Inspiration for Today's World

Category: Prophets (Page 2 of 2)

One of 18 prophets studied in more detail.


Zephaniah prophesied during the reforms of King Josiah (640–609 BC.). What is unusual about this period of history, is that the king is known as someone who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.” (2 Kings 22:2). Through his reforms, the king tried to restore the nation of Judah by returning the people to their covenant relationship with God. This was desperately needed after the reign of King Manasseh. King Manasseh was one of the most corrupt kings of Judah’s history, reversing all the gains his father had made. He is thought to be the king responsible for putting Isaiah to death. Manasseh’s son Amon was also dead after a reign of only 2 years. He was assassinated by his servants.

Judah, the southern kingdom, experienced a brief return to faithful practices, but it did not last. They quickly fell away from the Lord once again after King Josiah died. To help date this time, the northern kingdom, “Israel,” is mentioned in Zephaniah 2:9; 3:13-15, The northern kingdom had already been taken into exile by Assyria in 722 BC. In these verses, Israel refers to Judah and its capital, Jerusalem. The capital cities had not yet fallen. Other prophets such as Jeremiah, Nahum, and Habakkuk prophesied at the same time. Their messages were similar. They all described the need for spiritual transformation.

Zephaniah has an interesting family history. He traced his lineage back to a man named Hezekiah. We’re not sure whether or not this is the same person as King Hezekiah, who initiated reform, transcribed much of the Proverbs, and was remembered long afterward for following God (2 Kings 19:5). The name Zephaniah means “the Lord hides” or “the Lord has hidden.” It was rather common for parents to give their children a name that somehow became a prophetic description of their life. Some Bible scholars believe perhaps that God hid Zephaniah during the bloodthirsty reign of Manasseh. Zephaniah’s message was coming at a time when the nation was obeying God’s laws and turning from idols (2 Chronicles 34:33). Since the land was obeying God, it is reasonable to ask who exactly was Zephaniah’s warning. After King Josiah dies in battle, his sons take the throne for 22 years. They disobey God, cause trouble with Babylon, and disregard the prophet Jeremiah’s warnings (Jeremiah 36:27–29; 37:1–2). Additionally, the priests and citizens of Judah defile God’s temple (2 Chronicles 36:14).

Once again, the necessity for Zephaniah’s prophecies is caused by the historical pattern of failure to pass God’s Truth to a younger generation. One might question their family structures and educational systems during those times. Despite the stirring revival that occurred under King Josiah, the darkness of pagan practices surrounded them in their tiny nation. Living in a corrupt world is always hard. This has a particularly bad effect on the upcoming generations that know much less about their God than their parents knew. When there is no reinforcement of God’s Truth from either family or educational systems, the surrounding pagan practices can be quickly absorbed by the younger generations.

Like the Book of Joel, Zephaniah takes a “bad news first” approach. He began with the coming destruction of Jerusalem, next the downfall and restoration of the outside nations, and finally ended with the promise that Judah and Israel will one day be restored.

A Brief Outline for the Book of Zephaniah

  • (Zephaniah 1) – Desolation and discipline on Judah
  • (Zephaniah 2) – Desolation in the surrounding nations
  • (Zephaniah 3:1-11) – The Lord’s remnant from the nations
  • (Zephaniah 3:25-20) – The Lord’s remnant from Israel

The first thing the prophet Zephaniah wants his readers to know is that these aren’t his prophecies but God’s. It was a heavy message God had placed on Zephaniah’s heart!

(Zephaniah 1:1) – “The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, during the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah:”

All of chapter Zephaniah 1 becomes his indictment of the people of Judah. It is a frightening description of what God’s judgment will look like for the citizens of the southern kingdom. He does lay out a roadmap to avoid judgment. It is good advice, even for today. Zephaniah also lays out what judgment will look like for the neighboring countries. These are the pagan countries influencing the southern kingdom of Judah.

(Zephaniah 2:3b) – “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.”

There is a concept that is consistent through the cycles of judgment, punishment, and restoration. It is the story of Israel’s remnant people. Those are the people who followed God’s Truth and obeyed God’s commands. Our God uses them as “seed stock” to rebuild His kingdom of believers.

(Zephaniah 3:9-13) – “Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder. From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, my scattered people will bring me offerings. On that day you, Jerusalem, will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from you your arrogant boasters. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. But I will leave within you the meek and humble. The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the Lord. They will do no wrong; they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down, and no one will make them afraid.”

Despite the judgment that would come to the people of Israel, the righteous ones would be hidden and guarded against the destruction to come. For many of us today, it is hard for us to understand the constant drumbeat of judgment in the books of prophecy. The occult or pagan practices were disgusting and cruel. It was a time of constant crimes against humanity, murder, and idol worship. Imagine the worst, it was going on at that time. God has no patience with Satanism. The point that we must never forget is that God never brings destruction to a place or a people that haven’t already destroyed themselves.

(Zephaniah 3:14,15,20) – “Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem!”

“The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.”

“’At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,’ says the Lord.”

There will be a restoration of a remnant (Zephaniah 3:13) that are faithful to God. God’s judgments for sin will be taken away (Zephaniah 3:14). This prophecy is the foretelling of our Messiah’s return. We are to be forgiven in Christ and we have been given the hope of heaven instead of the prospect of eternal judgment (1 John 4:17,18). Do you remember what Zephaniah is suggesting our plan today should be?

(Zephaniah 2:3b) – “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.”


  • Ever since Noah and his family’s adventure on the ark, God has kept a remnant hidden during times of harsh judgment. How does this make you feel?
    • Ideas to Explore: Seems like God’s objective is to leave the world in a good place. Is it reassuring? Do you feel like you are part of whom God will hide?
  • Do you think the history of destruction that followed judgment is a deterrent today?
    • Ideas to Explore: We know that God has always punished bad behavior. What makes people think they can get away without punishment?
  • Why is it so hard to pass God on from generation to generation?
    • Ideas to Explore: We are separating God from education. The family structure and responsibilities of parenting are collapsing.
  • Why is the role of Godly parenting so important for the future of the world?
    • Ideas to Explore: List your perfect world: peace, prosperity, caring for each other, no crime, no need for drugs, adequate food, clothing, and housing for all. Add to this list. Now compare God’s promises to the world’s promises. Who do you want to believe?


Jeremiah was born about 650 BC in a village close to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 1:1). His father Hilkiah was a priest (Jeremiah 1:1). Jeremiah’s name means “Jehovah has appointed.” He was young when called by God to be a prophet (Jeremiah 1:1-10). ). These were troubling times in Judah. King Josiah was the last of the godly kings. He led the people back to God and His Law (2 Kings 22, 23) and made many good reforms. The small nation of Judah, the southern kingdom, was located between two superpowers, Assyria, and Egypt. Many of the wars fought between Assyria and Egypt would be fought on Judah’s territory.  The destruction caused by these two warring nations forced the Kings of Judah to constantly seek alliances with either Babylon or Egypt. One of Jeremiah’s warnings was to only trust in God, not strategic alliances with countries that could not be trusted.

Jeremiah is often called “the weeping prophet” because he shed tears over the sins of his people and their abandonment of God. God told Jeremiah not to marry or have a family (Jeremiah 16:1-4) to spare him added grief that was about to come from the impending judgment and destruction God would lay upon Judah.  During Judah’s last days, Jeremiah served as God’s principal prophet delivering His messages of warning. His messages were simply on how to avoid the judgments of God. To read a summary of Jeremiah’s prophecies, we use the book of Lamentations. The Lamentations are written as a testament to the fulfillment of God’s promised judgments. The people did not follow Jeremiah’s advice. Yet, Jeremiah also gave them hope. He spoke about God’s forgiveness of His people’s sins and the relief He would bring to the suffering of His people.

