Deuteronomy 11, Isaiah 39

Read Deuteronomy 11 and Isaiah 39.

This devotional touches on both Deuteronomy 11 and Isaiah 39.

In Isaiah 39 a delegation from Babylon came to visit Hezekiah. Their mission was was peaceful and was designed to create goodwill between the two nations (v. 1). Hezekiah was eager (probably too eager) to welcome them and he showed them all of the material blessings God had given him (v. 2) making reconnoissance easy for the Babylonians who would soon become Judah’s enemy.

God used the occasion of their visit to send a message through Isaiah prophesying of the coming Babylonian captivity (vv. 6-7). Hezekiah was untroubled by the prophecy because it would be fulfilled after his death. As verse 8 said, “‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,’ Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my lifetime.’” His viewpoint was self-centered and short-term in its focus. Instead of being concerned about Judah receiving the benefits of God’s covenant with Israel for many generations, Hezekiah only cared to know that there would be tranquility during his kingdom and lifetime.

Contrast Hezekiah’s attitude with Moses’s teaching in Deuteronomy 11. While Moses was certainly concerned with the faithfulness and fruitfulness of the current generation (vv. 8-18), he also urged the current generation to pass on what they had seen and learned about God to the next generation (vv. 2, 5, 19-21).

All of us who love the Lord here in the church age should think this way, too. Unfortunately, many Christians do not and some of the common problems churches experience are the result of short-term thinking like Hezekiah’s. The more mature you are in Christ, the more you should care about the salvation and spiritual growth of young people. Of course the church should minister to every age group, but it should focus most on ministry to families. When you are a child, a teen, a young adult, and a parent with children, the church should be optimized to to minister to you. As your children become adults, they should, by God’s grace, be moving more and more toward leadership and service in the church. Then, the older you get, the more your growth in Christ and personal maturity should point you toward reaching and discipling the next generation.

Often, though, there becomes inter-generational conflict in the church. This is where some of the “worship wars” come from but also the inability of the church to prune ministries that once were effective but are now no longer serving a good spiritual purpose. A church can easily be born, grow strong, and then decline (or even die) in a 20 year span because it only ministers to one generation. People in that generation are content, even complacent, that the church offers “peace and security in my lifetime” (Is 39:8b) and so, like Hezekiah, they are unconcerned about what will come after them.

When you think about our church, are you looking to see if young people coming through our youth group stick around and get involved as young adults? Does it give you joy to see those young adults marry, have children, and raise them in our church? Are you praying that some of them will become elders in the days ahead? Are you looking to be involved in some of our ministries to children or young adults so that you can pass on what you’ve learned in your walk with God to others who haven’t seen what you’ve seen?

Leviticus 23, Ecclesiastes 6, Psalm 109

Read Leviticus 23, Ecclesiastes 6, and Psalm 109.

This devotional is about Ecclesiastes 6.

This lifetime on earth offers us some incredible experiences. If life goes well, a person will be born into a loving family, have everything he or she needs to live, get an education, find a mate who will open a new dimension of love, have children who will open yet another dimension of love, possibly find a fulfilling career or, at the very least, one that will provide for a stable family life.

In addition to these blessings, many people will find friends to share experiences with, will enjoy watching many beautiful sunrises and sunsets, will hear music that enthralls them, will know what it feels like to win a tough game against a really good opponent, will taste food that they will never forget, and travel to places which will always be special in their memories.

That’s if all goes well….

However, it doesn’t always work that way, does it? Some people are born blind and will never see that beautiful sunset. Some are born to broken homes or have parents who will abuse them. Some grow up in excruciating poverty. Some will never learn to read. Some will never know what it feels like to be in love. Some will die in a tragic accident or through some kind of physical illness and will never live to see their kids grow up. Some people will experience a heartbreaking combination of these events; they will wonder why life has been so cruel to them.

