This may not be the name you first thought of when you think of the names for Jesus. Reaper. Yes, at first maybe you would think about the outfits that appear at our seasonal Halloween spaces when describing the grim reaper. The image today includes a sickle but in the sense of a heavenly harvest by our Lord.
Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” (Revelation 14:15)
One day Jesus will stand upon the clouds, angels will be present, and it will be a Great Harvest. Some may believe that this day may come sooner than later based on worldly implications and social media impact. I can only imagine Jesus standing above in the clouds with all His glory and brightness holding his hand out. According to Revelation 14, It will be a time of judgment that only our Lord will make. The question will be answered. Faithful or unfaithful? No standing lines where we wait and wonder if we have done enough. It’s a reminder its not about what we have done. (2 Timothy 1:9) It’s a matter of do we believe that Jesus was born, lived a sinless life, died for our sins, and rose again. He is seated next to God waiting once again for His call to say, It’s time. Go Harvest. Have we been faithful or not? Do you believe it? As Christians, we will not have to fear but have the joy of our eternal reward at this time.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come in condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24)
Take time to read Revelation 14:14-19. The harvest of the earth. The first harvest will be one of the believers. The second harvest is considered the winepress of God’s wrath.
The time of harvest will come. (Jeremiah 51:33) (Matthew 13:37-43)
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your many images that are a reminder of who you are. Thank you for your words that can transform our lives through faith in you. Lord we know one day you will return, please remind us of your harvest and of the love you have for us. Please help us to be obedient to your words and be ripe when your time comes.
Do you have a hero of the Bible you like to compare yourself to or like to think you’re similar? Could it be Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Joshua, David, or Ruth to name a few? I doubt very many of us like to compare ourselves to the Pharisees, but I for one, have to admit that often times I am more like them than some of the other aforementioned desired people.
First, we see in Matthew 12:1-3, the Pharisees judging the disciples for picking grain and doing work on the Sabbath. We then see them questioning this again when in Matthew 12:9-10 Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. It can be easy to quickly judge someone for how they parent, how they spend their family time, the car they drive, or the home they own. I heard a quote one time that said…Question: “How big of a house is too big of a house?” Answer: “Just a little bit bigger than my house.” Please forgive me for not giving the proper credit, but one of our other Bible Journal writers commonly says they remind themselves by saying, “Stay in your lane.” What a great saying. Even if what someone does is in fact a sin (and it may not be), their sin is no worse than any of my own sins in God’s eyes.
In Matthew 12:22-24, we see the Pharisees not wanting to believe the miracles Jesus performed in front of them were from God, and then they asked in Matthew 12:38 to see a sign. How often do we have the sin of pride by not giving credit to God for what He’s doing and then not seeing the “signs” right in front of us of what He has done already or will do. Recently, I’ve faced a challenge that I’m wondering how it will be resolved, and it has consumed many of my thoughts. The crazy thing is that this same exact challenge has been overcome many, many times before under arguably more difficult obstacles. Yet, God pulled through in the past and has even used some circumstances this time to help give me clues that this to will pass. However, like the Pharisees, I find myself looking for more “signs,” nearly completely ignoring His past provisions and evidence that this to will be resolved.
Why do I consistently do this? Why am I like the Pharisees when I don’t want to be? I’m a sinful human in need of a Savior just like the Pharisees. All I can do is pray for more awareness to make me more like Him and less like the Pharisees, to not lean on my own understanding by trusting Him with all my heart, soul, and mind, and most importantly by confessing my sinful nature and by thanking Him for His saving grace on the cross.
Through his back and forth dialogue with the Lord, the prophet Habakkuk gives us so many lessons in just three chapters. As he tries to understand God’s ways, he learns to embrace them, which is the very definition of his name.
I love that Habakkuk has boldness to ask the Lord what’s on his heart. He doesn’t shy away from the tough questions of why, when, how, (and then more ‘why’ questions). He’s asking similar questions I find myself pondering today:
Why do you allow evil, God? Why do awful things happen to Christ-followers? The helpless? The unborn?
Why are you allowing the wicked to prosper? When will they be judged? This world is a hot mess – hurry!
As you read through this dialogue, do you notice how Habakkuk verbalizes to God his character in verse twelve? It seems as though he is reminding himself who God is, right as he is asking God his second round of ‘why’ questions.
He knows that God is holy, everlasting, eternal, a mighty rock, an establisher, and faithful. He even says We will not die. He knows that God will not let them die, and will continue to fulfill his promise to his people (Abrahamic covenant).
