2 Kings 5, Jonah 3, John 2

Read 2 Kings 5, Jonah 3, and John 2.

This devotional is about Jonah 3.

Jonah’s message to Ninevah was simple: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” There is no call to repentance and no offer of grace to the repentant, for reasons we’ll see tomorrow.

Yet the people did repent, including the king of Ninevah (vv. 5-6). The king even issued a decree and explained why he called for repentance: “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (v. 9). And that’s exactly what happened: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” 

I have a couple of thoughts about all of this. First, don’t worry so much about having the perfect presentation when you give the gospel message or explain God’s truth to someone else. By all means do the best that you can, but understand that it is not your perfect presentation or your persuasive ability that will matter. If it is God’s message, God will use it to do his work. Just be faithful to what God has told us to say.

Second, repentance is always implied in any message of judgment God gives. The major and minor prophets (Isaiah-Malachi) exist is because God wanted to call his people to repentance. Though his words to them were direct, even harsh at times, they were designed to redeem people, not injure them emotionally.

Keep this in mind when the Holy Spirit brings painful conviction into your life or a friend (or even an enemy) brings an ugly confrontation to your door. If you receive truth and repent at the message, God’s forgiving and restoring grace is right there to meet you. 

2 Kings 2, Obadiah, 2 Peter 3

Read 2 Kings 2, Obadiah, and 2 Peter 3.

This devotional is about 2 Peter 3.

In addition to the threat of false teaching, which we read about yesterday, the church must guard against the ridicule of scoffers which we read about today here in 2 Peter 3. These “scoffers will come scoffing” (v. 3b) and questioning us as to why Christ’s promised return has not yet happened (v. 4).

Peter prepared us for the long time that has elapsed since Christ promised his return and today. He reminded us that God is not bound by time as we are (v. 8) and that he is “patient” allowing many people to be saved (v. 9).

Still, when Jesus does return, it will happen suddenly “like a thief” (v. 10a). Burglars do not call ahead or ring the doorbell, so they catch people who are sleeping unprepared. Similarly, Christ will keep his promise and return when the world is blissfully going about its own ways. The end result will be judgment with everything that exists now destroyed (v. 10b).

For those of who believe in Christ’s promised return, how should we prepare? The answer is not to try to figure out the date of his return or to live a spartan lifestyle. The answer is to focus on our faith and discipleship: “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (v. 14b). Do this by learning to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And, as you grow in Christ, put your hope in eternity and set your heart on his coming kingdom. As verse 13 put it, “…in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

This has gotten easier for me as I have gotten older. Part of that is, I think, my own spiritual growth. Part of it, though, is learning how empty the promises of this world are. God has blessed my life in many ways, but as content and thankful as I feel with what God has given to me, I find myself more and more longing to be with Christ and to live in a kingdom where he rules. To be finally redeemed from my own sinful desires and able to know God purely, experience him fully, and be free of the pain, fear, sorrow, and so on that all of us–even the most blessed–experience in this life.

I hope you are content with what God has given you and that, as you grow in Christ, you find greater joy in your life. But don’t let contentment turn into love for this present world or cause you to crave more material things. All of this stuff is going to burn up; it isn’t worth living for because it can’t satisfy us for long and isn’t an eternal store of value. Look to eternity; invest in that and pray for Christ’s kingdom to come, just as he taught us to do.

1 Samuel 29-30, Ezekiel 39, Mark 5

Read 1 Samuel 29-30, Ezekiel 39, and Mark 5.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 39.

This chapter prophesies military disaster for Gog (a man described as “chief prince of Meshek and Tubal” (v. 1b) and Magog (a place—v. 6). Identifying this person and place is a subject too complex for a simple devotional like this one. The chapters surrounding this one in Ezekiel as well as the use of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:8 locates these events in the end times after the Millennium. So, what is described here in Ezekiel 39 is still future to Israel and to us. 

But two items in this prophecy are helpful for us today in our walk with God. First, in verses 7-8 God explained why his judgment will fall on Magog so severely. Verse 7 says, “I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel.”

It is God’s holiness that causes him to judge humanity and bring punishment on people. God is not angry with humanity for no reason and he is not unreasonably brutal toward people. People deserve God’s wrath because we profane his holy name. People do this when they use his name in vain, when they use it to curse others, when they mock biblical standards of righteousness, when they try to deny God’s existence or explain away his word. Our biggest problem spiritually is that, apart from Christ, we hate God. That’s why we disobey his word and try to live life on our own terms. Humanity’s antipathy toward God causes people to speak against him and live in violation of his word. God has been very merciful and patient; allowing humanity thousands of years to enjoy life on earth and the gifts of creation God gave to us. Despite his mercy and patience, humanity has become more evil, more depraved over time. God’s patience will run out and, as he promised, his wrath will fall, and everyone who experiences his wrath more than deserves it. 

