Deuteronomy 29, Jeremiah 21, 2 Corinthians 5

Read Deuteronomy 29, Jeremiah 21, 2 Corinthians 5.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 29.

Having repeated God’s laws and the terms of his covenant in the previous chapters of Deuteronomy (29:1), these last few chapters of Deuteronomy record some of Moses’ direct teachings to God’s people.

Verse 2 indicates the beginning of one of these talks when it says, “Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them….” Today’s passage emphasized once again the importance of obedience to God’s laws. Although God’s people were hardheaded and hardhearted (vv. 2-4), Moses reminded them of how God had provided for them (vv. 5-6) and fought for them, when necessary (vv. 7-8), on their long journey to the promised land.

Then, in verses 9-28, Moses stated his intention to have Israel re-affirm their covenant to the Lord (vv. 9-14), reminding them not to worship idols (vv. 16-18) and that curses would come if they did turn aside to idols (vv. 19-28).

Then verse 29 droped this intriguing statement: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” There is so much about God that is impossible for us to understand.

  • How can one God be three persons?
  • How can Christ be both human and divine?
  • When will Christ return?
  • Why did God allow a particular trial into my life?

These and other questions are beyond us. They require infinite knowledge to understand; therefore, they are secrets for God himself only to know. The middle of verse 29 reminds us that “the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever….” That refers to the promise of blessing they would have if they obeyed God’s covenant and the promise of curses if they disobeyed. God had revealed these things, so Israel should have known them and should have claimed them as belonging “to us” (v. 29). The reason God revealed these things is “…that we may follow all the words of this law” (v. 29c). The promises of blessing and curse exist to provide God’s people with all the motivation they should need to be obedient to God’s covenant commands.

This is a verse to memorize or at least remember, because we tend to reverse it in our thinking. We can easily become obsessed with “the secret things” that belong only to God. They can occupy our minds and thoughts and become the sole subject of our discussion and debates with others. When that happens, we tend to forget “the revealed things” that “belong to us.”

In other words, we ignore God’s commands–which God has revealed–and give ourselves to meditation on things that not only are not necessary for our obedience but are not even possible for us to understand. If parts of God’s word do not make sense to you–if you have unanswered questions, especially if they begin with the word “why”–this verse is a good one to keep in mind.

Some things are understandable only to God. In those cases, we are not responsible to understand the “secret things;” instead, we should give ourselves to obedience to “the things revealed.” There is more than enough truth revealed in scripture for us to learn, think about, and live out. Focus on those and leave to God the stuff that only he is capable of handling.

Numbers 15, Isaiah 39, Galatians 6

Read Numbers 15, Isaiah 39, and Galatians 6.

This devotional is about Numbers 15:37-41.

In these final verses of Numbers 15, God commanded the people of Israel to sew tassels to the corners of their garments. His command was for the people do this “Throughout the generations to come.” In other words, this is not a temporary, situational command but a lasting marker for the people of God.

But these tassels were not ornamental like the little rivets on your jeans are. Numbers 15:39-40 describes the purpose of these tassels: “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.”

These tassels, in other words, were there to remind Israel not to sin, particularly in the realm of sexual sins. At the very point of removing their garments, the tassels should have reminded them of God’s commands and that their covenants in marriage were made before God. It was one last emergency brake before two of God’s people committed immorality. I wonder how many sins were stopped and marriages were saved by this simple reminder?

Of course, if someone doesn’t care about God, or really wants to sin, or has never read in God’s law what the purpose of those tassels was, the tassels will do no good. Rules and regulations can be safeguards to those who desire holiness and obedience but tassels are mere hassles to us when we decide to sin.

And we all sin in some way. Maybe we’ve never taken off our clothes to commit adultery, but there isn’t one of us who hasn’t ignored the voice of our conscience, a clear command of scripture, or some other safeguard that could have kept us from sinning.

Thankfully, God is merciful to those who call on him in faith seeking forgiveness. If this devotional reminds you of a specific sin you’ve committed, now is the time to change your mind. Seek God’s forgiveness and then seek to return to obedience to the Lord. It may require some painful conversations to make amends but God promises his mercy to those who confess and forsake their sins.

Exodus 36, Ecclesiastes 12, Luke 14

Read Exodus 36, Ecclesiastes 12, Luke 14.

This devotional is about Luke 14:33-35.

The Pharisee who invited Jesus to eat in his home on this Sabbath day (v. 1) probably had no idea that his own sacred cows would be on the menu.

A recurring theme in Luke has been what is permissible on the Sabbath. The Pharisees had very strict views on this subject and Jesus challenged those views by healing a man on the Sabbath (vv. 2-4), then pointing out their hypocrisy. They would help a child or an animal in a dangerous situation or with an injury on the Sabbath (v. 5) but were deeply offended when Christ healed a man who had been suffering. God is never offended when people do good and relieve the suffering of others on the Sabbath. The intent of the Sabbath laws supersede strict interpretations of that law.

