Deuteronomy 30, Jeremiah 22, 2 Corinthians 6

Read Deuteronomy 30, Jeremiah 22, 2 Corinthians 6.

This devotional is about about Jeremiah 22.

How much is enough?

That’s a relatively easy question to answer when you are eating a meal. Eat enough and you will feel full. Push past that point, and your body will make you vomit.

It is not an easy question to answer when you are thinking about wealth and possessions. No matter how much money you make, you could spend it all. There is always a better car, a more beautiful home, a boat, a jet, a better jet, an island, an NFL team, or something more or better than what you currently have.

But isn’t there a point when you have enough? Isn’t there some point of diminishing returns?

That’s one of the questions Jeremiah asks here in Jeremiah 22. As he addressed the sins of Judah’s king, Shallum (aka Jehoahaz), he asked, “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?” (v. 15a-b). In other words, he was a greedy man who was driven to acquire a bigger and nicer home. He was even willing to finance his possessions with “oppression and extortion” (v. 17d). And, according to verses 13 he made “his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.”

I can’t read those words without thinking about some of the wealthiest people in our world. Jeff Bezos built an incredible business in Amazon.com and was rewarded for it. As of 2020, Bezos was worth $133 billion. I’m a capitalist and the Bible teaches capitalism, so I don’t begrudge Bezos for what he is worth. His wealth is due to growth in the price of Amazon’s stock, but if Amazon had failed as a company, his stock would be worthless.

But there is a vast disparity in how Amazon pays its employees The CEO of Amazon earns $212 million per year for doing his job. Meanwhile, the median income of Amazon’s workers was $32,855. That is quite a difference between what the best paid employee of Amazon makes and what the workers in the middle of their wage scale make.

Again, I’m a capitalist and I don’t think salaries should be regulated. There is nobody in Washington D.C. who can decide what your work is worth better than the market can.

But God cares about the poor. It matters to him if the wealthy use the labor of others to enrich themselves without also rewarding the labor of those who work for the wealthy. God also calls out the futility of seeking more money and more stuff. He compared king Shallum to his father, a godly man, Josiah, who also ruled over Judah. I quoted the first part of verse 15 earlier but look at the whole verse: “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.” In other words, Josiah was a good and fair king. He was content with having enough and his life was blessed. Shallum would be held accountable by God for his endless greed and for exploiting others to try to satisfy that greed.

While none of us is a king, or a billionaire, the principle in this passage is still worthy of our consideration. If you own a business, do you pay market wages to your employees when you could pay better because your company is doing well?

If you don’t own a business, are you focused on “more and more cedar” (v. 15b) as a metric for how successful your life is? Have you noticed yet that no matter how much you earn or how much stuff you acquire, it doesn’t translate into greater and greater happiness?

Materialism and greed are so pervasive in our culture that we sometimes don’t notice how much they drive what we think about and what we do. God calls us to contentment and generosity. Are you content with what you have? Are you generous with others, using what you have to provide for and enrich their lives?

Numbers 4, Isaiah 29, Proverbs 11:19-31

Read Numbers 4, Isaiah 29, and Proverbs 11:19-31.

This devotional is about Proverbs 11:19-31.

Generosity is a key theme in today’s readings. We see it in verses 24-26 with three separate proverbs on the subject.

  • Verse 24 talks about people who gain more and more even though they give a lot of what they have away. Those people are contrasted with those who cheat others what they owe them and yet become poor.
  • Verse  25 states that the generous will proper and be cared for when they have cared for others.
  • Verse 26 talks about how other people view the generous. People call down curses on hoarders but ask God to bless those who sell the products that they have.

Are you a generous Christian?

I believe every Christian should tithe and give to God’s work above the tithe. But are you quick to help others in need when you see that need? Do you enjoy giving to others with no expectation of return?

I can tell you from my own life that helping someone through giving brings more joy than buying more stuff.

These proverbs, however, teach that giving actually enables prosperity. Not only should we be generous, then, because of the joy of generosity and because it pleases God; we should be generous because God blesses generous people with financial blessings. Take some time to consider how generous you are or aren’t. Consider: Are you trusting God by faith or hoarding things in fear?