We recoil from passages that describe God’s wrath because we are human. We can identify with the pain and horror of human beings suffering the wrath of God. But, in addition to being human, we are also sinners, so most sins are not nearly as evil or offensive to us as they are to a holy God. 

A second item in this prophecy that is helpful to us is the reassurance in verses 25-29 that God is compassionate. This is specifically applied to Israel, but we know that Christ came and died not only to redeem Israel but also people all over the world. So although it is true that God will punish his enemies, his punishment is not unjust nor is it applied without mercy. God is merciful to those who look to him in faith; indeed, Christ himself came to bear the punishment for the sins of all whom God has chosen to be his children. 

Judges 7, Lamentations 1, Romans 13

Read Judges 7, Lamentations 1, and Romans 13.

This devotional is about Lamentations 1.

Imagine if you had lived in Hiroshima or Nagasaki in 1945 and survived the atomic bomb our country dropped on your city. Imagine the grief you would feel about the thousands of people–including many of your own family members and friends–who were now dead. Imagine wondering what to do next with so many injured people to treat, so many dead people to bury, and so much of the city destroyed.

Here in Lamentations 1, Jeremiah described what Jerusalem was like after the Babylonians invaded Judah and destroyed his hometown. The place that David established as Israel’s capitol and that Solomon built into a gleaming metropolis was now “deserted” (v. 1a-b). Jeremiah compared the city to the loneliness and grief of a widow (v. 1c). To him, the city was like a queen who had been enslaved (v. 1d-e). Of course there were tears (v. 2) and distress (v. 3); they are the only appropriate responses and emotions someone could have to such great devastation.

Jeremiah continued describing this massive loss all the way through the chapter. But in verse 8 he described why this happened when he wrote, “Jerusalem has sinned greatly and so has become unclean.” He and other prophets had been preaching for years against the sins of Judah. Now that the consequences he warned about had become reality, Jeremiah did not gloat; he wept (v. 16). But he would not stop pointing out that Jerusalem’s destruction was a direct result of the sins of the people who lived there. In verse 14 he described these sins as “a yoke… hung on my [Jerusalem’s] neck.”

God’s law is full of promises. God promised to bless his people if they worshipped him alone and obeyed his word. But he also promised to bring judgment if Israel worshipped other gods and disobeyed God’s commands. Now God has made good on his promises by bringing defeat, death, and destruction to Jerusalem–not because he is cruel but because his people lived wicked lives for generations.

We like stories that have a happy ending, but this story contains nothing but sadness. Is there anything we can learn from Jerusalem’s demise? The end of the chapter spells that out, beginning in verse 18. Verse 18 says, “The Lord is righteous, yet I rebelled against his command. Listen, all you peoples; look on my suffering.” The lesson, then, is that sin brings suffering. If the collective sins of a nation brought disaster to God’s chosen people, nobody on this earth should expect a different outcome in our personal lives when we choose sin over obedience.

Do you think you can sin and get away with it? Do you tell yourself that nobody knows about your sin or that nobody cares about it? That is the delusion that believers and non-believers alike can have. We know that sin is destructive but we think it will destroy others. We deceive and delude ourselves into believing that the bomb of God’s justice will not land our lives.

Look around. Can you see how sin has destroyed family relationships, decimated marriages, stained reputations, and caused suffering and shame to the sinner? If you belong to Jesus Christ, your sins have been atoned for and forgiven. But the same grace that saved you from sin should open your eyes to see sin as God sees it–gross and destructive.

So look around you and see the consequences of sin. Then seek God’s forgiveness for your sins and turn away from practicing them anymore.

Deuteronomy 20, Jeremiah 12, Proverbs 15:1-17

Read Deuteronomy 20, Jeremiah 12, and Proverbs 15:1-17.

This devotional is about Proverbs 15:3.

According to one security expert, over 70% of shoplifters do not plan to steal something when they walk into a store. They choose to steal, instead, when they see an opportunity to conceal an item without being seen and leave with it undetected. Secrecy creates a feeling of security which exposes people to the temptation to steal.

