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.

Leviticus 15, Proverbs 29, Psalm 101

Read Leviticus 15, Proverbs 29, Psalm 101.

This devotional is about Psalm 101.

In this song, David sang about the ideals to which he aspired. Each “I will” expressed his determination as the king to lead his kingdom according to specific moral principles. Those moral principles were:

to lead himself first (vv. 1-3b)

Before expressing moral goals for his administration, David set some personal goals for himself. Those goals were:

  • To praise God and live a godly life in His sight (vv. 1-2a-b)
  • To act with righteousness in his personal, family decisions (v. 2c)
  • Never to approve of something that God disapproves of (v. 3a-b).

to cultivate relationships carefully (vv. 3c-7)

Because the king was powerful, many people courted his friendship in order to gain power. David determined to be careful about who influenced him by:

  • separating himself from:
    • those who were dishonest (“faithless = lacking in faithfulness” v. 3c-d)
    • those who had evil hearts (v. 4).
    • those who gossiped. In fact, he determined to rebuke anyone who wanted to tell him secrets that slander others (v. 5a-b)
    • those who were proud (v. 5c-d)
    • those who were dishonest liars (v. 7)
  • and, instead, choosing to make friends with those who:
    • are faithful to God and others (v. 6a-b)
    • who are righteous in their lives before God (v. 6c-d)

to rule justly (v. 8)

  • by silencing those who were wicked and outspoken about it (v. 8a-b)
  • by delivering justice to those who broke God’s law intentionally (v. 8c-d)

None of us is a king, but each of us should consider how making these kinds of choices could affect our lives and the lives of others.

Do you live your life by a moral code?

Have you ever spelled out on paper the kind of life you are determined to live by the grace of God, the kind of people you won’t and will be influenced by, and how you will use the power/influence you have?

As David sang this song, perhaps each morning at the beginning of his day, he was rehearsing what it would look like to do the right thing at the moment of decision, reminding himself of what was important to him (because it is important to God), and resolving to live his life by these principles.

As we know, David did not perfectly live by these principles. No one, except Jesus, was or is able morally to live by these or any other good principles. These are the things David aspired to be personally and to see cultivated in his kingdom.

Who do you aspire to become morally? Have you considered writing out your principles and reviewing them regularly?

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 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 15, Amos 1, Proverbs 24:1-18

Read 1 Kings 15, Amos 1, and Proverbs 24:1-18.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 15.

Going forward it is important to remember a couple of things. First, the nation that has been called “Israel” for centuries was now divided. Ten and a half tribes revolted from Judah when Solomon’s son Rehoboam wouldn’t reduce the burden of the government on the people. The 10 1/2 tribes that revolted continued to be called “Israel” but we also call them the Northern Kingdom. The Bible doesn’t use that term, but it is a helpful one we’ve applied to help us remember that “Israel” now isn’t what it was under David and Solomon.

David’s family continued to reign over his tribe of Judah. They were now considered a separate nation. They were called Judah, but we also use the term Southern Kingdom to distinguish them from the Northern Kingdom / Israel.

In addition to Judah, the tribe of Levi continued to serve as priests; however, they had no tribal lands. Instead, they were scattered by God’s will among all the other tribes of the nation. Since they were responsible for Israel’s worship and the temple was in Judah, many of them were loyal to Judah. That’s why we say that Israel had 10 1/2 tribes.

The Northern Kingdom, Israel, had 19 kings from the time of Jeroboam until the Assyrians defeated them and scattered them from their national land. Of those 19 kings, not one of them is described in the Bible as a righteous or good king. They all did evil in God’s sight.

The Southern Kingdom, Judah, had 20 kings from the time of Rehoboam until the Babylonians took them captive. Of those 20 kings, 8 were described in the Bible as righteous or good kings. We met the first of these good kings, Asa, today here in 1 Kings 15.

Although his father and grandfather were wicked men, “Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life” (v. 14). His devotion to the Lord was demonstrated by his commitment to rid the land of idolatry (vv. 12-13). Verse 14a began with the phrase, “Although he did not remove the high places…,” indicating that Asa was not fully able to extinguish idolatry in Judah, but that he did remove it from the public eye.

