2 Chronicles 33 and Proverbs 31

Read 2 Chronicles 33 and Proverbs 31.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 33.

Some human governments move back and forth like a pendulum and that’s what Judah’s leadership was like at times during the divided kingdom. After all the good that Hezekiah did during his lifetime, his son Manasseh came in and reversed it all.

Verse 2 declared that, “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord” and verses 3-6 catalog his sins which included idolatry (of course), desecration of the temple, child sacrifice, divination, witchcraft, and spiritism. His actions were so evil that verse 9 said, “Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.”

God graciously sent his word to Judah (v. 10), then imposed punishment on him personally (v. 11). At his lowest point, however, “he humbled himself greatly” (v. 12b), “sought the Lord’s favor” (v. 12a) and God heard and delivered him (v. 13). It was genuine repentance, too, because verse 13c said, “Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.” He also “restored the altar of the the Lord” and “told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel.”

So, if he was truly repentant and showed genuine fruit of repentance, why did verse 2 include him among the evil kings of Judah?

The answer is that the phrases, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” or “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord” describes a king’s leadership more than it does his personal walk with God.

Of course, those two things are deeply linked and an ungodly leader is, of course, almost always an ungodly man. Manasseh is an unusual edge case. Although he repented, his repentance came after many years of ungodly living and ungodly leadership. His soul may have been saved after his repentance, but that did not erase the influence of his ungodly life and leadership. Despite his repentance, Manasseh was an unqualified evil influence as king of Judah, so that’s why he’ll always be considered an ungodly king, despite his repentance.

Here is a lesson for us about the foolishness of sin. I don’t know if anyone sins thinking, “I’ll just ask forgiveness for this later.” Our sinful choices usually involve more self-deception and justification than that.

But if anyone does think that way, they are missing a very important truth: your sin and mine leaves its mark on others. It gives them a way to justify their own sinful actions, a sort of “moral permission” that really isn’t moral at all but quiets their conscience enough to let them choose evil.

If you have influence over many people, many more of those people will try out your sin for themselves. May God help us say no to sin not only for our own spiritual health but also to prevent sin from spreading to those who follow our lead.

2 Chronicles 16 and Proverbs 29

Read 2 Chronicles 16 and Proverbs 29.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 16.

Asa began well as a spiritual leader. However, as we read today in 2 Chronicles 16, he changed for the worse as he grew older. Verses 7-10 told us that Asa was rebuked by Hanani, a prophet, for trusting in Ben-Hadad the king of Aram instead of God for diplomatic success. Although his alliance with Ben-Hadad worked (vv. 4-6), Asa did not consult or trust the Lord for that success (v. 7).

Likewise, when Asa faced a “severe” foot disease, “he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians” (v. 12). He had forgotten how the Lord encouraged him and strengthened him to remove the idols from Israel as we read yesterday in chapter 15. Now, in his older years, he was satisfied with living and ruling based on his own wisdom and cunning. This was both dishonoring to God and foolish for Asa because, as verse 9 said, “…the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” God was there for Asa and would have rewarded his faith with strength and skill and wisdom to face these problems but Asa refused God’s grace and chose to live by his own insight.

It is easy to see how foolish this was for Asa but to miss how often we make the same kind of choice. We can be tempted to live our daily lives as if God did not exist, making decisions without asking for his help, his wisdom, or his blessing on us. Blessed is the one who learns to rely on the Lord throughout all of his life and even more so as he gets older.

One more lesson from this passage. Verse 10 records that “Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison.” All this prophet did was bring truth to Asa, truth that would have surrounded the king in God’s grace if he had chosen to believe it and obey it. Instead of receiving the Lord’s rebuke, however, Asa “was angry with the seer.” This happens to us sometimes, too, doesn’t it? How often does someone bring truth into our lives to help us change and we resist their words and become angry with the messenger rather than receiving the truth in the message. May we learn to always receive truth for what it is–the gracious gift of God to us. It may hurt us in the moment, but that wound will keep us from the long-term damage that unaddressed sin will certainly bring in the future.

2 Samuel 10, Ezekiel 48, Proverbs 22:1-16

Read 2 Samuel 10, Ezekiel 48, and Proverbs 22:1-16.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 10.