The creation of security cameras has helped reduce the amount of theft in retail stores. Cameras that record everything, of course, can help identify a thief after he has stolen. But cameras that are visible to customers and signs that warn of the existence of cameras are more effective in reducing theft altogether than they are in bringing thieves to justice. Awareness that someone may be watching reduces temptation to steal because it increases one’s chance of being caught.

Long before any kind of camera was invented, God warned his people that he is watching us at all times. As we read today in Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” According to this verse, God sees every act of disobedience ever committed by anyone whether that person is seen by another human being or not. God observes everything you do and knows everything you’ve ever done even if you are certain your sin will not be detected and that you will not get caught.

Someday we each have to answer to God for our lives on this earth. The Bible warns repeatedly of a day in the future when everyone will give account to God for our lives on this earth. Given that God sees everything and forgets or misinterprets nothing, the day of our judgment should be a fearful thing to us. But this is why Christ came! He took the judgment of God for our sins on himself so that we might escape God’s wrath on the day of judgment. If you are in Christ, you can be confident that God will declare you “not guilty” on the day of judgment because of the perfect atonement of Christ.

But what about this life? If you sin and no other human being sees it, won’t you get away with it–at least until the final day of judgment arrives? You might; however notice Proverbs 15:10 which we also read today: “Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path; the one who hates correction will die.” God has a way of exposing sin even when we think it is undetected and can be covered up. This exposure is designed to discipline us, to provide us with correction. In other words, God is less interested in punishing us when we sin and more interested in preventing us from straying too far from his will if we are in Christ.

Sin usually takes us further than we want to go. It has a deeply deceptive power that draws us in by offering us pleasure and trapping us before we realize how far we’ve strayed and try to escape. One aspect of God’s love for his children, then, is not to allow us to stray as far as we would go or could go but, in his loving providence, bringing discipline into our lives to return us to the path of obedience. You may get away with sin by concealing it in the sense that no human being holds you accountable, but God has his ways of correcting our disobedience and nothing escapes his notice.

There is another aspect of God’s watchfulness in Proverbs 15:3 that we should note. The verse says that the Lord is “keeping watch on… the good.” Your service to the Lord, your obedience to his commands is not wasted if nobody sees it. God sees it and he promises to reward every good that is done in his name. This is the positive aspect of God’s all-knowing, all-seeing nature.

Let the truth of God’s watchful eyes be in your mind and heart always. Let his attention to your steps help you to choose not to sin when you feel like you can keep your sin hidden. Let his careful observation comfort you that the things you do that are good for his name will be rewarded in eternity, even if they are unseen in this life.

Deuteronomy 5, Isaiah 64, Proverbs 14:1-18

Read Deuteronomy 5, Isaiah 64, and Proverbs 14:1-18 today.

This devotional is about Isaiah 64.

Isaiah longed in this chapter for a personal visit from God (v. 1). However, he wanted something different from the vision of God he saw in Isaiah 6. Instead of seeing a vision of the Lord that was high and exalted as in chapter 6, he wanted God to descend to the earth personally to bring judgment on his enemies, the enemies of Israel (v. 2c-d) so that they would see that Israel’s God was the true God (v. 4).

Isaiah realized, however, that God helps “those who gladly do right” (v. 5) but that he and his people were not in that category (v. 5b). Instead, he acknowledged that, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (v. 6). As a result, “No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins” (v. 7).

So many people in the world talk about God, saying that they are spiritual or into spirituality. But Isaiah said, “No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you.” As sinners, we want a god in our image not the Lord God who is holy and who punishes sin. To know God as he really is, you and I and anyone else must realize who we are before God: “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (v. 8). This is an expression of repentance and an acknowledgment that no one can know God apart from his grace to save us from sin.

This is how a person becomes a Christian (to use modern terminology, appropriate for this age though not for Isaiah’s). When we have been turned to God in repentance by his grace, we long to see God for who he is, not for who we’d like him to be. We want to see him descend into this world and bring judgment on it (vv. 1-4) so that his kingdom will begin.

Remember this is what is at stake when you talk about Christ to others. The world needs to know that God is real and that he judges sin and sinners. Everyone in it needs to come face to face with the reality that we are wicked in God’s sight and even our best actions are useless in his sight: “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (v. 6b). No one can come to know God until they know and acknowledge this; but when someone does acknowledge it, he or she will find that God is no longer an angry judge but, instead, a loving Savior.

2 Chronicles 34, Malachi 2

Read 2 Chronicles 34 and Malachi 2.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 34.