Idolatry was still practiced in Judah but it was done privately. It became like illegal drug use in our country—against the law and prosecuted when it was known about, but still practiced widely in secret. The fact that Asa “did not remove the high places” indicates that he knew idolatry was being practiced there, but did not channel government resources toward removing those high places of false worship.

That did not mean, however that Asa’s commitment to YHWH was weak or questionable or only for public consumption. The rest of verse 14 tells us that “Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.” His commitment was total even if his actions were not perfect.

One incident in Asa’s life demonstrated his commitment to the Lord. Verse 13 told us, “He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley.”

Unlike many powerful people who give exemptions, special favors, and “carve outs” to their own family members and friends who are in violation of the law, Asa’s love for God and his commitment to the Lord outweighed his loyalty and love to his family.

Deposing his own grandmother must have been a difficult choice emotionally—and possibly a costly one relationally—for Asa. But he did it because he loved the Lord and wanted to be faithful to him even if it cost him a relationship he held dear.

Jesus expected a similar commitment from his disciples when he said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37).

So we must ask ourselves this question: “Do we love God enough to stand for what’s right even when another person we love deeply stands on the other side?” If someone we love sins and is unrepentant or clings to unbelief or false beliefs, will we choose faithfulness to the Lord or the preservation of peace in the relationship?

Asa’s devotion to the Lord was demonstrated by his choice to stand for God even when it hurt and cost him personally. May we never have to make such a choice but, if we do, may the Lord give us grace to do the right thing.

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.

2 Samuel 13, Daniel 3, Mark 13

Read 2 Samuel 13, Daniel 3, and Mark 13.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 13.

I wonder what family life looked like for David?

Whatever it looked like, it certainly did not resemble the lives of most other families in his kingdom. He was married to multiple women who bore him multiple children. By contrast, most Israelite marriages were monogamous. The few men who had more than one wife probably only had two wives and all of them lived in small homes. There was very little privacy and very little free time because everyone in the household had multiple jobs to do in order to provide for the entire family. David’s family, by contrast, lived in a sprawling palace and had everything provided for them.

The boys in David’s household almost certainly had a distorted view of women and the relationship that men had to women. For all his virtues, the fact that David had so many wives and still committed adultery indicates that his view of women was very narrow.

Maybe this is why his son Amnon treated Tamar the way he did in this chapter. Verse 1 says that he “fell in love” with her. Does this indicate that he was merely obsessed with her as a sex object? Possibly, but it also might mean that he had a narrow, deficient view of what love is and what a male-female relationship was about.

Regardless, his intentions toward Tamar were entirely sexual. Verse 2 tells us that her virginity made it “impossible for him to do anything to her.” He was not troubled that they could not marry because they were siblings. Since she was his sister, he could have talked with her and spent time with her without anyone thinking it was inappropriate. When he finally did get her alone in his room, thanks to the devious engineering of Jonadab, he did not pour out his heart to her, pledging his undying love to her.

No, he told her that he wanted to have sex with her (v. 11). When she did not cooperate, he raped her, but then “he hated her” (v. 15). I’ve always wondered why his attraction turned to antipathy so quickly. Maybe his fantasies all assumed she be just as hot for him as he was for her. Since she resisted instead of reciprocating, the whole illusion of a passionate relationship with her was now ruined for him.

As sad as this story is, David’s responses made it all so much worse. Verse 21 says that David “was furious.”

That’s it.

There is no mention of David rebuking Amnon, much less executing judgment on him for his act. There is no suggestion that David tried to console his daughter and, by not bringing her attacker to justice, he diminished her value as a person.

No wonder she was so devastated: Her innocence was forcibly taken from her. Her ability to marry was taken from her because men wanted only virgins as their wives. And, to make it all worse, her father got mad but did nothing.

Although Absalom cared for his sister and took up her cause in ways her father should have but didn’t, his approach was sinful. The right thing for Absalom to do was to become David’s conscience on behalf of Tamar. He should have vigorously lobbied David to do what was righteous and just for Tamar. Instead, Absalom sought and got revenge.

In response to this, David sinned again. Although he mourned the death of Amnon (vv. 36-37), he got over it and wanted to normalize his relationship with Absalom quickly (v. 39).

