Numbers 5, Isaiah 30, Psalms 51-53

Read Numbers 5, Isaiah 30, Psalms 51-53.

This devotional is about Isaiah 30.

Judgment was coming to Judah because of idolatry and disobedience to God’s law. Isaiah and others had delivered prophecies to tell God’s people of their coming exile. How would God’s people respond?

One way they responded was by contacting Egypt and attempting to form an alliance with the Egyptians (v. 2). Their solution to the growing storm clouds of trouble was completely human and tactical. They wanted to fight fire with more fire power. But, as verse 1 said, this was only evidence that they were “obstinate children.” God was not in their plans (“…forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,” v. 1d) so their plans were destined to fail.

If a political solution was not the answer, then what was the answer? Verse 15: “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength….” The threat was human but both the problem and the solution were spiritual. Come to God in repentance; walk in his ways and the Babylonians will go bye-bye.

The end of this chapter holds forth the blessings God wanted his people to have. God “longs to be gracious to you” (v. 18). Specifically:

  • “How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you” (v. 19b).
  • “He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful” (v. 23).
  • “The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted” (v. 26).

We don’t deal with invading armies and national alliances, but we do look for human answers to spiritual problems. Churches look for programs and gimmicks when attendance is weak instead of crying out for God’s Spirit to work and reaching out in genuine evangelism. Believers try psychology and self-help to manage their problems instead of humbling ourselves before the Lord, seeking his forgiveness and help. Parents try to change their kids’ friends or activities instead of asking God to change their children’s hearts.

Is there any area in your life where you are looking for human solutions to spiritual problems? Do you see how gracious God wants to be to you (vv. 18-26) if you come to him in repentance and faith (v. 19)?

Then what are you waiting for, exactly?

Leviticus 27, Isaiah 25, Acts 10

Read Leviticus 27, Isaiah 25, and Acts 10.

This devotional is about Isaiah 25.

What will heaven be like? This is a question that most Christians have probably considered and plenty of non-Christians, too. When Hollywood believed in an afterlife, they created a picture of heaven that many people may still have: people become angels, float on clouds, and play the harp.

What an incredibly boring way to spend eternity!

God’s Word doesn’t reveal to us much about what we call “heaven,” but there are a few things we can discern about it.

First, we don’t really spend eternity in heaven. The spirits of departed believers live in heaven with God now, but eternity will be spent on earth–first on this earth in what we call the Millennial kingdom, then on the new earth which God will create. So we really should be talking about “eternity” or “the eternal state” instead of talking about “heaven.”

Secondly, the eternal state happens in a city, the New Jerusalem, and this passage, Isaiah 25, gives us some detail about life there. Isaiah 25 is a song of praise to God (vv. 1-5), giving glory to God for what he has done for his people. Beginning with verse 6, however, Isaiah returned to describing the future, a topic he had begun discussing in chapter 24. How did he describe life in the future New Jerusalem here in chapter 25?

First, he described a feast in verse 6. When God’s kingdom begins fully, it will start with a great celebration. Verse 6 described it as “a feast of rich food” which indicates an occasion of great pleasure and enjoyment for God’s people. And, the next phrase in verse 6 tells us that God’s people will be “all peoples” indicating that all kinds of people, not just Jewish people, will be welcomed guests at this feast.

Second, the eternal state is a place where death no longer exists and cannot trouble anyone. Verse 7 described death as a shroud, a sheet that covers everyone. But God “will destroy” that shroud and “will swallow up death forever” (v. 8a).

Third, eternity will be a state in which there is no longer any unhappiness. Verse 8b says, “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.” The sadness and disappointments of this life will not be present nor will they affect us when we are with the Lord. This seems particularly tied to the sadness that sin creates; verse 8b says, “he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.” The things we do and have done that we are so ashamed of will be completely forgotten. Atoned for by the blood of Christ, they will no longer trouble us anymore.

Of course we bemoan the senseless tragedies, terrible injustices, and brevity of life that marks this world. The truths in this chapter, however, can encourage our hearts and give meaning and purpose to our lives. Our short time on this earth is not the end; it isn’t really even the beginning when we compare however many years we get in this life to an eternity with Jesus. So let your heart hope in God’s plans and let them focus your mind to help you serve him.

