NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Joel Park, a staff at Remnant Westside Church in Manhattan, who oversees its administration. A graduate of New York University (BA) and Fordham Law School (J.D.), he is currently pursuing a M.Div. degree at Reformed Theological Seminary.
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“Hope Rooted in God’s Promises”
Ezra 1:1-4 (ESV)
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem.  And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
My apartment has a package delivery problem. For some reason, about a quarter of anything that gets shipped to my building either goes missing or is delayed. Some of it, I’m sure is due to package theft, but that doesn’t account for everything. I’m sure you can relate to this frustration—at its root it’s the frustration felt from a broken promise, an unmet expectation.
On a more serious note, so far 2020 feels like a year of broken promises and unmet expectations. The hopefulness in January that comes with New Year’s resolutions and spiritual convictions has most certainly changed or has disappeared altogether. While our journey so far has only lasted six months, there are some connections to be made with the exiled Israelites who spent years living out their own 2020s and worse.
It is commonly held that king Cyrus’ proclamation took place in 538 BC. A complete 70 years after the first deportation in 608 BC, which tracks with Jeremiah 29:10’s promise. In fact, all of Jeremiah’s prophecies from verses 10-14 find their fulfillment here in Ezra! Certainly, God fulfilling prophecy isn’t new. But the staggering thing about this passage is the magnitude of the prophecy. The exile was the penultimate punishment for Israel—the result of decades of sin and rebellion. Yet the promise of restoration is wholly fulfilled here. What an incredible display of faithfulness!
If God is faithful to His promises about exile and restoration (going so far as to use a pagan king to fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecy), how much more then will God keep His promises to us? Like the exiled Israelites, we have the greatest of assurances—the Word. Our hope in this moment doesn’t come from our circumstances, political movements, or vaccines. It comes from God Himself, delivered through his Word, and experienced through the Spirit. Hopelessness is a choice we make by putting our trust in the fallible and not in the divine. We choose to hold on to God’s promises because the Word is our guarantee; and that hasn’t changed this year.
So, what are some of the promises and hopes you had back in January? Let’s reflect on some of those promises and ground them upon the truth found in the Word. Let that be your hope this morning because our God is a promise keeper.
Prayer: God, I declare that You are faithful to Your promises and Word. I declare that my hope is not in anything this world offers, but in You alone. All of the promises and hopes I had, I choose to root them in your Word. I ask for strength, humility, and grace as I continue to trust in You and Your Word.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 58
Lunch Break Study
Read: Luke 4:16-20 (ESV): And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Questions to Consider
- Are the hopes and desires you have actually biblical? If so, what are some of the reasons why you occasionally lose hope in their fulfillment?
- According to Isaiah, what are the promises Christ is supposed to fulfill? Do we see these things happening? Why or why not?
- If Scripture is living and active, do we see it being fulfilled in our lives now?
- The scene described in the above passage takes place right after Jesus is tempted and officially begins his ministry. While the people of Nazareth are initially impressed with Jesus, they quickly turn on him—highlighting the difference between how we might want God to fulfill promises vs. how God actually fulfills those promises.
- Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 61:1:2a. The Israelites back in Isaiah’s time and up to this moment would have had a different perspective of this prophecy’s fulfillment. Jesus does not negate Isaiah, but proclaims he is the ultimate fulfillment. That is to say, Christ embodies the ultimate promises of God and their fulfillment. A relationship with and a correct understanding of Christ is required.
- Personal response.
Why do we often act and feel as though God is not sovereign? Like Ezra’s life, our lives will be fruitful if we take time to read and meditate on God’s Word. And when we obey the Word, as Ezra did, we’ll enjoy a closer relationship with God. And when we know and love the God who has promised to never forsake us, we’ll have the same courage that Ezra had to commit himself to God’s Word.
Dwell on that thought as we offer up a prayer to the Lord before turning in for the night.
*Prepared by Pastor Bruce Yi, Lead Pastor of Remnant Westside Church