The problem David demonstrated in this passage was passivity in his family. Instead of showing leadership and doing what was right when one family member sinned against another, David emoted then did not act for justice and reconciliation.

I think family life, for some reason, is susceptible to this. It seems easy to just assume (hope?) that family members will get over it when they are abused or taken advantage of by their siblings. I feel this in my own life as a husband and father. It is easier for me to act, to know and do the right thing as an elder in our church than it is to know and do the right thing as a father.

But that’s no excuse to allow sin to go unaddressed, to allow problems to be left alone, hoping they go away. Godly leadership calls us to run toward issues, not away from them.

May God give us wisdom and courage to show this godly leadership; maybe that will rub off on our kids rather than a poor view of the opposite sex.

1 Samuel 5-6, Ezekiel 18, Ephesians 5

Read 1 Samuel 5-6, Ezekiel 18, and Ephesians 5.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 18.

Way back in the Ten Commandments God had said, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…” (Ex 20:5). God said that to explain his command against making graven images to worship. It sure seems like God said that one generation sins but the generations that follow will pay the price for those sins by receiving God’s judgment.

The people in Ezekiel’s time seem to have interpreted God’s law that way. They believed they were being defeated and deported into exile by the Babylonians because of the sins of their parents. They even created a little proverb for their pity parties, which we read here in Ezekiel 18: “The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (v. 2). Translation: “This bitter defeat and exile is all mom and dad’s fault! They drank the Drano but we’re the ones throwing up!” [Note: Do not drink Drano. Or Liquid Plumber.]

God used their pitiful proverb to raise the issue of responsibility here in Ezekiel’s prophecy, chapter 18. God promised to stop their proverb from spreading in Israel (v. 3) by teaching the people that the judgment they received was due to their own sins. Starting with Adam and Eve, people who are called to account for their sins have usually looked to shift at least some of the blame to someone else.

Here the Lord spoke through Ezekiel to tell him that God’s judgment falls on those who deserve it (v. 4c). He then illustrated this truth over three generations from one family. The patriarch of this family was a righteous man (v. 5) whose righteousness manifested itself in multiple ways (vv. 6-9a). God decreed then, “That man is righteous; he will surely live” (v. 9b).

Despite his righteousness, he had a son who was a very wicked man (vv. 10-13a). About him God said, “…he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head” (v. 13b). The sinful man’s son, however, followed his grandfather’s righteous steps, not his father’s wicked ways (vv. 14). His righteous life was despite the fact that he “…sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things” (v. 14b). Verses 17c-18 say, “He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live. 18 But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people.”

Verses 19-30 are a restatement and defense of the principle that God will punish each person for his own sins. The point for the Jewish people in Ezekiel’s day was stated in verses 30b-32: “Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”

This is why God’s word speaks so directly and forcefully to us about our sins, allowing us no exceptions, excuses or blame-shifting. It isn’t that God wants to punish us; it’s that he DOES NOT WANT to punish us.

It assaults our pride to repent and take full responsibility, but it will save us so much pain if we simply repent and fall on God’s mercy.

If all of this is true, then what does Exodus 20:5, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…” mean?

It means that sin often has consequences beyond the first generation. Those consequences are an indirect punishment.

Think about it this way: If one man kills another man and goes to prison for murder, he pays for his own crime. However, his children also pay. Although neither God nor the state hold the murderer’s children responsible for his crimes, they suffer the loss of their father, a bad reputation in the community, and the loss of his provision for the family. Those children are not responsible for his sins but they are paying a price for them.

Exodus 20:5 is a warning, then, about the snowball effect of sin on your children; it is not a promise that God will be vindictive.

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.

Deuteronomy 25, Jeremiah 17, 2 Corinthians 3

Read Deuteronomy 25, Jeremiah 17, 2 Corinthians 3.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 25.

This chapter from God’s law is about justice and injustice. It begins in verses 1-3 by describing how disputes would be handled in Israel. They would be heard by judges would be charged with “acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.” Verses 2-3 describe the punishment that the guilty should receive if the judge feels it is appropriate (v. 2a).

