Amos 1:1-3:15, Revelations 2:1-17, Psalms 129:1-8, Proverbs 29:19-20
Today is the 10th day of December. Welcome to the Daily Audio Bible. I am Brian. It’s good to be here with you today as we take the next step forward. And we’re running out of steps in this year. We’ve got quite some ground to cover, but it’s going to happen fairly rapidly as we move to the close of the year. Of course, we’ll continue to take steps forward, we don’t stop doing that, but we’re quickly moving toward the final chapters of the Bible. And today is the second Sunday in the season of Advent, the season that leads us up to Christmas, a time for us to contemplate the mystery of the arrival of the Savior and our longing for his coming return, his second Advent, or arrival. And this week we’ll read from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
We read the entirety of the book of Joel yesterday, which brings us today to the prophetic words of Amos, written down in the book called by his name. And these words are interesting because they come from the lips of a very ordinary person. Amos isn’t trained in anything spiritual. He’s not a man of status or great influence. He’s not trained in the priesthood. He’s just an ordinary man living pretty much in ordinary life. He lived in the Judean city of Toccoa while Jeroboam the Second reigned over Israel and Uzziah reigned over Judah. So, in the time that we would call the divided monarchy, where there is northern kingdom and a southern kingdom. And the northern and the southern kingdoms are experiencing tremendous prosperity and peace. They’d not seen this kind of prosperity since the days of Solomon. So, it would seem odd to by our standards that God would take a very ordinary countryman to deliver a very harsh message of impending judgment on Israel and the surrounding countryside. But that’s exactly what He did. Everything looked prosperous and well, but corruption had found its way to the core of the people. And they had abandoned God and were consumed with idle and pagan worship. The poor were being misused and oppressed. Greed ruled the hearts of the nation’s leaders. And true to form, God sends a messenger letting everyone know, hey, this isn’t going to work, and this is leading nowhere good, and the judgment is upon them. But, also true to God’s character, He always leaves a way out. And He foretells of the remnant that will experience revival and restoration in the land. You would think, after these many thousands of years, mankind would know the drill. And yet, it seems that we are still grappling and trying to grasp the very simple concept that God is God, sovereign, and we are nowhere near as powerful as we think. One way or the other, the hard way of judgment or the easy way of repentance, every knee will bow to the authority of God. And, so, we begin. Amos chapter 1 verse 1 through 3:15. And we’re reading from the Holman Christian Standard Bible this week.
Alright. Let’s talk about the book of Revelation for a second. So, we got started with that yesterday when John says he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day and he saw some things. There was a voice like a trumpet that told him to write these things down and to send them to seven churches. And these weren’t metaphorical churches or allegorical churches, these were real churches, some of the earliest churches that we know about. So, the church in Ephesus and Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia, and Laodicea. So, those were the instructions and when he turned around to see who he was talking to him, he saw more things. He saw seven golden lampstands. And in the middle of the lampstands he saw Jesus. And we get this incredible picture of Jesus, this incredible depiction, where Jesus is standing in a long robe, and He’s got a gold sash, and His hair is all white like snow, and His eyes are burning like flames of fire, and His feet is like burnished bronze, and His voice was like a rush of many waters, and He’s holding seven stars in His hand, and out of His mouth comes a sharp sword, and His face is shining like the sun, full-blown, full-strength sun. So, John, like all of us would, fell down as though dead, but Jesus comforts him and tells him to not be afraid, that He’s the first and the last, that He died but He’s now alive forever, and He holds the keys of death and Hades, and John needs to write down the stuff. And right off the bat we have some imagery. So, we have seven golden lampstands. And these lampstands represent the churches, the seven churches. But what do lampstands do? Well, they hold lamps. Right? So, they hold the light. They hold the flame. So, using this symbolism, the lampstand is the church. Right? The faith community. And the light is their witness of the gospel of Jesus. Right? The light shines in the darkness. But Jesus is also holding seven stars in His hand, and these represent the angels of the seven churches. And what the symbolism means there has been debated for a long time. These can be actual angels, who are the guardian angels of the seven churches. But it’s also thought that these seven stars could be the pastors of those churches. Right? Or the priests or presbyters of those churches, because what follows, what we started to read today, are seven brief letters and they’re addressed to these angels. So, like, when we begin our reading today, it would begin, ‘to the angel of the church in Ephesus.’ And all these little letters are to the angels of the church. So, you can see why that’s a little complicated. Because we have the cosmic Christ, the resurrected Jesus appearing to John, the human, being told to address these little letters to angels. So, it’s just like you have God coming and appearing to a human being who is instructing the human being to then tell the guardian angels a message. So, you can see why the stars are angels have been looked at as symbols for the church leaders because the contents of these little letters are specific to the human church. Like, the church in Ephesus was a real church made up of real people. And each of these little notes speak directly into what that church is physically, humanly facing. And it’s these little notes, these little communications from Jesus to the churches, that we begin to get into today. So, first up was Ephesus. To the angel of the church in Ephesus, write the words, of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand who walks among the seven golden lampstands. So, Jesus is saying, I’m holding you in My hand and walking among you, and I know what’s been going on, I know what you’re going through. So, Jesus commends the church at Ephesus because they’ve endured patiently, they’ve toiled, they’ve kept the faith, they’ve resisted false doctrine and false teachers, false apostles, and a lot of all of that that was going on, all this false teaching and stuff we see in the writings of Paul, and we saw in Peter, and in first, second, and third John, and Jude. And we talked about that when we read them. Here in Revelation we’re seeing this church, the church at Ephesus, has successfully been able to go back to the beginning, to what they were told in the first place and hold onto that. So, Jesus commends them for that, but he says, ‘I do have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first’. Right? So, your first love. So, look at that. Look at where you were at first and look at where you are now and see how far you have fallen and repent and do the works you did at first because if you don’t I’ll come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. So, what is the first love that they abandoned? It’s not likely that it was their love for Jesus because Jesus had just commended them for staying true. So, a good many scholars would agree that the first love that they lost was their light in the darkness, their witness of the gospel of Jesus. So, they’ve done well in holding onto the truth, that they had originally expected this is change, this sudden change of the world to have happened a long time ago. And now are getting into a new generation and it still hasn’t happened. And, so, they’ve stopped talking about it, sharing the light, sharing the good news into the world. So, they are a community of faith, they are all in this together, they are holding on to Jesus, they are holding onto the things that they were first taught, but they’ve lost their passion to share this good news. And Jesus is telling them they need to repent from that and reignite the passion they had at first, to rescue everyone by sharing the good news of Jesus. Otherwise there is no need for the lampstand. It’s not shining light in the darkness. And, so, Jesus says he’ll remove the lampstand. And then we have this little note to the church in Smyrna. But Jesus tells him he knows that their suffering and that their poor, but spiritually their rich. He knows that they’re being slandered by people who are claiming to be Jews but aren’t. They’re actually part of the synagogue of Satan. And Jesus is encouraging them to stay true, that they’re going to be persecuted, but if they’re faithful all the way to death, then they will receive the crown of life. So, the probable back story here has a lot to do with the Roman empires posture toward Christianity. From a wider cultural perspective, like the Roman empire, cultural perspective, this belief in Jesus was just part of Judaism, that’s its origins. But most of the Jews, they were not on board at all, and in fact, were in opposition to these teachings about Jesus. So, they had no problem being vocal about denouncing followers of Jesus, and saying that they had nothing to do with Judaism. So, they would slander the Christians, marginalizing them. And, so, a clear distinction between Jews and Christians was developing. So, in this little note to the church in Smyrna, Jesus says, I know your tribulation and your poverty but your rich. And I also know about the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but there are of a synagogue of Satan. So, that’s what was likely going on here. And Jesus is simply saying, I see you, I see this, and I can see that it’s going to lead to some trouble and some suffering. And I’m telling you that if you’ll stay true, even if that means you have to die, you’re not going to die, you’re going to receive the crown of life. And then lastly in our reading today, we have this little letter to the church at Pergamum. And in it, Jesus commends their loyalty, their faithfulness to them. He says, I know where you dwell, like, I know where you are and your where Satan’s throne is. And from a biblical scholarship perspective, like, there’s not many people that would say, ‘Pergamum, that’s where the actual throne of Satan is.’ Rather, it’s thought that this is just referring to the false idol worship that is pervasive in all of these cities, some more than others. I mean, there were large temples. When we read through the Bible, we think of the temple in Jerusalem as this amazing pinnacle an awe-inspiring structure, and it was. But in the Roman Empire, they worshiped many, many gods. There were many, many temples. Some far more ornate than the temple in Jerusalem had ever been, temples with a vast horde of priests and all of the support staff that it would take to run something like that. Pergamum was the first city in that region to build a temple to the Emperor, to Augustus, for the cult of Emperor worship. So, this is what we think is being referred to here. So, Jesus is commending them, that in spite of their marginalization and persecution, even with some dying. For example, a person named Antipas, who Jesus calls ‘my faithful witness’, was a person who was killed. Unfortunately, like, we do not know who Antipas is, which is kind of a bummer. I want to know who Antipas is because Jesus mentions him by name. Unfortunately, from at least a scholarly perspective, we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that this person was a witness who was killed in Pergamum. But, anyway, Jesus commends them for their loyalty, but, he says, I have a few things against you. Some of you, some there in the community of faith hold to the teachings of the Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. And you also have some who hold to the teachings of the Nicolaitans and the Nicolaitans are another thing that’s hard to pin down exactly. But here’s a thought, Balaam is mentioned. And, so, Balak was a king and he summoned Balaam to curse the wandering children of Israel in the desert and he couldn’t curse them. He could only bless them. But, as tradition holds what Balaam did was later to suggest to Balak that, basically, he send the ladies in. If the women could get the attention of the men who were wandering they would go with the ladies and be seduced. And, so, they would be seduced through sex, but eventually that would seduce them to the worship of the other gods. And that happened. And, I mean, we’ve read through most of the Bible now and we can see that the problem of worshiping other gods is a pervasive problem in the Bible. And, so, the thought here is that this is what was happening. And it’s a problem that we saw earlier in some of the letters in the New Testament. People thought an imminent change was going to happen, the end of humanity as we know it, the introduction of the family of God, of which Jesus was the firstborn. And, so, the time remaining with the human experience as we know it or as they knew it was coming to an end. And it didn’t matter what they did. It didn’t matter if they assimilated into their culture and went to the temples of other gods and participated because they didn’t believe in those gods and they were real anyway. And many of the cultic practices of these other gods that were being worshiped all over the place included temple prostitution as part of the worship. And this was kind of spilling into the church. On the one hand, people had no problem going other temples, having sex with the temple prostitutes, all that kind of stuff, because it didn’t matter anyway. And then there were those wouldn’t go into the temple and worship these other false gods. But they had no problem having sex with whoever they wanted to have sex with because it didn’t matter anyway. And then this begins to seep into the church itself in the way that they observe the Eucharist or communion. this would be a feast, a love feast. And we have other examples in the New Testament of these things getting out of control. And, so, this sexual component of the culture was seeping into the church, resulting in sexual immorality. And we know that this kind of stuff was happening because there are witnesses to it in the New Testament. And in some ways, this worked to marginalize the believers. They began to get this weird convoluted reputation of a religion of incest. Right? So, because the believers all felt like they were part of the same family, the family of God, and they called each other brother and sister, and the reputation of these love feast wasn’t so great, and in some cases led to sexual immorality in the church. And, so, you have people that are claiming to be brothers and sisters having sex with each other. There you go. You have this religion of incest. Now, obviously, this isn’t like the teaching that they heard from the first. This was obviously never talked about or condoned or suggested by the apostles. The apostles are totally against this. And it’s not the wider teaching of the church at large, but because it’s so juicy and over-the-top, you know, rumors spread, this is how stereotypes begin. And, so, it’s thought that this is some of the stuff that the Nicolaitans were doing. So, in the case of Ephesus, the first church that we have this little note to from Jesus, he commends them for shutting that down. In fact, He says He hates that. But in the case of the church in Pergamum, we see that it’s present and He’s calling it out. So, that’s how far we got today, but we see at the beginning of the book of Revelation is some notes to specific churches and we can see that they are going through different things. And Jesus is encouraging them specifically but also calling them out specifically. So, like in Ephesus, the problem isn’t that they’re not holding onto the true faith, the problem is that they’ve lost their first love. It’s not shining, they’re not passionate about shining out into the culture and affecting the culture. In the case of, like, Pergamum that we just talked about, the problem isn’t that they’re unwilling to engage the culture they’re doing that just fine. But in some cases they’re doing that way over the top and engaging in a way that is shining the light of the gospel, but is exploiting their freedom in Christ so that they can do whatever they want. And it’s a problem. And Jesus asks them to repent. And there’s lots of jumping off places that we can apply this to our own life. I mean, what would Jesus commend you on? What would He say you’re doing this really, really, really well, but I do have this against you, there is this problem and you need to repent because this is going to take you where you don’t want to go.
