2 Samuel 1, Ezekiel 10

Read 2 Samuel 1 and Ezekiel 10.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 1

First Samuel ended with Saul committing suicide (31:4d) in order to escape torture at the hands of the Philistines (31:4c) after he was mortally wounded (v. 3c). Second Samuel began with David learning of Saul and Jonathan’s deaths (vv. 1-4). The man who reported their deaths claimed to have killed Saul at Saul’s command (vv. 6-9) which differs with the account given in 1 Samuel 31. What do we make of this difference?

The man’s account may be true. If so, then Saul did fall on his own sword in 1 Sam 31 but this Amalekite finished him off. This chapter, then, adds additional information to 1 Samuel 31.

Or, the man’s account may be false. In that case, then, 1 Samuel 31 described how Saul actually died. In this chapter, the Amalekite found Saul dead but took credit for killing him in a way that sounds compassionate. His reasoning may have been that it was merciful to end Saul’s suffering quickly and that David would approve of his actions as if he did the right thing. In other words, the Amalekite lied and brought Saul’s crown and arm band to David to ingratiate himself with the new king.

I tend to think the second explanation is the correct one, but either could be correct and we just don’t know. Regardless of what the actual truth is, David judged the man based on his words (v. 16). Instead of being grateful to the man, David was incensed that he would take the life of the man God had chosen to be anointed king (v. 14). What this passage reveals, then, is one of the character qualities that made David “a man after God’s own heart.” In this case, it was David’s submission to and respect for God-ordained authority.

We see David’s submission to Saul in two ways here 2 Samuel 1:

First, David referred to Saul as “the Lord’s anointed” twice (vv. 14, 16) and punished the Amalekite for killing Saul. By calling Saul, “the Lord’s anointed,” David was bowing to the will of God and the authority God invested in king Saul. Saul mistreated David wickedly, but David remained loyal to his king to the very end of his life.

Second, David eulogized Saul, even saying that Saul (and Jonathan) were “loved and admired” (v. 23). That goes against human nature; we tend to kick dirt on people who have sinned against us. It is even more delightful to our sinful nature when a leader we dislike falls. But David was genuinely sorrowful at the death of Saul because David loved and trusted in God.

David did some wicked things in his life but the absolute submission he showed to God’s will demonstrates that he was a man who walked with God. If you were tested this way, could you submit to God’s will? If you were asked to be a pallbearer at your boss’s funeral, would you be able and willing to do it? Could you stand by, availably, waiting for a long time before getting what you want?

Judges 8, Jeremiah 21

Today we’re reading Judges 8 and Jeremiah 21.

This devotional is about Judges 8.

Gideon was a very reluctant leader from the beginning of God’s call on his life. Although he stepped up to the demands of leadership in verses 1-21 of today’s chapter, he didn’t fundamentally change. After he did what God commanded him to do, he retired as Israel’s judge and committed Israel’s further leadership to the Lord (v. 23).

But, before leaving the scene, he accepted a large amount of gold from the jewelry taken from the dead Midianites Israel had defeated (vv. 24-26). Verse 27 told us that “Gideon made the gold into an ephod” which is a garment worn by the priests when serving the Lord or asking for Him to reveal his will. Our passage doesn’t tell us why Gideon did that, but it is very possible that Israel’s priesthood was not functioning well. In Judges 17 we’ll read about a man who hired a Levite to be his priest and in Judges 20 we’ll read about God’s people going to the ark to inquire of the Lord. That’s really about all we find of the formal aspects of worship in Judges. So Gideon may have made this ephod to assist his own personal worship of God.

Whatever his reason for making it, the ephod became an object of disobedient worship for Gideon, his family, and Israel. Verse 27c says, “All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.” Instead of being something that honored the Lord, it became a means by which people broke the first two commandments.

This is why God commanded his people not to make graven images in the Second Commandment. Graven images can become “other gods” by which some people break the first commandment. Anytime we give more reverence to an object of worship than we give to God, we are in the territory of idolatry. It might be a cross on a pendant or hung on the wall, a painting or stained glass window of Jesus, water from the Jordan river, the elements of communion, the old Bible of a family member or loved one, or the writings of some Christian author that we study more carefully than we do God’s word itself.

Is there anything that started out as a reminder of God that has taken on too much reverence for you? Is there anyone who has become more authoritative in your life than God’s word? Are you more likely to ask for the advice of a trusted Christian pastor/teacher/friend than to ask God directly for wisdom? Don’t let tools for serving the Lord become more important than the Lord himself.

Joshua 3, Isaiah 63

Read Joshua 3 and Isaiah 63.