(Lamentations 5:21)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old”

Jeremiah preached God’s warnings for 40 years. He was never successful in turning the people back to God. Even his own family rejected him. Jeremiah was beaten and put in prison on several occasions (Jeremiah 26:8-11; 32:1-3; 33:1; 37:13-15; 38:6-13). And, when he continued to preach God’s Word, he was finally stoned to death, according to Jewish history. Jeremiah’s life was one of unselfish ministry, sacrifice, humility, and faithfulness. His job, deliver unpopular messages to Israel. His reward from his people was to be rejected, despised, abandoned, and murdered. However, he remained true and obedient to God. Our nation is in a similar position today. People, government, and media are openly antagonistic to God. We have removed God from our schools. Our leaders mock God! Satan laughs as he destroys our families. Our enemies laugh as we destroy ourselves. Generational debt, relenting crime, addictions too many to mention killing our children and young adults, just to name a few. We should all “weep” like Jeremiah!

Don’t think of the Book of Jeremiah as a story or group of stories. Yes, we read about people, places, and events. There are good people, bad people, and endings we don’t care for. The reason we must read Jeremiah is told to us by Jesus Himself:

(Luke 24:44) – “He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.”

God sent Jeremiah and inspired his prophecies to also benefit the people of today!

(Jeremiah 29:11) – “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Jeremiah shows us God’s character. As our world attempts to dimmish our God, Jeremiah enriches our understanding of God.

(Jeremiah 10:1–16) – “0 Hear what the Lord says to you, people of Israel. This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them. The practices of the people are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good. No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you. They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols. Hammered silver is brought from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz. What the craftsman and goldsmith have made is then dressed in blue and purple—all made by skilled workers. But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath. Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens. But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. The images he makes are a fraud; they have no breath in them. They are worthless, the objects of mockery; when their judgment comes, they will perish. He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the people of his inheritance—the Lord Almighty is his name.’”

Take a moment and argue with Jeremiah about the verses above. He will tell you that it is our God who inspired this logic. We live in a world that denies the reality of sin. More creatively, our world just redefines sin. Only God can define sin! God created us to worship Him and to live in peace with Him. Human folly is that we substitute the worship of the one true God for the worship of worthless idols (Jeremiah. 2:4–13; 44:15–30). Sin has its roots deep in the human heart, deceiving us into calling evil good and good evil (Jeremiah 17:1–13). There is no aspect of our being or our nation that sin has not infected.

Our world is in desperate need of a Savior. Jeremiah points the way:

(Jeremiah 23:5) “’The days are coming, declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.’”

Any time there is a nation that has been given unusual blessings and responded by rebelling against the giver of those gifts, expect the gifts to be curtailed and punishment to come. That was what Jeremiah’s message was all about. God was about to punish the nation of Judah. It is appropriate to ask whether our nation is experiencing God’s punishment. We are more divided than ever. Who influences that behavior? Not God, maybe Satan. The church is becoming less and less influential, becoming more and more worldly.  Sexual perversion, abortion, economic chaos, crime, violence in our cities, and warring nations knocking on our door. Jeremiah points us to a new covenant that God makes with His people (Jeremiah. 31:31–34). Through this new covenant, God finally deals with sin, writes His law on the hearts of his people, and promises He will be our God and His people, forever.


  • Do you know young adult couples who have decided not to have children because the world is a mess?
    • Ideas to Explore: Media, government both are promoted the “no children” idea. Environmental groups push “zero growth.” How do you feel about this?
  • Can you find a link between today’s sinful society and idolatry?
    • Ideas to Explore: Where is idolatry the worst in society today? What is driving the preference of idols verse God? What part of society is influencing our children to worship “things?”
  • Jeremiah owned a home. He would, by our society’s standards, be considered a normal contributor to society. Yet his message was ineffective. Why?
    • Ideas to Explore: Normal is no longer definable. Has it become all about self?
  • Jeremiah and other prophets were critical of the church. What do you think the Christian church today should be doing to make our world a better place?
    • Ideas to Explore: Teach God’s Truth. Focus on Jesus, who He is and why He came. Stop aligning themselves with worldly values?
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The book of Habakkuk is a different style that other prophetic books. Habakkuk is not addressing the people but is involved more in a dialogue, between himself and God. He asks difficult questions and then struggles with reconciling what he knows about God’s character and comparing it with God’s current actions. One of the big questions Habakkuk struggles with is why a more wicked nation like Babylon will be victorious over a less wicked nation like his own, Judah. Though there were many acts of unrighteousness committed by both the people of Judah and the people of Babylon, both nations were guilty of idolatry. He saw the punishment as somewhat unfair. Very little is known about Habakkuk and his life except for what is mentioned in his short book. There is even disagreement over the meaning of his name, whether it means “embracer” or “embraced.” Habakkuk is saddened by the injustice and violence occurring around him. He is puzzled by God’s tolerance of it.

Not only was Habakkuk a prophet, but he was also a skilled poet. In the book of Habakkuk, the prophet shows great literary skill in how he records the dialogue between himself and God. His book includes a psalm-like song intended to be performed with instruments (Habakkuk 3:19). Habakkuk likely was written several years before judgment, between 640–609 BC. His prophecy was that God would use Babylon to punish Judah (the southern kingdom) just as he used Assyria to punish Israel (the northern kingdom) in 722 BC

The people of Judah had been spiraling into unfaithfulness. They had become devoted to practices of many different religions, worshipped the pagan god, Baal, and even offered child sacrifices to the pagan god, Molech. Children were burned alive! Is this any different than today, when we abandon tens of thousands of children into sex trafficking or turn their lives over to hard drugs? This is abhorrent behavior before God and God was preparing to pour out his wrath upon them. Since Habakkuk prophesied about the Babylonians and the destruction of Jerusalem (Habakkuk 1:6), many scholars place him around the same time as Jeremiah, who also prophesied about the coming Babylonian Captivity. It is possible that, like Jeremiah, Habakkuk lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem.

(Habakkuk 1:1-3) 1NIV New International Version Translations– “The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.”

Habakkuk questions why God would allow suffering and let those who are evil go unpunished. God answers in (Habakkuk 1:6), “I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.“

Whether idols are literal (made of stone and wood) or idols of the heart (things like power, money, or fame), anything that takes our heart’s allegiance away from the One True God is a sin and is deserving of God’s wrath. After a frank and open dialogue with God, Habakkuk responds by saying he will stand by, take his position, and wait and watch God. Habakkuk is reaffirming that God’s wisdom and justice go beyond human understanding. God’s response is not one of anger. We need to take note here. Even when we do not understand but reach out to God for answers, God’s response is always one of affirmation.

(Habakkuk 2:4) – “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness”

The Babylonians will eventually experience God’s judgment as well. This is a typical pattern of how God answers the “Why” questions. Like in Job 40:2, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” In all conversations with God, He is willing to interact with those who are asking him questions. God, however, never fully explains every detail of his plans to them. God is God and they are not. God’s plans and purposes will come and be merciful. They are always for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). But those plans do not need to be pre-approved by those who love Him, because there is only One all-powerful God who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Maybe the most reaffirming statement that God can give humanity is that His victory over evil is sure.

(Habakkuk 2:14) – “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

This verse gives us an eternal perspective of what seems to us like a horrible injustice. As the Psalmist explains, “A thousand years in your [God’s] sight is like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). The reason that history must never be forgotten or re-written, it that all evil can ultimately be traced to idolatry. The worship of inanimate objects is a fool’s journey. God’s power should humble even the righteous.  Habakkuk’s response to God’s words about idolatry is full of humility. He simply pleads for mercy and resolves that God’s plan is for the best. When we are faced with divine sovereignty and not told why God does everything he does, we have a choice. People can be angry, and even pretend that they are the ones who oversee the world. That attitude is nothing more than a complete abandonment of God. We must admit to our limits as humans and trust that the future we cannot see and the plans we don’t fully understand have been ordained by God Himself (1 John 4:8).


