1 Chronicles 24-25, Malachi 2, 2 John

Read 1 Chronicles 24-25, Malachi 2, and 2 John.

This devotional is about Malachi 2.

Malachi was the last prophet before the New Testament era whose prophecies were written down and included in the scriptures. That means, of course, that he lived and served the Lord after Israel and Judah had returned to the promised land after they were defeated and dislocated from the land by Assyria and Babylon. God’s people, who had struggled with idolatry all the way back to Moses, were finally cured of it after they returned to the land.

Although they did not serve idols any more, they still struggled with genuine worship and service to God. Malachi wrote to God’s people to remind them of God’s love (1:1-5) and call them to genuine worship. He started with the priests who were offering damaged animals as sacrifices (1:6-14) and were not teaching the Law faithfully (2:1-9).

Starting in verse 10 Malachi broadened his audience from the priests to the Jewish people generally. He accused them of breaking faith with God by marrying foreign women who did not worship the Lord (vv. 10-12). Although these Jewish men continued to worship the Lord (v. 13) their godless wives would eventually have turned their hearts back to idols. We’ve seen that happen numerous times in the Old Testament with Solomon being the most high profile example. So the Lord’s concern here was preserving the exclusive worship that the Assyrian and Babylonian defeats achieved.

The issue of foreign wives is deeper, however, than the idol worship of those foreign women. In order to marry these foreign wives, these Jewish men had divorced their Jewish wives (v. 14). Malachi reminded them that God was witness to the vows they made to their Jewish wives (v. 14) and that the spiritual problems they now faced were his judgment on their unfaithfulness (v. 13). Verse 15 reminded these Jewish men that they belonged to God who made them (v. 15a) and that what he wanted from them more than anything else was a family that worshipped him just as they did (v. 15b). Unfaithfulness and divorce destroyed God’s plan for godly families and it harmed women (v. 16) who would have to provide for themselves in a society where that was very difficult for a woman to do.

Times have changed. In the Bible only men had the legal authority to divorce, Today, both husbands and wives can terminate a marriage. Now, women can work to earn a living for themselves if they get divorced but in the Bible, men kept their ancestral property after a divorce so they could continue to earn a living. All a woman got when she was divorced was the bride-price her husband paid to her father when they were betrothed (engaged) and even that was sometimes spent. So a woman had only a few options when her husband divorced her: become a beggar, become a prostitute, or get remarried.

Moses allowed for divorce so that women could remarry. Divorce was designed to protect women from poverty or prostitution by forcing a man to clarify in writing that he had completely released (repudiated, really) his wife. It gave her the ability to show another man that she was no longer legally bound to her first husband, so it was legally acceptable for the second man to marry her.

Although times have changed, God’s will regarding marriage has not. Those of us who worship God made a covenant to our spouse before him. God is witness to that covenant and wants you to work together with your spouse to raise godly children. Unfaithfulness to your spouse puts God on his or her side against you (vv. 13-14) so it damages your spiritual life and jeopardizes God’s plan for your family. Divorce does the same thing, which is why Jesus equated divorce with adultery and only allowed it if adultery had already occurred (Matt 5:32; 19:9).

So, protect your marriage! Guard it against outsiders who may be attracted to you and may seem attractive to you. Keep the covenant you made with your spouse and work with him or her as a team to raise a godly family and to have the loving relationship you both want from somebody.

1 Samuel 3, Ezekiel 16, Ephesians 3

Today read 1 Samuel 3, Ezekiel 16, and Ephesians 3.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 16.

Ezekiel 16 contains a long allegory comparing Israel to a woman.

How would you feel about a girl that you (1) saved from death when she was an infant (vv. 1-5), (2) protected as a young woman (vv. 6-7), then (3) married, cared for, and honored when she was old enough to become your wife (vv. 8-14), but who craved the attention of other men and was an unfaithful wife (vv. 15-19) while killing the children you had with her by sacrificing them to idols (vv. 20-23)? I think you’d be pretty mad about that. 

This is how the Lord felt about Israel’s idolatry (v. 30). Although God had been incredibly gracious to Israel unlike any other nation on earth, the people of Israel were unthankful and unfaithful to him for generations. Ezekiel’s vivid allegory in this chapter is designed to appeal to your sense of justice. We may feel ashamed about our sins, but have we ever thought about how deeply they wound the heart of God? That’s what this passage is designed to make us feel. 

Yet all was not lost for Israel. The Lord was heartbroken, jealous, and enraged by her behavior, and was willing to allow her to suffer for her sins (vv. 35-58). Though he had biblical grounds to divorce her because she broke the terms of their covenant (v. 59), God would be loyal to the one he chose and would forgive her sins and re-establish his covenant with her (vv. 59-63). This is the incredible mercy of God; he is loyal to us when we are disloyal to him. He may allow the consequences of our sin to catch up with us, but he never completely drives us away; in fact, he sacrificed himself to make atonement for our sins (v. 63) and keeps his promises to us by grace.