This devotional is about Joshua 3.

In this short chapter, Israel began crossing over the Jordan River into the promised land. Similar to the way in which he parted the Red Sea for the parents of these Israelites, God miraculously stopped the flow of the Jordan River (v. 16) so that this generation was able to cross into the promised land “on dry ground” (v. 17).

There were two purposes for this miracle. First, this miracle demonstrated to God’s people that Joshua was His appointed leader. Verse 7 says, “And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.’” This miracle gave Joshua the authority to lead.

The second purpose for this Jordan-stopping miracle was to show Israel that God was with them and would drive out the Canaanites. Verse 10 says, “Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.’”

One act of God, then, taught his people two important lessons–that God was with them and that they should follow Joshua. God used a miracle in this case; however, he often accomplishes these kinds of purposes by acting in even non-miraculous ways.

Have you seen the Lord working in your life? Has it happened recently? Did it give you a sense of confidence to remind you that you are in Christ and that God is providing for and caring fo you?

Numbers 35, Isaiah 27, Psalm 140

Read Numbers 35, Isaiah 27-28, Psalm 140.

This devotional is about Numbers 35.

Murder is one of the world’s oldest sins. Despite its antiquity, it remains as gruesome and painful for the survivors as it was when Cain killed Abel. Revenge is a natural reaction for the survivors of the one who was murdered, but sometimes people die due to accidents or negligence.

What is the just response in these cases? On one hand, the family of the one who died is still deprived of his or her life, so does it really matter whether their loved one was killed intentionally or unintentionally?

God says yes, it does matter.

He designated cities of refuge for those who killed someone unintentionally (vv. 6-13). That would keep the land of Israel from being dominated by violence and bloodshed anytime someone died under suspicious circumstances. But for those who committed murder—they killed because they intended to kill (v. 20: “with malice aforethought”)—the Bible prescribes capital punishment as the appropriate means of justice (v. 16b, 17b, 18b, 19b, 21b: “the murderer is to be put to death”).

Although many Christians are proponents of capital punishment, too many of us miss the limits the Bible puts on it. Verse 30 of our text says, “Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.” That verse sets forth a very high standard of proof.

Often there are no witnesses at all to murder. If one person witnessed the murder, Moses’ law did not permit the killer to be executed.

A situation where two or more people witnessed a murder is highly unusual, yet that’s the standard of evidence the Old Testament law required before capital punishment could be administered. That is because human life is special; as human beings, we bear the image of God and have eternal souls.

It is deeply evil to take another person’s life but to do it as punishment without a strong standard of proof is reckless and often unjust. The Innocence Project has exonerated many people who were unjustly executed or wrongly convicted of murder. Today’s passage here in Numbers 35 suggests that capital punishment needs to be reformed here in America. While I believe that modern evidence like DNA matching or video surveillance can and should replace the standard 2 or more eyewitnesses required in this passage, the point of the eyewitnesses was to establish absolute proof of guilt before taking a man’s life.

If you support the death penalty from biblical conviction—and I do—your biblical conviction should also insist that anyone who is executed must have been convicted based on near certainty, not just “beyond a reasonable doubt.” To take an innocent human life in punishment is just as murderous and evil in God’s sight as first degree murder is.

Numbers 16, Isaiah 6, Psalm 122

Today’s Bible readings are Numbers 16, Isaiah 6, Psalm 122.

This devotional is about Numbers 16.

Back in Numbers 12, Moses faced opposition from his own brother and sister. They challenged his authority to lead because the Lord had spoken through them just as he had spoken through Moses (12:1-2).

Here in Numbers 16, Moses and Aaron were opposed by some of the Levites led by Korah (vv. 1, 3). Their objection was that, “The whole community is holy” (v. 3c). They went on to charge Moses and Aaron with elevating themselves above the people (v. 3f). So their argument was, “We’re all God’s chosen people and we’ve all been redeemed from Egypt by God’s power and have been promised a new land. Who are you, Moses and Aaron, that you’ve assumed authority over us?

Just as he did in Numbers 12, Moses did not defend himself; instead, he called on God to defend him by accepting an incense sacrifice either from Korah and his guys or from Aaron (vv. 16-18). God was willing to punish the entire nation for this rebellion (v. 21, and later, v. 45) but Moses and Aaron interceded with the Lord on behalf of the people (vv. 22, ). God’s punishment did fall on Korah and his rebellious followers (vv. 31-35) and on some of the people through a plague (v. 49) but he was merciful to the nation as a whole in answer to the prayers of Moses and Aaron.