Leviticus 6, Isaiah 1, Luke 21

Read Leviticus 6, Isaiah 1, and Luke 21.

This devotional is about Isaiah 1.

This book of prophecy was written to the “kings of Judah,” the Southern Kingdom after Israel divided during the days of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. The Southern Kingdom was the “good” one of the two kingdoms, in the sense that it had 8 kings that “did right” in the sight of God during their reigns. Three of those good kings, Uzziah, Jotham, and Hezekiah (v. 1) ruled during Isaiah’s prophetic ministry. So, three out of the four kings who reigned over Judah did so during Isaiah’s life and ministry. Or, to look at it another way, 3 of only 8 kings who did what was right before God ruled during Isaiah’s ministry.

Yet, despite three good kings, Israel was a mess spiritually. Isaiah used very strong language to condemn God’s people for their rebellion (v. 2d) and for forsaking the Lord (v. 4e). But, within these words of condemnation are also strong words of promise. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (v. 18). As evil as the Judeans had become, God wanted nothing more than to forgive and restore them (v. 26). In fact, implicit in every judgment passage in the Bible is a call to repent. The terrible punishments that the Bible promises can be reversed because God is merciful. Nobody is too sinful to be outside the realm of God’s grace.

If you’re reading this but living in sin in someway, this is the promise for you. God will judge you for your sins and will punish you, but his mercy is there for the taking. Turn from your sin and ask God for his forgiveness.

If you’re walking with Christ today but fall into sin in the future, remember the lesson that God’s grace and mercy are there for you if you look to God in faith.

Exodus 39, Song of Songs 3, Luke 17

Read Exodus 39, Song of Songs 3, and Luke 17.

This devotional is about Luke 17.

Each one of us is responsible for himself or herself. When you stand before God, you will give an account of your life. You will not answer for the sins of others nor will you be able to shift blame to others for your sins.

But…

…none of us lives alone, unaffected by others or able to avoid affecting others. In verse 1a-b, Jesus acknowledged that: “‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come….'” The word “stumble” in verse 1 means to sin. The first part of verse 1, then, says that people cause other people to fall into sin. Just as Eve gave the forbidden fruit to Adam, people continue do things that entice others to sin. Adam was responsible for his choice to sin but Eve was held responsible for her sin and her role in Adam’s sin. 

So, fact one is that sinners lead other sinners into sin. No one can make another person sin but we can cause others to sin by leading them into temptations that their sinful natures cannot resist.

When we do that–when we entice others to sin and they choose that sin–we’ve sinned, too. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “…but woe to anyone through whom they come” in verse 1c. Verse 2 goes on to say that there will be severe punishment for those who entice others to sin so, as verse 3 says, “So watch yourselves.”

One of the ways we entice others to sin is by sinning against others. If I insult you and you punch me, we’ve both sinned but my sin provided you with the occasion for your sin. But instead of choosing to sin when we are sinned against, Jesus taught us the right way to respond in verse 3b: “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.”

This, then, is how we should treat each other. Be careful not to put others in the way of temptation. Don’t recommend actions that cause others to feel tempted, don’t sin against them and give them the occasion to sin themselves. Finally, if someone sins against you, resist the temptation to sin yourself and, instead, call them into accountability and invite them to repent and receive your forgiveness.

It is impossible for anyone of us not to lead others into sin so the “woe” that Jesus announced in verse 1c applies to all of us. The word “woe” describes the kind of deep sorrow that comes from knowing you are under the wrath of God for your sins. Jesus told us, then, that we are in big trouble.

By God’s grace, however, Jesus is also the way out of that trouble. He took our “woe” before God by his death on the cross. We all can (and do) lead others to sin but in Christ, our sins are forgiven.

Now that they are forgiven, we have the power to deal with sin properly. We should think about how our lives might tempt others–our families, friends, co-workers, etc. By the power of God’s Spirit, we should strive to live a life that doesn’t trip anyone else up and we should deal with the trip hazards others put in front of us with loving confrontation and forgiveness.

