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
- 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 nobel 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 breaketh it unto them. That they did feed delicately, perish in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet, embrace the dung. For the iniquity of the daughter of my people is become greater than the sin of Sodom, that was destroyed as in a moment, and none pitched camps against her. Her Nazirites were purer than the snow, and whiter than the milk: they were more ruddy in body, than the red precious stones: they were like polished sapphire. Now their visage is blacker than a coal: they cannot know them in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones: it is withered like a stock. They that be slain with the sword, are better than they that are killed with hunger: for they fade away as they were stricken through for the fruits of the field. The hans of the pitiful women have sodden their own children, which were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people. The Lord hath accomplished his indigation: he hath poured out his fierce wrath, he hath kindled a fire in Zion, which hath devoured the foundations thereof. The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem. For the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her. They have wandered as blind men in the streets, and they were polluted with blood, so that they would not touch their garments. But they cried unto them, Depart ye polluted, depart, depart, touch not: therefore they fled away, and wandered: they have said among the heathen. They shall no more dwell there. The anger of the Lord hath scattered them, he will no more regard them: they reverenced not the face of the Priest, nor had compassion ont he Elders. While we waited for our vain help, our eyes failed: for in our waiting we looked for a nation that could not save us. They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets: our end is near, our days are fufilled, for our end is come. Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us upon the mountains and laid wait for us in the wilderness. The breath of our nostrils, the Anointe dof the Lord was taken in their nets, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall be preserved alive among the heathen. Rejoice and be glad, O daughter Edom: the dwellest in the land of Uz, the cup also shall pass through unto thee: thou shalt be drunken and vomit. Thy punishment is accomplished, O daughter Zion: he will no more carry thee away into captivity, but he will visit thine iniquity, O daughter Edom, he will discover thy sins. Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach. Our inheritance is turned to the strangers, our houses to the aliens. We are fatherless, even without father, and our mothers are as widows. We have drunk our water for money, and our wood is sold unto us. Our necks are under persecution: we are weary, and have no rest. We have given our hands to the Egyptians, and to Assyria, to be satisifed with bread. Our fathers have sinned, and are not, and we have borne their iniquities. Servants have ruled over us, none would deliver us out of their hands. We got our bread with the peril of our lives, because of the sword of the wilderness. Our skin was black like as an oven because of the terrible famine. They defile the women in Zion, and the maids in the cities of Judah. The princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of the Elders were not had in honor. They took the young men to grind, and the children fell under the wood. The Elders have ceased from the gate and the young men from their songs. The joy of our heart is gone, our dance is turned into mourning. The crown of our heart is heavy for these things, our eyes are dim, Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate: the foxes run upon it. But thou, O Lord, remainest forever; thy throne is from generation to generation. Wherefore dost thou forget us forever, and forsake us so long time? Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned: renew our days as of old. But thou hast utterly rejected us: thou art exceedingly angry against us. Lamentations 4:1–5:22
- I 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 ye assist her in whatsoever business she needed of your aid: for she hath given hospitality unto many, and to me also. Greet Priscilla, and Aquilla, my fellow helpers in Christ Jesus. (Which have for my life laid down their own neck. Unto whom not I only give thanks, but also all the Churches of the Gentiles.) Likewise greet the Church that is in their house. Salute my beloved Epaenetus, which is the firstfuits of Achaia in Christ. Greet Mary which bestowed much labor on us. 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 Herodion my kinsman. Greet them which are of the friends of Narcissus which are in the Lord. Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, which woman labored much in the Lord.Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. Greet Asyncritus, Phelgon, Hermas, patrobas, Mercurius, and the brethren which are with them. Salute Philologus and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas 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 our obedience is come abroad among all. I am glad therefore of you: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, 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 Church 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 Chirst, 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 Scriptures of the Prophets, at the commandment of the everlasting God for the obedience of 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 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 is like the ships of merchangs: she bringeth her food from afar. And she ariseth, while it is yet night: and giveth the portion to her household, and the ordinary to her maids. She considereth a field, and getteth it: and with the fruits of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She feeleth that her merchandis 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 forth her hands to the needy. She feareth not the snow for her family: for al her family is clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself carpets: fine linene, 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 isher 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 hosehold, and eateth not hte bread of idleness. Her children rise up, and call her blessed: and eateth not the bread of idleness. Many daughters have done virtuously: but thou surmountest them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vanity: but a woman that feareth the Lord 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