Then there are others who experience success in life but can never enjoy the rewards of that success. That seems to be who Solomon has in mind here in Ecclesiastes 6:1-2. They succeed at life (“they lack nothing their hearts desire”) but die young before they can enjoy their success or they miss out in some other way. In the words of verse 2c: “….God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead.” In verses 3-6 Solomon says that someone who never made it out of the womb alive is better than the person who attained what they want in life but never could enjoy the results. This is just one of Solomon’s many laments in this book—a still frame in an unhappy video about the problems of life. These problems are caused by the curse that comes from sin. Whether a person suffers from poverty, or lives life alone and unloved, or has a broken body, or dies young, or is wealthy but unhealthy, nobody gets everything out of life that life could potentially offer to us all. The problem is not that God creates a cruel world that promises us pleasure but sticks us with pain instead. The problem is that the beautiful world that God created has been broken by sin. Because humanity defied God’s instruction, we all find heartache and sorrow and pain and lack of fulfillment in this life to some degree or other. Some of us feel it so intensely that the only word that can describe life is “unfair.”

This reality is immune to pious platitudes, quick fixes, or positive thinking. Even when someone’s life goes spectacularly well, there are always regrets, disappointments, grief, and sorrow. Ecclesiastes is a long meditation on the frustrating enigmas of life. Instead of telling us that “it’ll be OK eventually,” he will later tell us just to fear God, obey his word, and enjoy what we can. It’s good advice and we’d all do well to obey it. But we can’t even do that; the capacity to just “fear God and obey his word” was lost by humanity on the same day we lost paradise.

This is why Christ gives us such hope. Although he has not chosen, yet, to fix this broken and painful reality, he has shown us his love and promised us a better life—eternal life, if we trust him and follow him no matter what. If you’re discouraged today by circumstances around you, remember that your frustration is the symptom of a world that is suffering under sin and its consequences. Instead of bemoaning what is lost, look to Christ in faith. In him is the promise of life in his kingdom that will be perfection itself and will never end.

Exodus 26, Proverbs 2, Psalm 74

Read Exodus 26, Proverbs 2, and Psalm 74.

This devotional is about Proverbs 2.

The end of Proverbs 1 described wisdom as a woman wandering the streets offering her blessing to anyone who wanted it. Here in Proverbs 2, Solomon told his son that he, Solomon, could be the medium for wisdom. He wrote in verses 1 & 6, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you… then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

It has always been God’s plan to pass wisdom from parents to children. Since God is the source of wisdom (v. 6) and parents are commanded to teach our children about God and introduce him to our kids (see Deut 11:19-21), teaching our children about God and his ways also introduces them to God’s wisdom for guiding their lives (vv. 9-11). This wisdom, then, will steer our children away from sinful influencers, either men (vv. 12-15) or women (vv. 16-19). The result will be a blessed, morally successful life (vv. 7-8, 20-22).

The lesson for children is to listen to your parents and be obedient to their words. Our world mocks parents and acts as if they know nothing. But look at the lives of those who listen that kind of nonsense. Children may be more adept at technology and more savvy about what is popular but God gave you parents to keep you from ruining your life through sinful, stupid actions.

The lesson for parents is to teach your children about God. Our church offers children’s programs to assist you. But you can have an influence on them that the world’s greatest youth minister never can have. Believe it or not, your children respect you, want your attention, crave your insight, and want to be like you. So make the most of that! When they get older, they will be tempted to disregard your words and make their own decisions in foolish ignorance. This is why it is important to start leading your children spiritually when they are young. Parents can delegate many things about our children to others–coaches who can teach them to play sports, teachers who can instruct them about math or science, but you can’t really outsource their moral and spiritual instruction. So make sure to pray for your kids and to lead them to know God and his ways.

Exodus 1, Job 18, Psalm 49

Read Exodus 1, Job 18, and Psalm 49.

This devotional is about Exodus 1.

A few years ago, Mary Doogan of Glasgow, Scotland retired after 30 years as a midwife. During her career, she helped women deliver 5000 babies. Her retirement, however, was not something she celebrated. It was forced by the hospital where she worked which required her and other midwives to supervise abortions. The hospital did not require her to perform the abortion, but it insisted that she supervise others who aborted unborn babies. As a practicing Catholic, Mary felt like supervising abortions made her as guilty as “the driver of the getaway car in an armed robbery.” Although Mary fought legally for the right to follow her conscience, she lost. Having exhausted every means of following her conscience and keeping her job, she felt she had no choice but to retire.

When I heard about Mary’s story, I immediately thought of Exodus 1. While the midwives in Exodus were not forced to perform abortions, they were required to commit infanticide—killing Jewish baby boys after they had been delivered. While abortion happens before birth and infanticide happens after, they are no different from each other morally. Killing a baby, born or unborn, is wicked in the sight of God and worse than barbaric to any person who values human life.