Here in 2 Samuel 10, David—the great warrior king—tried to build a political alliance. According to verse 1, the Ammonite king died and verse 2 tells us his name was Nahash. This man was mentioned in 1 Samuel 11, where he was instrumental in beginning Saul’s career as Israel’s king. Back then, Nahash had besieged Jabesh Gilead and demanded incredibly cruel and gruesome terms for a peaceful settlement (1 Sam. 11:1-11). Saul mustered the men of Israel and defeated Nahash and his army which rallied the nation to Saul as their leader.

Given the events of 1 Samuel 11, it is quite surprising to read that David said, “Nahash… showed kindness to me” (v. 2a). He must have treated David much differently than he did Jabesh Gilead in 1 Samuel 11. Maybe being defeated by Saul made him treat Israel with much greater kindness and generosity. Or maybe this is an example of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and Nahash was kind to David because Saul hated David and Nahash was the enemy of Saul. We don’t know because Nahash is not mentioned at all between 1 Samuel 11 and 2 Samuel 10. Whatever Nahash did for David left a very favorable impression on him, so David desired to show kindness to Hanun, Nahash’s son. Sending a delegation to express sympathy, as David did in 2 Samuel 10:2c, was an act of political diplomacy. It was a personal kindness, yes, but it was also a political one—a way to encourage peaceful relations between two nations who were near each other geographically. 

David’s kindness, however, was interpreted as espionage (v. 3). Hanun, therefore, humiliated David’s men. In Israelite culture, the beard is a symbol of manhood. Only women and boys had hairless faces, so shaving half of a man’s face was a way to humiliate him before everyone who saw him. That insult was bad enough but cutting off someone’s garments to expose them would be even more humiliating to anyone. These men arrived unarmed since they were on a peaceful mission, so to treat them this way was both personally humiliating and politically insulting. It was an act of war which is how David responded to it (vv. 5-7). 

There is a difference between cautious and paranoid, between skeptical and cynical. A cautious person will trust someone more and more as that person demonstrates trustworthiness over time. A paranoid person trusts no one, ever. A skeptical person wants to believe the best about someone but has plenty of doubts. A cynical person consistently believes the worst about others. A young king like Hanun should have expected to be tested by other nations, so caution and even skepticism were warranted and wise. But Hanun and his military advisors went way beyond skepticism. They were paranoid—unreasonably suspicious. They were also cynical—assuming the worst motives in any and every situation. They reacted as if David’s men were caught spying, not suspected of it. Their response was unjust and unwarranted. It was also unwise.

There is an old saying, “Once burned is twice shy.” That saying expresses something you and I know to be instinctively true—we are doubly cautious toward anyone we feel has burned us or betrayed us in the past. Trust is like a wall of dominoes: it takes a long time to build, one positive act placed next to another with perfect spacing between them. But, just as one flick of the finger can take down the carefully built wall of dominoes, so one foolish act, one rash statement can destroy years of trust and credibility. These are facts of human nature.

Cynicism, however, is far worse. A cynical person believes the worst about others by default. The cynic believes that everyone’s motives are not just suspect but evil, so every act is interpreted as an act of war, even acts that are designed to be peaceful. But cynicism is an incredibly costly way to look at the world. A cynic will never trust anyone enough to have a truly good relationship with that person. A cynic will wound even the person who wants to nothing more than to befriend him. Jesus commanded us to look at others far differently than the cynic looks at others. He commanded us to be kind and generous to everyone, even our enemies (Luke 6:27-36). He commanded you to forgive the guy who sins against you 490 times, if he asks forgiveness (Matt 18:22). If you are a suspicious, cynical, paranoid person, people may not be able to take advantage of you, but they also can’t really love you. If you respond badly to those who try to show you kindness, everyone will end up being your enemy. As followers of Jesus, we must learn to be open-hearted to others around us. We should take some appropriate caution, to be sure, but value the difference between careful and closed. Not only are there eternal rewards for trusting Jesus enough to be good to those who are not good to us, there is the immediate return of cultivating friends instead of creating enemies.

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of cynicism because in him we learn what mercy is, what grace is, what forgiveness really means and how costly it is. We also learn that he is sovereign over every event in our lives so that even if others wound us or even kill us, he will bring justice when he determines. Lean on these truths when you are tempted to distrust others; if others sin against you, trust God to take care of you instead.

Judges 10:1-11:11, Lamentations 4, Proverbs 18:1-12

Read Judges 10:1-11:11, Lamentations 4, Proverbs 18:1-12.

This devotional is about Proverbs 18:2.