This story brings up a few important points to consider:

  1. The Bible teaches that every believer is a priest (1 Pet 2:5) just as Korah suggested in verse 3. But the Bible also teaches that God has given leaders for the good and growth of his people (Eph 4:11-13). Leaders must lead in truth and humility but, if they are doing that, then God’s people must follow them.
  2. Moses had the right attitude toward opposition which was to let God deal with it. He was confident that God would vindicate him and God responded accordingly to his faith.
  3. Godly leaders will intercede for God’s people even when God’s people are difficult and disbedient to their leaders. Given all the problems they had faced, you would think that starting over would be an appealing idea to Moses, Aaron, and their families. But it was not because they loved God’s people and wanted them to obey and prosper by the Lord’s grace.

How is your level of humility when it comes to spiritual leaders? Are you someone who thinks leadership belongs to you or do you see leadership as an opportunity to glorify God and to reflect the glory of God to others? Moses had the humility to lead well. As a follower, do you have the humility to listen well to your leaders and follow them? If you are a leader, will you love and pray for the people you lead even if they are out to get you?

Numbers 12-13, Isaiah 2, Psalm 119:145-176

Read Numbers 12-13, Isaiah 2, Psalm 119:145-176.

This devotional is about Numbers 12

It is more than a little ironic that Moses is the author of Numbers and that he wrote verse 3, “(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)” The humblest man on earth wrote in holy scripture about how humble he was. The first literary instance of the humblebrag.

Not really, of course, because the Holy Spirit inspired him to write that, so we reading God’s assessment of Moses, not his self-assessment. There is plenty of evidence of his humility, too, such as how he resisted the Lord’s call to lead Israel and how he insisted that God blot him out of the book of life if the Lord blotted Israel out of it. Despite how powerfully God used him to lead, then, he truly was a humble man, someone who did not have an inflated view of himself.

His brother and sister did not have the character trait of humility. We can see that in verse 2 where they said to each other, “‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’” The implication of their words is that they were co-equal leaders with Moses. If they didn’t like his wife (v. 1), then he should be held accountable to them.

The problem is that God had chosen Moses directly and had commanded him to lead Israel. Aaron and Miriam were called to supporting roles under Moses’s leadership. Although it was true that God had spoken through Aaron and Miriam, he had not spoken to them in the same way that he had spoken to Moses (v. 8). They were way out of line, then, when they tried to exercise equal authority to Moses. Moses, being the humble man that he was, waited for God to take up his cause instead of defending himself. Moses was not disappointed because God did in fact speak up to defend him (v. 4: “At once the Lord said…”).

Two issues of application come to mind when I read this passage.

  • First, stay in your lane! God has called us to each to different responsibilities and has invested in us different levels of authority. If your leader is in sin, then you should confront him (Gal 6). If you think he is making a bad decision, you can “appeal to him as a father” (1 Tim 5:1). But most of the time, it is our job to follow the leaders God has given to us, not to question or rebuke them. Whenever we speak to someone we are supposed to follow or serve in a way that presumes equal or greater authority to that person, we have shown a level of pride that is not pleasing to God.
  • Second, let the Lord fight your battles for you. Humanly speaking, Moses had every right to defend himself but he did not. Because of his humility, Moses allowed God to take up his cause and vindicate Moses. The New Testament urges us to follow that pattern ourselves. Romans 12:19 commands us, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay.’ says the Lord.” It takes real humility to let God fight for you when you are being mistreated or your authority is being usurped. Instead of fighting for ourselves, justifying our actions and angrily denouncing our opponents, what if we trusted God enough to let him handle the situation?

So what’s the state of your humility. The title of humblest man ever is taken but each of us can and should follow Moses’s example in our own lives. If you are a follower, be a good follower and stay in your lane. If you are a leader and you know what you are doing is right before the Lord, let him handle the criticism and and fallout that comes your way.

This is pleasing to God because it puts all our cries for justice in his righteous hands to execute.

Exodus 38, Proverbs 14, Psalm 86

Today’s scheduled Bible readings are Exodus 38, Proverbs 14, and Psalm 86.

This devotional is about Proverbs 14:2, 16, 26, 27.

Fear is feeling that motivates people to act in ways that other things do not. You may love America, for example, but I’ll bet you pay your taxes more because you fear being prosecuted than because of patriotism.

These verses in Proverbs are linked by the concept of the “fear of the Lord.” The first two of them describe about how the fear of the Lord motivates people to do what is right:

  • 14:2: “Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly….”
  • 14:16: “The wise fear the Lord and shun evil….”