Have you knowingly enticed someone else to sin? Have you seen in hindsight how your actions created a sin situation for someone even though you did not intend it? Seek God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with that person if possible. Then “watch yourself” (v. 3a) in the future.

Has someone put temptation into your pathway? Can you learn to bring correction to those who sin against you instead of justifying your sinful response?

These are challenging truths for us but they important ones for us to live by. Blessed is the person who is careful not to cause others to be tempted. Blessed, too, is the person who can resist temptation and restore to righteousness the brother or sister whose sin caused your temptation.

How much better would the world be if we disciples of Christ responded to sin in these ways?

Exodus 7, Job 24, Psalms 24-26

Read Exodus 7, Job 24, and Psalms 24-26.

This devotional is about Psalm 25.

Psalm 25 began in verses 1-3 with David reminding God that David was trusting in him. David then asked God to make his trust pay off by not letting David be put to shame (v. 2).

But David wanted more than a tit-for-tat relationship with God. He didn’t want to do right just so he would be well-treated by God. Instead, he wanted to serve God so that he could know God. That’s why he prayed in verse 4, “Show me your ways, Lordteach me your paths.” This expresses a desire for God himself–to know what he loves and hates, how he works, and why he does what he does. 

Where would God do that teaching of his paths? Verse 5 says, “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior.” He wanted to know God, to soak up his truth because “my hope is in you all day long” (v. 5c). It was his love for God, his desire to know God and live in close fellowship with God that motivated his godly life, not his desire to succeed. 

David also didn’t hide the fact that he was fallen. In verse 7 he pleaded for God to give him full pardon, complete forgiveness for his sins. “Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.” This, too, is an indication of a person who is walking with God. The better you know God and his ways, the more apparent your sinfulness becomes. But as our “Savior” (v. 5), we know that God will be faithful and forgive the sins we confess to him. 

When we are indifferent to our sins, unconcerned about knowing God’s truth and his ways, and only care about God’s blessings, we are not walking with God. These are clear signs that our spiritual life is drifting rather than growing. Fortunately, God is gracious to sinners. Verses 8-11 describe what God does for sinners when we humble ourselves before him. He “instructs” (v. 8b) us, “guides” us (v. 9a) and “teaches” us “his way” (v. 9b). When we fear God (vv. 12, 14), he blesses us with knowing him, forgiving our sins, watching over us for good and delivering us from our troubles (v. 22).

How is your relationship with God? Are you walking with him, desiring to know him and follow his ways? Or is your spiritual life adrift?

As a believer in Christ, you have the assurance that God’s love and salvation are yours forever. But the blessing of knowing God comes from following him and walking with him daily. Take time to assess your walk with God. Change your mind in repentance and ask for God’s forgiveness and a renewed desire to live for him.

Exodus 3, Job 20, Hebrews 9

Read Exodus 3, Job 20, and Hebrews 9. This devotional is about Hebrews 9.

Hebrews 9 continued the argument that Christ was better than the Old Testament sacrificial system. The author of Hebrews presented a tight argument comparing the sacrificial system under the old covenant (vv. 1-10) and the new covenant Christ has set up and mediated (vv. 11-28).

The key point of this chapter is that Christ’s death on the cross accomplished the new covenant. The blood of his sacrifice was offered in heaven not on earth (vv. 11-14) and it purified everything, including us (vv. 15-28). This is why the sacrificial system revealed by Moses is no longer necessary. Christ’s redemption was better and brought that old system to an end.

One of the key takeaways from this chapter for us is that Christ’s death accomplished something for us spiritually that the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament law never could. In verse 13 the author of Hebrews mentioned that the blood from those animal sacrifices had to be sprinkled on the people to make them ceremonially clean. That process was described in Numbers 19 and was used on someone who touched a dead body.

But in verse 14, the author of Hebrews argues that the blood of Christ removed the works of death from our consciences. In other words, it gives us true relief from the guilt of our sins.

Yes, it is true that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23) but Hebrews 9:14 says that Christ’s death cleanses our conscience from those works that lead to death (in other words, sin).

Are you tormented by guilt for the sins you’ve committed in your life? Don’t be! Not because they were not wicked but because, if you are in Christ, they are fully forgiven. Your past has been redeemed in him so now you have the freedom of conscience to live and serve the Lord.