Genesis 26, Esther 2, Matthew 19

Read Genesis 26, Esther 2, and Matthew 19. This devotional is about Matthew 19.

Compared to doing whatever you want to do and whatever the culture around you allows you to do, following Jesus is hard!

If you want to follow Jesus you:

  • shouldn’t get divorced unless your spouse is unfaithful (vv. 1-10).
  • would be better off staying single, but that requires something unusual that isn’t for most people (vv. 11-12).
  • need to be childlike in your faith, something that is really difficult to do (vv. 13-15).
  • must follow Jesus absolutely, even if he commands you to give everything you have away (vv. 16-24).
  • have to rely on God because what Jesus requires is impossible apart from his grace (vv. 25-26).

Quite a discouraging list, yes?

But notice the rewards Christ promised to those who trust him and follow him in obedience (vv. 27-30). He promised the Twelve a share of his rule (v. 28e) and that everyone who lost something or someone following him would receive “a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (v. 29).

The kind of submission to Christ described in this chapter may cause you to fall far behind in the rat race of human life.

But human life in this age is over quickly while eternity lasts forever.

Jesus promised more than fair compensation to those who follow him in this life. According to verse 29 you will get eternal life and far more, far better stuff in eternity when you actually have the spiritual capacity to enjoy created things without worshipping them.

Following Jesus in this way might make you feel like a loser in this life but expectations for this life are upside down. As verse 30 put it, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

So, so what Jesus says; it will be more than worth it!

Genesis 5, Ezra 5, Matthew 5

Read Genesis 5, Ezra 5, and Matthew 5.

This devotional is about Matthew 5:1-12.

Matthew chapters 5-7 record what has been called the Sermon on the Mount. Christ’s sermon begins with “The Beatitudes.” The word “beatitude” is transliterated into English from the Latin word that begins each line. Since the only available translation of the Bible for hundreds of years was the Latin Vulgate, this Latin word for “happiness,” beatitudo, stuck as the title of the first section of Christ’s sermon. The beatitudes are eight statements of Christ about who is really happy; his list is quite surprising.

If we were to commission the Gallop organization to do a nationwide poll of ordinary Americans and ask them who is happy, I don’t think the list we would get would be anywhere close to the one Jesus made here in Matthew 5:3-10. Even if we polled most Bible-believing Christians, my guess is that there would not be one answer in the top 10 that would correspond with anything on Jesus’ list. Each verse in the beatitudes is worth thinking deeply about, but let’s focus on one for today. Verse 6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

We humans long for so many things. We long for love, for security, for prosperity, for peace. We long for youth, or good health, or just a really great mocha. (OK, maybe that last one is just for me and few others of you…).

Sometimes our longing for these things is palpable; we talk about “starving for attention” or “thirsting for more.” But, think about people who have what you’re starving for. Are the wealthy so happy that they never get divorced? Are the famous so satisfied with the attention they receive that they chase the paparazzi, begging to have their pictures taken? If you wish you had your boss’s job and all the perks that come with it, think: Is she deeply satisfied with that station in life, or is she longing and plotting to take her boss’s job?

In contrast to all the things that we think will satisfy us, Jesus said that those who are truly happy are the ones who long to be righteous. They thirst to live a life that is pleasing to God. The hunger within that drives them is a hunger to think like God does, to act like God does, and to radiate the greatness of God in their words and actions. Instead of wanting to “Be like Mike” (as the old Gatorade commercial put it), they want to like Christ. THESE are the people Jesus said would be satisfied; he promised at the end of verse 6: “they will be filled.”

When we talk about being righteous people, we have to remember two things. First, our own righteousness is detestable to God because it is, at best, imperfect and incomplete. In reality, it is tainted through and through with our sinful attitudes and our other sinful acts. The only way we can ever be accurately described as “righteous” is if God gives us credit for being righteous even when we’re not. And, that is what he has done in Christ! When we trust God’s promise of life in Jesus, God treats us as if we lived the perfect life Jesus lived; he also forgives us for our sins through the payment Christ made for us on the cross.

Once we’ve been credited with righteousness by God, God goes to work on our longings. Over time and through the gifts of the scripture, the church, and the trials of life, God uproots our longings for sinful things and replaces them with a desire to BE righteous in reality. As we grow in Christ, we long to be more like him. The payoff for this, though, comes in the future. Jesus said, “they WILL be filled” not “they are filled.” In other words, the experience of happiness will be fully delivered when we see Christ and are transformed perfectly and finally into his likeness. Until then, we have the peace and joy of the Spirit as our downpayment, giving us a delicious taste of what it will like to feel full of righteousness when we are with Jesus.