Then step out and become a more generous person. When you do, watch to see how your life is enhanced because of your obedience in generosity.

Leviticus 21, Isaiah 17-18, Acts 6

Read Leviticus 21, Isaiah 17-18, and Acts 6 today.

This devotional is about Acts 6.

A couple of things are important to keep in mind as we read these chapters describing the first church in Jerusalem.

  • First, remember that all of the twelve disciples, except for Judas, were from Galilee, the northern part of Israel.
  • Second, most of Jesus other disciples before his crucifixion were Galileans, too. 
  • Third, Jesus death, burial, resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit in power in Acts 2 happened in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is in Judea, the Southern part of  Israel. Jesus had told the disciples to stay there in Jerusalem until the Spirit’s power descended on them (see Acts 1:4).

After the Spirit came on the disciples in power, people began to trust Christ in large numbers (see Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4). Many of those who became believers lived in Jerusalem and the early church met in their homes (see Acts 2:42). But many of them lived outside of Jerusalem, a long way from Jerusalem, like the twelve disciples of Jesus did. These new believers, though, wanted to stay in Jerusalem and experience what God was doing in the church. So there are some new believers in the Jerusalem church who lived in Jerusalem and made their living in Jerusalem but many others who did not live in Jerusalem and, therefore, had no income for as long as they remained in Jerusalem.

These facts explain the need for so much sharing of homes, food, and money in the early church in Jerusalem. The church was not communistic or socialistic by nature; instead, many believers had no means of support while they stayed in Jerusalem. But they wanted to stay there and experience what God was doing, so, their brothers and sisters who had financial means generously shared with those who did not.

Here in Acts 6, then, we see that there were problems–gaps, even–in how people were being cared for in the early church. According to verse 1, there was some discrimination–intentional or not–regarding how people with needs were supported and cared for. In verse 2, the twelve disciples gathered to discuss how to address this problem. It was a true dilemma because the needs of the people were legitimate and important; however, enough needed to happen logistically that some or all of the apostles could have had their time consumed by making sure all the needs were met.

The answer the twelve came up with was to distribute responsibility to other people (vv. 3-4). This was to allow the twelve to give their full attention to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (v. 4). Although the task given to these men did not require any particular spiritual gifting or skill, the disciples felt it was important to give the task to godly men (v. 3). Although this passage does not directly say it, many people (me included) think that this paragraph is how the office of deacon began in the church.

The men who were chosen for this ministry were “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3). Yet they did not consider this task to be beneath them. In keeping with their reputations for godliness, these men had hearts of a servant. So, they took on willingly the responsibility they were chosen for.

When you are asked to serve somewhere in the church, do you see it as a chance to serve the Lord or as a burden to bear? It is true that some people can be overburdened if they take on too many ministries, but it is also true that many people are unwilling to serve when asked. It is a blessing to serve the Lord and, as believers, we should be honored to serve him by serving his church when we are given the opportunity.

Leviticus 19 and Isaiah 15

Read Leviticus 19 and Isaiah 15 today.

This devotional is about Leviticus 19.

Leviticus 19 contains a large number of commands on various topics. The passage begins with a call for God’s people to emulate his character: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”’” Every command in this chapter flows from the holiness of God.  If you want to know God, you must also desire to become holy. This chapter gives some specific ways in which holiness works out in the life of a believer.

Being “holy” simply means “set apart.” God is set apart from humanity in two ways: First, he is Creator and we are the created. There is a distinction between the Creator and creature that we can never cross. As Creator, God has certain qualities that we can’t understand, much less emulate. These are things like knowing all things, having all power, being everywhere present in the fullness of his being, and others. These are qualities that only God can have; they are one way in which God holy.

Usually, though, when we talk about God’s holiness, we are talking about his moral perfection. God is set apart from people in the sense that he is perfect morally. He has no sinful desires or actions. God did create us to emulate this quality. Adam and Eve began with a perfect moral nature; if they had refused the temptation offered to them in the garden, humanity would have existed in moral holiness just as God did. Since we chose to sin, however, we are unholy.

In Christ believers are declared to be holy and God’s Holy Spirit is working us over morally so that we become more holy like Jesus was, but it is an ongoing process that does not reach completion until we see Christ.

