Day 350

What is Going on Behind the Scenes of History?

Wisdom Psalm 143:1-12
New Testament Revelation 6:1-17
Old Testament Malachi 1:1-2:16


In the West, many people assume history is aimless: ‘Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’ (as Shakespeare put it in Macbeth). Many Eastern religions tend to regard history as either circular or illusory, while Marxists understand history in terms of class struggle.

In contrast to all these views, the New Testament sees history as moving towards a climax. The ultimate struggle is between good and evil – ending with the triumph of good and God.

The kingdom of God will not fail. God is working his purposes out in history. Jesus is the centrepiece. All lines in history converge on him. As someone has said: ‘The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable.’

History is ‘His story’. As you hear the news and read history books you get some of the details. As you read the Bible you get the big picture. In particular, the book of Revelation unveils what is going on behind the scenes of history.

God is the Sovereign Lord of history. But we are not mere robots. You are not being moved around like a piece on a chessboard. Rather, you have a part to play. God involves you in his plans. God works out his purposes in co-operation with his people.


Psalm 143:1-12

Psalm 143

A psalm of David.

  1 Lord, hear my prayer,
   listen to my cry for mercy;
  in your faithfulness and righteousness
   come to my relief.
  2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,
   for no one living is righteous before you.
  3 The enemy pursues me,
   he crushes me to the ground;
  he makes me dwell in the darkness
   like those long dead.
  4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
   my heart within me is dismayed.
  5 I remember the days of long ago;
   I meditate on all your works
   and consider what your hands have done.
  6 I spread out my hands to you;
   I thirst for you like a parched land.

  7 Answer me quickly, Lord;
   my spirit fails.
  Do not hide your face from me
   or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
  8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
   for I have put my trust in you.
  Show me the way I should go,
   for to you I entrust my life.
  9 Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
   for I hide myself in you.
  10 Teach me to do your will,
   for you are my God;
  may your good Spirit
   lead me on level ground.

  11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
   in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
  12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
   destroy all my foes,
   for I am your servant.


Be guided by the God of history

We need God’s guidance. You have the potential to change the events of history for good. But there are many challenges to be faced.

David was depressed. He was in ‘a black hole’ – a ‘dungeon’: ‘I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away, my heart heavy, like lead’ (v.4, MSG). How do you begin to get yourself out of a situation like this?

  1. Remember the good things

    David chose to think about the positive: ‘I remembered the old days, went over all you’ve done, pondered the ways you’ve worked’ (v.5, MSG).

  2. Keep worshipping

    Worship can be an oasis in difficult times. David says, ‘I… stretched out my hands to you, as thirsty for you as a desert thirsty for rain’ (v.6, MSG).

  3. Cry out to God for help

    He prays, ‘Hurry with your answer, God! I’m nearly at the end of my rope. Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me!’ (v.7, MSG).

  4. Listen for God’s guidance

    Year after year I have written next to the verse, ‘Show me the way I should go’ (v.8b), a list of areas in which I have desperately needed God’s guidance. It is so encouraging to look back and see the way he has guided me – sometimes in ways beyond anything I could have asked or even imagined.


‘O Lord, hear my prayer... my soul thirsts for you like a parched land... Show me the way I should go... I hide myself in you… For your name’s sake, O Lord... bring me out of trouble.’

New Testament

Revelation 6:1-17

The Seals

6 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.

5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A kilogram of wheat for a day’s wages, and three kilograms of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a quarter of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”


See behind the scenes of history

In spite of all the terrible things that you see going on in the world around you and read about in history, you have great hope. The good news centres on Jesus. Jesus, the Lamb of God, opens the seals of history (v.1). He reveals what is going on behind the scenes of the events you read about and hear about.

  1. The gospel preached to all nations

    The first rider was given ‘a victory garland. He rode off victorious, conquering right and left’ (v.2, MSG).

    This sounds like Jesus himself, the conqueror of death, the crowned King of the universe going out to proclaim good news to the nations.

  2. Wars and military power

    The second rider ‘was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people slay each other. To him was given a large sword’ (v.4).

    History has been full of violence and warfare, as people have sought to dominate and control each other.

  3. Injustice and inequality

    The third rider ‘was holding a pair of black scales in his hand’ (v.5).

    Prices had been inflated (v.6). There was an economic disaster. As is the case today, while some live in terrible poverty, others live in luxury (v.6), untouched by the needs of the poor.

  4. The curse of death

    The fourth rider ‘was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him’ (v.8a).

    Death takes its toll in history. As we read the history of this world it is one of violence (‘kill by sword’), starvation (‘famine’) and disease (‘plague’), as well as other random causes of death (‘the wild beasts of the earth’) (v.8b).

