2 Kings 10, Micah 4, John 5

Read 2 Kings 10, Micah 4, and John 5.

This devotional is about Micah 4.

Christians sometimes wonder what heaven will be like. It is not a great question, really, because heaven is not the final destination for believers in God–the New Earth is. Before the New Earth arrives, however, Jesus will establish his kingdom on this earth during the time period we call “The Millennium” (Rev 20). 

Micah 4 describes what that will be like. Verse 1 told us this will happen “in the last days.” And what will those days be about? Worship. Instead of flocking to Walt Disney World, “the mountain of the Lord’s temple” will be the greatest place on earth—“the highest of the mountains… exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.”

The attraction to the Lord’s temple will not be for Jewish people alone. Verse 2 said, “Many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.’” These nations are those who survived the Great Tribulation. Some from them will believe in the Lord and will come to the temple to learn his word (v. 2). Others will be ruled by him (v. 3a) but in unbelief (verse 5a, Rev 20:7-9).

Because the world will finally be ruled by it’s rightful Lord, there will be justice (v. 3a), peace (v. 3b-c), prosperity (v. 4a) and security (v. 4b). This will be the greatest thousand years the world has ever known but (after some final judgments of Satan and the dead, 20:7-15), this golden era will be replaced by an eternal kingdom where we will reign with Christ forever.

That is what we are calling people to when we give them the gospel–to become followers of Jesus now and follow him right into his kingdom. This is what we are living for when we choose to invest our time and money in his work. This is what we long for whenever someone we love dies or when we experience suffering and pain in this life. Let this vision of a perfect life under the reign of king Jesus comfort you today; let it guide you in the decisions you make today and in days to come.

1 Samuel 27, Ezekiel 37, Mark 3

Read 1 Samuel 27, Ezekiel 37, and Mark 3.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 37.

Here we have, perhaps, the most famous vision of Ezekiel—the valley of dry bones. Remember that Ezekiel was a very visual guy so many of God’s messages to him were in the form of stunning, even strange, visions that were highly visual metaphors for spiritual truth. Today’s passage is an excellent example. The Lord took Ezekiel to a valley and put him on the floor of that valley. As he looked in all directions, he saw human bones strewn across the valley (vv. 1-2). Then God asked him a very loaded question: “…can these bones live” (v. 3a)? Wisely, Ezekiel punted on the question; instead of giving a direct answer, Ezekiel deflected the question back to the Lord with the response, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know” (v. 3b). God then commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones that the Lord would bring them to life (vv. 4-6). When Ezekiel obeyed, the bones flew together and assembled full skeletons (v. 7). Then, out of nowhere, they were covered with tendons and muscles and skin so that they looked like people, “but there was no breath in them” (v. 8). 

Ezekiel then spoke again, calling in the name of the Lord for breath to enter these dead bodies (vv. 9-10). All of this would have terrified me, but for Ezekiel it was just another strange vision. At least, that’s how it seems. With this living army of soldiers standing all around Ezekiel, God gave him the interpretation of this vision. It was a vivid picture of how God was going to bring the dead nation of Israel back to life again (vv. 11-13). A change in metaphor (but not in meaning) happened in verse 15. There Ezekiel was commanded to write on two sticks—one to signify Israel and the other to stand for Judah (vv. 15-16). He was then to hold them in his hand so that they appeared to be one stick (v. 17). This indicated that God would not only resurrect Israel, he would reunite it (vv. 18-22). 

Finally, God told Ezekiel some more detail about this incredible prophecy. This people, Israel, who had struggled with idolatry for hundreds of years would finally be devoted to God (v. 23). Furthermore, God promised, “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd.” This is a reference, of course, to David’s greater descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. God promised that, when he came and took the earthly throne of David everything would be different. God’s people would be obedient to him (finally!—v. 24), would live in the promised land forever (v. 25) and would enjoy a thriving existence under God’s eternal covenant (vv. 26-28). This is all a reference to the coming Millennial kingdom of Christ. Despite all Israel’s sins, God has not abandoned his promises to them. Some day, Christ will rule over all. 

It is amazing that Israel still exists today as a people. The Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Philistines, the Hittites have all be assimilated into other cultures and ethnicities. But God’s chosen people still exist; you’ve never met a Midianite but you’ve met more than one Jewish person in your life. All of this is evidence that God is keeping his promise to Abraham; when Christ returns, that promise will be completed. And, by the grace of God, we Gentiles will be included by faith when this happens! 

Judges 5, Jeremiah 51, Romans 11

Read Judges 5, Jeremiah 51, and Romans 11.

This devotional is about Romans 11.

Romans 10 discussed the fact that many Israelites rejected the good news about Christ but, today in chapter 11, Paul was quick to address the fact that not all Jews were in unbelief (v. 1). In verses 2-10, he reminded us that the Jewish people lived in unbelief and rebellion against God for most of their history. So the idea that only some of God’s chosen people were actually chosen to have faith in him is not something new. It is how God has always worked, saving a “remnant” who trusted him from the heart (vv. 5-6).