When God commanded Israel to be holy (v. 2), he was commanding them to set themselves apart from the nations around them. That required faith that living according to God’s commands would be better than living according to the ways that were common and their natural moral instincts. Many of the commands here in Leviticus 19 are easily understood as categories of holiness—either moral holiness, such as “no idols” in verse 4, or cultural holiness, such as “do not mate two different kinds of animals” in verse 19.

But what do you make of the command, “do not reap to the very edges of your field… leave them for the poor and the foreigner”? In what way does this command flow from the holiness of God?

The answer is this: God affirmed the righteousness of private property rights in verse 11a where he said, “Do not steal.” That command tells us people have a right to private ownership and that it is morally wrong to take, either by force or by deception, any property that justly belongs to someone else.

Our capitalist system is built on private property rights. Not only do you have the right to own productive assets (land, flocks, woodworking tools, trucks, whatever), you have the right to use those assets in ways that are productive. You also have the right to keep the products of that production and sell those products for a profit. That’s why people are allowed to own land, farm land, harvest, and sell what they have planted.

However, God wanted his people to show generosity to the poor. Unlike other nations where the poor had to beg, borrow, or steal to live, God affirmed the right of his people to private property and to the cultivation of wealth but he also wanted them to be different from the nations around them by generously providing for the poor. Leaving food in the fields for poor people to reap on their own without fear of being killed or prosecuted for trespassing showed love and compassion for the poor. Instead of selfishly gathering every bit of profit, God commanded his people to be productive but also to provide a means for those who were poor to live.

That kind of love for one’s poor neighbor would set apart God’s people from the nations around them. It should also mark us, his people by faith, today. We should be generous to the poor—regardless of why they are poor–because we want to live a holy life that emulates God.

That doesn’t mean that we have to support every (or any) government program. Neither this passage nor any other passage in the New Testament puts the responsibility to provide for the poor on the government. But this passage does mean that we should do what we can personally to help anyone within our reach to meet their daily needs for survival. That goes against our human instincts to watch out for ourselves alone. By being counter to our instincts, caring for the poor is an expression of holiness because it sets us apart from people who despise the poor and even take advantage of them.

Have you given anything to help those in need lately? Being generous to the needy is part of the holiness of God that God wants to develop in your life.

Exodus 27, Ecclesiastes 3, Proverbs 8:1-21

Read Exodus 27, Ecclesiastes 3, and Proverbs 8:1-21 today.

This devotional is about Exodus 27.

From Exodus 25 through 30, God spelled out for his people how to create the tabernacle and all the things that belonged in it. Chapter 25:31-40 described the lampstand that they were to build. Here in 27:20-21 the Lord told them how to make the oil that would be burned in that lamp.

The lampstand itself had seven lamps–one in the center and six branches–three on each side (25:32, 37). Remember that–seven lamps on one lampstand.

This lampstand was placed “outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law” (v. 21a). That means it was in the holy place, just outside the Most Holy Place (or holy of holies, as it is sometimes called). God’s command was that these seven lamps were to be burning at all times; that’s what “from evening till morning” (v. 21c) means. The only time these lamps would ever go out was if the people (and, therefore, the tabernacle) were moving to a new place. When the tabernacle was set up and in use, the lamps were supposed to burn night and day.

The people of Israel had their own lamps which they used in their tents at night. When it was time to sleep, the lamps God’s people used at home were extinguished because they were not needed and might prevent them from sleeping. God never sleeps, so the ever-burning lamps were a testimony to God’s wakeful watchfulness over his people. Because God was always awake and on duty, his people could pray to him anytime–night or day.

Notice also that the oil for these lamps was to be brought by the people. Verse 20 says, “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning.” It was the duty of the non-priests to bring a constant fresh supply of this olive oil so that the lamps would never go out.

Also note that the responsibility to provide oil for the lamps passed from one generation to another. The last sentence of verse 21 says, “This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.”

Finally, note that a particular kind of olive oil was needed to fuel these lamps: “clear oil of pressed olives” (v. 20a). Commentators say that this kind of oil would burn with very little smoke. There was a purity to this kind of preparation that was fitting as a symbol of God and his presence.