Within in each of us there is a feeling that we “get” some things. Most of us will admit that there are areas where we know very little or not enough to have an informed opinion. On many topics, however, we are very confident that our opinion is right and that we know the truth.

But, has your mind ever changed about something you once thought you knew? Have you ever said something with great boldness, only to have to take it back later when more information came to light?

Here in Proverbs 18:2 we are warned about that kind of thing.

The first part of the verse says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding….” Remember that in Proverbs the “fool” is not a stupid person; rather, a fool is someone who has rejected God and, as a result, has embraced a wicked way of life. Because wickedness is deceptive, fools make bad choices and suffer painful consequences. The warnings Proverbs gives us about fools is designed to protect us from the self-confidence that thinks we can reason or intuit our way to truth. So when Proverbs 18:2a says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding….” we are to learn that those who have rejected God are not really on a quest for truth. They think they know what is good and bad, right and wrong, wise and unwise.

So if you see a fool doing something foolish or saying something foolish and try to instruct him, you will get nowhere. The reason is that fools “find no pleasure in understanding.” They don’t want to know the truth because that would require humility.

A humble person is a teachable person. He knows that he doesn’t know it all, is susceptible to error, and could learn a thing (or thirty) from someone who is wise, knowledgable, and skillful in areas where the teachable man is ignorant. Fools are too proud to admit that they need help, need knowledge, so they have no real interest in understanding.

Instead of trying to understand a thing, verse 2 tells us that fools “delight in airing their own opinions.” They speak self-confidently about areas where they are ignorant and know nothing. I’ve found that, the more confident a person sounds, the more suspicious I should be about trusting that person’s opinions. Plenty of people bloviate about things they no nothing about. The Bible says that is a characteristic of a fool. He doesn’t really want to understand something; he wants you to understand how great or smart or wise he is. That’s his objective, which is why he speaks the way that he does.

Do you have a teachable spirit? When you speak beyond what you really know (which many of us do, myself included), do you have the humility to be corrected by someone who knows better? Most importantly–are you willing to allow Scripture and godly counselors to help you understand things you think you know? In other words, are you humble enough to be corrected when the teaching of God’s word confronts what you believe, or want to believe?

Fools are self-confident; they love to tell anyone who will listen what they think. As a result of their self-confidence, they will be led astray. Choose the wisdom of humility. Learn to crave understanding. Don’t be afraid of being exposed as ignorant–everyone is ignorant in many areas. Instead, let the realization of your ignorance become the gateway to understanding by humbling yourself to accept truth and knowledge. This is a wise way to live and will lead you to a life that glorifies God.

Numbers 8, Isaiah 33, Galatians 2

Read Numbers 8, Isaiah 33, and Galatians 2.

This devotional is about Isaiah 33.

Our society has changed dramatically in the past few years. Actions that were once were considered immoral are now considered acceptable. In some cases things that were illegal are not only legal now but receive special legal protection.

Those who are advocating and legalizing these changes do so with much self-righteousness under the guise of civil rights, creating a lot of pressure on the rest of society to celebrate these changes, or conform to them or, at the very least, remain quiet about them.

If you have ever wondered why so many people have suddenly lost their minds, Isaiah 33:5-6 provides the answer. Verse 5 describes God’s exalted state and how his kingdom (“Zion”) will be filled “with his justice and righteousness.” But this world is not yet his kingdom; until Christ returns and establishes his kingdom, every human government will become unjust and every society will practice increasing unrighteousness. Why? Verse 6 says, “He will be the sure foundation for your times….” When people believe in God and bow to his definition of righteousness, they have this sure foundation on which to establish and right and wrong. Without faith in God, no sure foundation exists; instead, ideas of righteousness and justice will be (re)defined by the perverse and ever degrading notions of humanity.

But verse 6 of our passage continues by saying that the Lord will be “a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.” As believers who fear the Lord, we can be certain of what we know because it has been revealed to us by someone who knows all things. That was stated in the final line of our passage for today, Isaiah 33:6: “…the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” “Fearing the Lord” means so much in the Old Testament. It means reverencing God in worship, of course, but it also means understanding his greatness and awesomeness and how undeserving we are of anything from him. Fearing God causes us to reverence what he has revealed in his word and that leads to repentance and faith.

But fearing God and receiving his word also means accepting what his word says about the origin of all things, the end of all things, why some things are wrong, why we need salvation, etc.