According to verse 1, Josiah was eight years old when he became king, When he was sixteen years old (v. 3: “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young”), he turned his heart to loving, learning about, and living for God. Those three “Ls”–loving, learning about, and living for God–are my summary of the phrase “he began to seek the God of his father David.”

When Josiah was twenty years old (v. 3: “in the twelfth year of his reign”) he began removing the known places of idolatry from Jerusalem and all of Judah (vv. 3b-7).

Then, when he was twenty-six years old (v. 8: “in the eighteenth year”), he began the renovation of Solomon’s temple (vv. 8-15). During that renovation, the “Book of the Law” (v. 14) was discovered. That refers, of course, Moses’ law; whether it meant all five books of Moses or just one book (such as Exodus or Deuteronomy) is unclear. What is clear is that God’s law had been neglected. Whatever Josiah and any other observant person in Judah knew about God was known by oral tradition, not by direct instruction, although perhaps they had some of the historical books (Joshua-2 Samuel) and the wisdom books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.

Having re-discovered God’s Law, however, the secretary and the king (v. 18) read it. The king immediately accepted the words he heard as God’s word and realized that God had promised judgment for disobedience to this covenant—disobedience that was common throughout his kingdom. His response to the message was, “Go and inquire of the Lord for me…” (v. 21). The goal of this inquiry was to find out what the Lord’s will was for the king and his people. Had the Lord already determined to bring judgment to them or would he accept the king’s repentance?

They consulted the prophet Huldah (v. 22) and learned from her that God had indeed willed judgment for Judah (vv. 24-25). However, verses 26-28 tell us that Josiah’s responsiveness to God’s word would mean mercy for him and the people during his life. Verse 27 put it this way, “Because your heart was responsive…” That phrase summarized Josiah’s response to God’s word. He (1) accepted it as God’s word, (2) believed that God meant what he said in his word and (3) sought to bring his life and his kingdom into obedience with what he learned in God’s word.

Josiah, therefore, modeled for Judah and for anyone who follows God what walking with God looks like–including you and me. We must read God’s word—not someone else’s description of God’s word or summary of God’s word —but the word itself. We must believe that it is true and applies to us and we must turn to God in repentance when we are convicted of disobedience to it. This is an ongoing thing, the everyday, day after day, reaction and response that should characterize our lives as people who, like Josiah, seek God (v. 3).

As we come to the end of this year, my hope is that reading these devotionals have helped establish a new pattern in your life. Keep that going in the next year! Keep seeking the Lord and responding to his word in faith and obedience. These are the results of genuine faith in God.

2 Chronicles 24, Zechariah 7

Read 2 Chronicles 24 and Zechariah 7.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 24:22 “King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah’s father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son, who said as he lay dying, ‘May the Lord see this and call you to account.’’

Karma is a Hindu and Buddhist concept that, at least here in the West, is interpreted to say that evil things you do will bring evil to you and good things you do will bring good to you.

There are certain precepts of scripture that are similar:

  • The law of the harvest: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal 6:7)
  • “He who digs a pit will fall into it” (Proverbs 26:27)

But the Bible is clear that sometimes bad things happen to good people. God will dispense perfect justice in eternity but injustice sometimes (often?) happens in this life.

So it is with Zechariah here in 2 Chronicles 24:22. Joash had been a good king for Judah while the Jehoiada the priest–Zechariah’s father–was alive (v. 17). After his death, however, Joash changed his ways and he and the people of Judah “abandoned the temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols” (v. 18). Zechariah stood for the Lord and called his people back to obedience (v. 20) but Joash ordered him stoned to death.

If there were perfect justice in the world Zechariah would have lived a long life for his faithfulness to the Lord. God’s will, however, was to allow him to die at Joash’s order.

As for king Joash, who unjustly killed Zechariah, he did die prematurely. He was wounded in battle (v. 25a) and then was assassinated by members of his own government (v. 25b). They conspired against him “for murdering the son of Jehoiada the priest” (aka Zechariah) so God did answer Zechariah’s prayer (v. 22) and give him a measure of justice. But Zechariah had to wait for the judgment day to receive his reward.

Remember this story when a godly person dies prematurely. God’s word says that there is the promise of long life for those who honor their parents (Eph 6:1-3) but God in his sovereign wisdom makes exceptions, as he did in this case. God may will for his servants to suffer injustice in this life but there will be justice someday. Just as Zechariah left vengeance up to God’s will in verse 22 so God’s word tells us to “leave room for God’s wrath” instead of taking revenge (Rom 12:19).

