2 Samuel 16, Daniel 6, Mark 16

Read 2 Samuel 16, Daniel 6, and Mark 16.

This devotional is about Daniel 6.

The Babylonians who conquered Judah gave way to the Medo-Persian empire, yet Daniel remained influential even in the new administration (vv. 1-2). In fact, Daniel was so good at his job that King Darius intended to elevate him over all everyone but Darius himself (v. 3b).

When the other administrators heard about this, they were jealous of Daniel and sought to catch him in some kind of misconduct (v. 4a). Verse 4b says that “they were unable to do so.” Why? “…because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (v. 4d). Did you catch that? Not only was Daniel not corrupt, he was not “negligent” either. This means they could find no responsibility where he failed or refused to do his job.

That’s quite a statement. We all have responsibilities we like and those we dislike. If you’re like me at all, doing the stuff you like to do is easy but it is also easy to neglect the stuff you dislike doing. A busy man like Daniel would have had an abundance of excuses, too, for why he couldn’t do what he disliked. He could blame his busy schedule, the people under him for being incompetent, or trying to prioritize his work. But the men who wanted Daniel indicted couldn’t find any area to accuse him.

As followers of Jesus, this is something we should aspire to as well. Since we are working as to the Lord and not to men we should, of course, be honest and upstanding but we should also be so conscientious that even the things we dislike doing are done carefully and faithfully.

Not only is it remarkable that these men could not accuse Daniel of corruption or negligent, it is remarkable that they KNEW they could get him if they could make his faith illegal in some way. Daniel was faithful not only in his work but he was faithful in his walk with God. The men who were out to destroy Daniel knew that they could get him in trouble if they could make prayer against the law (vv. 5-13). If someone were looking to accuse us, would they go to our devotional life as the sure-fire way to trip us up?

You know the rest of the story as it is one of the most famous stories in the Bible. Daniel was supernaturally protected from the lions (vv. 14-23) and eventually his accusers were brought to justice (v. 24). The result of all this was a decree from Darius commanding the people to fear Daniel’s God (vv. 25-28). He trusted in the Lord completely, consistently, devotedly and the Lord delivered him even in a hostile culture to his faith.

May God give us the same desire to be faithful and careful in our work and to be devoted to reading his word and praying daily, filling our minds with his truth and living obediently to it.

2 Samuel 1, Ezekiel 41, Proverbs 21:15-31

Read 2 Samuel 1, Ezekiel 41, and Proverbs 21:15-31 today.

This devotional is about Proverbs 21:20.

You’ve heard people say, “We live hand to mouth.” Maybe you’ve even said it. When someone says that, they are telling you that they do not save anything. Whatever they earn in income is immediately consumed. Every penny is spent and, with easy credit these days, many people have already spent more money than they will earn for many paychecks to come.

This is the American way, unfortunately.

But it isn’t the wise way. According to Proverbs 21:20, “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” Remember that wisdom has a moral quality to it in Proverbs. So, the way of the wise isn’t just something that smart people do; it is what godly people do. 

If a person takes God’s word seriously, that person knows that God created people to work and provide for ourselves. Also, God’s word tells us to prepare for difficult days. These revelations from God’s word are what cause a wise man to “store up choice food and olive oil.” A believer in God understands that difficult days will come so he prepares for them by saving.

A fool, by contrast, is a consumer. He or she craves the experience of pleasure, the excitement of new purchases, the status provided by nice things. Instead of saving, then, the foolish consumes everything as soon as it comes in. And so, verse 17 of our passage today prophesies, “Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.”

A person’s savings or lack of savings is not the only indicator of faith and godliness. Every Christian has areas where they are doing well and areas they need to improve. If you’re reading these devotionals every day, you’re taking a positive step toward a holy life. If you’re putting into practice the things that you read, that’s even more important. Maybe today’s proverbs will give you a new area in your life to work on for developing godliness. If you’re not saving anything, understand that is both a financial and spiritual problem, then ask the Lord to help you curb your spending and start saving.

1 Samuel 7-8, Ezekiel 19, Ephesians 6

Read 1 Samuel 7-8, Ezekiel 19, and Ephesians 6.

This devotional is about 1 Samuel 7-8.

I don’t know about you, but I always think of Samuel as a priest. It is true that he served in that role (see 7:10), but the Bible speaks of him more as a judge—think guys like Samson, Gideon, and other characters from the book of Judges—than as a priest (see 7:15 where he is called a “leader”).

