The rest of the story of Paul is pieced together from letters he wrote while in Rome—Ephesians, to the Christians in Ephesus, Philippians to those in Philippi, Colossians to those in Colossae.
To the Ephesians he described the kind of armor needed to resist the temptations of Satan. No doubt a tall Roman solider stood beside him as Paul advised the reader to wrap himself in truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, and the helmet of salvation. More important still, hold the shield of faith in one hand and the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—in the other.
The letter to the Philippians was worth saving for later generations, too. “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14).
Colossian Christians were urged to put OFF “anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language” and to put ON “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.” He added, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Paul’s Last Days
Eventually, Paul was called before Caesar, the Roman emperor. The Caesar at this time was Nero, an extremely wicked man. Everyone was sure Paul would be condemned. But he wasn’t! Nero set him free. Paul had one last opportunity to travel and visit churches.
But later Paul was again arrested and sent back to Rome. He preached one last time before Nero and the crowd pressing in to hear the trial. Members of Nero’s household had become Christians because of Paul’s influence and Nero decided to put a stop to it. He sentenced Paul to death.
With joy and hope, Paul looked beyond his trials and sufferings, beyond the sword that would end his life. His dying testimony had a note of triumph and assurance. He wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Where to find the story: Acts 27-28, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians
|April 5, 2020
Zechariah’s Strange Prophecy
“All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” (Matthew 21:4-5)
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an unbroken donkey colt on that momentous first day of the week, just a week before His resurrection, the multitudes quickly recognized that He was fulfilling an ancient prophecy and thereby specifically claiming to be their long-awaited Messiah. The prophecy was that of Zechariah 9:9, and the people in turn began to fulfill David’s even more ancient prophecy, laying palm branches in His path, and crying out: “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD” (Psalm 118:26).
This is one of the few events in the life of Christ that are recorded in all four gospels, though only Matthew notes it as the fulfillment of prophecy. And what a strange prophecy it was! One would think that the anticipated King would come riding on a great white horse, ready to put down all His enemies (and indeed He shall do exactly that some day—see Revelation 19:11).
But here He comes riding on a colt, the foal of an ass, not high and mighty, but meek and lowly! Ah, but as Zechariah prophesied, He comes “just, and having salvation” (Zechariah 9:9). And the salvation He was bringing was not deliverance from Roman subjugation but eternal deliverance from sin and its awful wages.
These same multitudes that hailed Him soon were following their high priest in clamoring for His crucifixion. Nevertheless He someday will fulfill Zechariah’s later prophecy: “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him” (Zechariah 12:10). Then, finally, indeed, “the LORD shall be king over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:9). HMM
God’s Plans for Egypt
While Jerusalem is on the verge of falling, God speaks to Egypt. The Egyptians had tried to come to Jerusalem’s aid during the Babylonian siege—King Zedekiah had appealed to them for help (see Ezekiel 17:15), but they had failed. God had some words for the unreliable crutch that often wasn’t very supportive of his people.
Egypt is going to fall for a period of time. The Babylonians will eventually overtake Egypt—God even says that Egypt will be the Babylonians’ pay since they have been working for him for free.
God likens Egypt to a great crocodile. He is going to drag this beast out of the Nile into the desert to die and rot. Like a prideful, large cedar, towering over its neighbors, Egypt will be cut down. It will be a hard day for Egypt, but also for the nations who sought refuge under them.
The King’s Heart
Egypt was the first enemy of God’s people—the Israelites spent a couple of centuries as their slaves. In the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, God showed some of his most powerful signs within Egypt. But he did not completely destroy the Egyptians when he rescued his people from them—as he very well could have.
Since then, Israel had relied on Egypt on and off as an ally. Egypt had been a long-standing world power, and the people of Israel often showed their lack of faith in God by trusting in the strength of Egypt’s horses and chariots. But God is sparing this great nation: Even when mighty Babylon comes against Egypt, God will not let Egypt be demolished.
Earlier, through Isaiah, God had revealed his great plans for Egypt: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance’” (Isaiah 19:23-25).
God has preserved this ancient nation because one day he knows they will praise him.
Though Egypt was often an enemy and a snare to Israel, the nation also aided many of God’s people, including Abraham (see Genesis 12:10-20), Jacob and his family (see Genesis 46–50) and even Jesus (see Matthew 2:13-15)—each in their time of need.
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