We often hear that “fearing the Lord” doesn’t mean being afraid of God but rather having a sense of “reverential awe” toward him. Reverential awe is good but there is more to fearing God than just being in awe of him. Someone who fears God is reverent because of who God is personally but a God-fearing person also respects his role as Lord and judge. Fearing God does not mean we serve him because he’s angry and we’re terrified of being annihilated at any moment for doing or saying the wrong thing. It does mean, however, that we submit to his authority to make the rules and we obey the rules because we believe in him and all that he is, including that he is just. Verses 2 and 16 tell us that this kind of proper fear of the Lord causes someone to do right (“walks uprightly”) and avoid doing wrong (“shun evil”). These are the consequences when someone fears God.

Verses 26 and 27 show us, however, that fearing God is not negative at all; it is positive. Verse 26 says that fearing the Lord provides a person with “a secure fortress” and verse 27 says that it “is a fountain of life.” When you believe in God as the Bible presents him, it brings security (v. 26) and blessings such as joy and purpose to your life (v. 27). Why is that true? Because sin is dangerous! Verse 27 says that the fear of the Lord turns “a person from the snares of death.” Sin kills but fearing God will help you avoid it.

We need God’s grace to fear him and to live obediently because we fear him. That means extending grace, of course, to others who truly fear God but still give into the desires of the sinful nature within. But, please understand, we do ourselves and our loved ones no favors at all when we act like sin is no big deal because God’s grace in Christ covers it all anyway. Sin is a big deal! The wages of it “is death” (Rom 6:23). When we rebuke someone who is sinning because we fear God, we are not trying to cut them down personally; we’re trying to save them from the destructive effects of sin. If you’ve ever had a loving friend step in and help you avoid or extricate yourself from sin, you know what a blessing that is. Until we are fully redeemed by God (at death or Christ’s return), we are vulnerable to the deceptive lives of our sin nature, the world, and the devil. But if we fear God and his discipline in our lives, it will help us avoid sin and find the fountain of life Solomon described in v. 27.

Exodus 30, Proverbs 6, Psalm 78

Today’s readings are Exodus 30, Proverbs 6, and Psalm 78.

This devotional is about Proverbs 6:6-11.

Ants are disgusting creatures who have no business being in my house.

That said, they are remarkable workers. There are some time-lapse videos on the Internet that show how hard they work to break down large food items for their colony. Some of the items, like a grapefruit, are huge compared to the size of one ant. Working together diligently, however, they can pick the whole thing apart in a few hours.

Here in Proverbs 6:6-11, Solomon encouraged the “sluggard” to think about the hard work of ants. A sluggard is foolish because he his lazy. The first thing Solomon encouraged the sluggard to notice about ants is that they don’t need a boss. Verse 7 says that it “has no commander, no overseer or ruler.” This sounds like a dream life to many people; a life with no boss, no authority. If a lazy person had no one in authority over him, he would do nothing productive all day, day after day (vv. 9-10). An ant, however, “stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Each one works hard to provide for the colony even without a supervisor.

The point here is that the sluggard needs to learn how to be productive without external supervision or discipline. Many people will do nothing unless they are told to do it but a wise man will learn to work diligently without supervision to be profitable and prepared for the future. The foolish lazy man, by contrast, is warned that “poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.”

Many people are hardworking in most areas of life or lazy in most areas of life. Many of us, however, work hard in some areas while neglecting to work hard in other areas. We may be productive employees, even without much supervision, but we’re lazy about managing the money we make. Or perhaps we’re diligent about physical fitness but not about our spiritual lives. What area in your life should you apply wisdom to be more ant-like?

We would also be wise to teach our kids to be self-starters and diligent without supervision. These are essential skills for success in our world and very rare. Encourage your kids to work on that term paper for a little while every night instead of trying to do it all in one weekend or–worse–one caffeine-fueled all-nighter. It will serve them well all the days of their lives.

You might enjoy watching this brief video about ants: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgtepw39NX4

Foundational Things First

a bricklayer who level the freshly poured concrete to lay the foundations of a building
bricklayer at work on a construction site during the laying of concrete to build the foundations of a house

I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.

That fact is foundational to who I am, how I think about things, and what I do with my time and life. Most importantly, for this blog, I write as a Christian, so my goal is to infuse everything I write with the Christian faith.

Christ is my Lord and his word is my authority. And, make no mistake, his word claims authority over everything. Consider these texts:

  • Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus….”
  • Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We… take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

This is my foundation. As I write this blog, regardless of the topic I write about, I will seek to apply God’s word.

This post was provoked and informed by reading John Frame, Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 28. Yes, that’s an affiliate link.

Luke 7:1-10

Luke 7:1-10 (NIV)

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. 2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this,5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6 So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.