Although he attempted to install his sons as as judges (8:1-2), they failed morally (v. 3) and were rightly rejected by the people (vv. 4-5). So Samuel was Israel’s final judge. After him, kings took over.

Samuel was also Israel’s best judge, even though he and Deborah were the only non-military judges. The quality that Samuel and Deborah shared was spiritual: they feared God and judged justly as a result. Yet, godly as he was, Samuel’s own sons used their position as leaders for personal gain rather than to serve God’s people. Instead of becoming a spiritual dynasty, Israel continued the same cycle of deliverance in one generation and disobedience in the next.

One thing we’ve learned in the past three chapters of 1 Samuel is that God did not need a military ruler to defend himself or his people. Although God had decreed that battle would be the usual way that Israel secured and defended the land promised to them, their military successes were secured by God. He kept his promise to fight for them, as we see 7:7-12.

Yet despite God’s supernatural work on their behalf, Israel did not ask him for another godly judge like Samuel. They asked for (and, indeed, insisted on) a king (8:6, 19-20). Note their reason for wanting one: “Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” I have heard people emphasize the first phrase, “Then we will be like all the other nations…” and warn against wanting to be like the world. But I think the key phrase is the next one: “…with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

Remember that God had told Samuel that their desire for a king was a rejection of him as their king (v. 7). God had shown himself more than capable of protecting and providing victory for his people if they followed his word, obeyed his leaders (like Moses, Joshua, Samuel, etc.), and—believing his promise to go before them—fought in faith.

Although Samuel spelled out for Israel the high costs of having a human king (8:10-18), they chose to pay dearly for one to do the dirty work instead of believing God and fighting based on his promises.

We have the same kind of problem, frankly. God has given to each of us, as believers, his word, his Spirit, and his church. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us” (2 Peter 1:3). But how often do we want someone else to fight our spiritual battles for us—our parents, our spouse, our elder, some devotional writer, or someone else. Yes, we need leadership and all the people I mentioned in the previous sentence can and should provide spiritual leadership for us. But that’s all they can do for you.

Consider this: I have always taught that people need to be in God’s word daily. That idea is not remotely unique to me; you knew that already if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time. But it is easy to lose our way, to develop habits that crowd out Bible reading, or just to be overwhelmed with the task of finding a plan. I know how it is, so I created this devotional. Everyday it arrives in your inbox; all you have to do is click on the link and read the passages. If you don’t want to read all the chapters, you can just read the one I’m commenting on. And, I write enough to hopefully get you thinking about what the passage means and how it might apply to your life. I do this because, as your pastor, I want to provide you with some tools to help you grow. That’s my role as a leader.

But I can’t come over to your house and read the passage to you. I can’t make you listen to it, I can’t make you think about it, and I can’t force conviction of sin on you.

I also can’t force you to obey what the Word says. Sometimes, though, people seem to think that I should; they think I have some magic power that can make them live a godly life. They think I should be calling them if they don’t come to church. Or they sometimes seem to think that my words or my presence or my prayers can cause them to do something they don’t want to do.

It doesn’t work like that.

God has given you everything you need to develop into a godly man or woman. He will do some of the work for you—purging and purifying your desires through conviction of sin and causing you to realize areas where you still need to grow through trials and discipline. But he’s promised us that we can overcome sin by the new nature he’s planted in us (see 1 John 2:1-6). It takes faith to believe that promise of God, then obedience to God’s word to make it happen. You can look all you want to someone outside of you, but only you can walk with God.

Ruth 3-4, Ezekiel 13, Ephesians 2

Read Ruth 3-4, Ezekiel 13, and Ephesians 2.

This devotional is about Ruth 3-4.

Once again we see the godly character of Boaz on display in today’s two chapters from Ruth. His actions protecting and providing for Ruth in chapter 2 may indicate his personal attraction to her, but he was aware of the age difference (v. 10) as well as the existence of another man who was a closer relative to Ruth than Boaz. This other relative, then, had the first right to marry her (vv. 12-13).

According to Old Testament law, the other man was supposed to marry Ruth and, with her, produce a son who would be heir to Elimelek’s estate. This nearer relative (plus the age thing) may have been why Boaz did not make a move for Ruth himself. Regardless, Ruth came to him secretly, at night, and requested his protection for her and Naomi through marriage. Although some have suggested that Ruth’s actions of “uncovering Boaz’s feet” was a sexual act, the text indicates the opposite. The wording in the passage was “uncovered his feet and lay down” (3:7) so this would have to be some kind of Hebrew idiom/euphemism for sex, such as when we say two people “slept together” in modern English. But the fact that Boaz slept through Ruth’s actions and, later something “startled him” (v. 8), indicates that the plain reading of the text is the correct one. Ruth pulled the covers off Boaz’s feet, laid down on the ground by his feet and waited for him to wake up. Her reason for doing this was to create an opportunity where she could speak privately to Boaz without anyone else knowing.