So, what do we have here? Let’s review:

  • The priests were to make a lamp with seven spots on top where the fire light would appear.
  • This lampstand was placed outside the curtain where the Most Holy Place was. It was the closest thing to the Ark of the Covenant (beside the curtain that separated the Holy and Most Holy Places).
  • The seven lamps were never supposed to go out because they symbolized God’s presence and attention night and day.
  • The oil for this lamp was to be:
    • Pure olive oil to burn without smoke.
    • Provided by the people, not the priests
    • Continually provided by the people for every generation.

What does any of this have to do with us Christians? 

  • At the very least, it serves as a visual reminder to us of God’s constant presence. He is always awake, always alert, always watching over us and ready to hear our prayers.
  • The command for the people to provide the oil from one generation to another reminds us that we all contribute to God’s ministry. If we stop contributing to God’s work, the light of his presence may go out in the world.

But consider one more possible application of this passage: In Revelation 1:12, John saw “seven golden lampstands” and in verse 20 of Revelation 1 he was told that “the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” Admittedly, the tabernacle/temple only had one lampstand with seven lamps emanating from it so there are some differences. But because there were seven lamps on the lampstand in Exodus 27, God may have chosen these seven churches and used the symbol of the lamp to call up this image from the tabernacle/temple.

In Revelation 2 in God’s message to the church at Ephesus was that unless they repent, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (2:5). That was a promise that the church would cease to exist. The light of the gospel would go out in Ephesus and there would be no indication of his vigilant presence there. That happened; the church in Ephesus no longer exists because Ephesus no longer exists. The region where Ephesus was located is modern day Turkey–a Muslim-dominated nation.

If the lamps in Revelation 1-2 are to remind us of Exodus 27, then the fact that the people were to supply the oil so that the light never went out is significant. The light of God’s truth and God’s presence is only one generation from being extinguished. Unless God’s people continue to cultivate purity and contribute to his work, the light can go out and God will remove the lamp. Note that the elders of the church are part of the people of the church. Elders/pastors are not priests because Jesus is the one and only priest.

And what was it that the church in Ephesus needed to repent of? Lovelessness. Revelation 2:4-5 says, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

When we stop loving God and loving each other, we are no longer supplying the gospel with the fuel for its light. When there is no love in God’s church, the light goes out and God removes the lamp completely.

By God’s grace, then, let us love him and love each other. Cultivate a heart for God and serve him and his people in love. Without this love, the light of God’s presence in our church will go out.

Exodus 9, Job 27, Hebrews 13

Read Exodus 9, Job 27, and Hebrews 13.

This devotional is about Hebrews 13.

The author of Hebrews wrapped up his message by giving believers some ways to put our faith into action. It starts with love (v. 1) which shows itself in how we act toward other believers (again, v. 1), how we receive and care for outsiders (v. 2), and how we pray for and care for those who are suffering under persecution for Christ (v. 3).

Living for Christ in this age means honoring marriage with purity (v. 4), living without greed and materialism (vv. 5-6), acting properly toward the leaders of our church (vv. 7-17), and praying for all those who are serving the Lord (vv. 18-19). Finally, the author of Hebrews prayed a beautiful benediction over the original readers of this book (vv. 20-21) and closed (vv. 22-25).

For today’s devotional thoughts I’d like to focus on verses 15-16: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” These verses follow verses 11-14 where the author of Hebrews made one final reference to Jesus as our priest. Just like the body of a sin offering is offered outside the camp, Jesus was sacrificed outside the city of Jerusalem (v. 12). Going to him for salvation is, metaphorically, like leaving the “city” of Judaism. All who follow Christ are now outsiders but that’s OK because we’re looking for an eternal city anyway (v. 14).

But just as there were thank offerings and free will offerings in the Old Testament whereby a worshipper could bring a sacrifice just because he loved God, now the author of Hebrews says that we Christians bring a thank offering in our words. He tells us to offer this offering “continually;” that is, many times throughout our lives. And the content of this offering is “the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” This is evangelism. One of our acts of worship as Christians is to claim Jesus openly and tell others about our faith in him.