  • Do you believe we are a sinful nation?
    • Ideas to Explore: Statistics on abortion, crime, drugs, the national debt, the lack of transparency from leadership, the abandonment of church and God, and the lack of honesty; oh, please add your favorites!
  • The disaster was imminent. The people of Judah just watched their neighbors captured, and enslaved. Yet they would not listen to a message of repentance. Why do you think that was the case?
    • Ideas to Explore: They became comfortable with sin. They abandoned God. Their leaders misled them into captivity. What do you think?
  • Do you have conversations with God?
    • Ideas to Explore: An active prayer life leads to communication with God. Do you think humility is necessary? Are we too busy?
  • Do you believe there is merit in prophecies like that of Habakkuk?
    • Ideas to Explore: Where does our advice come from? Is it Godly and reliable? How do you know?
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The Story of Daniel

Why should we study the book of Daniel? His story is about surviving a life of terrible circumstances. He was enslaved in a pagan land. Daniel is captured while a young man in Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege of Jerusalem. He will live in Babylon into the reign of King Cyrus the Persian, for 70 years. Daniel will become a government official under four different kings. To begin his life in captivity, Daniel and the other captives had requirements. They first were required to take and pass a 3-year course in the Babylonian language and literature. This was a complete indoctrination into a pagan society. Daniel and his friends did well. They were said to be 10 times wiser than all the experienced magicians and enchanters in all Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom (Daniel 1:20). Daniel’s wisdom would make him a legend. Despite his circumstances, Daniel found purpose in his life. He remained a person of prayer and faith. God’s response to him was through wisdom. Daniel’s life would become a living example of the God of Israel.

It is a great story, one to put on your must-read list. In our modern times, many people feel like Daniel. Circumstances seem out of our control. Trapped by life itself. There are times that life is not what we envisioned. Daniel’s heritage had come from King David’s royal family. In 605 B.C., the Israelite dynasty was in decline. Nebuchadnezzar had been a Babylonian ruler who reigned over much of the civilized world. In his successful destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar carried off some of the treasure from the temple of God to Babylon. He also captured some young men of the royal family and took them with him to serve in his court (Daniel 1:3). Daniel was one of the high-profile hostages. (Daniel 1:6).

Daniel’s life would become best known for wisdom, prayer, and prophecy. How then could he sustain and grow his faith when forced to learn, live in, and adapt to a pagan culture. Where did his wisdom come from? There were no Jewish temples and schools for Daniel to refresh his faith. No good books to read about the God of Israel.

It would be wrong to categorize Daniel as an opportunist. The first characteristic of Daniel was his unwavering faithfulness to the Law of Moses. Daniel knew the Law and he did not forget it while in exile. As an example, Daniel chose not to defile himself with the King’s food when he arrived in Babylon. This is food that would have rendered him unclean according to the Torah (Daniel 1:8). Daniel, as a young man, knew God’s commands. He would follow them his entire life. Daniel was also righteous and remained that way through his entire life. There is no bad press on Daniel in the Bible. If you investigate the great people within the Old Testament, it is easy to find faults with some of the big names:

  • Abraham fathered a child with his wife’s handmaiden, Hagar.
  • Moses was banned from Canaan for not listening to God and striking the rock to get water.
  • David committed adultery and murder.
  • Noah celebrated God’s covenant by getting naked and drunk. (Genesis 9:21).
  • Job had to repent because of how he spoke about God (Job 38:2; 42:1–6).

We find nothing bad in Daniel. Even when his political opponents tried to find bad things, their only option would be to make it illegal to obey God (Daniel 6:4–5)! Daniel continued to pray to God and not the king throughout his entire life. He did not soften his faith to accommodate his world even though it put him in danger (Daniel 6:13). David had accepted that God was in control of his life!

When Daniel was still new to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar has a troubling dream that (at first) nobody can interpret. The king doesn’t make it any easier on his magicians and diviners. He doesn’t tell them what the dream was. The king’s position was that if you’re psychic, you should be able to tell me what I dreamed. The magicians had what they thought was a perfect response:

(Daniel 2:11)1NIV New International Version Translations – “What the King asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the King except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”

When Nebuchadnezzar’s son also sees a terrifying vision, his mother refers him to Daniel. This is how she describes him:

(Daniel 5:11) – “There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and diviners.”

Daniel gains notoriety for understanding dreams. He is the only person who can interpret some of the most troubling dreams and visions for Nebuchadnezzar and his son, Belshazzar (Daniel 2:27, 30; 4:4–9; 5:15–17). As far as these magicians are concerned, Daniel is an anomaly. Strange as it may be, Daniel is soon placed in a position to oversee the people who relied on other gods to enlighten themselves. This is an example of who God is and about many of His attributes. Daniel’s life becomes a story about God in control! In a way, God uses Daniel’s wisdom to show up the gods of Babylon even though God’s temple has been destroyed by the Babylonians.

Daniel’s wisdom and reputation continue to grow. Other prophets like Ezekiel reference Daniel when they are preaching to arrogant rulers of other nations. When a ruler Ezra is dealing with a king who thinks he’s a god and thinks he might even be wiser than Daniel, Ezekiel says:

(Ezekiel 28:3) – “Are you wiser than Daniel? Is no secret hidden from you?”

The famous story of Daniel and the lions’ den can be found in chapter 6 of the book of Daniel. Daniel was now in his eighties. The story takes place under a different king of Persia. King Darius made plans to establish regional governors, one hundred and twenty of them called satraps. Daniel was one of them. Furthermore, because Daniel was so good at what he did, the king planned to set him over his entire kingdom. Here we see an example played out even in our contemporary history today. Success breeds jealousy. The other satraps tried to find a charge against Daniel’s work to get rid of him. Because Daniel was faithful, they could not find any charges, even false ones. Daniel’s enemies resorted to trickery, using his different religious beliefs against him.

(Daniel 6:7) – “The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers, and governors have all agreed that the King should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.”

When Daniel discovered that the king’s order was signed, he went home. In his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt on his knees three times that day as was his custom. He didn’t fear. Daniel knew God was the source of all his wisdom and success in life. When the governors saw that Daniel prayed to God, they went to the king. They are accusing him of breaking the royal decree and that he does not show due regard for the king (Daniel 6:13). The king saw the snare that had been set for him. Having no alternative, the king gave the order to cast Daniel into the lion’s den. The king went to his palace and spent the night fasting. No musicians were brought before him. He could not sleep. And as soon as he arose at morning dawn, the king went to the lions’ den. As he cried out for Daniel, Daniel was heard to say:

(Daniel 6:22) – “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

The decree had not required the execution of Daniel, but only that he “be cast into the den of lions” (Daniel 6:7). Then, the king commanded that the people who had accused Daniel be thrown into the den of lions with their children, and their wives as a punishment for their conspiracy (Daniel 6:24). No angel came to save them.

As Daniel’s life of service to God would continue, he would add further wisdom in his prophecies. Daniel would introduce us to the angel Gabriel. Daniel’s prophecies would tell us of Jesus’ birth and death. His commitment to God remained strong and visible. Now under another new king, Cyrus would be so moved by Daniel’s faith, he would decree that the Israelite exiles could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed (Ezra 1:1–4).

What was Daniel’s secret to survival? Daniel lived as if God’s Laws mattered. He was not afraid to speak God’s Words to those around him. Daniel did not succumb to the pagan world around him. Babylon did not change Daniel, Babylon changed because of Daniel. He humbled himself on his knees before God when things were bleak. What would our world look like with a few more Daniels? What would your world look like if you were more like Daniel?

“Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.” ~ J. I. Packard


  • How do Daniel and his life speak to you?
    • Ideas to explore: Are you in a place where you feel out of place? What did you see in Daniel’s life that kept him focused on God?
  • What helped Daniel keep his faith, for life, while living in a world void of his God?
    • Ideas to Explore: How does prayer help one focus on God in ungodly places? What did Daniel do to keep the pagan world from infiltrating his life?
  • How is the life of Daniel like that of the story of Joseph living in Egypt?
    • Ideas to Explore: Why do you think we have stories like Daniel and Joseph in the Bible?
  • How do you think learning the language and culture of the Babylonians helped Daniel?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is the reluctance for immigrants to learn a new language and adapt a hindrance or a help to them?
  • Why is a life of living for God so powerful to others who do not know God?
    • Ideas to Explore: What stands out in the life of a Godly person to attract them? Is God in the hearts of all people, in need of awakening?
  • Why does jealousy exist to the extent it does when someone is recognized as having more talents?
    • Ideas to Explore: Think of our politics – Is this competence and reliance on God the source of hatred we see today?
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    NIV New International Version Translations


Our study of prophets has led us to Ezekiel, whose name means “strengthened by God.” He grew up in Jerusalem and trained to be a priest in the Temple. He was among the second group of captives taken to Babylon about 597 BC. Ezekiel’s ministry was similar to most other prophets. He began by condemning the nation of Judah and then helping them understand God’s judgment upon them. Ezekiel’s prophecies are filled with hope for the future. His objectives were to help his people understand their failures, so they move on to restore their relationship with God. One of his most notable visions was of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37).

(Ezekiel 37:1-6)1NIV New International Version Translations – “The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

Ezekiel delivered God’s messages with a straightforward style that everyone could understand.  “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious” (Ezekiel 2:7). God warned him that, if he did not faithfully warn of the punishment for not following God, he would be held accountable for the blood of those who died in their sins (Ezekiel 33:8–9). Now that is a heavy set of objectives to carry! Ezekiel also pronounced the impending judgment upon the nations that surrounded Judah. His prophecies would be fulfilled in the Incarnation of our God as Christ on earth. This is still an important message for all of us today. As we share our faith, it serves no purpose if it is complex or not understood. Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones testifies to the destruction of their nation. He gives his people a lasting vision of the only power that can bring life back to those dead bones, God Himself.

(Ezekiel 18:30–32) – “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”

The prophet Ezekiel was commissioned to be a watchman sounding the warning for the early waves of exiles in Babylon (Ezekiel 3:17). However, the people didn’t want to hear his warning (Ezekiel 2:4–7). Few people have an accurate understanding of themselves and their relationship with God. Ezekiel repeatedly holds up a mirror to Israel, so that they can see their idolatry (Ezekiel 8, 14, 16), their pride (Ezekiel 19), misplaced hope (Ezekiel 17), their self-righteousness (Ezekiel 18), and their unfaithfulness (Ezekiel 23). Ezekiel would not let them ignore or minimize their sins. He refused to accept their excuses. Ezekiel’s mirror shows the people of Israel the truth about the condition of their relationship with their God. He was even forced to act out his message as “street theater” because the people didn’t want to listen. But even after all of Ezekiel’s efforts, the people still refused to see their depravity and sinfulness. While Ezekiel’s message included hope for the future, the people had to first accept the idea that repentance, knowing, and following God’s Truth were also necessary for their restoration and future freedom.

Ezekiel followed God’s instructions. He was passionate about explaining the judgment that God was giving his nation. His message always reflected God’s sorrow over the people’s sins. Ezekiel’s visions were far into the future. A time when Israel would face an invasion by a coalition of nations led by a country from the north. Ezekiel’s message to the people was that the nations threatening Israel would be defeated by God (Ezekiel 38—39). This picture of Israel’s future gave the people in captivity three things to hope for.

  • Their nation would be restored;
  • Once fully restored, no enemy will ever successfully invade the Holy Land again; and
  • God would return to the Temple (Ezekiel 43)—The glory of God had departed in Ezekiel 10.

The prophet Ezekiel experienced considerable opposition during his lifetime. He would periodically become speechless during his early years. However, God stepped in and empowered Ezekiel to speak.  When this happened, Ezekiel would give us the longest passages of sustained hope in the Bible (Ezekiel 5, Ezekiel 11:16–21). The “weeping prophet,” however, was told by God not to weep for the death of his wife (Ezekiel 24).  God used the death of Ezekiel’s wife as a sign to the people of Judah. Just as Ezekiel lost his wife, the people of Judah would lose their Temple. Just as Ezekiel did not show his mourning, Judah would be overwhelmed, driven to silence, by the sorrow they felt.

Throughout Ezekiel’s life, God communicated with him through visions. Here are some of them. You might want to scroll through the list and see if you can spot God’s points He wanted to make with the people:

  • A vision of God Himself (Ezekiel 1:4-28)
  • A vision of the Scroll (Ezekiel 2:9-3:3)
  • A vision of the Plain (Ezekiel 3:22-23)
  • Visions of:
    • Wickedness in the Temple (Ezekiel 8:1-18)
    • Inhabitants of the city were killed (Ezekiel 9:1-11)
    • Burning of the city (Ezekiel 10:1-22)
    • The wicked and the departure of God (Ezekiel 11:1-25)
  • His vision of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-10)
  • The vision of a New Temple, New Worship, and a Restored Land (Ezekiel 40:1-48)

Ezekiel shows us that all Christians are to be obedient to God’s call. Judgment was coming to Israel! History’s truth tells us this! Any Christian nation, like Ezekiel, is called to warn others. We must share the good news of the Gospel’s message. Our question today is whether the judgment is coming to our nation. Ezekiel’s prophecies covered the time both before and after the fall of Jerusalem. The people saw the chaos but did not understand what was happening. Ezekiel kept his message simple. God will judge all nations, just as he had judged Israel (Ezekiel 25–32). God’s justice shows no partiality. God would also display his faithfulness by restoring Israel (Ezekiel 37). A new covenant would be made with His people that could not be broken, and God would put His own Spirit in them (Ezekiel 36).

For nations like Israel and our nation, some people wonder if God has a plan. It should be ALL PEOPLE who search for God’s plan! Visions from our prophets are obscure in their details, but all make the same point. God is not going to give us a blueprint. God is not going to give us a calendar.  God is assuring us that through the power of the Holy Spirit and the establishment of the New Covenant, fulfilled in the finished work of Jesus Christ, God will certainly accomplish what we neither deserve nor can do on our own (Ezekiel 36). Our New Covenant will be unbreakable. We will have peace under a new Shepherd (Ezekiel 34). The restoration of this promised land (Ezekiel 40-46) will provide the new Temple from which God will never depart.

(Ezekiel 43:7) – “He said: ‘Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever. The people of Israel will never again defile my holy name—neither they nor their kings—by their prostitution and the funeral offerings for their kings at their death.’”

God’s plan was accomplished on the cross of Jesus Christ. The Temple is Jesus Christ Himself.

(Revelations 21:22) – “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”


  • Why is it so hard for people to accept that they may be sinners?
    • Ideas to Explore: Family history without God. World teaching anything goes. Poor leadership in business and government. The entertainment industry and media. Perverted educational systems. Please add your favorites.
  • Can humanity survive God’s judgment without accepting God’s Truth?
    • Ideas to Explore: Does anyone know God’s Truth anymore? Where do you personally find it? If living by example is a way to share the Gospel’s message, what does living by sin share with others?
  • Ezekiel shares that a remnant will immerge from the exiles. While all suffered, some retained their faith in God. Why do you think they could do that while surrounded by sin?
    • Ideas to Explore: What sustains faith in a corrupt world? Family, church, personal faith, etc.
  • Both Ezekiel and Jesus wept at the pending destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. Do you think that people will weep at the destruction of nations, maybe even our own? Or does it take personal pain to get people involved?
    • Ideas to Explore: There are four signs to always look for. They are the sharing of Time, Talent, Treasure, and Testimony. That is a key part of God’s plan. How do we get better at the four T’s?
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    NIV New International Version Translations

Have you ever met Obadiah?

Obadiah is considered one of the twelve minor prophets, minor because of the short length of what he wrote, not because it was unimportant. Other than what is disclosed through the book of Obadiah, nothing more is known about him. Since there are thirteen  men named Obadiah in the Bible, all we can conclude for certain is what this Obadiah tells us about himself. The name Obadiah was common in ancient Israel and Judah meaning “the Lord’s servant” or “worshiper of Yahweh.”