Pharaoh had political and national motives for requiring the midwives to kill those boys. He was concerned that the population explosion among the Jews would cause them to overwhelm the Egyptians. (v. 10).

The midwives disobeyed Pharaoh’s orders. They “feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” Although they were dishonest in the reason they gave Pharaoh (v. 18), verse 20 told us that “God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.”

Was it wrong for the midwives to lie to Pharaoh? No. It is never wrong to use deception to stop someone’s evil plans. God’s blessing on the midwives shows that he was pleased by their moral choices. They did not use deception to take advantage of someone else for their own gain or to avoid accountability for their sin. Their deception was a sincere attempt to obey God rather than a human authority who was living in defiance to God’s moral laws for his own selfish, sinful purposes.

I hope you and I are never put in position where we are legally ordered to do something that is wrong. But, if we are, may we have the same faith these midwives had, obeying God and trusting him, instead of allowing fear to coerce us into doing wrong.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5373943/Catholic-midwife-ousted-refusing-oversee-abortions.html

Genesis 29, Esther 5, Psalm 28

Read Genesis 29, Esther 5, and Psalm 28.

This devotional is about Genesis 29.

Laban may have thought himself to be very clever. He managed to get 14 years of work and marry off both of his daughters at the same time.

Everyone else, however, suffered in this situation, but no one suffered more than Leah. Moses, the author of Genesis, recorded the difference in attractiveness between Leah and her little sister Rachel (v. 17). Surely Leah herself must have realized it. Watching her father trick Jacob into marrying her must not have felt good. She must have wondered if Laban felt he wouldn’t be able to find her a husband the usual way because she wasn’t attractive enough. She must have felt anxious about Jacob’s reaction when he found out what Laban had done. No doubt she was crushed by his disappointment with her and his continuing desire to marry Rachel.

The only thing that she seemed to have in her favor was her fertility. This gave her an advantage over Rachel who had difficulty conceiving (v. 31b). Since Jacob loved Rachel so much more than Leah, it seems likely that Rachel had, um, more opportunities to conceive than Leah. Yet Leah was the one producing the boys that Jacob wanted. Each child she bore was interpreted as a gift from the Lord, which it was (v. 31). Although her marriage was unhappy and her family life was stressful, Leah looked to the Lord for help and was grateful for his favor in her life.

So many people suffer from sad, unfixable situations. Thinking about Leah’s life can give us some perspective. We all have problems, heartbreaks, and disappointments in life but most of us have better lives than Leah ever had. Her marriage was sad from the beginning, from her first full day as a married woman. Most of us, probably, had (and have) a life that is better than that. Despite how messed up her situation was, Leah was thankful to the Lord for each son she bore to Jacob. Her motives were not always perfect, but her thanks to God was sincere.

When your life is unhappy, follow Leah’s advice and consider ways in which the Lord has blessed you. Praise him for what he has given you; don’t grieve over the things you have been denied. Leah’s disappointments in life were opportunities for her to learn how to walk with God. Her words after the birth of each son suggests that she made the most of those opportunities. May we do the same when we experience painful situations in our own lives.

Genesis 26, Esther 2, Psalm 25

Read Genesis 26, Esther 2, and Psalm 25.

This devotional is about Genesis 26.

The cliché, “like father, like son” became a cliché because it is true. Children are reproductions of their parents, not just physical reproductions but reproductions in many other ways. Although each of us has characteristics that are unique and different from our parents, we consciously and unconsciously pick up many of the things that one or both of our parents do.

Here in Genesis 26, we see Isaac reproducing the behavior of his father Abraham. Twice Abraham told his wife Sarah to pretend that she was his sister (Gen 12, 20) so that he would not fear being killed by some other guy who wanted her. This was a stupid strategy, really. It did protect Abraham, which was his goal. But it threatened his marriage in both instances and forced his wife twice into unwanted relationships with other men. Abraham’s strategy was unloving to Sarah, untrusting of God, and just downright stupid.