Yes, it is true that unbelievers know many things that we believers do not and that believers do not know anything. But if you dig a little bit beneath the surface of an unbeliever’s knowledge, you will find assumptions rather than certainty. This is why right and wrong, which should be obvious to anyone, eventually become questioned and then denied in godless societies. When someone cuts himself off from God he will have no foundation to know anything. That means that anything could be true which causes people to believe in foolishness (see Romans 1:21, 28).

This explains why our culture is increasingly embracing foolishness. But we don’t read Scripture just to understand the foolishness of this world; we read it to walk with God. So the message for us in this passage is not to cluck our tongues and shake our heads at the depravity and growing insanity around us. Rather, the message is for us not to let the false assumptions of this world become our assumptions. Instead, we must fear God and seek him. In him we will find the “rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.”

Leviticus 1, Song of Songs 5, Proverbs 9

Read Leviticus 1, Song of Songs 5, and Proverbs 9.

This devotional is about Proverbs 9.

This chapter in Proverbs continues comparing wisdom to a woman and folly is also compared to a woman. You remember from high school, maybe, that this is a literary device called “personification.” Solomon has already “personified” wisdom as a woman; now folly is also personified as a woman. I will refer to them as “Wendy Wisdom” and “Polly Folly.”

Both of these women call out to people “from the highest point of the city” (v. 3b, 14b). This means that their invitations are broadcast and can be heard from far away.

They both invite people to come in to their homes and eat. Wendy Wisdom offers her own nourishment (vv. 4-5). It is the nourishment of a godly life (v. 10) which results in a disciplined life. Like healthy food, it isn’t always the most tasty, but it is healthy and will extend your life (vv. 6, 11).

By contrast, Polly Folly offers “stolen water… and food eaten in secret” (v. 17). This is a reference to sin. It is immediately enjoyable, even addictive, but like all addictions, it will kill you (v. 18).

In between the contrasts offered by these two women, Solomon talked about correction. There are two kinds of people: those who reject correction (vv. 7a, 8a) and those who accept correction (v. 8b).

Those who reject correction will turn and attack the person who tries to give it to them. If you’ve ever tried to show someone a problem in their life and they turn and accuse you of being unloving, unkind, critical, judgmental or the bad guy, this is the kind of person you’re dealing with. Of course, there are some people in the world who are unloving, unkind, critical, judgmental, and bad guys. The difference is in the motivation and delivery of the person bringing correction. A loving person cares about you; they want to see you avoid sin or help you get unstuck from a sinful situation, habit, or temptation. They speak up because they want to help you not to hurt you. Those who are unloving, unkind, critical, etc. just want to hurt you. It is the difference between a surgeon who cuts you open with a scalpel and a solder who cuts you open with a sword. Both of them are cutting–which wounds you–but they have very different motivations and results.

The person who accepts correction is wise (v. 8b) and is on a pathway to greater wisdom (v. 9). On one level he may love the sin you are correcting him for, but as a believer, he will recognize his sin is wrong and that it will bring pain and destruction if he persists in it. So your correction will help him grow and he “will love you” as a result (v. 8b). All of this points again to the importance of humility. People resist correction out of pride but those who are too proud to accept correction will eventually pay a much more painful price than wounded pride.

If you want to be wise, you have to start by being humble. Humility calls us to fear the Lord (v. 10) which “is the beginning of wisdom” but we progress down that path by continuing to accepting the truth in humility. That truth may come from the correction of God’s word or the correction of another person but if it is true, we should receive it even though it hurts.

Did you receive any correction this week–any criticism from your boss or a complaint about your actions or character? Criticism delivered lovingly is easier to take, but even our harshest critic can still help us onward toward wisdom if we have the humility to accept the criticism and change accordingly.

Genesis 35-36, Job 2, Psalms 14-16

Read Genesis 36-36, Job 2, and Psalms 14-16 today. This devotional is about Psalm 14.

In our society, the sophisticated, the elite, the well-educated, the successful, the enviable person denies the existence of God. Some deny God’s existence directly and vigorously like Sam Harris. Others might say that they believe in God or the possibility that God exists, but they live as if he did not.

To those who deny God’s existence everything in life has a natural and naturalistic explanation. So, instead of learning Scripture, these atheists would tell you to improve your life or get what you want by studying science or psychology or some success formula.

In contrast to the wise of this world who deny the existence of God, the Bible says here in Psalm 14 that it is the fool who “says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Being a “fool” in Scripture is not about lacking intelligence. It is about thinking and living apart from God and his revelation.