The second type of Christian sacrifice is described in verse 16: “ And do not forget to do good and to share with others….” This consists of being generous to others. It may be others who have a need or simply others whom we choose to bless by giving. So we do not bring a sacrifice for our sins, to appease God’s wrath for what we have done. Jesus paid the penalty for this himself and his blood makes “the people holy” (v. 12). Like an Old Testament worshipper who brings freewill offerings just out of love for God, we bring sacrifices of worship to God when we openly identify with Christ and share his eternally life-changing message and when we are generous to others around us.

Here’s an opportunity, then, for us to look at serving God this week. Are there lost people around you who don’t even know that you are a Christian? Look for an open door to speak to that person about Christ. Are there others around you who have needs or who just would be blessed by your generosity? Reach out to bless them with what you have–a financial gift, a meal, whatever. God loves these kinds of Christian sacrifices because they show our love and devotion to Jesus. Yes, the Lord loves our worship and praise in singing and prayer, but he also is delighted in our actions through evangelism and showing kindness to others.

Genesis 29, Esther 5, Matthew 20

Read Genesis 29, Esther 5, and Matthew 20.

This devotional is about Matthew 20.

Jesus told some very odd stories and Matthew 20:1-16 contains one of them. It started out unsurprisingly enough: A farmer needed harvesters for his vineyard. He went where the unemployed workers hung out and hired a bunch of them. They agreed to work all day for 1 denarius. That was the standard amount paid for one day’s work in Jesus’ time.

At noon, he hired more guys; their wage was ambiguous: “whatever is right” (v. 4). That equals more than zero, which they would have received for standing around the rest of the day, so they agreed.

The same thing happened at 3 p.m. At 5 p.m., he hired even more guys.

A few hours later as darkness fell, each worker was paid. The farmer instructed his foreman to start with the last guys in, pay them first, and pay the first guys last. The foreman paid 1 denarius to the guys who started working at 5. In other words, they made a full day’s wage for one hour of work. Nice work if you can get it!

The guys hired at 3 got their denarius, and so did the guys who clocked in at noon. The guys who had worked all day eagerly looked forward to their paychecks. They reasoned: “This crazy landowner is paying a day’s wage to guys who worked for 1 hour; how much will he pay for those of us who worked 8 hours?” The answer:

One denarius!

Just as they had agreed in the morning. No bonus money for working all day. No tips, either.

Although the all-day workers agreed to that amount from the beginning, they were unhappy. They were unhappy even though it was a fair wage for a fair day’s work. They were unhappy even though they had agreed to that amount in advance. Despite the objective fairness of the situation, those who worked all day felt it was unfair to pay the last workers as much as the first workers made (v. 12).

When they complained that these were unfair labor practices, the farmer told them, “Hey, it’s my money! I can do with it whatever I want! And, what I want is to be crazy generous to those who only worked an hour.” That’s my paraphrase, but it is an accurate description of verses 13-15. Jesus concluded the story in verse 16 by saying, “So the last will be first and the first will be last” (v. 16).

This is a parable about justice and generosity. It is a parable about God and, specifically, how he treats people in his kingdom. The lesson taught in this parable is that God is generous in his kingdom; he does not operate in typical human ways. If you follow Jesus for 50 years or for 1 day, you receive the same blessing of eternal life, the same gift of God’s love, the same adoption into God’s holy family.

Do you ever feel a sense of inferiority as a Christian? If you were saved as an adult, do you think that people who were saved as children are more loved by God or more capable of serving him effectively?

Or do you suffer from superiority? Do you look down on other believers because they lack a Christian heritage or don’t have the fund of Bible knowledge that you do?

Let this parable correct your thinking about God and his ways. God is generous with his grace. He makes the same promises to everyone who calls on him. So enjoy and marvel at the grace of God and don’t look at any other Christian as more or less blessed than you are.

2 Chronicles 31, Zechariah 13:2-9

Read 2 Chronicles 31 and Zechariah 13:2-9,

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 31.