So where did Isaac get the brilliant idea to do use the same strategy? It must have come from Abraham sharing his stories. God was the hero of Abraham’s stories, protecting Sarah in both cases and even enriching Abraham in the process. The moral of Abraham’s stories should have been, “Isaac, I did something stupid and sinful in these cases. God was merciful and protected us, but be wise and don’t do what I did.” Maybe Abraham tried to convey that; maybe he just told his stories with a laugh because things turned out well. Whatever Abraham said, tried to say, or implied in his telling of these stories, Isaac got the wrong message. The message Isaac took from Abraham’s experience was, “Lie at all costs to save your life when you feel insecure about the beautiful woman God gave you.” Predictably, Isaac got the same results when he used Abraham’s strategy. He kept himself out of harm’s way but, in the process, lost his wife’s companionship and nearly lost his marriage completely.

The moral of these stories for us is, “Tell your stories to your kids, but make sure you teach them the right lesson to learn.” Don’t indirectly teach your kids, “Hey, I sinned and got away with it so you can, too.” Instead, directly teach your kids, “I sinned but God was merciful. Learn from my bad example, trust God, and do what is right.”

Have you told your kids any stories that they might get the wrong ideas from? Fix that while you can; don’t let your kids repeat the same mistakes you’ve made.

Like father, like son. But it doesn’t have to be that way for the bad stuff. Instead, show your son and daughter the right path. Let them stand on your shoulders and be wiser than you were.

1 Chronicles 9-10, Zechariah 5, Psalms 127-129

Read 1 Chronicles 9-10, Zechariah 5, and Psalms 127-129.

This devotional is about Psalm 127.

Human beings are builders. We build houses, cities, gardens but also families, companies, and teams. There is something very satisfying about having an idea, formulating it into a plan, then putting that plan into action, step by step, until it is finished. Once it is finished, the thing you built needs to be protected from thieves, vandals, and natural disasters.

Solomon knew a lot about building; he built Jerusalem into a world-class city from the simple fortress town it had been when David ruled over Israel. Yet, as the wisest man who ever lived, he reflected on all his projects and realized something profound: If God is not behind your project, it will not succeed (v. 1a). If he isn’t defending it, all the elite guards in the world won’t be able to protect what is so important to you (v. 1b).

In verse 2 Solomon moved from general notions about building a home and defending a city to a more personal application to us all. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat….” People work themselves to death trying to achieve their dreams or trying to avoid being a failure; but Solomon claims that it is useless—“vain”—to spend so much time and effort on the projects in our lives. The reason he says this is in the last line of verse 2: “for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

The Hebrew in this verse could be translated one of two ways: It could be translated as the NIV reads, ““for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Or, it could be translated as the NIV’s footnote reads: “…for while they sleep he provides for those he loves.” I think that second option, “..for while they sleep he provides for those he loves,” is probably the correct reading. I believe that because verse 3a says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord….” Verse 2’s “he provides for those he loves while they sleep” is a euphemism for sex because sex is often a bedtime activity. God “provides… while they sleep,” then, means the conception of children with your spouse. You and your spouse have sex, then go to sleep, but while you’re sleeping the process of pregnancy is happening and God is providing you with a new child.

People work so hard building a career, building wealth, building a company, creating whatever; then they go home and create what really matters—children—between the sheets. It is not hard work; it is a gift from God—both the intimacy that creates children and the children that result from that intimacy are God’s gifts. Solomon says they are God’s “reward” for those whom he loves (v. 3).

Verses 4-5 explain that one of the benefits of your children is that they will defend you when you are old and others try to take advantage of you. Your wealth may diminish over time, your athletic achievements will be forgotten, you will someday retire from your stellar career, the hobbies that take so much of your time will someday bore you to tears. It will be your children that matter to you when you look back on your life; they will care for you when you get older.

The implication, then, is: put your energy and effort there. You know God thinks children are important (v. 3), so why not build into their lives while you work on your other projects? God will bless you if you do.

1 Kings 8, Hosea 11, Proverbs 23:19-35

Read 1 Kings 8, Hosea 11, and Proverbs 23:19-35.

This devotional is about Proverbs 23:19-35.

Among the moral teachings against over-indulgence (vv. 19-21, 29-35) and adultery (vv. 26-27), is the encouragement for children to follow the ways of their parents and live a righteous life (vv. 22-25). Verse 24 says, “The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.” Why is this true?