As Habakkuk continues with his questions – WHY use THEM? I have to admit I’ve had similar thoughts. And then I also can’t help but wonder WHY God uses ME. Or any of us. While the world wants to live in the comparison game, we know that only God’s judgement is righteous and fair. He isn’t looking at me compared to anyone else. On judgement day I will be standing solo. The Chaldeans may have made the people of Judah look less awful… but God saw wickedness across the board. And He uses it all as He sees fit. And judges it when and how He sees fit.
I can see where God has used sin committed against me, to sanctify me. Draw me closer to him. Cry out to him. And the sins I have committed against others, He also uses. It’s pretty humbling to think of how He can use even my biggest messes.
In the final chapter, we see Habakkuk embracing God’s plan. He praises God for who he is and what he has done and what we will do. Do you see the three Selah pauses in this chapter? I always think of those as a dramatic call to silence and meditation in that moment of the passage.
And then at the end of verse 16 we see him waiting. Waiting on the Lord’s timing. Waiting on the Lord’s plan. Quietly waiting, all the while he is trembling. What a beautiful picture of faith – it doesn’t mean that we are without worry or fear, but that with the trembling, we obey. We quietly wait for the Lord. Not only does he quietly wait – verse 18 shows us that he also rejoices! So he has gone from questioning, to embracing, to rejoicing!
Can you apply Habakkuk’s approach to any questions or problems you’re facing today?
I get lost in the confusion of our political climate and ask a lot of why, when and how questions about world issues. I’m going to try to process those in light of Habakkuk’s example. What do I know about God and how can I more fully trust in his eternal and perfect plan?
I have challenging relationships that need this wisdom, and the reminder to not get stuck in the comparison trap. God uses each of us in different ways, that are far beyond my understanding.
Can I rejoice and find true joy in the Lord, even when I _______ his plan?
am worried about
am confused by
am trembling about
don’t want to wait for
God, thanks for giving us this amazing true account of your relationship with your prophet, Habakkuk! It teaches us so much about who you are and to have faith in you. You are Holy, Eternal, Almighty, and Faithful!
Today’s reading is Matthew 18:23-34 and Psalm 115.
We will focus on the parable in Matthew which many of us our familiar with where a king forgave a servant 10,000 talents. Some resources indicate 1 talent is about 20 years of wages in biblical times so 10,000 talents would be 200,000 years of wages! However, when the servant was released and someone owed him 100 denarii which resources say is about 4 months wages, he did not show the same grace. In fact, he had him thrown into prison.
Tonight, I was talking with a friend about a mutual relationship we have with another individual who we both have a disagreement with. My friend made a comment in which he said something to the effect of…”you’re a little more forgiving than me on items like this” with this person. However, while I would like to say I’m living this out…I would say this very circumstantial and is not the case anywhere near to the level the Bible calls us to do. He doesn’t know this, but I actually went off on this person’s boss about them at one point and learned later I was quick to judge, didn’t know some things about the individual, and felt the need to apologize to this person’s boss for my quick and harsh judgement without knowing everything. This person’s boss is also someone I’m trying to witness, too. Oops..I did not show them a very good example to draw them to Christ in this case did I?!
One time I even took a personality assessment which said I’m typically forgiving….to an extent. It said I give individuals chances, but when it reaches a certain “breaking point,’ I’m completely done with them and write them off. I’m not going out on a limb to say my breaking point is WAY less than 10,000 talents!
In fact, I often find my amount of forgiveness depends on the relationship with the person or if I find myself with similar beliefs. I’m quick to forgive family, a close friend. or those that have the same political beliefs as me or are on the sports team I root for. Yet, I am quick to condemn someone who stumbles and makes a mistake that has different political views or is a celebrity I don’t know or is on a rival sports team for example. This is just wrong. It shouldn’t matter. I need to realize that I’m called to forgiven in the same way Jesus has forgiven me as this parable teaches of. If Jesus held me to the same standard I hold others to, I’d be in big trouble.
As we read through the Psalms, we come across many passages that talk about having a healthy fear of the Lord. This passage is very humbling because it reminds us at the end that if we don’t forgive others, the Lord will not forgive us. It is also humbling because reminds me how thankful I should be that the Lord has forgiven my sins that come not just by the hour, but by the minute. By using 10,000 talents or 200,000 years wages…He wanted to show the unbelievable depth of His forgiveness and grace. He washes ALL our sins white as snow. It is not circumstantial like my forgiveness of others which I must improve on. All we have to do is believe in Him and ask…and give the same grace to others. God is great!
I will admit, I LAUGHED OUT LOUD when reading this month’s outline for the Bible Journal project. A deeper focus on one topic, maybe just one verse. I scroll down to my assignment: April 14th, Divorce, Matthew 5:31-32 and Psalms 63. Lord, you really are just hysterical sometimes!