Are you perplexed when God allows something that is seemingly unfair to happen to a good person in this world? Are you holding a grudge against someone who has harmed you? Can you leave it in the Lord’s hands to judge instead of holding a grudge? God’s justice is perfect but, like many things in life, we often have to wait on his timing and will.

The best demonstration of God’s justice was the death of his son for us. Our prayer, then, should be for the salvation of those who have mistreated us just as Stephen, the first Christian martyr, prayed for God’s mercy toward those who killed him (Acts 7:60).

2 Chronicles 10, Zephaniah 2

Read 2 Chronicles 10 and Zephaniah 2.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 10.

We’ve read before about the foolish decision of Rehoboam to treat God’s people harshly rather than lighten the burden that Solomon put on them. What is interesting in this passage is the statement, “this turn of events was from God” (v. 15b). That phrase indicates that God willed that Rehoboam would “not listen to the people” (v. 15a). In other words, although Rehoboam made the choice, using his “free” will to make a foolish decision, his foolish decision was part of God’s foreordained will.

The reason God willed this was described in the next phrase of verse 15, “…to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.” That phrase reminds us that, while Solomon was still alive, God handed down judgment on him because of his idolatry. The judgment God handed down on him was a divided kingdom which was prophesied to Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s officials. You can read about all of this in 1 Kings 11-12.

So God ordained Rehoboam’s response in order to make his prophecy to Jeroboam come true. But how is that foreordination consistent with the idea of Rehoboam’s free will? Did Rehoboam really have a choice? If not, how could he be held accountable for the choice God made for him?

The answer to that question is that Rehoboam did have a choice and he made a choice to follow his sinful nature. The advice of his friends to be a difficult dictator (vv. 8-11) appealed to his pride and greed. He chose the decision he made because he was a sinner. His choice was consistent with his sinful nature.

God’s role in this was simply to allow him to do what he wanted to do. God could have been gracious to Rehoboam. He could have softened the king’s heart to listen to the wisdom of Solomon’s advisors (vv. 6-7) but, as the Sovereign Lord “who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph 1:11), God let Rehoboam decide and act according to his sin nature. That decision accomplished the plan of God to divide the nation. It meant that God’s prophecy would be fulfilled by the free choice of King Rehoboam.

Free will does not mean “free” in the absolute sense. I am free to try to flap my arms and fly like a bird, but my choice to try that will not change my nature. By nature, I don’t have the capacity to carry out my choice to fly like a bird. Free will, then, means that I am free to choose according to my nature. As sinners, we choose what is selfish and wrong and destructive because of our sin nature. The choice was ours, it was freely made, so we are accountable for it.

When we make good choices, it is because God has been gracious to us. He brings wisdom or circumstances that change our thinking and he softens our hearts to receive that wisdom. The choice is still freely made but it is because of God’s grace.

So God’s sovereignty does not violate free will. Instead, God–according to his plan and purpose–either lets us choose according to our nature or he enlightens us by grace so that we make a better choice. This is how God accomplishes his will while still letting us exercise our wills. It is also why we are held accountable for the choices we make even though they were foreordained by God. Rehoboam did what he wanted; God just stood back and let him do it so that his sovereign plan would be accomplished.

The point for us is to ask for God’s grace to make good, wise, godly choices in life. Don’t let me do what I want to do, Lord! Instead, give me the grace to do what is right in your sight. This is the prayer of a godly person who wants to use God’s gift of free will in a godly way.

2 Chronicles 4-6:1 and Nahum 3

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

This devotional is about Nahum 3.

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

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

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

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

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

1 Chronicles 24-25, Micah 3

Read 1 Chronicles 24-25 and Micah 3.

This devotional is about Micah 3.

How do those who set dates for Christ’s return keep going in ministry after they are proved wrong? How do the prosperity preachers respond when someone says, “I sent you every dollar I had in my bank account but I never got the financial miracle you promised me!”

I don’t know how anyone who delivers a false message remains in ministry after the message proves to be false. Some of them are able to withstand being discredited and continue in their “ministries.” They shift the blame to others saying, “You didn’t have enough faith” or, in the case of false rapture predictions, “I made a mistake in my calculations.” Although they may continue in ministry for a season or longer, their audiences dissipate and their influence dwindles. This is as it should be, of course.

In this chapter Micah continued speaking on the same themes as in chapter 2. He confronted the oppression of the elites (vv. 1-4, 9-12) and the false prophets who tried to neutralize his message (vv. 5-8). His message to the false prophets was that they would run out of material: “Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them.”