Genesis 33, Esther 9-10, Matthew 24

Read Genesis 33, Esther 9-10, Matthew 24 today.

This devotional is about Genesis 33.

Conflict with other people is a common part of this life. Sometimes, you can end conflict by avoiding or ending your relationship with another person. But not always, especially if the conflict involves your family.

Jacob and Esau were twin brothers and they had a big conflict back in Genesis 27. Jacob created the conflict by using deceit to take Esau’s rightful inheritance as the firstborn. He left town to avoid a confrontation with Esau. But God commanded him to return to the land of promise, so now Jacob must return home and face his (slightly) older brother.

We read the account of their reunion here in Genesis 33.

There is no direct statement of repentance from Jacob in this chapter. Nor is there a direct statement of forgiveness here.

But the actions and words recorded in this chapter demonstrate that some kind of reconciliation was sought by Jacob and given by Esau.

We can see Jacob’s desire to be forgiven by how he “bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother” (v. 3). This was an act of humility. One bow would be a customary sign of respect and courtesy (see Gen 23:12 and 42:6 for examples). But Jacob bowed seven times, demonstrating his humility and deep desire to be accepted by his brother.

In Genesis 32:13-16, Jacob had selected a large amount of livestock for Esau. Jacob sent them ahead of him as a gift. Here in chapter 33:8, Esau asked why Jacob had sent all these animals ahead of him. Jacob answered, “To find favor in your eyes, my lord…” (v. 8). This action, this gift by Jacob was designed to pay restitution to Esau for stealing his birthright.

So, although Jacob did not directly ask for forgiveness, his actions demonstrated his desire to be received by his brother without hostility.

When we look at Esau’s actions, we see a man who is eager to be restored to his brother. Esau abandoned all formalities; he “ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him” (v. 4). This indicated Esau’s desire to be reconciled to Jacob.

Jacob’s statement, “…to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably” (v. 10) are words of relief. He was grateful not to have been attacked by his brother but, instead, to have been accepted.

These actions would have communicated a restored relationship, even if Jacob didn’t directly ask for reconciliation. Their customs spoke more powerfully to them than the frank conversation we’d expect. The end of the chapter suggests that Jacob didn’t fully trust Esau, but at least they had found a measure of peace with each other.

Do you have any broken relationships in your life? Have you made an attempt, in humility, to try to repair that relationship? Are you willing to make restitution if you’ve damaged the other person in some way?

God does not want us to live in tension or in fear or in avoidance. He wants us to own up to our sins, our mistakes, and our selfish acts and seek forgiveness for them. He also wants us to forgive those who sin against us. Like Christ, who came seeking us even though we sinned against him, we should seek out others we’re estranged from and try to make peace.

Given that, who do you need to call today to get this process started?

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.

2 Chronicles 21, Zechariah 5

Read 2 Chronicles 21 and Zechariah 5.

This devotional is about Zechariah 5:1-3.

In these verses, the prophet saw a large scroll flying through the air. The scroll measured 30 feet long by 15 feet wide (v. 2) which indicates that it was unrolled. There was writing on both sides of the scroll and, in both cases, what was written was a curse. One curse was against “every thief” and the other was against “anyone who swears falsely” in God’s name (v. 3). The curse itself was that the person who either stole or lied “will be banished.” That meant the person would be removed from the community. The thief or liar would no longer be recognized as one of God’s people but instead be treated like an unbelieving Gentile.

Verse 4 said that the scroll would “will enter the house…” of the thief or robber and “remain in that house and destroy it completely, both its timbers and its stones.” This is a visual way of describing the deterioration of the building, the physical structure where the liar or thief lived. God’s curse would cause a person’s house to rot. This is not saying that his literal house would literally rot. Instead, the consequences are described graphically to create fear in the heart of the thief and the liar.

Like many sins, people think theft won’t hurt them unless it is detected. Likewise, people think that dishonesty in what they say will only harm them if they’re actually caught lying. But God sees our sins and knows our dishonesty. This chapter indicates that the consequences to our sins–even when undetected–are like termites silently but consistently eating away at the structure of our lives. God himself pronounces a curse on our sins and, when our sins are unconfessed and unforsaken, those curses “will remain in that house and destroy it completely” (v. 4c-d).