Although the passage does not say so, it seems clear that Boaz was an unmarried man. Singleness was highly unusual in Israel, so perhaps Boaz was a widower whose original wife died before giving him any heirs, but we do not know. What we do know is that his blessing on Ruth (3:10) indicated his desire to be married to Ruth. Given that life during the period of the Judges resembled the wild west, Boaz might have been able to get away with undercutting the nearer relative of Ruth by marrying her before the other guy was aware of her existence. However, Boaz wanted to do the right thing. And, in chapter 4, he did. He gave the closer relative the opportunity to do right, then got what he wanted when the other man refused to do his duty. 

You have to admire Boaz and give him some style points for how he approached Ruth’s nearer relative. Boaz mentioned the benefit of doing the right thing first when he asked the man if he would redeem the land that Elimelek owned (4:3). Only after the man stated his intention to buy the land from Naomi did Boaz mention the string that was attached, namely the responsibility to marry Ruth, too (4:5). Notice how, at the end of Ruth 4, when Obed was born, the women said, “Naomi has a son!” (v. 17). The reason they said this is that Obed was the legal heir to Elimelek’s land. That legal entanglement was the reason the closer relative to Ruth did not want to buy the land if it required marrying Ruth, too. If Ruth were to have a son before the other man’s original wife had a son, there would be “firstborn issues” and Obed might get everything. That is what the other man meant in verse 6 when he said, “…I might endanger my own estate.”

Boaz had thought about this before he invited the man to buy Naomi’s property. In other words, although Boaz was determined to do the right thing, even if that meant losing Ruth, he still presented the situation in the best possible way to get what he wanted, namely the legal right to marry Ruth.

The lesson from this, for us, is this: As you pursue what you want in life, will you do that within obedience to the moral will of God?

It is so easy for us to see situations like this in clear black and white terms when we are looking at the responsibilities and actions of others. But, when we ourselves want something that maybe outside of God’s will for us, we can easily make excuses that justify doing what we want to do. Couples who are considering marriage can do this kind of justifying when it comes to crossing lines of sexual activity. “We’re planning on getting married,” they might reason, “so it’s not wrong for us as long as we do get married anyway.” It is so easy to justify what we want to do and so hard, when our desires are engaged, to do what God commands us to do. But a man of moral character like Boaz and a woman of godly character like Ruth will seek to do right, then wait to see what God has decided to do.

Ruth 2, Ezekiel 12, Ephesians 1

Read Ruth 2, Ezekiel 12, and Ephesians 1.

This devotional is about Ruth 2.

As we read through the book of Ruth together, it is helpful to remember that this story took place during the period of the Judges (1:1). Because we’ve just completed reading through Judges, you are aware that not much was happening spiritually in Israel at the time. The nation of Israel worshipped idols, so God allowed their neighbors to oppress them. Then Israel would repent and God would send a deliverer to defeat their attacking neighbors. That became a cycle that happened repeatedly throughout the book of Judges.

But even the judges God sent were poor spiritual leaders, often living in disobedience to the Lord themselves. The impression one gets from reading Judges is that nobody in Israel was really following and serving the Lord from the heart.

The book of Ruth, however, indicates that more was going on spiritually than Judges suggests. Although it is true that there was a lot of disobedience, there were also men like Boaz, whom we met here in Ruth 2. Everything about Boaz exudes a strong faith in the Lord and desire to please him:

  • When he greeted his workers, he pronounced a blessing on them in the Lord’s name (v. 4).
  • When he saw Ruth gleaning in the field, he did not throw her out; he followed God’s law and let her glean.
  • Even more than that, he invited her back (v. 8), protected her safety (v. 9a), and even encouraged her to use the water provided for his worker (v. 9b).
  • When asked why he would do this in verse 10, he acknowledged Ruth’s sacrifice for Naomi (v. 11) and asked for God to reward her for it (v. 12).

One thing to take away from this story is how God provided for Ruth based on her faith. The language in verse 3 could lead one to think that her choice of Boaz’s field was random (“as it turned out”). But this was God’s providence working in her life.