Hezekiah restored the temple and the priesthood (chapter 29) led Judah to observe the Passover again after generations of ignoring it (chapter 30), and called his people to return to serving and worshipping the Lord from the heart (also chapter 30). God worked through his leadership and the people responded favorably to the Lord. The word “revival” is used whenever a large number of people turn or return to the Lord. Here in 2 Chronicles 31, we see the results of genuine revival from the heart.

The first result is the removal of idols. Idolatry was a constant struggle within Israel and Judah and even when godly kings ruled, it was still practiced in secret. After God revived the hearts of his people under Hezekiah, they voluntarily destroyed their own idols as a result (v. 1). This demonstrated true repentance–a true turning from sin to serve the Lord alone. That’s what happens in our lives, too, when God works to revive and strengthen our commitment to him.

Another result of revival is giving to the Lord’s work from the heart (vv. 2-19). The Levites and priests had abandoned their ministries, as we saw in chapter 29. This was partially due to their own disobedience and partially due to the lack of funding they were receiving from God’s people. After God worked through Hezekiah to revive the hearts of people, the people gave so generously to the Lord’s work that the priests and Levites had more than enough for themselves (vv. 9-10). How did this happen? People started tithing faithfully (vv. 5-6). When people were faithful in tithing, there was more than enough to provide for God’s work and God’s servants. In fact, there was so much more than what was needed that the priests just starting piling it up (vv. 7-8) and built storerooms to warehouse it all (vv. 11-13). In addition to providing for the priests, were two additional results to this faithful tithing. First, there was heartfelt praise and thanks to the Lord for his provision (v. 8). Second, there was adequate provision for more men to dedicate themselves to serve the Lord (vv. 16-19).

This is what happens when God works in a group of people. People stop loving and start hating and repudiating their idols and they start giving faithfully to God’s work. As God’s work is better funded, his servants are able to do more for him and a virtuous cycle begins.

What is the state of your heart before the Lord? Are you praying for God to revive the hearts of people in our church and our community? Are you tithing and giving generously to the Lord’s work through our church?

1 Kings 22, Daniel 4

Read 1 Kings 22 and Daniel 4.

This devotional is about Daniel 4.

People who have been highly successful face the temptation of taking too much credit for their success. The assumption for that person is that people pretty much get what they deserve so, since that person is successful he must deserve it. The opposite is often believed, too; namely, the unsuccessful deserve their failures so the successful and powerful should feel no pity toward the “losers” of life, nor should they feel bad if they oppress them. If they weren’t such losers, they’d figure out how to avoid being oppressed, the successful oppressor thinks.

What does the successful person think he has that gives him such a large advantage over others? Often, he believes in the superiority of his own intellect.

Here in Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar is warned about becoming proud of his success. His warning came at a time when he was “contented and prosperous” (v. 4b). The good feeling he had about his life faded quickly, however, after he had a disturbing dream that he did not understand (vv. 5-7). God gave Daniel the interpretation (vv. 8-26) and Daniel delivered the Lord’s message that the dream was a warning against Nebuchadnezzar’s sins (v. 27).

A full year later, the fulfillment came and Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind and, temporarily, his kingdom (vv. 28-33). This experienced humbled Nebuchadnezzar (vv. 34-35) just as God said (v. 32, 37). The ultimate lesson is that God hates pride and often chooses to humble the proud in order to demonstrate his sovereignty and lordship.

But notice what Daniel advised Nebuchadnezzar to do after he received the vision but before it was fulfilled. In verse 27 Daniel told him, “Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” Did you notice that phrase, “by being kind to the oppressed”? Remember I stated earlier that the successful, the proud, often think they deserve their success because they believe that people get what they.deserve. That feeling of entitlement causes the powerful to oppress the weak. Daniel’s advice, then, was to show true repentance by showing kindness to the oppressed. When one is truly humble, that person treats everyone with dignity. He doesn’t “kiss up and kick down” as the saying goes. Instead, he is kind to everyone, especially those who need kindness the most.

Do you believe that you deserve the life that you have? Is it impossible to believe that you could be homeless, family-less, unloved and living on the streets? I have been told that many people who live that way are mentally ill, just as Nebuchadnezzar was in verse 33. Yet how often do we see people begging and wonder if they really “deserve” our help?