Jesus, we invite You into that because even as the words are spoken, things begin to bubble up. And Your kindness, Your kindness is so apparent. You begin all of these little notes, not with what’s being done wrong, but with what’s being done right. And, so, we listen for those words Holy Spirit. How are we doing things well? This encourages us so deeply that it exposes the things that we need to repent of for what they are. And we invite Your Holy Spirit to speak to us individually and personally. Come, Holy Spirit. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
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And lastly, our annual Daily Audio Bible family Christmas, our virtual Christmas party, is coming up and you can call in your holiday greetings now. You just use the prayer lines wherever you are in the world. So, for example, here in the United States the number is 877-942-4253. And just call in your Christmas wishes. It becomes this beautiful tapestry of community and I love it. It’s one of my favorite things that we do each year. The only rule about it is, don’t combine a holiday greeting with a prayer request. Make those separate and that will help us out a lot.
And I just mentioned the prayer line. If you have prayer request or, 877-942-4253 is the number to dial.
And that’s it for today. I’m Brian I love you and I’ll be waiting for you here tomorrow.
Community Prayer Requests and Praise Reports:
Good morning. This is Rebecca from northwest Arkansas and it’s December the 6th and I just heard Joyce from California, her prayer request. And I just want to pray for you Joyce. Holy Father, we come to You right now begging for Your mercy upon Joyce. I pray that You would give her strength and, in the days to come, especially on December 20th as she remembers her birth and the things that happened around her birth. I pray that You would comfort her ad give her great peace. I pray that You would give her Your Holy Spirit to walk with her in this month. And every day, I pray that you would give her comfort and peace. Father, she has accepted so much…her circumstances…and she’s willing to embrace that and I just…God this can only be you in her life and I pray that you would continue to walk with her and help her to see how you’re working through the things that have happened to her. I pray, Lord, that you’ll be with her while she studies. Give her wisdom to apply the things that she’s learned. Give her a sharp mind. Help her, please, to retain the things that she’s studied. I pray that you’ll help her to get good rest. And help her to, once it’s time to take the test, Lord, I pray that you’d go with her and help her to remember the things she’s studied. Lord, we want her so much to pass this test and she wants so much to pass. I pray that You would make this happen because You can do anything. Father, thank you so much for this Daily Audio Bible family. And all the people, the loving people that pray for each other. It’s been such a blessing to me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hi DABbers. This is His Little Cheri from Canada. I woke up very early this morning and I had such a strong impression that I should call and read this to someone. I think you’ll know who you are because you’ll hear the Lord speaking this to your heart. The Lord says to you, thank you, thank you for staying when you didn’t know what to say, when you didn’t know what to do, when you didn’t know what to believe, you stayed. In the darkness, when you couldn’t sleep, I waited. In the silence, when your pains surfaced I waited. I waited ready for anything, even your rage. I embraced the violence of your accusations and waited to see if you would go through with it and walk away. But then, you stayed. You stayed long enough for me to touch you. Even in your disappointment, you let me touch you. Do you know what that means to me? Do you know how many times I’ve been left standing alone, staring after someone, bleeding my need for them, even after they tell me I’m not worth it. I know it would have been easier for you to do the same, to cut your losses and start over. But you turned and looked at me. You didn’t understand. You didn’t even trust me, not really. It’s alright, I know. And yet, some part of you couldn’t bear to go. Some part of you needed me. I’ll never forget what you gave me in that moment. Thank you for that moment when your heart refused to let go of me.