The book of Obadiah is the shortest in the Old Testament with only twenty-one verses, 575 words in the NIV translation. Dating of the writing is approximate and done by its content. Information reveals that Obadiah probably lived in the harsh and bitter era after the capture and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. While several methods have been proposed by scholars to date the book, their best guesses places Obadiah in the 840s BC, making him the earliest writing prophet, a few years prior to Joel, and a contemporary of Elisha. His book is based on a prophetic vision concerning the fall of Edom, (v. 1,4,18) a hostile, mountain dwelling neighbor of Israel (v. 8,9,19,21) whose founding father was Esau.

Obadiah’s prophecies focus on God’s judgment against the Edomites for their part in destroying Jerusalem. Obadiah’s message is that God does not forget His people even in their captivity. God will accomplish His purpose through and beyond the appalling conditions they may endure. Some of Obadiah’s words are similar to verses in Jeremiah chapter 49. This has led some scholars to think that Jeremiah quoted some of Obadiah’s prophecy as he was writing his own prophecy against Edom.

Most of the short book pronounces judgment on Edom, making Obadiah one of only three prophets who pronounced judgment primarily on other nations (Nahum and Habakkuk are the others). While the other prophetic books contain passages of judgment against Edom as well as other nations, Obadiah’s singular focus points to a truth about humanity’s relationship with God. When people remove themselves from or place themselves in opposition to God’s people, they can expect judgment, rather than looking forward to restoration at the end of their life.

Today, the Christian and Jewish communities in the world are under attack for nothing more than their faithfulness to God. Obadiah’s prophecy focuses on the destructive power of pride, reminding us of the consequences of living a self-serving life. This short writing helps us to understand that our hope is in being God’s people and that He will restore all things to the standards of His Kingdom.  Earthly power rests totally with God. To fully understand the extensive reach of our God, we see Him sending Obadiah to Edom, the enemy of God’s people to warn them. Edom had been found guilty of pride before the Lord.

(Obadiah 1:3)1NIV New International Version Translations – “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’”

The people of Edom had thought they were greater than they actually were, great enough to mock, steal from, and even harm God’s chosen people. But the “Lord GOD,” a name Obadiah used to stress God’s sovereign power over the nations, will not stand idly by and let His people suffer forever (verse 1:1). Through Obadiah, God reminded Edom of their poor treatment of His people (1:12–14) and promised redemption, not to the Edomites but to the people of Judah (1:17–18). The nation of Edom, which eventually disappeared into history, remains one of the prime examples of the truth found in Proverbs:

(Proverbs 16:18) – “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

God’s issue with Edom was that in the 840s BC, when Edom rebelled against King Jehoram of Judah, the Philistines and the Arabians also invaded Jerusalem (2 Kings 8:20–22; 2 Chronicles 21:16–17). While 2 Chronicles does not validate the Edomites’ participation in the actual invasion, Obadiah 1:10–14 describes the violent behavior that the Edomites carried out on their neighbors, waiting on nearby roads to murder and steal from those who were fleeing the invaders attacking Jerusalem. In other words, they were taking advantage of the carnage caused by others and benefiting by plundering their frightened neighbors, the Israelites.

Obadiah’s prophesy to Edom:
  • Their pride will be humbled (v. 2-4).
  • Their wealth will be plundered (v. 5-7).
  • Their wisdom will be short-lived (v. 8, v. 9).
  • Their spiteful behavior towards God’s chosen people will be avenged (v. 10-16).
God’s promises to Israel:
  • They will be restored and changed for the better.
  •  They will be victorious over the Edomites and become masters of their land and the lands of others of their neighbors (v. 17-20).
  • The kingdom of the Messiah will be established by the bringing in of the great salvation (v. 21).

At this point, we need to pause for a moment and overlay this Old Testament book against the things happening today. It is not hard to find countries, areas within our own country, large corporations, or people that are taking advantage of frightened people. COVID-19, disruptive economic policies, poor leadership are causing fear. Cancel culture, the war on law enforcement, media bias are all promoting hatred that brings violence to one group while generating profits and power for others. The blatant disregard for human life caused by drugs, the trafficking of children, even the politicizing of abortion, is no different than  Edom taking advantage of people running in fear from an invasion of their city. We live in a world that takes advantage of the weak and uses fear as a tool to advance self-interests. But wait! Will God do anything to help? Will God bring justice?

Where has Edom gone today? No less than into complete ruin. It does not exist anymore. What specifically did Edom do to arouse such anger in our God? Yes, they were a sinful people, and a people laden with many vices. But the one single charge filed against them by Obadiah, the one they were indicted, convicted, and condemned for was the injury Edom had done directly to the people of God.

(Obadiah 1:10) – “Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever.”

Injuries to any people are an affront to God, “a righteous God,” that loves righteousness and hates wickedness. He is the Judge of all the earth. It is God who will give redress to those that suffer injustice and takes vengeance on those that do wrong. When a simple signature from a political leader destroys an industry, cancels tens of thousands of jobs, or a restriction in the name of health and safety issues causes small business owners to lose their businesses and even their homes for reasons that are still not understood, God cares! Obadiah tells us that it will be God who settles the score. When people remove themselves from God’s presence, it is the end of their life with Him. There is no more eternal grace, only eternal damnation. No one, not a nation, not part of a nation, not any part of society, not a government, not a single person should live a self-serving life. Obadiah tells us that the focus of “life with God” is to be on the needs of others, not themselves.


  • Where are the places in our society that take advantage of fear?
    • Ideas to Explore: COVID restrictions, regulations, financial institutions, and dependency on capital, race.  After storms, the contractor fraud seems to go up, what do you think? Looting during riots, is that just like Edom?
  • Of the above places you found, how do they attack those who love God?
    • Ideas to Explore: Obadiah says God will seek vengeance on their behalf. What evidence of that have you seen, both in history as well as in current times?
  • How have you seen the “Cancel Culture” instill fear and then take advantage of people?
    • Ideas to Explore: Social Media, monitoring of personal communications by companies, control of information via search engines.
  • Is our educational system complicit in using fear of failure to control their agenda and views?
    • Ideas to Explore: Education is meant to teach the use of creativity, common sense and reason – Does it do this any more?
  • Fraud through fear is one of the key components of phishing and telephone fraud – Do you have examples?
    • Ideas to Explore: How frequently is a fraudulent contact made that uses fear and /or urgency in an attempt to steal information or money, to harm you?
  • Where do you see the most abuses due to personal self-interests?
    • Ideas to Explore: Politics, media, corporations, countries, States, etc. Do self-interests exist in families? Do today’s churches have any issues caused by their denominal self-interests?
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    NIV New International Version Translations

Let Me Introduce You to Haggai

Haggai was a prophet during the times right after the Israelites returned from their 70 years of Babylonian captivity. The book of Haggai was written in 520 B.C. With the fall of Babylon about 19 years earlier in 539 B.C., the fortunes of the Jewish captives had changed. The Persian King Cyrus encouraged the captive people to return to their country of origin and to rebuild the Jerusalem temple so that their God would once again have a house to live in (Ezra 1:1-4). The name Haggai means “festive or festival.” This could mean that he was born during or near one of the feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16). Haggai was tasked with rebuking, instructing, and encouraging the people. He worked in conjunction with Zechariah to create enthusiasm to rebuild the temple of the Lord. This theme runs through Haggai’s words (Ezra 5:1,2; 6:14).

The book of Haggai is one of the most precisely dated books in the Bible. Each of his messages is given to the exact day. One might wonder if Haggai kept a journal with him to record his acts. The Israelites had just spent 70 years of captivity, and 70 years without a temple. Upon their return to Jerusalem, work on the temple began (Ezra 3:8-13). However, opposition to the building stopped the work for a period of 14 years. During this time the people pursued their own selfish interests. God used Haggai and Zechariah to get both the people and the leaders re-focused on doing the work of God.

The 1st Message of Haggai

The first message of Haggai is contained in chapter 1. It was intended to convict the people, to rebuke them for having their priorities all wrong. This should be the same concern for our world today.