1 Kings 14, Ezekiel 44

Read 1 Kings 14 and Ezekiel 44.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 44.

Despite the fact that Judah’s exile in Babylon had barely just begun, God continued speaking through Ezekiel about what the future temple and worship in Israel should be like. Remember that this exile would last for 70 years so none of the things Ezekiel talked about in this chapter could or would happen for several decades.

With that in mind, it seems a little absurd to be speaking in so much detail about God’s standards for Israel’s future. It would be like going to prison for 30 years for tax fraud and, while you are there, planning to start a new corporation when you’re released and writing the employee personnel manual for that corporation as if you had 100 employees. Who would do that? It seems like a complete waste of time and energy.

So why would God, of all people, do that? Because his plans for Israel were fixed and his word was certain. There should be no doubt in the mind of any Israelite that their society would be restored and that worshiping God would be at the center of it. Rather than wait for things to develop on their own or for people to make up regulations and laws on the fly, God planned it all out in advance and revealed it to Ezekiel long before any of it would happen.

The last 2/3rds of today’s chapter, Ezekiel 44, talks about how the Levites and priests would minister before the Lord. In verse 28 God said, “‘I am to be the only inheritance the priests have. You are to give them no possession in Israel; I will be their possession.” Levi’s tribe was the only one of Israel’s twelve tribes that did not have a geographic place assigned to it. The men of Levi were to fan out to all the tribes of Israel and live among the cities, towns, and villages of all the people. They could buy their own land and even farm it, but they were not given any land to possess as every other tribe and family was. When it was their turn to minister before the Lord in the Temple, they would come to Jerusalem and live in those rooms that were described in chapter 42 of Ezekiel and alluded to here in Ezekiel 44:19. Yes, the temple had something like a hotel in it where their priests would live temporarily during their duties in Jerusalem. But the rest of the year they lived among the rest of God’s people in cities, villages, and countrysides.

What did they do when they were not on temple duty? Well, many of them ran family farms or had other side businesses, but their main task was to serve God’s people in non-temple ways. Those were discussed in this chapter as well:

  • First, they were teachers. Verse 23 says, “They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.”
  • Second, they were judges. Verse 24 says, “In any dispute, the priests are to serve as judges and decide it according to my ordinances.”

These two duties could keep the priests busy throughout the year depending on how many other priests lived near them and what the population density was around them. Any side businesses they had were to take the backseat to God’s original call on their tribe to be priests.

That brings us to the compensation portion of this chapter. After stating that God would be the inheritance of the priests in verse 28, he spelled out specifically how that would work in verses 29-31: the priests would live off of the offerings God’s people made in worship to Him. Verse 29a says they will eat what the people bring that is edible. Verse 29b says that the priests will own anything that has been devoted to the Lord by his people. And verse 30 commanded the people to bring “the best” and “the first portion” of what they produced.

Pastors like me are not priests but we do many of the functions God gave to priests in verses 23-24. Furthermore, the New Testament drew from the principles in this chapter (and many others) and commanded God’s people to support their church leaders financially. We depend on the tithes, offerings, and gifts that you give to the church for our livelihood. If you and others don’t give, or just give the leftovers, not the first portion as commanded in verse 30, we have to figure out how to do without the things we need to live and do ministry. The point of this devotional, then, is to say that all of us should be giving faithfully to God’s work and that our giving should come first, not after we’ve paid the bank for a house or a car or a boat or whatever. If you give what you can after you’ve paid your obligations, God’s work will have very little because most people don’t save anything at all.

Again, verse 28 says, “I am to be the only inheritance the priests have. You are to give them no possession in Israel; I will be their possession.” It is a great privilege to have the Lord as your portion in life. I once heard John MacArthur say that being a pastor is like being paid to give your full attention to growing in Christ and living the Christian life. I fully agree with him and am so grateful for the opportunity I have to do this.

But we pastors are dependent on the financial support of God’s people. Not all churches believe in or practice tithing but all of us depend on the generosity of God’s people. So, I encourage you to make giving to the Lord’s work a priority in your life. God’s work depends on it and this is the way God established to fund his work.

1 Kings 9, Ezekiel 39

Read 1 Kings 9 and Ezekiel 39.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 9.