My parents are divorced, I married someone that is divorced, and my own marriage has been on the brink of divorce. I don’t know if this makes me a subject matter expert, or so completely biased that I’m the last person that should be journaling today. HA!
As Jesus addresses all of the different topics in His sermon on the mount, He explains, clarifies, and helps us find FREEDOM in living more fully focused on God. Specific to divorce, He reminds us that when separating/leaving your spouse, you need to give a legal certificate for divorce (don’t just stop living with them). He explains that without the actual certificate of divorce, you would be causing sin (adultery) if/when the person remarries. He also reinforces the acceptable grounds for divorce – adultery.
Clearly the Lord takes marriage vows seriously. They’re not only vows made to one another, but to Him. He doesn’t want them broken, and when they must be, He wants order even in the brokenness.
The topic of divorce brings a lot of controversy – today, and apparently ALWAYS – both in and outside of the church. I’m guessing it’s because divorce is the result of sin, which begets more sin, even beyond the divorcing party. Family and friends can find themselves judging, gossiping, harboring bitterness, anger and hatred. Divorce can really bring out all of our ugly. And all of our opinions and infighting.
I wish none of us ever had to study these verses or apply them to our life’s circumstances. I’m no stranger to the heartbreak and pain of divorce. It’s real, raw, and just plain awful. The wounds run deep and the healing is rarely linear. While I don’t have the answers, I will share a few general points of encouragement based on some of my experiences:
If you are a child of divorced parents, please believe, more than anything, that this is not your fault. Whatever sin was in your parent(s) lives that led to this, it’s not what you wanted and not what God wanted. I hope you know that God wants to help you heal from all of the hurts this brought you. I pray your parent(s) can repent and seek forgiveness from God and from you and relationships can be restored. Most of all, I pray that you can have a deep relationship with your heavenly Father that brings overwhelming love into your life. He loves you, and He knows every tear you have shed (Psalms 56:8).
If you are considering separation/divorce, or already in the middle of it, please, take your time. Seek biblical counseling and cling to any amount of hope you can find. Remember, God is still in the business of making miracles! Go to the word and pray for direction. God doesn’t contradict Himself – the Holy Spirit won’t press upon your heart to move in one direction that is contrary to Jesus’ spoken words. Our God is a perfect way-maker – even when we can’t see a way, He goes before us. I can’t always get my mind around the long-term picture, but I can trust Him in this moment, right now.
If you are divorced, and there are any areas you still need healing, cry out to the Lord. Regardless of the circumstances of the divorce, almost all parties harbor feelings of failure, guilt, resentment, or unrest. Seek the Lord, He is the best healer and perfect forgiver – He doesn’t want us stuck in a pit of bitterness, shame, sin, or self loathing. He wants to make you whole in Him. All of our life experiences can be used to glorify Him. Revelation 12:11 exemplifies how we can be OVERCOMERS – by Jesus’ blood + our testimony of His work in our life.
If you are a friend or family member of someone in the middle of a divorce, I have found the best support can be listening and praying. Take a step beyond praying for them, and actually pray WITH them. When asked for advice, leverage the scripture on the areas surrounding divorce. Encourage biblical counseling. Be a source of hope and healing. Try to not get sucked into gossip and slander. Take time to cover yourself in the Armor of God before offering any words.
We know that all sin is unrighteousness against God, whether it’s the sin of gossip, divorce without basis, lying, etc. On this side of heaven we may feel the consequences greater of one sin compared to another – but it’s not in our wisdom to rank them and put each others’ sins above or below our own.
Wherever this heart-pouring on divorce finds you, you can forget all of my thoughts and opinions and remember this:
God wants everything BUT divorce in His relationship with YOU. He wants us reconciled to Him in a committed relationship for eternity! People will fail. God does not fail. He won’t let you down – He’d rather die than live without you!
Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. – Psalm 119: 1-11
To me the law is a beautiful thing. It is full of judgement, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23-24). The law is love written on our hearts (Romans 13:10, Hebrews 8:10). In my estimation, so that we are hardwired with the ability to love others with the love of Jesus Christ. Like an operating system for our soul, when we divert from the law and choose not to love another, the system gets confused and pushes back; “processing, processing, processing…” God reboot my soul, reset my system anew with love. My soul longs for it. God’s law leads me, directs me, governs me and to the extent that I accept this truth, seek after it and hold to it moment-by-moment, my soul is at rest in the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Still from time to time I encounter a sort of push back amongst Christians when the phase God’s law is used. For some the word law carries with it evil connotations of the very worst sort. To the extent the word ‘law’ or phrase ‘God’s law’ is perceived as an enemy of love. A fear arises in some that God’s law will push non-believers away. The phase “old testament god” is used, as if there were such a thing. God is God and has always been, no shadow of turning (James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8). Oh how this saddens me. I hate this perversion of my Master’s holiness. My anger is with the evil that has managed to redefine the meaning of the word law through hypocrisy.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. – Matthew 23:23–24
Gnats and camels alike where considered unclean. Camels were likely the largest unclean thing while gnats were likely among the smallest. Religious leaders would strain out gnats before drinking wine to be sure to uphold the law and not unknowingly consume something unclean. Jesus here describes a rather comical situation. Imagine watching someone meticulously straining wine through a linen to “be sure” to uphold the law in every way, the whole time a camels is somehow sitting in their cup, which they then gulp down proudly.