(Haggai 1:4)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

The people were focused on their own personal lives and the quality of their homes, not the temple. The term “ceiling” is often translated as paneled. The paneling would have to be imported, probably from Lebanon, and so would have been expensive. This is what they were spending their money on, expensive furnishings, the luxuries of living. Haggai’s point: God’s temple is still unfinished. Priorities in life are critical to satisfaction and happiness. The people were not putting God first and considering only their own comfort. Yet, they were dissatisfied with life:

(Haggai 1:6) – You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough. You drink but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

Today, people hope for a better job, a new car, a bigger house, or some other luxuries. Our world puts a lot of effort into thinking of things like these, expecting them to satisfy us. Yet, people always want more! Haggai’s message begins with a reminder that our motivation for work should be to first, work for God. Haggai then moves to his rebuke. Due to their misplaced priorities, there is discipline from God (Haggai 1:9-11).

It is only through listening to God’s Word that we can learn what God wants from us. Until people listen, they will not understand. Once they understand, they must obey. To have a satisfying life, we must do the work of God. God answers the question we all ask, why are things so bad right now?

(Haggai 1:9-11) – “’Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil, and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.’”

The 2nd Message of Haggai

After they had got their priorities sorted and resumed the work of God, Haggai continued his message to them. Haggai wanted to make sure they had gone back to work with the right attitude and motives. In this message, Haggai compares the temple with that of the one built by Solomon. Why would he bother doing this? The temple built by Solomon was amazing, covered in gold, and decorated with beautiful ornaments. After years in exile, their wealth was insufficient to set such a lofty goal. The idea was not to compare their efforts, that would be wrong. Haggai wanted them to do the best they could with the talents and resources they had already. The goal was not the beauty of a building but the presence of God. The reason why the temple had to be rebuilt, was so God could dwell among them. The people were to take courage that God was promising to bring peace. The temple would be even more glorious in the future, and that there will be peace declares the “Almighty.”

(Haggai 2:9) – ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place, I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

You will notice That “Lord Almighty” keeps popping up time and time again in these verses. The phrase is found almost 300 times in the Bible, over ninety of those times it is to be found in the books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. This shows God as a warrior, a king, and a judge, and the emphasis of these prophets was to show God was in control of the situation and give hope for the future. The promise of God’s presence and future peace brought encouragement to the people. The prophecy wasn’t just some information given in passing. Haggai was imparting the knowledge that was designed to stir up feeling, and move the people, filling them with hope.

The 3rd message of Haggai

He starts by asking a question directed at priests about cleanliness. if a priest is carrying something holy and it meets something that is unholy, does it become holy? Haggai’s answer is no. However, if someone unclean touches something else, does that make that other thing unclean also? Haggai’s answer is yes. Haggai is defining the idea of Holiness. Cleanliness in the eyes of God does not come about by contact with something Holy. Contact with ungodliness or uncleanness defiles. Haggai shows the Israelites that they were guilty of this very thing. The holy rituals they had been performing in the past were useless, there was no obedience and their ungodliness had contaminated everything they did. We as Christians today are fortunate. We have the only exception to this, Christ. When Jesus touched lots of unclean and sick people, they were healed. Jesus did not become unclean but instead made them clean. Without Jesus, we are no better than the people of Haggai’s time!

(Hag 2:14-19) – “Then Haggai said, ‘So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the Lo. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled. ‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on—consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s temple. When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not return to me,’ declares the Lord. ‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.”

God had kept them from prospering because they were not generous to God. They were being disciplined for their uncleanness and a lack of understanding of His blessings and punishments (called cursings – Deuteronomy 28–31). If you have become dependent on material things for happiness, God will take them away. If you depend on God for all your happiness, then He will give you all the things you need in life to be happy. Haggai is a book that should inspire us on how to motivate ourselves to serve God. Lead a clean life, with pure motives, and a pure heart. Keep our priorities focused on God!

The last and 4th message of Haggai

Haggai declares that the Lord is with them, a sure sign of success. God has moved their hearts and now the people are looking towards God again. Things are looking up for the people of Israel. Haggai foretells that God will do two things. God will overthrow the nations and kingdoms of this world. God will bring about His world (Haggai 2:20 – 22). God gave divine promises to Zerubbabel (Haggai 2:23). Zerubbabel was in the direct line of David (one of Jesus’ forefathers). Most see this as a foretelling that Christ will come, and we will all reign with Him as one of His faithful followers.

(Haggai 2:23) – “‘On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Summary of Haggai

Haggai rebuked the Israelites for having misplaced priorities and he pointed out the results which were dissatisfaction with the things of this world and discipline from God. That is still true for today!

  • The proper response was to obey God’s message and resume the work on the temple. Their obedience (repentance/confession) cleared their conscience so that they could worship God again. Our world needs to do the same!
  • The people’s source of courage and motivation would come from the promise of God’s presence and His peace. This is the hope that comes from knowing that God is in control.
  • Haggai also dealt with the issues of living clean and godly lives. All we do that is good is defiled by our unclean living. He also urged them to depend on God for life. Our society today, filled with drugs, crime, death of the innocents should heed Haggai’s advice. Bring God back!
  • And finally, Haggai gave them hope for the future. God will destroy the ungodly, the enemies of Christ and establish His kingdom with us, forever and ever, Amen!


  • Do you think Haggai’s messages apply to society today?
    • Ideas to Explore: Which of the 4 messages are the most applicable? How do they apply? 
  • Do you think that God disciplines us today as He did in Haggai’s day?
    • Ideas to Explore: If so, how? What would the signs of discipline look like?
  • Haggai points out that the people were spending their money on themselves instead of rebuilding their place of worship.  How does society benefit or lose by not having places of regular worship?
    • Ideas to Explore:  We have plenty of places to worship today. What makes one more likely to be a place where you find God?
  • How would you relate the concerns over cleanliness to our world today?
    • Ideas to Explore:  What makes someone unclean in the eyes of God in our world today? Is society becoming tolerant of depravity, corruption, sin, etc.? Do the media help or hurt? How?
  • What priorities does God want out of a society?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is it golden cathedrals, palaces, statues? Is it humble hearts, prayer, generosity toward those in need? 
  • How does having a central place of worship help the process of building hope and bringing peace?
    • Ideas to Explore: How should people change when they attend worship regularly? What are the signs of a functioning church? How would you measure a place of worship? Can you tell if God is residing there?
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    NIV New International Version Translations


The prophet Zechariah is just one of over thirty men named “Zechariah” in the Old Testament. His name means “Yahweh has remembered.” The exiles had returned from Babylon and set about the task of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, around 520 to 470 BC. In Zechariah 1:1, he introduces himself as the son of Berekiah and the grandson of Iddo. Zechariah’s grandfather Iddo returned with Zerubbabel from exile in Babylon (Nehemiah 12:4). His ministry was part of those who returned from exile with their families. Zechariah lived during the time of Judah’s restoration. Zechariah was a Levite priest born in Babylon according to Nehemiah 12. He had the rare distinction of being both a priest and a prophet of God.

As his family resettled in Judah, Zechariah calls to his people to repentance and spiritual renewal. It was a difficult time for them. The people were discouraged, spiritually apathetic, and tempted to go back to many of the sinful ways of their forefathers. The prophecies in the book of Zechariah cover about two years. However, Zechariah continued to have a ministry among the people until the temple was rebuilt (Ezra 5:1–2). Zechariah’s mode of operation was to encourage and motivate the people by revealing to them God’s plans for the future of Jerusalem, Israel, the Messiah, and the Temple.

Zechariah had a straightforward message. After God’s judgment, after God’s punishment through exile, it was time for repentance. Without repentance, there would be no reconciliation with God. Repentance is a change of direction, back to honoring God’s Truth. The second section of Zechariah’s book includes not only prophesy’s the coming of the Messiah, but prophecies about the end times as well. This accounts for why Zechariah is so often quoted in the New Testament. Like his contemporary, Haggai, Zechariah’s ministry was to encourage the returning exiles to Jerusalem to finish building the Second Temple (about 520 BC). God raised up Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people to get busy and get it built. The Temple was finally completed in 515 BC through their prodding and inspiration.