If you think and act apart from God’s revelation, you will make decisions that appeal to you. These decisions seem like moves toward the things that you really want–success, pleasure, recognition, whatever. But these decisions, apart from God, will inevitably lead to problems–pain or sorrow or some other sort of problem. Why? Because your internal desires are like a broken compass. They do not point toward true joy or true righteousness; they point toward selfishness. In the words of Psalm 14:2, “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”

Verses 2-4 describe what the atheist is like from God’s perspective. God has already labeled him a fool in verse 1; the verses that follow verse 1 expand on what God sees when he watches the fool:

First, he doesn’t seem anyone who “gets it” on his own (v. 2b); instead, he sees people who increasingly give themselves to sin (v. 3). As the consequences for sin mount, they turn their attention to those who follow the Lord in faith. But, instead of noticing the positive results, the fruit of the Spirit, that God brings into our lives, they attack us (v. 4b). But verses 5-6 remind us that the success of God’s enemies is short-lived. In the end, God will care for us and ultimately, in his justice, vindicate us.

The result of living in faith is joy: “When the Lord restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” (v. 7b). So, if you’ve had a tough week, feeling attacked and harassed by a world that does not know God, our weekly worship service is just what you need! It will remind you of God’s ultimate, sovereign control and that God is working for our good in this world and our joy as we glory and delight in him. So let’s come together and worship him this morning in joy! I’ll see you at 10 a.m.

Genesis 20, Nehemiah 9, Proverbs 2

Read Genesis 20, Nehemiah 9 and Proverbs 2.

This devotional is about Genesis 20.

Abraham and Sarah did the “We’re brother and sister” thing before back in Genesis 12:10-20. On that occasion, they were in Egypt; here they are in Gerar. In Genesis 12, God protected Sarah just as he did here.

But this was stupid both times, even more so the second time after the close call back in Genesis 12. In Genesis 12:11, 13 Abraham told Sarah, “I know what a beautiful woman you are…. say you are my sister.”

But think about how that would sound to man. “Hi, I’m Abraham and this beautiful woman here is my sister Sarah.”

Well, if they were merely brother and sister and there’s no husband introduced, then it would be reasonable for a man to conclude that this beautiful woman was single and available for anyone who wanted her.

Predictably, that’s what happened; she was added to the harem of Pharaoh (Gen 12) and Abimelek (here in Gen 20). In both cases, Abraham lost his wife and put God’s promises in jeopardy. In both cases, only God’s miraculous intervention preserved Sarah and allowed her to become the covenant mother that God had promised she would be.

So why would Abraham do this–knowingly and predictably put his wife in a situation where she would be taken by other men?

The answer–in both cases–was fear. Abraham was afraid of being killed so that someone could get to Sarah (v. 11).

So he just lied and made Sarah available.

That was unloving to her and unnecessary. Abraham and his men had just defeated a cohort of kings in Genesis 14. If Abraham and his servants were powerful enough to liberate Lot and Sodom from these kings, surely they could have protected Abraham’s life and Sarah from being abducted.

And, how often does it actually happen where a man kills another man to be with his wife? I know there are news stories where that kind of thing happens but I’ve never personally met anyone in that situation. If a man did that–killed another man to take his wife–the other men who lived around the killer would gang up on him and kill him.

So, Abraham’s fear was unspiritual, irrational, and far adrift from reality.

This incident shows what happens when we live in fear instead of faith in God’s promises; namely, we make foolish decisions. God protected Abraham because of his covenant promises that Abraham would become a great nation through the son born to Sarah. But God would have been just to allow Abraham to live through the consequences of the foolish, fear-filled decisions he made.

Are you living your life in fear instead of in faith? Do you use lies and deception to manipulate others instead of trusting God to care for you and provide for you? It is easy and tempting for us to fall into a similar trap as Abraham. Learn from his negative example in this instance and trust God instead of acting in fear.

To Receive His Blessing, Obey God’s Word as an Intentional Act of Faith

James 1:22-25: To Receive His Blessing, Obey God's Word as an Intentional Act of Faith.

God did not give us His Word just to fill our minds with information. He gave it to us, in part, to change us. So, he calls us not to fool ourselves but to actually change in obedience to his word in our lives. That, he tells us, will bring his blessing into our lives.

This is message 11 in the series, Intentional Acts of Faith, a series about the New Testament book of James. It was developed by Pastor Brian Jones and delivered by Brian to Calvary Bible Church on Sunday, March 14, 2021

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