The main reason is that sorrow follows sin. It doesn’t follow sin immediately; pleasure follows sin immediately. That’s what makes sin so alluring to us–the promise and immediate payoff of pleasure. But there is a hidden price tag to living a sinful life. First of all, the pleasures sin offer diminish over time. This is why people go deeper into sin or sin more regularly. Secondly, sin leaves brokenness and broken relationships behind it. The brokenness sin leaves is guilt. You can ignore your conscience and choose to sin but, after you’ve sinned, your conscience will make you feel guilty about it. Sin also breaks relationships because it betrays trusts and puts the sinner ahead of others.

Anyone who been an adult for a decade or two (or more) has seen this. We have seen people chase and embrace the excitement of sin. It might be the excitement of materialism, fame, immoral sexual relationships, or substance use. Sometimes it is dishonesty or manipulating others or simply living as if God does not exist. These things may provide pleasure for a while, but they produce a life that is undisciplined and a person who is unreliable and dishonest. These sins can cause physical problems, emotional damage, wrecked families, and ruined reputations. If a person’s parents live to see their children grow up to be like this, of course they do not rejoice. Parents like this feel sorrow for the consequences their children experience, sorrow for the lives they have damaged, regret about decisions they made when raising their children, and shame for how their family turned out.

If you are a young person and are figuring out what kind of person you will become, you should trust the wisdom of your parents (v. 22) if they walk with God. They want what is best for you more than any other human being on planet earth. Because they have seen how others have lived and died, they know which choices are life-giving and which ones are destructive. Follow the wisdom of your parents! It will make them happy (vv. 24-25) and it save you from many of the sorrows and problems that sin leaves behind.

Parents, you can’t live your child’s life for him or her. But, while they live with you, you make the rules. Teach your children about wisdom and righteousness. Show them examples of people who sinned and are paying for it. If they do their own thing after they leave your home, that’s sad, but don’t enable them to sin while they’re with you.

1 Samuel 1, Ezekiel 14, Psalms 96-98

Read 1 Samuel 1, Ezekiel 14, and Psalms 96-98.

This devotional is about 1 Samuel 1.

Hannah found herself in an unhappy situation here in the opening chapter of 1 Samuel. Her society greatly valued children, especially boys, yet she was unable to get pregnant.

If that weren’t bad enough, her husband had a “rival” (v. 6) wife named Peninnah. Elkanah may have married Peninnah specifically because of Hannah’s infertility (similar to Abraham and Hagar). Regardless of his motives, Peninnah delivered (pun intended) where Hannah could not; verse 2 tells us “Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.” So Hannah felt judged by her society, may have felt like she let her husband down, and felt inferior to his second wife.

Even worse, Peninnah mocked Hannah for her infertility (v. 6). Although Hannah was loved by her husband who did his best (verse 8 notwithstanding) to demonstrate his love and make her feel secure (vv. 4-5), she suffered emotionally due to all of these things.

Whatever faults he may have had, Elkanah was devoted to the Lord. We see this in his consistency to worship at the tabernacle “year after year” (v. 3). We also see it in how urged Hannah to keep her vow to the Lord (v. 23). When the sorrow of her situation became too much to bear, Hannah did what a believer should do; she poured out her heart to God in prayer (vv. 10-11).

Yet even her heartfelt prayer was became a source of pain because it was misinterpreted. As if she didn’t feel low enough, the High Priest of Israel rebuked her for being a drunk when he saw her praying (vv. 12-14). Fortunately, when she explained the situation, Eli gave her the reassurance she needed (v. 17). Note that Eli did not promise her an answer to her prayer; rather, he acknowledged the sincerity of her prayers and added his own prayer wish that the Lord would answer her favorably (v. 17). But Hannah took this blessing from the priest by faith and received the peace of God for her situation (v. 18).

And, God did answer her prayer, giving her the son she so deeply desired.

If only deep sorrow and total sincerity were enough to get answers to any prayer! Yet God does not always give us the answer we seek. That is why Jesus encouraged us to pray according to God’s will. God’s will is frequently different than our will is; therefore, God sometimes answers our prayers with “no.”

What made Hannah’s prayer effective was not her deep emotions and sincerity. It was, instead, her faith in God and her willingness to align her request with God’s will.

By promising to give her son to the Lord and to raise him under a Nazirite vow for life (v. 11), she was asking God to answer her prayer in a way that would bring glory to him.