Zechariah would receive eight visions, which an angel interpreted for him. Each vision had a similar message. Even though Judah had been through a very difficult time and knew no peace, God would have compassion for Judah in the future.

(Zechariah 1:7-17)1NIV New International Version Translations – “On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo. During the night I had a vision, and there before me was a man mounted on a red horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses. I asked, “What are these, my lord?” The angel who was talking with me answered, “I will show you what they are.” Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, “They are the ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth.” And they reported to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.” Then the angel of the Lord said, “Lord Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?” So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. Then the angel who was speaking to me said, “Proclaim this word: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, and I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they went too far with the punishment.’ “Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the Lord Almighty. “Proclaim further: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.’”

If we interpret this first vision in Zechariah 1:7-17, we can understand all of his visions. Zechariah saw a man riding a red horse standing in the myrtle trees with red, sorrel, and white horses behind him. They look like a troop of heavenly cavalry. The angel told Zechariah that God is righteously angry at the evil nations that currently feel secure while Jerusalem was in ruins. God would show mercy to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem itself. In the future, there would be peace and prosperity. God had not forgotten about Jerusalem. God had the city in His plans.

This was exactly what the returning exiles needed to hear after everything they had been through. The second vision was four horns and four craftsmen who were symbols of leaders that God would raise up to overthrow Israel’s enemies. Then Zechariah saw a vision of a man with a measuring line to measure Jerusalem, meaning that the city would be rebuilt and expanded. The next five visions in Zechariah 3-6 delivered the message that God had forgiven the people of Israel. Now it was time for God to judge and punish the surrounding nations that had been the source of Israel’s pain and destruction.

The Old Testament does not tell us how Zechariah died. Jesus mentions Zechariah in His condemnation of the first-century Jewish leaders. Zechariah supported their task of rebuilding the temple and challenging their spiritual condition until the temple was completed. At some time after Zerubbabel’s Temple was finished, it seems that Zechariah continued to be disruptive to those who preferred the sinful ways of the past. It is thought that some of his enemies could take it no longer and killed him in the very Temple that he had urged the people to complete.

(Matthew 23:34–36) – “Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.”

Zechariah 9-10 is about judgments through which Gentile world power held over Israel would be destroyed. Zechariah 9:1-8 appears to foretell the conquest of the Mediterranean coast by Alexander the Great’s Greek armies between 336-333 BC. Alexander crossed into what is now Turkey and defeated Persian armies, then took Damascus, Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia just as Zechariah 9 predicted. In Zechariah 9:9-10, there is a clear prediction of events in Jesus’ first advent that were quoted by the New Testament authors concerning Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “Rejoice greatly…Zion! Shout in triumph…Jerusalem! Behold your king is coming to you…Humble and mounted on a donkey”. Palm Sunday, confirmed in all four Gospels, is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah. Zechariah would predict that the Messiah would be righteous, He would provide salvation, be gentle and humble, and be a peacemaker.

Imagine approximately 50,000 Jews returning to Jerusalem in about 536 BC. The city lay in ruins and rubble. Judah was destroyed along with their Temple.  The people living there now objected to their presence. They did everything they could to prevent the rebuilding of the city. It was the age of discouragement. However, the people would receive the Word of God through the prophet Zechariah.

Zechariah 11 is a prediction of a future after the rejection of Jesus. In Zechariah 11:4-14, He is told to shepherd the flock, to assume the role of a good shepherd pasturing a flock of sheep. He is to do this because the present shepherds (leaders) have doomed the sheep to the slaughter. Zechariah is prophesying the shepherd’s role as the Messiah and the sheep as the people who had rejected Jesus. Some false shepherds represent the leaders who rejected Jesus. We even see a prophecy in Zechariah 11:12-13 of 30 pieces of silver that are thrown to the potter in the Temple. A potter’s field, a paupers’ grave, or a common grave is a place for the burial of unknown, unclaimed, or indigent people. This prophecy was fulfilled by Judas who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces (Matthew.27:1-7). The high priests used Judas Iscariot’s payment to purchase his grave after his suicide. Zechariah even covers the end times, those so appropriately described in Revelations. His prophecies are many:

  • The Jews will look on Him whom they pierced (Christ), and mourn Zechariah 12:10
  • The land will be cleansed from sin, and the people are forgiven, Zechariah13:1-3
  • They will be God’s people again, Zechariah13:9
  • The Lord (Jesus) will descend on the Mount of Olives, Zechariah 14:4
  • All the nations will gather against Jerusalem, but Jesus will return with the heavenly host to destroy the Gentile armies (Armageddon), Zechariah14:1-7
  • The surviving remnant will become holy, Zechariah14:20-21
  • Then the Lord will be the only King and He will rule the earth, Zechariah 14:9
  • After the Lord’s return, all the surviving Gentiles will go to Jerusalem to worship Him, Zechariah 14:16-17


  • Zechariah motivated people by focusing on where God was going to take them. Why do futuristic goals work as motivation?
    • Ideas to Explore: When you have been down, thinking about better times, lifts the spirit. God was also going to get even for them with their enemies.
  • Zechariah had prophecies that went way into the future. Some have yet to happen. Why should we believe them?
    • Ideas to Explore: So many of his prophecies have been correct, right on the money. His track record is too good to ignore. We need the same motivation as the returning exiles to work hard for God.
  • What benefits do you see to prophecies?
    • Ideas to Explore: Many have come true, thus validating the authors. Therefore, we should also believe those that have not come to pass yet. It is also reasonable to believe that if God can create a universe, create the human race, incarnate as a human, and perform miracles in our presence, He can inspire prophets to guide us.
  • Zechariah’s father, Berekiah, managed to raise a Godly son while in exile. How do you think he accomplished this?
    • Ideas to Explore: The writing tells us that the family unit was strong. Not only was his father involved in sustaining their faith, but his grandfather was also.
  • Zechariah had the experiences of both an exile and a returning Jew. How do you think this prepared him to help his people?
    • Ideas to Explore: Nothing is more important than sharing personal experiences when sharing faith. He also had God providing him with instructions.
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    NIV New International Version Translations

Who was Malachi?

Malachi is the last book in the Christian Old Testament. He is considered the last of the prophets who wrote down his prophetic call. Malachi’s name means “my messenger,” an appropriate title for a prophet. Malachi was writing to the remnant of Israelites who had returned after 70 years in Babylonian captivity. His ministry existed at the same time as Nehemiah but after the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. To set the stage for Malachi, the temple had been rebuilt, and the people of Israel were once again in the Promised Land. However, old sinful habits were creeping into their society again. All we know about Malachi is inferred from his public messages, recorded in his book.

Malachi lived during a time of great injustice, corruption, and poverty in Jerusalem. Jesus was not due on the scene for several hundred years. Every day, as people witnessed the society around them, they were reminded of the promises God had spoken through Haggai and Zechariah. These prophets had encouraged them to rebuild the temple with the hope that God would bring prosperity and peace. It now was almost fifty years since they had returned, the temple rebuilt. Yet, Israel was still overcome by injustice and corruption, while they witnessed the nations around them all prospering.

The people were questioning the promises and if God still loved them. Through the prophet Malachi, God responds to the concerns of His people. When God tells Israel, “I have loved you,” the people respond, “how have you loved us?” God responds by reminding them that they were chosen, and His love is not dependent upon anything that they can do.

(Malachi 3:6-7)1NIV New International Version Translations – “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty….”

The book that Malachi wrote is distinguished as being the only prophetic book that ends not in deliverance but judgment. It ends with a curse.

(Malachi 4:1-5) – “’ Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with destruction.’”

Judgment would historically come in the form of the Roman general Pompey who captured Jerusalem in 63 BC. Caesar Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) would be the first Roman emperor and one of the most successful. He would reign for 45 years ruling at the time of Jesus’ birth. Today we are faced with uncertain but not unprecedented times. God’s people have been here before. Malachi, therefore, is a great place to review. Not only does Malachi teach us of the unchanging character of our God, but it also leaves us with hope. The book of Malachi ends with God promising His people, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays….” (Malachi 4:2).