It is important to remember that the events our lives that seem like chance have been ordered by God who is working for his glory and our good.

This passage also calls us not to despair when the people surrounding us are insensitive to God’s word and ungodly in their lives. Boaz stood out because of his faith. He not only spoke faithful words that glorified God, he lived a life that was obedient to God’s word because he trusted in the Lord.

Although we live in a culture that is darkening morally and we may feel at times like we are the only ones trying to serve the Lord, we should not be fearful or tone down our faith. Instead, like Boaz, we should live what we believe no matter what and trust God for his provision and work in our lives.

Joshua 16-17, Jeremiah 40, Romans 5

Read Joshua 16-17, Jeremiah 40, and Romans 5.

This devotional is about Joshua 16-17.

These can be tough chapters to read, with names like “Ataroth” (16:2), “Mikmethath” (16:6), and others. So, the strange sounding names make the passage hard to read. Furthermore, these chapters describe places that are unfamiliar and hard to visualize unless you have an old map of Israel handy. The point of the passage is to make a permanent record of what area of the promised land was assigned to each tribe of Israel.

So, don’t worry about all that stuff and, instead, notice this:

“They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.”

Joshua 16:10

…and…

“Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.”

Joshua 17:12-13

At the end of chapter 17, the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (Joseph’s sons) began complaining to Joshua. “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly” (v. 14). They wanted to reapportion the land of Israel within the existing borders. In other words, they wanted to take land away from neighboring tribes.

Joshua was all for them having more land, but not at the expense of other Israelites. Instead, in verse 15, Joshua told them to enter the forests of the Perizzites and Rephaites, start clear-cutting, and defeat these people when they came out to defend their land. When I read the response of Joseph’s descendants in verse 16, it is difficult for me to hear anything but a whiny tone of voice: “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron….” But Joshua stood firm; there would be no changes to each tribe’s original allotment. If they wanted more land, they were to go and take it from these other Canaanites. Although Joshua conceded in verse 18 that “they have chariots fitted with iron” and “they are strong” he maintained that “you can drive them out.”

History repeated itself.

Their fathers–who died in the desert of Sinai–failed to take the promised land because they thought the Canaanites were too big, too strong, too entrenched to defeat. In other words, the people of Israel were cowed by what they saw instead of trusting in the faithfulness of God’s promises. Now, the next generation received the land but they, too, were intimidated by those around them. They got their land but not nearly as much as God wanted them to have.

Why?

Because they did not act as if they believed God’s promises. If they had trusted God, they could have had more land and could have utterly defeated the Canaanites. Instead, they chose through cowardice and unbelief to settle for less than what God wanted to give them.

How often do we settle for low-level living? Do we believe that Jesus has all authority as he claimed in Matthew 28:19? If so, why don’t we go make disciples of all the nations as he commanded us to do?

Do we believe that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us (2 Pet 1:3)? Then why do we let sinful habits remain in us instead of driving them out?

The answer is that these things are not automatic. God’s promises are true but they are only activated by faith. And faith is not just an inner belief; it is an inner conviction that produces outward actions that demonstrate true trust in God.

Where in your life are you refusing to go for all that God has promised to us in Christ? Let’s take encouragement from Joshua’s confidence in these chapters and live by faith in that area today.

Numbers 23, Isaiah 46, 1 Thessalonians 1

Read Numbers 23, Isaiah 46, and 1 Thessalonians 1.

This devotional is about 1 Thessalonians 1.

Yesterday we read Acts 18 but, instead of going on to Acts 19, we’re reading 1 Thessalonians today. Why? Because scholars believe that Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians while Paul was in Corinth as described inn Acts 18. So, that’s why we’ll divert our attention from Acts to read 1 Thessalonians over the next few days. Then we’ll get back to Acts.

Paul had concerns about the church in Thessalonica, but he had no direct rebuke for them in this book we call 1 Thessalonians. That’s one thing that sets this book of the Bible apart from Paul’s other letters. Here in chapter 1, Paul expresses great confidence in the salvation of the Thessalonian believers. He said, “we know… that he [God] has chosen you” (v. 4). The reason he was so confident is “because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction” (v. 5). and because “…you became imitators of us and of the Lord…” (v. 6). All the signs of new spiritual life obvious–abundant, even–in the lives of these believers. This spiritual work of God happened despite “severe suffering” (v. 6b) which Luke wrote about in Acts 17.