In my estimation, Jesus here criticizes the religious leaders for their blinding attention to detail that caused them to lead others astray from the truth of the law. My prayer is that the Pharisees’ and hypocrites’ perversions of the law will be untwisted and made straight. That we may dismiss the worldly definition of God’s law, wave God’s banner and return to the truth, proclaiming a biblical definition of His law. That we would all fall in love with God’s beautiful law. That we would never be deceived into a judgemental nor self righteous nature. That we would not be fear-driven conditional lovers and so pervert God’s law. That any inner Pharisees within us would be vanquished by God’s truth (Psalm 139:23-24).
Judgement is not about one person assessing another’s keeping of the law but rather the law helping one keep their own affairs in order (Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:9–10; Micah 6:8; Habakkuk 2:4). Praise God for writing His law on our hearts that we may live abundantly (Jeremiah 31:31-34)!
Keeping the law is beautiful
Straining out the gnat is not evil in any way. Jesus makes it clear that we should do it (Matthew 23:23). His criticism is that the Pharisees had done it to the dismissal of things that were more important and where lost thinking they had not only kept the law but kept the finer points that others had missed.
Loving the LORD thy God with all one’s heart and soul and mind and desiring to do His will in all things; Beautiful. Thinking one’s self capable of judging another’s love for God; Ugly. Deep concern for one’s own stewardship; Wise. Being overly concerned for someone else’s; Foolish.
Judgement is a gift from God to help us with our stewardship. Let us not pervert this gift by trying to unwrap it for another. Instead let us rejoice in it, praising God for His gift to us in humility as we are judged in grace and mercy to the glory of God as we are made whole and mature in Christ (1 John 4:17).
Let us also consider the inverse. If we pass by and see another straining out a gnat and think, “that hypocrite” are we not in judgement of another? By straining a gnat have they judged another? If so how is one to obey Jesus command to let their light shine? (Matthew 5:16)
Shine Your light oh LORD and vanquish darkness. Here is truth about the law:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. – Ecclesiastes 12:13
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. – John 13:34–35
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. – Romans 13:10
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. – Matthew 22:36–40
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. – Matthew 7:12
Golden Rule thought experiment on the power of God’s law in love
Scripture: Matthew 7:12, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 13:5
God gives us a simple and basic, at the most fundamental level, instruction on how to keep the law well. Many call it the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). I say it is most fundamental because it is by way of that which we are most intimate with than any other; ourselves. We know exactly how we should like to be treated and regarded and so forth. Even if not consciously, subconsciously we are hardwired to love ourselves well. Follow along for one simple illustration of this truth. We know that love thinketh no evil or, put another way, keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).
What if we were to apply how we feel about ourselves in this matter on to others? In order to explore this question I encourage you to join me in a thought experiment on your being wrong. Popular exercise, I know.
Name a time when you were wrong; no excuses, no circumstances at work that were out of your control, no anything but you and your wrongness hanging out being wrong.
Let’s say you came up with something. Then let us go to how long it took to recall. Checking all those excuse boxes may have taken a bit of time. Well that one wasn’t really all my fault, etc. So how long did it take you to recall?
Now think back to the first time you had admitted you were wrong in this instance. Think on how quickly and completely you forgave yourself. Did it even take a second? Did it really even register?
Is not love a beautiful thing?!?! Praise God that His law is written on our hearts! (Jeremiah 31:31-34) His forgiveness, His grace and His mercy are written on our hearts!!! The questions then become, does it take you as long to come up with something someone close to you has done wrong? Has it taken you more than a second to dismiss it from your mind?
The point here is that our love of ourselves is much nearer perfection in fulfilling the law than our love for our fellows. God has written it on our hearts to help us, to enable us for the good work He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). How can we not fall in love with His law? Is it not beautiful? Does it not equip us to save souls and rescue others from bondage as it all the time rescues us from a hopeless existence with ourselves? God Your beauty is unimaginable! Your goodness unsearchable! Your ways are beyond me my God and my redeemer! Praise Your Name!