Not only was this promise fulfilled in the first coming of Christ, but this promise will be completed in the great Day of the Lord as He returns to bring final justice and peace to our world. The words in the brief four chapters of Malachi are the concluding message from our God to his people before almost 400 years of silence. These words bore the weight of the New Christian Church and became the cornerstone of hope for the people of God. Malachi is a beautiful picture of a conversation between God and His people, as they seek Him and question His promises.

A summary of the book of Malachi covers these areas:
  • Malachi rebuked the sins of the priests – Priests were the political leaders of the times. They mocked God by using God to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. The leaders were also derelict in their official duties which were to guide the moral values of the nation.
  • Malachi rebuked the sins of the people – The people had divorced their rightful wives; they had married foreign wives; they doubted God’s justice; and they were neglecting to pay first fruits, their tithes to God, giving God their leftovers.
  • The people did nothing about the poverty that existed in their nation.
  • Malachi admonished the people because they had not learned from the consequences of their past sins.
  • Despite Israel’s doubts, to the contrary, Malachi assured them that the Lord God still loved them (Malachi 1:2–5).
  • Part of Malachi’s ministry was to prepare the hearts of God’s people and the way for John the Baptist, who would then prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus.

(Malachi 3:1) – “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.”

In the Old Testament, the message of the prophets, repentance is a recurring theme. Repentance was demonstrated through rituals such as fasting, wearing sackcloth, sitting in ashes, wailing, and liturgical laments that expressed strong sorrow for sin. These rituals were supposed to be accompanied by authentic repentance, which involved a commitment to a renewed relationship with God, a walk of obedience to His Word, and living right. Too often, however, these rituals merely represented remorse and a desire to escape the consequences of sin.

The word repentance means “the act of changing one’s mind.” True biblical repentance goes beyond remorse, regret, or feeling bad about one’s sin. It even involves more than turning away from sin. It is a dedication to redirect oneself to a future life with God based on His Truth (His rules). Our nation, any nation cannot continue to ignore its Creator, living as if God doesn’t matter. He does!


  • Why are good people quiet about sin when they see it?
    • Ideas to Explore: Fear? Don’t see it as a problem? Does the media endorse it? Leadership is all doing it?
  • Do you think God cares about corruption in society?
    • Ideas to Explore: Why do our leaders and courts permit it? Do the wealthy or popular get a free pass?
  • Use your favorite issue with society today – Now, ask does God care and what is His Truth about that issue? 
    • Ideas to Explore: We all seem to have pet peeves.  Why are there so few activists for God’s Truth?
  • How do you help society see that God wants repentance?
    • Ideas to Explore: God has stated in our Bible that repentance is a prerequisite to His blessing for a nation. How are you helping?
  • There is a war against our children – Where and when do you see it ending?
    • Ideas to Explore: Drugs, education, destruction of the family, crime, all hurt the youth of our country. How would you fix it?
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    NIV New International Version Translations

Is Our Nation Dying?

Skyrocketing inflation, political division, social unrest, and a relentless effort to wipe away the fundamental principles of our nation should have us concerned. The nation we knew just 40 years ago is gone. Debt, and unprecedented social and cultural change, are redefining our civilization as evil and oppressive. If one listens to the media, it is hard to find any redeeming national characteristics. Among the devastating changes, are the growing and unbearable living costs, and an anti-American “woke” sentimentality infiltrating our nation’s public schools and universities. We find ourselves divided with one group tolerating riots in the streets of major U.S. cities, and the emboldening of the nation’s greatest adversaries. We find the other group silent, seemingly accepting of the demise of our constitutional republic and Constitution. And through all of this, our youth are being placed upon the sacrificial alters of drugs and sexual immorality.

It is reasonable, then, to ask whether the world has been here before and what can be done to change this destructive trend. The answers to this question can only be found in our world’s history.

  • God is based on real history – The Bible, God’s Word, is based on real events. God is Real.
  • Faith in a Creator hangs on history – Our vision back in time is 20-20. As humans, we are blind to the future. It is the learnings of the past that faithfully points us forward.
  • Others have been here before us – Those, successful or not, have clawed their way through this cosmic world and left many footprints. Only fools ignore them.
  • Perfection eludes humanity – Past failures serve as a light forward. Those who ignore history are destined to repeat all of humanity’s failures. Considering our crazy world, many people must ignore history!
  • We can see God in history – His face is visible in the providence of His blessings upon a nation. Yet, such wisdom rarely lasts beyond a single generation. Frightening, isn’t it?
  • Common paths uphold our diversity – Divisiveness is evil at its best. Celebrating the convergence of diversity should lead us to life, liberty, and happiness. Anything that divides a nation, and pits one side against another, is destructive and to no good end. The goal is not to conquer or seek control, or even consensus. Our goal must be to seek God!

(Psalm 110:6)1NIV New International Version Translations – “He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.”

For over 400 years, God’s prophets tried and tried to warn the people to repent of their idolatry and immorality. The Prophet Jeremiah, for example, repeatedly urged the people of his day to repent and the people repeatedly rejected his message. Jeremiah’s words of warning can be directed at our nation: “Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 8:12). Eventually that nation fell to an outside invader.

How then do we change direction and seek our God again as a society?

(1 Chronicles 22:19) – “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the Lord.”

The first step is to seek God again. Seek means to “attempt or desire to obtain or achieve (something). “  Seek is a verb, and in this context, it must be continual. The restorative nature of seeking God only comes when it is a conscious choice. It is direct, from the heart, and directed to God. The Apostle Paul states it well. “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). This is truly a gift from God. It is history that tells of the glory of God. It is through the history of God’s Word that we can find Him.

The next step is to leap over the greatest obstacle to seeking the Lord and that would be pride. “In his pride, the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” (Psalm 10:4). Therefore, humility is essential to seeking the Lord. The good news is that God promises those who seek Him will find Him. “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9). “And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  (Hebrews 11:6).

Think of pride as an invisible barrier separating you from God. It can blind the heart. That is a frightening thing since God, the very Creator of our universe, is the greatest reward a human can gain. Remember, a relationship with God is personal, it is restorative and regenerative, and with God, we have EVERYTHING!Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (Psalm 105:4). When a nation loses its mental and emotional effort to seek God, God is not lost, the people are lost! The heavens, our history, are shouting out the story of the Glory of God. God shows us His grace, free and undeserving grace, to us every day. To save a nation, any nation is to change its trajectory to one that will hit the bullseye. The people must SEEK GOD again.

Finally, seeking God is seeking Jesus Christ! When Israel’s prophets walked the earth, the nations all struggled to see God directly. All the nations had was God’s history. Today, we have more than the prophets could offer the people. Today we have a Savior, the Incarnate God, the Son, we have Jesus Christ. Our living Savior needs to be put back again into our families, our schools, our government, our society, and our nation. The best news of all is that Jesus’s work on the Cross erased our past sins of history. His hand, God’s hand is outstretched to us. Will we save our nation and reach for His hand?


  • Are you content with our nation?
    • Ideas to Explore: History tells us we are in for a disappointment. Do we believe it? Why is the status quo such comfortable for half of our nation? Is the idea first to admit there is a problem?
  • Lostpine has just finished 18 weeks, presenting each of God’s prophets in the order of their advice to the nation of Israel. If you read some of them, what did you conclude?
    • Ideas to Explore: God is patient, God has limits, sins of a nation will be punished, but God always leaves us with hope.
  • What should our nation do?
    • Ideas to Explore: Admit there is a problem (this is the first step in any recovery program). Do not blame someone else. Repent and seek God’s forgiveness. Do you have a better plan?
  • Can our children survive in our nation without God?
    • Ideas to Explore: Satan is after our youth. Destroy the faith of the next generation and you stop faith in God. Survival rests on our shoulders to save our youth.


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