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” according to Galatians 3:13. In Christ, then, God’s curses for our sins have been borne by him. As believers, though, we still need to ongoing cleansing of sin and for the Holy Spirit to expose and remove the rot that sin brings about in our lives.

Is your life rotting away because of unconfessed sin? It could be theft or dishonesty or any number of hidden sins. Problems in your life that you’ve never connected to any particular sin might be the result of sins you’ve committed and covered up rather than confessed and forsaken. December gives us a good opportunity to inventory our lives. Find some time to think about your life and take care of any unconfessed sin, even if it happened a long time ago.

2 Chronicles 4-6:1 and Nahum 3

Read 2 Chronicles 4-6:1 and Nahum 3.

This devotional is about Nahum 3.

As we’ve read already in Nahum 1-2, God’s judgment on Ninevah was mostly due to their extreme violence. Remember that God’s law–imprinted in our consciences and written in his word–is the standard by which we are judged. It is impossible to keep the law of God because of our sin natures but that does not exempt us from accountability to the Lord and judgment by the Lord for breaking his laws. What our inability to keep his laws requires is his grace. Christ secured that grace by taking our penalty on the cross and he forgives us by grace when we trust in Christ’s cross-work for us.

So the kings and people of Nineveh were responsible before God and guilty before him for all the nations they attacked without cause and the soldiers and civilians who were killed by their military aggression. Verse 1 here in Nahum 3 describes this city as “the city of blood.” Verses 2-3a vividly depict their powerful armies and verse 3b detailed the results of their attacks: “Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses…” Verses 5-19 warn this wicked city and her king (v. 18) of God’s impending humiliation (vv. 4-7) and defeat of Nineveh. The prosperity that the Assyrians enjoyed at that moment would be stripped from them like locusts decimating a farm (vv. 16-17).

Warfare and tyranny run through the history of humanity. As “civilization” has advanced, technology has improved our lives and, simultaneously, made the killing and destruction of war more efficient and massive.

We should consider how our country wages war. Although we do not take over countries and enslave them the way that the Assyrians did, it is my opinion that the American presidents are far too quick to drop bombs on and send troops into other nations. Our leaders use military might to advance their political agendas. In the process, they have sacrificed too many American soldiers, too many soldiers from foreign lands who were forced into service by their government or merely wanted to defend their land against our invading armies, and too many civilians.

Passages like this one in Nahum call world leaders to be careful about waging war and to repent for wars that were and are unjust. As American citizens, we should do what we can to hold our leaders accountable for how recklessly and needlessly they wage war and provide weapons to foreign governments. God is watching; if he held Nineveh accountable for her unjust wars, what will he do to us?

1 Kings 8, Ezekiel 38

Read 1 Kings 8 and Ezekiel 38.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 8.

After years of planning, preparing and building, the temple of the Lord was complete. It was time to move in! Solomon called for all the leaders distributed among the tribes and towns of Israel (vv. 1-2). He called them to Jerusalem so that they could witness the ark of the covenant and all the objects used for Israel’s worship being moved into the temple (vv. 3-9). Then, to confirm that what Solomon had done was according to God’s will and to demonstrate that the new temple, not the old tabernacle, would be the official place of worship, God made his presence visible in the temple. A cloud that represented God’s glory filled the place, demonstrating his presence there (vv. 10-13).

Solomon then turned to the people who witnessed this event and spoke words of praise to God and explanation to them about the meaning of all of this (vv. 14-21).

Finally, Solomon spoke to the Lord; his prayer in verses 22-60 displayed his devotion to the Lord and his desire for how this temple should function in Israel’s life as a nation. He began by worshipping God for who he is (v. 23a) and for the promises he had kept (vv. 23b-24). He continued by asking God to continue fulfilling his promises to David (vv. 25-26). Then he asked the Lord to let this temple be a place where God’s people can get an audience with him. He asked that God would listen day or night and be merciful in forgiveness to his people (vv. 27-30).