David and Solomon had a good relationship with the kings of Tyre. They seemed to enjoy knowing each other but they certainly enjoyed the prosperity that their trade relationship brought to each of them. David and Solomon benefited greatly from the natural resources that Tyre sold and shipped to them. Verse 10 referenced the “twenty years” that Solomon spent building the magnificent temple of the Lord and the even more magnificent palace where Solomon lived. Now, in verse 11, we read that Solomon gave 20 towns to Hiram king of Tyre. The text doesn’t say, but it is possible that the 20 towns corresponded to the 20 years Solomon spent building–1 town to represent 1 year.

Hiram was probably delighted to be told that these towns would now be part of his kingdom. Delighted, that is, until he took a tour. Verse 12 told us that after his tour, “he was not pleased with them.” Instead of hiding his displeasure, he asked Solomon what was up: “What kind of towns are these you have given me, my brother?” (v. 13a) is a rhetorical question. Hiram’s answer to that question was not very good. At the end of verse 13 “he called them, the Land of Kabul.” “Kabul” according to the footnote in our NIV text “sounds like the Hebrew for good-for-nothing.”

Does this mean that Hiram was ungrateful for Solomon’s gift? Maybe.

But it probably indicated something of Solomon’s stinginess. These last few chapters in 1 Kings have been describing Solomon’s vast income and wealth in detail. Solomon extracted high prices and high taxes from others and became a wealthy man accordingly. But, if his gift of towns means anything, he was stingy. Solomon received extravagantly but he seems to have given very sparingly.

Solomon probably thought he was a gracious, magnanimous giver when he handed over the keys to these towns. The problem is that the receiver of his gift didn’t think so. If you want to make someone feel loved, appreciated, and that you’re spoiling them, you need to give them something that THEY value, not something that you value. To use the idea of “love languages,” you need to find out what communicates love to the other person and express your love in that language.

How are you doing on that? Are you thoughtful and generous in your giving to others or are you stingy and self-centered? When God gave us a gift of love, he gave us his very best–our Lord Jesus who willingly sacrificed himself for us. We should keep his gift in mind and treat others with that kind of love and care which Jesus showed.

1 Kings 7, Ezekiel 37

Read 1 Kings 7 and Ezekiel 37.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 7:1.

The last verse of 1 Kings 6, which we read yesterday, told us that Solomon spent seven years building the temple of the Lord.” The first verse here in chapter 7 says, “It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace.” The chapter and verse divisions in the Bible are not inspired and were long after both the Old and New Testaments were complete. Someone decided to end chapter 6 with the statement that the temple took seven years. The same person decided to start chapter 7 with the contrasting statement that Solomon’s palace took thirteen years to build. That was an unfortunate decision because the original author meant for these two statements to stand back to back as a contrast. He wanted us to know that Solomon spent much more time on his home than he did on the Lord’s house.

I guess Solomon’s house could have been beset by construction delays but that’s probably not why his house took so much longer to build. If we compare the dimensions that are given in chapters 6 and 7, we will see that Solomon’s house was much larger than the temple. Notice:

  • 1 Kings 6:2 says the temple was 60 cubits by 20 cubits by 30 cubits.
  • 1 Kings 7:2 says the palace was 100 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits.

So the two buildings were the same height but Solomon’s house was much bigger–longer and wider–than the temple he built for worshipping the Lord.

Solomon’s house wasn’t just a residence; it was a government building where he also lived. We can see that in verse 7 where we read about “the throne hall, the Hall of Justice, where he was to judge…” and then verse 8’s statement, “…the palace in which he was to live, set farther back, was similar in design.” But the human author of 1 Kings wanted us to see that Solomon’s palace was much larger and took much longer to build than the temple did. The point is that Solomon did an incredible job building a house for the Lord but he spent even more money building a house for himself. He was self-centered, materialistic, and showed poor priorities in the contrast between these two buildings.

Do our lives reflect the same struggle with priorities or self-centeredness? Do we give our best energy to our career or our hobbies but give leftovers to serving the Lord? Do we spend money lavishly on ourselves while being stingy when it comes to financially supporting the Lord’s work?