But why did Israel reject Jesus when he came in human flesh? Wasn’t God’s promise that Messiah would rule over all Israel? Yes, that was the promise and it will still happen (v.26). The reason it didn’t happen with Jesus’ first coming, however, was God’s desire to save us Gentiles (vv. 11-25). God will still redeem Israel, just as he promised, but not “until the full number of Gentiles has come in” (v. 25b).

This is all an expression of God’s mercy (v. 32). He hardened Israel, for a time, so that he would save us. The power of this grace overwhelmed Paul in verses 33-36. It caused him to remark on the greatness of God’s wisdom (v. 33a) and how his wisdom is beyond human comprehension (vv. 34-36).

Is this how you respond to doctrines that are hard to understand? Does the doctrine of election or of the Trinity lift your spirit to worship the immense wisdom of God? Or, does it cause you to question and even deny those doctrines because they are hard for us to understand?

God is all-wise and all-knowing so are we really surprised that he does things we find hard to understand? If everything about God were simple and made perfect sense to limited, fallible people like us, then we should be concerned. So let the difficult doctrines of scripture, the ones you find hard to understand or to accept as true, cause you to look to God in awe. His judgments are “unsearchable… and his paths beyond tracing out!”

Deuteronomy 24, Jeremiah 16, 2 Corinthians 2

Read Deuteronomy 24, Jeremiah 16, and 2 Corinthians 2.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 16:19-21.

The forecast for Judah, according to Jeremiah, continued to be bleak. There was going to be so many deaths from disease, famine, and sword that God told Jeremiah not to get married or have any children (vv. 1-4). Don’t start a family, Jeremiah, because you will lose some or all of them in death. That was God’s word to Jeremiah. Bleak.

Furthermore Jeremiah was prohibited from paying his respects at anyone’s funeral (vv. 5-7) or enjoying a feast at someone’s home (vv. 6-13). When the Lord’s punishment for Judah came, people would be terrified and then many of them would die.

As usual, the Lord made no apology for bringing this punishment. God’s people had forsaken him and done much evil in his sight (vv. 11-12, 17-18). As hard as it is for us to accept, they deserved to be punished by a just and holy God, just as all of us do.

Compounding their sin was the fact that they had the truth. The true Lord, the one real God, had revealed himself to them but they exchanged that for false gods (v. 18).

As bleak as all of this was, Jeremiah held out hope in the Lord and his promises. Someday, he knew, God would restore his people (vv. 14-15) and the knowledge of God would spread throughout the world (v. 19). Those who worship false gods would realize that their gods were false and would come “from the ends of the earth” to know the true God. This is a prophecy of us Gentiles coming to know God through Christ and, when they come, they will not find an angry God who is looking for people to kill. Instead they will find a willing instructor: “I will teach them—this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the LORD” (v. 21).

This is what we’re doing in evangelism. We are exposing the false gods that people worship (v. 20) and calling them to find truth in the LORD. This is the only hope that anyone has for avoiding the justice of our holy God. Better than that, when God has gathered in everyone he will save, we will enter his kingdom together and spend eternity at the feet of a God who said, “I will teach them” (v. 21). Instead of looking at his word as a burden to bear, something to choke down like a vegetable because it is good for us, we will eagerly feed ourselves with God’s nourishing truth and rejoice and be satisfied in his presence as he teaches us.

Who can you share this saving message with in the coming week?

Numbers 3, Isaiah 28, Acts 13

Read Numbers 3, Isaiah 28, Acts 13.

This devotional is about Acts 13.

Being part of the first church in Jerusalem must have been an amazing experience. People were being saved nearly every day and those who believed started meeting in one another’s homes for prayer, instruction, and fellowship. Here in Acts 13, the first Gentile church at Antioch, seems to have had a similar experience. Verse 1a told us that there were “prophets and teachers” there and they are named in the latter half of that verse. Although they enjoyed great worship and fellowship, God’s work needed to go forward so that more and more people would become part of the church and, when Jesus returns, experience eternity in the kingdom of God. So God spoke in the person of the Holy Spirit and called on the church to send Barnabas and Saul out to evangelize people and form new churches.

Thus began both the “first missionary journey” of Paul and Barnabas and the final stage of the Great Commission as described in Acts 1:8: “…to the ends of the earth.”

God worked through Barnabas and Saul (and, for some reason, Luke the author of Acts, switched to calling him “Paul” in verse 9). People came to believe in Jesus and they were organized into local churches. But I want to focus for this devotional on the importance God’s mission over our comfort. The church at Antioch sounds like an amazing experience and, human nature being what it is, Paul and Barnabas may have desired to stay there for many years doing the Lord’s work. It took the direct voice of the Holy Spirit to compel the church to send Barnabas and Paul out on their first missionary journey. They needed God’s prompting to do what Jesus had commanded us to do in Acts 1:8–just as the Jerusalem church needed the prompting of persecution to move to “Judea and Samaria” (Acts 1:8).

God acts sovereignly to make sure that his will is done so we never have to worry about the mission failing.

