December 31: From Beginning to End
Lamentations 4:1–5:22; Romans 16:1–27; Proverbs 31:10–31
Endings are always difficult. But when they’re new beginnings, they’re revitalizing.
At the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans, we not only see Paul the apostle, but Paul the empathetic and concerned pastor. Paul knows that if dissension or temptation rules over the Roman church, they will fail in their ministry, so he warns them (Rom 16:17–19) and offers them a word of hope: “And in a short time the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (Rom 16:20). Here, Paul is echoing God’s words to Adam, Eve, and the serpent after the fall, when, instead of carrying out God’s request to bring order to creation (as He had done in the beginning), humanity turned from Him, defacing His image (Gen 1:1–2, 27–28; 3:14–20). But while Gen 3:15 merely depicts Satan biting the heel of humanity and being struck on the head in return (Gen 3:15), Paul depicts Satan as being crushed under the heel of the Church. Through Christ, people will be victorious over Satan. Christ did use, is using, and will continue to use people to restore order to the world.
Paul sees the end as a time when Satan will no longer have control and Christians will be victorious through Christ. Satan is fighting a losing battle. His ravaging of humanity is temporary; likewise, in the OT, the prophet Jeremiah saw the other nations’ ravaging of God’s people as temporary. Jeremiah remarks: “You, O Yahweh, will sit forever on your throne for generation to generation.… Restore us to you, O Yahweh, that we will be restored; renew our days as of old” (Lam 5:19, 21). Yet Jeremiah must qualify his statement—he adds: “Unless you [Yahweh] have utterly rejected us, unless you are angry with us beyond measure” (Lam 5:22).
Today, there is no qualification. Christ loves us beyond all measure. Satan has lost this battle. The ravaging of God’s people will come to an end when Jesus ultimately returns (Rev 22). The end is full of hope. The end is a new beginning.
How can hope restore and revitalize your life?
JOHN D. BARRY
Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
How is the gold become so dim? the most fine gold is changed, and the stones of the Sanctuary are scattered in the corner of every street. The noble men of Zion comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, even the work of the hands of the potter! Even the dragons draw out the breasts, and give suck to their young: but the daughter of my people is become cruel like the ostriches in the wilderness. The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst: the young children ask bread, but no man brealeth it unto them. They that did feed delicately, perish in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet, embrace the dung. … But thou hast utterly rejected us: thou art exceedingly angry against us. (Lamentations 4:1–5:22)
Commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the Church of Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as it becometh Saints, and that assist her in whatsoever business she needeth of your aid: for she hath given hospitality unto many, and to me also. Greet Priscilla, and Aquila, my fellow helpers in Christ Jesus. (Which have for my life laid down their own neck. Unto whom not I ena ad Trygive thanks, but also all the Churches of the Gentiles.) Likewise greet the Church that is in their house. Salute Andronicus and Junia my cousins and fellow prisoners, which are notable among the Apostles, and were in Christ before me. Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbanus our fellow helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ friends. Salute Herodian my kinsman. Greet them which are of the friends of Narcissus which are in the Lord. Salute Tryphena and Ttyphosa, which women labor in the Lord. Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. Greet Asyncritus, Phelogon, Hermas, Patrobas, Mercurius, and the brethren which are with them. Salute Philologus and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olyteem. Salumpas and all the Saints which are with them. Salute one another with an holy kiss. The Churches of Christ salute you.Now I beseech you brethren, mark them diligently which cause division and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such, serve not the Lord Jesus Christ but their own bellies, and with fair speech and flattering deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad among all: I am glad therefore of you: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is ogod, and simple concerning evil. The God of peace shall tread Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Timothy my helper, and Lucius and Jason, and Sosipater my kinsmen, salute you. I Tertius, which wrote out this Epistle, salute you in the Lord. Gaius mine host, and of the whole Chirch saluteth you. Erastus the steward of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, Amen. To him now that is of power to establish you according to my Gospel, and preaching of Jesus Christ, by the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.: (But now is opened, and published among all nations by the Scripture and Prophets, at the commandment of the everlasting God for the obedience of the faith.) To God, I say, only wise, be praise through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. (Romans 16:1–27)
Who shall find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above the pearls. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She seeketh wool and flax, and laboreth cheerfully with her hands. she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins in strength, and strenthen her arms. She feeleth that her metrchandise is good: her candle is not put out by night. She putteth her hands to the wheel, and her hands handle the spindle. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor, and putteth frth her hands to the needy. She feareth not the snow for her family: for all her family is clothed in scarlet. She maketh herself carpets: fine linen and purple is her garment. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth with the Elders of the land. She maketh sheets, and selleth them, and giveth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honor is her clothing, and in the latter day she shall rejoice. She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and the law of grace is in her tongue. She overseeth the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children rise up, and call her blessed: her husband also shall praise her, saying, Many daughters have done virtuously: but thou surmountest them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vanity: but a woman that feareth the Lord she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:10–31)