Then Solomon asked the Lord to listen and judge when God’s people came to him asking for justice (vv. 31-32). He next asked that the Lord would hear their prayers of repentance when he disciplined them with war losses or famine (vv. 33-40, 44-45). He asked that even Gentiles living in the land of Israel who pray would be heard so that “all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name” (v. 43). He asked the Lord even to hear, forgive, and restore his people even if they sinned so much that he allowed them to be exiled to a foreign country (vv. 46-50). The basis for his prayer was God’s redemption of the people from Egypt (vv. 51-53).

I can only imagine what it must have felt like to observe this dedication service and to hear Solomon’s prayer and praise as well watch the offerings begin (vv. 62-64) and enjoy the feast that followed (vv. 65-66). Solomon left this event “joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the Lord had done for his servant David and his people Israel” (v. 66). I’m guessing everyone who attended felt the same way. Hopefully for some of them, the memory of this event caused them to turn to the Lord in prayer during their times of need, just as Solomon prayed that they would.

Ceremonies like this one can be so helpful in steering our emotions in a godly direction, but this was a rare occasion in the life of the nation of Israel. It was like Pentecost is to our faith as Christians—an important, rare demonstration of the Lord’s presence and power. After this, though, Israel went back to their routines. A farmer living far away in his tribal land would visit this temple as part of his observance of the Jewish feast days, but if he needed forgiveness or justice, he would have to pray toward this temple in faith that God would hear and answer him. There was no visual smoke to give him assurance of forgiveness or of an answer to his need; he just had to take it on faith that God’s will would be done.

While we have no literal place like the temple, we actually have better access. Instead of seeking forgiveness by offering our prayers and bringing an animal to burn, we come seeking forgiveness based on the finished sacrifice of Christ. Instead of thinking that the Lord is among us as a group because the ark of his covenant is in Jerusalem, we have the promise of the indwelling Spirit and the assurance that, collectively, we are the temple of the living God when we gather together as his church (1 Tim 3:15; 2 Cor 6:16). Although Solomon’s prayer was certain to be answered because it was based on God’s covenants with Israel, we have the assurance of Christ that he hears and answers our prayers according to his will when we ask in his name. But, like the ancient Hebrews, we have to act on these promises to get the blessings. Let’s not just long for God’s work and intervention in our lives; let’s ask him for it based on all he has done for us and promised us in Christ.

2 Samuel 16, Ezekiel 23

Read 2 Samuel 16 and Ezekiel 23.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 23.

Societies do not look kindly on prostitutes. Some women are forced into prostitution against their will due to economic hardship or threats of violence or through slavery. If we knew their stories, we might look on them more kindly on these women and put more shame on the men who hire them. The reasons, however, do not justify prostitution and it is wicked in God’s sight.

In this chapter God compared Israel, represented by Samaria (v. 4d), and Judah, represented by Jerusalem (v. 4d) as prostitutes. Their idolatry is compared to prostitution in the sense that they desired and gave themselves to other gods instead of to the God of their covenant (v. 49). God explained and defended the judgment that Israel received from the Assyrians and the judgment that would come to the Judeans as the consequences of their unfaithfulness to him. The logic of this passage goes like this: “You want to give yourself to the gods of the Assyrians? I’ll marry you to the Assyrians in every way.”

The purpose of this passage is to teach us to empathize with God. God loves his people and married himself to them by a covenant. Instead of wanting God as much as god wanted them, Israel and Judah pined for others. If your spouse did that to you, you would be hurt; it would also arouse in you deep feelings of anger and betrayal. You’d feel this way both toward your spouse who wanted someone else and the person that he or she wanted instead of you.

This is how God feels when we love material things more than we love him. It’s how he feels when entertainment is more appealing to us than worship. It describes the pain he experiences when being accepted in society matters more to us than ordering our lives by his commands. James 4:4 uses this very language to warn us: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

In Christ, there is hope for our adulterous hearts. James 4:6-10 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

This is what we need when our hearts are captivated by other things more than God. We need to humble ourselves and ask for his forgiveness and deliverance. If you find yourself valuing other things above your walk with God, let this passage help you understand why God responds the way he does. He is jealous for you (v. 25) and wants you back.