicit and detailed of all the Old Testament prophecies involving Christ’s coming after His herald, John the Baptist, prepares the way. And out of those dark days came some bright saints: Joseph and Mary, Zacharias and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna.
God always has His servants in every generation who speak for Him, and speaking for God always brings great blessings! Are you one of His servants in this generation who speaks for Him?
SATURDAY: Finishing Life Fruitfully for Jesus
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
—Luke 2:25-26, emphasis added
Malachi ends with the promise of Elijah who would turn the hearts of the people back to God. We now know that John the Baptist was that Elijah (Luke 1:15-17). Therefore, Dr. Luke, whose writings actually begin the New Testament chronologically, records the bridge to the Old Testament by taking us first to the angel Gabriel’s appearance to John’s father, Zacharias, as he served in the temple. Zacharias means “God remembers” and Elizabeth (John’s mother) means “His oath,” so together their names mean “God remembers His oath.” Zacharias and Elizabeth are models of how to go on in spite of what others might call extraordinary challenges. (Week 51 will cover a more in-depth look at this godly couple.)
Now let us look at two exemplary saints who came out of dark days: Simeon and Anna. They give us one of the clearest examples of how to finish life fruitfully for Jesus.
Simeon was filled with the Spirit. He was Spirit-filled and Spirit-led—a just and devout man who patiently waited for the “Consolation of Israel” because God had promised that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:25-26). He was Spirit-led, having come to the temple at the precise time Jesus’ parents brought Him to fulfill “the custom of the law” (v. 27). Simeon was then Spirit-satisfied: he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word …” (Luke 2:28-29).
Warren Wiersbe tells us, “The word depart in the Greek has several meanings, and each of them tells us something about the death of a Christian. It means to release a prisoner, to untie a ship and set sail, to take down a tent (see 2 Cor. 5:1–8), and to unyoke a beast of burden (see Matt. 11:28–30). God’s people are not afraid of death because it only frees us from the burdens of this life and leads into the blessings of the next life.”1 In the end, because we know he was a genuine believer, Simeon was also Spirit-sealed: “For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32). So Simeon departed from the pages of God’s Word—having finished life fruitfully for Jesus.
Anna faithfully waited and worshiped. She, too, finished life fruitfully for Jesus. What do we see in her rare life as a prophetess? She lived out the scriptural pattern for ending life pleasing to God.
In Luke 2:36-37, we see that Anna was what God wanted her to be. She had grown old, but kept on serving right where God had called her to serve—even if it wasn’t much by others’ estimation. Although she had known pain, she never gave in to despair, disillusionment, and bitterness. She kept on trusting the Lord as a widow, and gave what she had.
Anna fasted and prayed night and day, continually praising the Lord. When she saw an answer to her prayers, she gave thanks immediately (Luke 2:38b). Anna shared Jesus with others by speaking of what God was doing in her life, and telling all about Him to those who looked for redemption (Luke 2:38b).
What guide did Simeon and Anna follow? These two notable lives were the result of believing and following God’s Word. Psalm 92:12-15 is a passage they both knew well, and lived: The righteous shall flourish …. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD … shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing. To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
Make a choice to live in hope: Simeon and Anna modeled how to finish life fruitfully for Jesus because they lived a life that counted. A fruitful life that pleases God is a chosen path. What pathway are you choosing to live?
I pray that you will decide to let God overflow your life with His grace. Affirm the goodness of God, for He is upright; He is our Rock; He is good! Make the goodness of the Lord your lifelong testimony and you will possess living hope for the end of days.
Remember: what we are going to wear in eternity is what we wore on earth: Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever (Daniel 12:3).
It is not the length of time we serve that matters most, but the depth of our passion for Him as we finish our race. Plan now how you want to end the race.
As you conclude this week of devotions, prayerfully think about the implication of these words that most of us have sung to God:
All for Jesus
All for Jesus, all for Jesus!
All my being’s ransomed pow’rs:
All my thoughts and words and doings,
All my days and all my hours.
Let my hands perform His bidding,
Let my feet run in His ways;
Let my eyes see Jesus only,
Let my lips speak forth His praise.
Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus,
I’ve lost sight of all beside,
So enchained my spirit’s vision,
Looking at the Crucified.
What wonder! how amazing!
Jesus, glorious King of kings,
Deigns to call me His beloved,
Lets me rest beneath His wings.
—Mary D. James
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