Verse 4 commands the farmer to treat his ox with justice. As the ox works for the farmer, he creates value through his threshing work. It would be unjust to deny him food while he works, so the law prohibits the farmer from muzzling him.

Verses 5-10 are strange to us but we need to remember how important the land was to God’s people. Due to war, farm accidents, and other factors, men tend to die before their wives. If a woman were to continue living, she would need to remarry as she would need a man’s work to provide for her. But if she did remarry, her husband’s family line would not continue and they would lose their family land. Over time, the tribes of Israel would start to look very different. To prevent that, God commanded a man’s brother to marry his widow so that she would be provided for, his land would remain in his family, and his family name would continue (v. 6). But some brothers would not want to fulfill this responsibility to a sister-in-law. If a man refused to obey the commands in this chapter, he was denying justice to his sister-in-law and hurting his own family. This passage specifies embarrassing social consequences to the man who refused to continue his brother’s family (vv. 9-10).

Verses 11-12 were designed to protect a man’s ability to continue his family line. Though you could see how a woman might want to protect her husband from having the tar beat out of him, it was unjust to damage his family so an equally damaging consequence was prescribed for a woman who did this.

Verses 13-16 command God’s people not to be unjust in their commercial dealings with each other. Each person was to pay a fair price for what he bought. The “differing weights” were designed to deceive the buyer and the  Bible her says that “the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly” (v. 16). People who make tax policy in this country should read and consider this passage. It is fundamentally unjust to require one person to pay more than another person does (v. 16).

Finally, God commanded his people to treat the Amalekites with justice for attacking Israel when they were defenseless as they left Egypt (vv. 17-18).

While some of the things specified in this chapter seem arbitrary and petty, they emphasize to God’s people that God is just. It is part of his fundamental nature and, as his people, we it should become important to us to treat others fairly, with justice.

So, how about it? Are there some people in your life who are getting less than what they deserve from you? If you have power over someone’s life in some way, do you treat that person with justice?

Genesis 44, Job 10, Hebrews 2

Read Genesis 44, Job 10, and Hebrews 2.

This devotional is about Hebrews 2.

The book of Hebrews is an impassioned attempt by an unknown author to persuade his fellow Jews who have professed faith in Jesus not to abandon their profession of faith and return to Judaism. The book argues that Christ is superior to anything else that can be offered to them religiously speaking.

Hebrews 2:1 opens this chapter with one of many pleas in the book to tend to their faith: “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” Most of chapter 1 argued that Christ is superior to angels. Chapter 2:2 picks up on that theme and reminds the readers that when angels spoke to people, what they said was God’s word. It was, therefore, required that the people who heard the word of God through angels believe and obey that word. How much more important, then, argued the author of Hebrews, that believers not drift away from the word of Christ since through him we have salvation (v. 3) and his message was authenticated by miracles (v. 4).

Verse 5 began to turn the thought to a much more personal connection between believers and Christ. The author of Hebrews quoted Psalm 8 and referred to how God has “put everything under” the feet of humanity, but that this claim has not been realized yet. However, Christ has been crowned with glory and honor (v. 9) and his death on behalf of humanity makes him “the pioneer” of humanity’s salvation (v. 10).

And what was the purpose of this salvation?

Verse 11: “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”

Of the many reasons why Christ became human and died, one of the main reasons was personal—he wanted to join the human family so that, though his redemption, we could join his family, the family of God.

What an incredible expression of the grace of God!

God would have been enormously gracious to simply send Christ to atone for our sins, then annihilate us instead of sending us to hell. That would have rescued us from eternal punishment which is more than we sinners deserve.

But instead of merely rescuing us from eternal torment—as merciful as that was—Christ wanted to make us his brothers and sisters! That truth helps us when our minds question God and our faith is weak. Jesus came into the world, taught us the meaning of salvation, performed miracles to attest to the validity of his claims, then became the pioneer of the redeemed human family, subjugating all creation to himself, then calling us his family so that we can reign with him by grace.

This is a truth–one of many–that should keep our faith going when the going gets tough. Whatever you’re facing today, know that Christ has won the ultimate victory and we will participate in it by his grace when God’s decreed time comes.