This prediction wasn’t so much that they would lack things to say; rather, it was that reality would make it impossible for them to keep up the false hype. Verse 7 says, “The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God.” The context for this is the coming judgment of God (v. 12). When you’ve been prophesying peace and prosperity, what are you going to say when Nebuchadnezzar sieges your city and people are starving? When you cry out to God to deliver his people from the Babylonians, but the Babylonians invade your city, kill a multitude of men, then ship the rest off to Babylon, what is your answer going to be?

Micah was confident in the Lord that God would continue to empower his message (v. 8) and that he would be vindicated when his predictions came true. Likewise, he knew that God would not allow false teachers to get away with preaching their prosperity gospel. It was only a matter of time before truth was established as fact and lies were debunked by reality.

The Bible always tells us that false prophets will be discredited by their results. Their predictions will not come true and/or their lives and the lives of their disciples will disintegrate into moral disaster. Keep your eyes, then, on the results of a religious teacher’s message; don’t be fooled by how positive and encouraging it is.

Are you looking for truth from someone who has already been discredited? If so, then these words to heart. It is safe–and right–to ignore what someone says if the results they predict don’t materialize.

1 Chronicles 16, Obadiah

Read 1 Chronicles 16 and Obadiah.

This devotional is about the book of Obadiah.

Obadiah wrote this prophecy against Edom (v. 1), a nation that bordered Judah to the south. This nation traced its ancestry to Esau, the twin brother of Jacob/Israel. The Edomites are condemned here for two sins:

  1. Pride: Verses 3-4 describes a smug feeling of invincibility that the Edomites possessed. Then, verses 5-9 prophesied an easy defeat for the nation. Later in verses 18-20 Obadiah prophesied that no one would survive from the family of the Edomites after God’s judgment fell on them.
  2. Victimizing Judah: Verses 10-14 describe how the Edomites responded to the invasion of Jerusalem. 

Let’s focus this devotional on sin #2 described above.

Verse 11 says, “you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth” which tells us that the first response of the Edomites was no response at all. They did nothing while Jerusalem was being attacked.

Refusing to try to help God’s people was, according to Obadiah, tacit approval of the invasion. We see that in verse 11 where Obadiah said, “while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.” That last phrase, “you were like one of them” equates Edom with Jerusalem’s attackers even though they “stood aloof” (v. 11a) while it was happening.

Was Edom obliged to come to Jerusalem’s defense? They shared a border with Judah and hundreds of years before their patriarch Esau was brothers with Israel (v. 10a). Normally, I wouldn’t think that those two facts mean much in a context like this. They were now separate nations and their “brotherhood” was ancient history (literally). So were they really obligated to help?

Apparently, yes, they were. Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians as an act of punishment for their sins and idolatry. That’s the spiritual/theological reason for their demise. But on a human level, Nebuchadnezzar had no moral right to invade Israel. They were, politically and militarily speaking, victims of Babylonian aggression. Their common ancestry, though ancient, should have caused them to have some affinity for God’s people. Their common border should have caused them to want to help their neighbors to the north.

The argumentation in this passage reminds me of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told that story to teach us that “loving your neighbor” means helping anyone who needs help who is within your reach. The Samaritan was a step-brother (in a sense) of the Jewish man who was victimized by robbers. The victim’s countrymen, his brothers, who passed by without helping him were “standing aloof” to borrow the image of verse 11a. But Jesus praised the Samaritan for giving assistance when he saw the plight of the Israelite.

The application, then, for us is to understand that God expects us to help when we see someone being victimized. We shouldn’t stand by and do nothing and we certainly shouldn’t join in the victimization as Edom did in verses 13-14. We should help the oppressed fend off the oppressor.

Now, in our globally-connected world, we know about world problems and injustices that people in other eras of time would never have known about. I don’t think God requires us to find every problem in the world and get involved in it. The Good Samaritan, after all, was walking by; he wasn’t like an ancient Batman looking for crime to fight. So the Bible isn’t teaching that we have an unlimited responsibility for everyone else’s problems. Instead, we should understand that it is not acceptable in the Lord’s sight to be a bystander when we see injustice or violence or exploitation.

So, if you saw someone abusing a child or a woman, would you do anything about it? If you saw two men punching each other–or two men punching and kicking a third man–would you call for help? Would you try to stop them? If your neighbor’s land was being polluted by a corporation or seized by the county unjustly, would you try to help?

God commands us to help when we can, where we can. When we refuse to help, we are sinning. Keep that in mind the next time you see someone who needs help.