All of that gave Paul great joy and made him very thankful (v. 2) for God’s work in their lives. But, after Paul left Thessalonica, the situation only got better. They were such godly “imitators of us and of the Lord” (v. 6a) that they “…became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (v. 7). Macedonia and Achaia are regions of Greece and the city of Thessalonica is located in Macedonia. It would be similar to Paul saying to our church, “You have become a model to all believers in Washtenaw and Monroe counties, and even throughout all of Michigan and Ohio.”

In a pre-Internet, pre-broadcast age, how was the faith of these believers spreading so quickly and so widely? The answer is that they were vocal about it. Verse 8 says, “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.” The key phrase there is “The Lord’s message rang out from you” (v. 8a). In other words, they were talking about Christ and how they had come to know him in salvation. That’s what made them a model church. They not only received the gospel, they talked about the gospel and lived it out in obedience.

Is that true of us? Do people know that we’re Christians–not just because we go to church and don’t do some of the sinful things they do–but because we talk about the life-changing grace of God in salvation and how it has saved us and changed our lives?

The Thessalonians’ lives were changed. They turned away from idols to serve God (v. 9) and they were waiting for Christ’s return (v. 10). But they talked about Jesus with others in addition to living godly lives. God saved us not only so that we would worship him but so that we would spread the good news about him so that others will come to worship him as well.

Do you talk about Christ and offer the gospel to the non-Christians in your life? This is God’s will for us. Let’s look for ways to share his saving word with others.

Leviticus 1, Song of Songs 5, Proverbs 9

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

This devotional is about Proverbs 9.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 4, Job 21, Hebrews 10

Read Exodus 4, Job 21, and Hebrews 10. This devotional is about Job 21.

Job’s complaint here in chapter 21 is a familiar one. It is something many believers in God throughout the ages have felt and said, namely that the wicked seem to live pretty great lives. According to Job, wicked people:

  • Live to a ripe old age (v. 7)
  • Get more powerful and wealthy with each passing year (v 7).
  • Watch their kids grow up and do well in life, too (v. 8).
  • Live in safety under no condemnation from God (v. 9).
  • Have business success year after year (v. 10).
  • Enjoy happy times with their families when they are not working (vv. 11-12).
  • Retire inspired and die happy (v. 13).

Despite all these blessings, they resist God their whole lives and want nothing to do with him (vv. 14-15).

In verse 16a Job recognized that God was the source of their prosperity: “their prosperity is not in their own hands.” Job’s reason for saying all this, then, was not, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” He was not about to ditch his faith in God and join the ways of wickedness because the wicked had better lives. He knew that God existed and that anything unbelievers enjoy in this life is by the [common] grace of God. For these reasons Job said, “so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked.”

Rather, Job brought up the topic of the prosperity of the wicked because he wanted to point out how unjust it all seems. In verses 17-18 Job complained that the wicked never seem to get what they deserve in this life.

In verse 19 Job quoted a common saying, “God stores up the punishment of the wicked for their children.” People who said this were comforting themselves that the children of the wicked would suffer for their parents’ sins. Job wanted none of that. He said, “Let their own eyes see their destruction; let them drink the cup of the wrath of the Almighty” (v. 20). In other words, God should punish the wicked now because when they are dead, they won’t care if their kids have to pay the pricetag for their parents’ sins (v. 21).

In fact, Job thought, everyone dies no matter what. The wicked and the righteous, those who suffer and those who enjoy a great life lie side by side in the cemetery (vv. 23-33). So what difference does it make if people live a godly or a wicked life?

The answer is not stated in this chapter but it is important to understand. The logic of Job in this chapter is hard to argue with. Lots of unbelievers live long, prosperous, and seemingly happy lives. Lots of believers suffer sorrow and even persecution. Both unbelievers and believers die. We all meet the same fate, so why should anyone do anything except for what they want to do?

Again, the logic of Job’s position in this chapter is hard to argue with if this life is all there is. Job had, in previous chapters, affirmed his belief in the resurrection but now here in chapter 21, he’s wavering a bit. “What if God exists but there is no afterlife? he thinks. Then it makes no sense to be godly because plenty  of ungodly people seem to sin and get away with it.

Well…, things probably aren’t as rosy for the unbeliever in this life as Job thinks. But, even if he’s right, there is more to life than this life. God does allow many unbelievers to skate through life without getting what they deserve for their sins. If this life is all that exists, then God would be unjust to let unbelievers get away with their sin.

But God is just; therefore, we know that justice will be done in eternity even if it doesn’t happen in this life.

So let’s be faithful to our just God even when life seems unfair and ungodliness seems like a better, happier path. As the author of Hebrews put it in Hebrews 6:10: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him….”