  5. The persecuted church

    ‘... those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained’ (v.9).

    Persecution of Christians continues to the present day throughout the world with millions of Christians living in fear of being captured, beaten, imprisoned or even put to death because of their faith in Jesus.

  6. The beginning of the end

    Jesus predicted similar upheavals to the ones described here – ‘these are the beginning of birth-pains’ (Matthew 24:8). These will no doubt include social and political upheavals, as well as natural disasters.

The six seals give a general view of history between the first and second coming of Jesus.


Lord, may we be peacemakers who feed the hungry, fight against injustice, stand with the persecuted and bring good news as we anticipate your return and the beginning of a new heaven and a new earth that will last forever.

Old Testament

Malachi 1:1-2:16

1 A prophecy: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.

Israel Doubts God’s Love

2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord.

“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’

“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals. ”

4 Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.”

But this is what the Lord Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord. 5 You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the Lord—even beyond the borders of Israel!’

Breaking Covenant Through Blemished Sacrifices

6 “A son honours his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honour due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.

“It is you priests who show contempt for my name.

“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

7 “By offering defiled food on my altar.

“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’

“By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. 8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.

9 “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty.

10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.

12 “But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously, ” says the Lord Almighty.

“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king, ” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

Additional Warning to the Priests

2 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honour my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honour me.

3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.

7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

Breaking Covenant Through Divorce

10 Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?

11 Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. 12 As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord remove him from the tents of Jacob —even though he brings an offering to the Lord Almighty.

13 Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favour on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.

16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife, ” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty.

So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.


Look at God’s love in history

‘Look at history’ (v.2, MSG) God says through the prophet Malachi (c.450 BC), whose name means ‘my messenger’. If you want to know how much God loves you, look at history. The message of the God of history is ‘I love you’ (v.2, MSG): ‘Take a good look. Then you’ll see how faithfully I’ve loved you and you’ll want even more’ (v.5, MSG).

The background is that, even after the rebuilding of the temple, there is ‘shoddy, sloppy, defiling worship... worship of God is no longer a priority’ (vv.6–7, MSG): there is a failure to give generously and a breakdown of family life.

The words of this book are hugely challenging to those involved in any kind of leadership of God’s people (v.6).

The priests were the leaders of God’s people. Like the prophets, they were supposed to be the ones through whom God spoke: ‘For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth people should seek instruction – because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty’ (2:7).

The challenge to all of us is:

  1. Single-minded determination to see God’s name honoured

    ‘Set your heart to honour my name’ (v.2).

  2. Receive ‘life and peace’

    God has covenanted (promised) to give ‘life and peace’ (v.5) – these are two of the greatest blessings you can ever receive.

  3. Worship God with reverence and awe

    This should be our response to God’s extraordinary generosity and kindness: ‘This called for reverence and [Levi] revered me and stood in awe of my name’ (v.5).

  4. Teach the truth

    ‘True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips’ (v.6a).

  5. Live a righteous life

    ‘He walked with me in peace and uprightness’ (v.6b). Christian leaders must set an example by living holy lives.

  6. Lead a life of helping others to find a relationship with God

    ‘… and turned many from sin’ (v.6b).

Next, Malachi turns to relationships. He criticises them for marrying non-believers (v.11). This is also discouraged elsewhere in Scripture (see 2 Corinthians 6:14). We might find this challenging. The imagery Malachi uses here can help us understand why it is not a good idea. He describes non-believers as ‘the daughter of a foreign god’ (Malachi 2:11), a phrase which highlights their competing religious views.

All of us have religious ideas and beliefs, even if they are the belief that there is no God. Giving ourselves to someone who holds a different belief may ultimately pull us away from God.

God wanted children to be brought up in the security of the marriage relationship: ‘Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel… So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith’ (vv.15–16).

These words can seem harsh, but actually they are a reminder of how much God loves and values marriage. It is because marriage is so wonderful that God is so utterly opposed to anything that would undermine it.¹

Unfaithfulness begins in our hearts: ‘Therefore, keep a watch upon your spirit (that it may be controlled by My Spirit), that you deal not treacherously and faithlessly (with your marriage mate)’ (v.16, AMP).

¹ For more in depth exploration of the subject of divorce, see The Jesus Lifestyle, chapter 6, ‘How to view marriage and divorce’.


Lord, thank you for Jesus who came to make forgiveness possible. May we guard ourselves in our hearts and in our spirits and not break faith.

Pippa adds

Psalm 143:8 says:

‘Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.’

The day goes much better if I have read the Bible in the morning and found encouragement from God’s unfailing love. Without this time with God, it feels to me like going out without a coat on – something rather important is missing.



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William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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