What we should remember, however, is that until Jesus returns, we have work to do. It is easy to get very comfortable with the familiar–even (especially?) when God is using us and ministry is going well. But God did not call us to be comfortable, he commissioned us to spread the gospel and start churches.

This means that our church will sometimes have to part with people we love who are obedient to the mission. It has already happened to us in recent years and it will happen again.

This is also why we send 10% of our giving as a church away into missions and church planting. If we spent 100% of what God provided to us on our own work–even good, spiritual work–we would be disobedient to what God commanded us to do.

Maybe you’ve been considering some kind of change–giving more to the church or to missions, starting a new ministry here at Calvary, or going into church planting yourself. If comfort with the present situation is stopping you from taking on a new challenge for God’s glory, will you reconsider that in light of this passage?

Genesis 22, Nehemiah 11, Matthew 15

Read Genesis 22, Nehemiah 11, Matthew 15.

This devotional is about Matthew 15.

Not too many people have the guts to correct Jesus.

And, for good reasons! Being the God-man, he never makes mistakes and, therefore, never needs correcting.

But here in Matthew 15 Jesus was corrected by a very unlikely person in verses 21-28.

First of all, she was a woman (v. 22). Although Christ himself talked directly to women and treated them with the same dignity he gave to men, that was not customary in his society. Many in Jesus’ world would have ignored or even rebuked her for what she said.

Second, she was “a Canaanite” (v. 22). Since Jesus was in the Gentile land, “the region of Tyre and Sidon” (v. 21) it is not surprising that there were Gentiles around. But Jewish people did not ordinarily mix with Gentiles and they certainly didn’t have religious dialogue with them.

But the woman in this passage was on a mission! Despite her background, she came knowledgeably to Jesus calling him, “Lord, Son of David” (v. 22c). Clearly she had not only heard about Jesus, she had some insight into who he was.

I wrote earlier that she “corrected” Jesus and we’ll get to that in a minute. As you know, many times correction comes with a side order of superiority. People correct others often because they think they’re better informed or smarter or just better in some way than the one they are correcting.

This woman did not have that spirit at all when she corrected Jesus. Instead she came pleading, “have mercy on me!” (v. 22). She later kneeled before Jesus before correcting him (v. 25). As we’ll see, she had a deep, appropriate sense of humility in her approach to Jesus.

But she did correct him. Jesus did not respond to her request to deliver her daughter from demon possession (v. 23a). So, the disciples were quite annoyed with her (v. 23b) and wanted Jesus to get rid of her. Instead of rebuking her or continuing to ignore her or send her away, Jesus tenderly told her that his mission prevented him from helping her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (v. 24). 

His response did not dissuade her one bit. Instead, she kneeled and asked for his help (v. 25). Jesus responded with a proverb, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (v. 26). This is where she corrected him: “‘Yes it is, Lord,’ she said. ‘Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’” (v. 27). What a quick, agile mind she had! In an instant, she grasped the significance of Jesus’ enigmatic proverb, embraced the implications of it, and responded in kind. Let me break that down for you:

  • She grasped the significance of his proverb. Jesus used an analogy that elevated Jewish people and denigrated Gentiles. The “children” in this analogy are the children of Israel. So Jesus’ proverb was an indirect way of saying that she had no right to ask for his help since he was sent to Jews not Gentiles. Her response in verse 27 showed that she understood his meaning.
  • She embraced the implications of his proverb. Dogs were not thought of a great pets in Jesus’ day; instead, they were considered vile, scavenging creatures. That’s who Jesus compared her to–filthy, disgusting (from their perspective) dogs. She understood that this was a put-down.
  • She responded in kind. What I mean is that she entered into the proverb and, in her response, she showed Jesus how his own analogy proved that he could help her if he wanted to help her. Sure, the dogs don’t sit at the table and eat off the good plates like the king’s kids do. But the kids are sloppy and drop stuff on the floor and dogs are quick to scarf up whatever they drop. So despite what Jesus said, the dogs do get to eat. They don’t eat in the same way that the king’s kids do, but those who are quick and crafty can benefit from the excess that the kids don’t eat.

When she “corrected” Jesus, she was not rebuking him or pointing out that Jesus had made some kind of error. Instead, she was showing her faith in the deep mercy of God. Throughout the Old Testament, some Gentiles experienced the overflow of God’s grace:

  • Naaman did when Elisha healed him of leprosy.
  • Nebuchadnezzar did when God restored his sanity.
  • The people of Nineveh did when they repented at the preaching of Jonah.

Whether she knew any of these examples or not, she had deep faith in Christ and it showed in every bit of her response to Jesus. Jesus acted the way that he did toward her so that her faith would be seen by all. Her example was a preview, a foretaste, of God’s saving grace to us Gentiles.

This passage, then, should lift our hearts to worship God for his amazing grace and mercy. Although there was no covenant reason (like the Jews had) for Christ to offer us salvation, he intended for you and me to sit at the table with Abraham and his descendants and receive God’s kindness in salvation. This passage should also remind us that there is nobody on earth who deserves salvation less than you do. None of us deserves salvation; since we have received it by God’s grace, we should eagerly offer it to everyone, whether we think of them as dogs or as children.