Samuel would grow up to serve the Lord in a unique way, both as a priest and as the last of the judges of Israel. In contrast to the spiritual scoundrels who served as Israel’s judges in the book of Judges, Samuel would be a man who led Israel spiritually as well as politically. Hannah’s prayer was answered in a way that was more profound than she probably could have imagined. Though she did not have the joy of raising her son throughout his childhood, she did have the joy of knowing that he was serving the Lord.

James 4:3 tells us that God is not in the habit of answering prayers that come from self-centered motives. When Hannah connected her desire for a son with God’s desire for a godly leader for Israel, her prayer aligned with God’s will and he answered her. When we ask God for things in our lives, are our requests selfish or are they connected to the things that God cares about? This is the kind of praying that is pleasing to God and, therefore, the kind of praying that God is most likely to answer with “yes.”

Judges 13, Ezekiel 2, Acts 21

Read Judges 13, Ezekiel 2, and Acts 21.

This devotional is about Judges 13

Most of the leaders we’ve read about in Judges are given a chapter or less in this book. The exceptions are Deborah (Judges 4-5), Gideon (Judges 6-8), Jephthah (Judges 9-12), and Samson (Judges 13-16). Among these four, Gideon and Samson were called to be judges by a direct appearance from the angel of the Lord. Gideon received his call when he was an adult, but Samson’s call came to his parents.

In their case, God chose a man from a small town, Zorah (v. 2a) from an insignificant clan (v. 2b) who could not have a family to that point because his wife was barren (v. 2c). God, in his grace, chose these insignificant people, appeared to them directly and dramatically, and revealed that their son would be a military leader (v. 5) against the mighty Philistines who had dominated Israel for 40 years (v. 1). And, what made Samson unique among all the judges was that he was commanded “to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb” (v. 5b).

The concept of a Nazirite was explained in Numbers 6. According to that passage, this was usually a temporary vow to God (see Num 6:13) during which the Nazirite was marked off from everyone else in Israel by diet (no grapes, wine, or raisins), appearance (no haircuts), and separation from the dead. Numbers 6 does not tell us what the Nazirite was to do during the vow or why someone might make a temporary Nazirite vow. In a society that struggled to worship God by obeying just the routine aspects of the law, it is likely that few, if any, took on the special obligations of becoming a Nazirite. That is why the Angel of the Lord had to tell Manoah’s wife what to do to maintain Samson’s status as a Nazirite (vv. 4-5) and why Manoah prayed for a return visit from the Angel of the Lord to repeat the instructions (vv. 8-14). Samson was most unusual, not only because he was a Nazirite, but because he was commanded to be one for his entire life (v. 7).

Samson’s mother seems to have realized that the man who instructed her was more than just a prophet (v. 6: “He looked like an angel of God, very awesome”) but Manoah seemed to think that he was speaking to a mere man. This is why he attempted to show hospitality to this messenger (vv. 15-16). Eventually he learned that this messenger had a name that was too wonderful to share with Manoah (vv. 17-18) and, when the angel ascended through his food offering, he realized that he was speaking with none other than God himself (vv. 20-22). 

What an incredible start Samson had as a leader for the Lord. Not only was his destiny revealed before he was even conceived, but his parents were instructed by God himself on how to raise their son. Although we are not told that his parents were devout worshippers of the Lord before the events of this chapter, they received God’s word in this chapter with faith and a serious desire to be obedient to what it said.

What a challenge to those of us who are parents. Do we desire to see our children grow up to serve the Lord? Do we take seriously God’s commands, seeking to live them out for ourselves and teach them well to our children? Do we understand that God usually chooses the average guy from the unimpressive family to be great, simply because of God’s grace? Are we thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit in our children’s lives as they come to know Christ by faith and begin to follow him (vv. 24-25)? 

Judges 2, Jeremiah 48, Romans 10

Read Judges 2, Jeremiah 48, and Romans 10 today.

This devotional is about Judges 2.