Trust in that truth even when life seems unfair. God will do what is right when this life is over.

Genesis 32, Esther 8, Matthew 23

Read Genesis 32, Esther 8, and Matthew 23.

This devotional is about Matthew 23.

This chapter continues the teachings of Jesus during the Passion Week–the last week of his life before the crucifixion. The vast majority of this chapter prophesies against the Pharisees for the many sins Jesus saw in them.

The chapter opened with Jesus acknowledging that the Pharisees had some legitimate authority over the disciples (vv. 2-3a). But Jesus immediately warned his disciples not to follow their hypocritical example. Verses 3b-4 say, “But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

Christ’s condemnation, “they do not practice what they preach”, is a warning to every disciple, especially those of us who serve in teaching roles in the church.

Every Christian, including every elder and teacher, remains a sinner who struggles daily with the desires and habits of our sinful nature within us as well as the weakness of being human in a fallen world. That means that all of us will preach better than we practice most of the time.

Jesus’s instructions in this passage are not a requirement to be perfect before we teach and lead others spiritually. Instead, they are a warning not to exempt yourself from what you command others to do.

When I was a kid, the pastor of our church was fired for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was that he did not tithe, even though tithing was required of all members and was something he taught. When confronted about this he said, “We tithe our time.” In other words, he felt that since he worked more than 40 hours a week in the church’s ministry and his wife volunteered to serve a lot in the church, then he was not required to tithe. The time they spent serving, in his mind, offset the lack of financial giving from himself and his wife.

That’s hypocrisy.

That is what Jesus condemned in this passage–an intentional exemption of the preacher from the things he commanded and demanded of others.

If a man preaches that the fruit of the Spirit is self-control but then loses his temper, he is not automatically a hypocrite. He is a man who continues to struggle with his sinfulness.

But if he preaches self-control, yet frequently loses his temper and sins with his tongue but never expresses repentance or changes his ways, then he is acting in the kind of Pharisaical way Jesus condemned in this passage.

Do you require your children to be better Christians than you are? Do you allow yourself to do things that you’d never allow them to do? Do you condemn your children when you catch them sinning even though you do the same sin(s) in private?

Then repent of your hypocrisy and ask God to develop in you personal integrity. Learn to practice godliness in your life then learn to preach what you practice.

2 Chronicles 35, Malachi 3

Read 2 Chronicles 35 and Malachi 3.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 35.

Josiah was the last great king of Judah and he ruled for a long time–over 30 years. During his reign the idolatry that plagued both Israel and Judah for generations gave way, officially at least, to the true worship of the true God. Even the Passover feast was celebrated regularly, which “had not been observed like this in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel” (v. 18).

So Josiah was a godly man, a good king, and someone the people in his kingdom actually loved–a rare thing, indeed. Verse 24 says that after he died, “all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him.” In every measurable way, Josiah lived a successful life.

But his life ended much sooner than it should have. Yes, he reigned for 31 years (34:1) but he started his reign at age 8 so he died when he was 39 years old. His life could have been much longer and so could the kingdom and spiritual renewal he led.

What ended things so prematurely? An unwise battle against Egypt (v. 20), that’s what. Egypt was not coming to attack Judah and Pharaoh Necho warned Josiah not to attack (v. 21), even stating that God himself was sending the message of non-aggression. The writer of 2 Chronicles agreed that Necho’s message was from God; verse 22b says, “He would not listen to what Necho had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.”

Josah’a attack was unwise and unnecessary because the Egyptians were not after him or his people. He died prematurely, then, because of his own foolishness. Though he was a godly man, he was still a man and hu-man and humans make bad decisions. Josiah’s bad decision was personally and nationally costly. God did not stop him from making it even though Josiah was a godly man.

Christians assume sometimes that being in Christ protects us from foolish decisions. I had a man tell me once, “When you’re a Christians, things just go better.” That’s a nice statement but not always or necessarily true. The Bible does promise benefits for meditating on (Psalm 1:3, Joshua 1:8) and obeying (James 1:25) God’s word but loving and serving God does not give you full immunity from making bad decisions or feeling the consequences of those decisions (vv. 20-24). Foolish is the person who assumes he has immunity or (worse) blames God when foolish decisions turn our poorly.

Are you making any decisions in your life where you are acting unwisely, even against good advice because you expect God to insure you from bad decisions? Change your mind and learn from Josiah’s tragic example to become godly and wise in how your live your life.