Good morning Daily Audio Bible family. This is Kimberly calling. There are two gals that left a message wanting prayer. The first one is the mother who is losing her temper and yelling at her kids. And I just want to let you know that I’m sure there's…oh…it’s not a hundred…a thousand of us have been down that road who have just hollered at our kids or done something like that where we either get into a pattern or we lose sight of what’s important. And I just want you to know that I stand with you and I am lifting you up in prayer. I know how that feels. I’ve hollered at my kids and sometimes I got in the pattern of doing it for a long time. And it took a lot for me to get through that and a lot of focus on the Lord’s word and a lot of work in the proverbs about anger. And all I had to tell myself is __ are soon parted. And that usually helped me out a lot. The other gal I want to pray for is Joyce in California and your medical exam coming up. I am lifting you up to the Lord as often as you come into mind. And I pray this you pass your exam with flying colors. And I pray that God honors your hard work. You are such a beautiful testimony to endurance and perseverance and I just want to celebrate your birthday, which is on the 20th of December and I want to say how grateful and how thankful I am for you being on this earth so you can have such a strong testimony for the Lord and be such a blessing for others. You are so loved. Have a wonderful day Daily Audio Bible.
Good morning Daily Audio Bible family. It’s Sheila in Massachusetts. I felt the call to phone in this morning and just ask us all to pray for our leaders here in the United States, the leaders of our country. And I’m asking everybody in the DAB from around the world to pray for our leaders, that they experience the heart of God, that they are awakened by the Holy Spirit, that they…just are touched by our lord with the wisdom and the compassion and the love that Jesus wants. The politics in the United States, in fact, the entire world in different countries in different ways and everything is just so interconnected…I just…my heart breaks for our leadership right now. And some of the things we see, some of them on social media, and the way things are going, and I’m not taking a political stance but whoever is representing us and impacting people around the world, I really want to be touched by God. So, let us pray. Dear Jesus, Lord, You are so powerful. You have the ability to touch hearts and impact spirits and minds any second. And Lord, please touch those that are so powerful and in powerful positions that they influence and impact us in so many and various ways. All age groups, all nationalities. It doesn’t matter that they have an impact. And, please Lord, we want Your representation out there in the world. We want to be guided by people who know You, people who love You. Please touch their hearts Lord. I hope if will help if we all collectively pray, God answers our prayers and…
Hey Daily Audio Bible, this is Sarah in Chicago. And just calling in with a praise. Yesterday this __ guy ___ and I guess they taught us more about prayer. And it was just such a cool thing to see that some people in this __ myself included be reenergized…myself included…and be re-encouraged to try prayer. So, let’s pray. God thanks so much for today. Thank You that you give ___ of encouragement along ones path. That You strengthen us in __ ways and that You are capable of working in spite of our poor motives or great motives, whatever they may be. I ask that You would encourage every person that hears the Daily Audio Bible today, that their souls would be revived. And especially going into this holiday season, that people who have lost loved ones or have broken hearts that You would show them in such a beautiful way that You are near to the broken hearted and ___ in spirit. Thank you so much for Brian and his family. We ask that You would protect them from the evil one and that you’d give them wisdom on how to continue spreading Your light and Your love and Your truth through the Daily Audio Bible. Amen. Bye guys.
Hi. My name is Sheila. I’m calling from South Carolina. And this is my first time calling and I’ve been listening for a while and I’m getting…so sorry…I’ll try to get it together…and I don’t cry pretty…so I hope you can understand me. My heart is broken for my daughter. First, I want to back up, Jill, Brian, thank you for all you do. I’ve been listening or a while, like I mentioned and…I just…you’re the first thing that happens in the morning. I grab my phone and listen in. I want to be with my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Alright, so, back to my daughter. The bottom line, she’s 37 with a little 3-year-old and a 10-month-old and out of the blue had asked her husband for a divorce and it was quite clear, she’s having an affair. And, so, it’s very clear to me, she’s been in pain for a while. As to what is at the root of that pain, I don’t know. So, I know with pain going unresolved it can push into very dark places. And there’s no bottom to that pit. So, I would appreciate your prayers and I appreciate all of you. And just thank you so much and standing with you all in prayer as well. Alright, thank you family.