The end of Judges 1, which we read yesterday, chronicles Israel’s failure to be fully obedient to the Lord and drive out all the nations that had occupied Canaan, the promised land. Here in chapter 2, “the angel of the Lord” which is a title for Christ appearing on earth before his birth, showed up in Israel. (Note that he said “I” in verses 1-3, not “the Lord,” which is one evidence that it is the Lord himself speaking.) He reminded the people of God’s covenant with them (v. 1b), his commands to them (v. 2a), and their disobedience (v. 2b). In verse 3 he spoke judgment to the people, telling them that these occupying nations and their gods “will become snares to you.” The people wept and rededicated themselves to the Lord (vv. 4-5) and set out in obedience (v. 6), serving God for the rest of their days (vv. 7-9).

Then they all died. Verse 10 tells us that, after their deaths, “…another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” But why didn’t they know the Lord? Because their fathers did not teach them the ways of the Lord. When we read through the law of Moses, we saw again and again how God told the people to teach his word to their children. Apparently this is one area where Joshua’s generation utterly failed to be obedient to the Lord. Because of their failure, “…the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them.” The rest of chapter 2 lays out the cycle that we will see again and again in the book of Judges:

1. Israel sinned (vv. 11-12).
2. God disciplined them (vv. 13-15).
3. God sent judges to save them and call them back to obedience (vv. 16-18).
4. That generation died and Israel went back to step 1 in the cycle. 

Remember this cycle because we’re going to see it played out over and over throughout the book of Judges. In scripture, historical events are not merely interesting and informative about the past. Instead, they reveal tendencies that people have regardless of what age they live in.

And, so, many churches that once were strong for God have given up the faith completely or have shriveled as the second (or third, etc.) generation did not know the Lord for themselves. This chapter reminds us how important it is for us to tell our children what we’ve seen the Lord do in our lives and to instruct them in God’s word, urging them to believe and obey the Lord themselves so that they can see God work in their own lives.

Each generation needs to find the Lord for itself personally, but each will only find him if God’s word has been communicated by the previous generation. Knowing God’s word enables us to see God working in our everyday life. Our responsibility, then, both to the Lord and to our children, is to teach our children his word but also to pray for them and encourage them to believe God’s word and act in faith by obeying what it says. As they see God keeping his promises, the faith we passed on to them by precept will become theirs in practice. Then the cycle of disobedience will be broken—as long as our children continue to obey the Lord themselves and teach their children.

Genesis 32, Esther 8, Matthew 23

Read Genesis 32, Esther 8, and Matthew 23.

This devotional is about Matthew 23.

This chapter continues the teachings of Jesus during the Passion Week–the last week of his life before the crucifixion. The vast majority of this chapter prophesies against the Pharisees for the many sins Jesus saw in them.

The chapter opened with Jesus acknowledging that the Pharisees had some legitimate authority over the disciples (vv. 2-3a). But Jesus immediately warned his disciples not to follow their hypocritical example. Verses 3b-4 say, “But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

Christ’s condemnation, “they do not practice what they preach”, is a warning to every disciple, especially those of us who serve in teaching roles in the church.

Every Christian, including every elder and teacher, remains a sinner who struggles daily with the desires and habits of our sinful nature within us as well as the weakness of being human in a fallen world. That means that all of us will preach better than we practice most of the time.

Jesus’s instructions in this passage are not a requirement to be perfect before we teach and lead others spiritually. Instead, they are a warning not to exempt yourself from what you command others to do.

When I was a kid, the pastor of our church was fired for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was that he did not tithe, even though tithing was required of all members and was something he taught. When confronted about this he said, “We tithe our time.” In other words, he felt that since he worked more than 40 hours a week in the church’s ministry and his wife volunteered to serve a lot in the church, then he was not required to tithe. The time they spent serving, in his mind, offset the lack of financial giving from himself and his wife.

That’s hypocrisy.

That is what Jesus condemned in this passage–an intentional exemption of the preacher from the things he commanded and demanded of others.

If a man preaches that the fruit of the Spirit is self-control but then loses his temper, he is not automatically a hypocrite. He is a man who continues to struggle with his sinfulness.

But if he preaches self-control, yet frequently loses his temper and sins with his tongue but never expresses repentance or changes his ways, then he is acting in the kind of Pharisaical way Jesus condemned in this passage.

Do you require your children to be better Christians than you are? Do you allow yourself to do things that you’d never allow them to do? Do you condemn your children when you catch them sinning even though you do the same sin(s) in private?

Then repent of your hypocrisy and ask God to develop in you personal integrity. Learn to practice godliness in your life then learn to preach what you practice.