That opening paragraph (vv. 1-6) happened on the way to the Pharisees house, before the meal even began. That is suggested in verse 1 where it says, “Jesus went to eat…” but it is confirmed in verse 7 by the fact that people were picking out places to sit, so the meal had not yet begun. Jesus turned his rhetorical attention to pride, noting how at wedding banquets people assumed themselves to be the most honorable person in attendance by how they chose their seats. He counseled people to go for the worst seat at the banquet (v. 10a); after all, it is better to invited to move to a better spot than to be demoted to a lesser seat.

This is one of the most practical things Jesus said that didn’t have to do with a directly moral or spiritual issue. He addressed a common life scenario in those times and gave very sage advice. While the situation Jesus described in verses 7-10 is far more mundane than the usual topics he taught about, the deeper issue was human pride as we see in verse 11.

Finally, Jesus addressed his host directly (v. 12) and instructed him to be more discriminating about who he invited to dinner (vv. 12b-13). Instead of inviting people he loved and liked, Jesus advised him to invite the kind of people who don’t usually get dinner invitations–“the poor, the crippled, the lame, and blind.” This was about human pride, too. We like to spend time with people we like, friends who elevate our mood and even our status and who might invite us to their homes as well. A party for the poor, however, doesn’t appeal to us but Jesus said we “will be blessed” (v. 14a) if we befriend and include those who are low in social status. This blessing awaits in the future, however, for Jesus said, “…you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (v. 14b).

Passages like these indicate that pride was more overt in Jesus’ day than it might be in ours. We are the inventors of “the humble brag” after all. While we might be more subtle about our pride than the Pharisees and others in Jesus’ day, we still struggle with pride. It’s nice to be noticed so putting ourselves in a place where we are noticeable can be just as tempting now as it was in the wedding banquets Jesus attended. Likewise, we enjoy spending time with people who are like us–“your friends,  your brothers or sisters, your relatives” and especially our “rich neighbors” (v. 12). Jesus’ confrontational style of speaking was designed to challenge our pride forcefully–not to say we can never have our friends and family over for dinner but that we should intentionally befriend and include those who are not usually coveted as friends. His teaching calls us to get over ourselves and look for ways to be a true, tangible blessing to others.

So, what might you do today or this weekend or next week that could wound your pride but make a real difference in someone else’s life?

Exodus 32, Ecclesiastes 8, Luke 12

Read Exodus 32, Ecclesiastes 8, Luke 12.

This devotional is about Ecclesiastes 8.

Solomon’ musings on government and its control are the subject of this section of Ecclesiastes. Generally speaking, Solomon’s advice is to submit to the government (vv. 2-6). He admits, however, that some governments can be oppressive (v. 9), grossly inefficient and ineffective (v. 11) and even unjust (vv. 12, 14). God’s justice, in these cases, will overcome these human government’s failures (v. 13) but even God’s ways don’t always make sense to us (vv. 16-17).

Nestled in all this advice about human government is a reminder that there are some things in life that are unpredictable and uncontrollable (vv. 7-8). Solomon gave us three examples:

  • The future: It is unknown to us and, therefore, uncontrollable, and unpredictable (v. 7).
  • Death: It is unavoidable and unpredictable (v. 8a-b).
  • Wickedness: It is uncontrollable (v. 8c-d).

These three things control every human life even more powerfully than the government does. They are so powerful, in fact, that even the government can’t control them.

But let’s focus on that last one–wickedness. Verse 8c-d says, “As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it.” 

Unlike our modern, American experience of the military, most countries draft every able-bodied man when they go to war. Solomon says that once you’ve been conscripted into such an army, you’re not getting out. The only legal way out of military service is (a) be a casualty or (b) survive until the end of the war.

Solomon says that wickedness works the same way. Once you “practice it” (v. 8d), it owns you. He might mean the addictive power of wickedness or this phrase might refer to the consequences unleashed when we practice wickedness. Because the context of Ecclesiastes 8 speaks of government, which punishes wickedness, this verse is probably referring to the consequences of wickedness, not its addictive power. The verse then means, “You can do the crime but you won’t be able to control the prison time or the fine.”

The government may get you and punish you for your wickedness, but not all wickedness is against the laws of human government. This verse reminds us that if you break God’s laws, you won’t get away with it. Human government may punish you but, even if it doesn’t, God will make sure that you are punished.

This should be a sobering reminder to us when we are tempted to sin or think we might be able to sin and get away with it. Like the army, wickedness won’t let you out until you’ve completed your tour of duty. There’s no going AWOL, either.

If you are in Jesus, every sin you have committed or will commit has been punished through the death of Christ. His blood reconciles you with God as an act of mercy. However, God usually allows the human consequences of our sins to continue. The murderer who trusts in Jesus will have eternal life; however, his faith and repentance does not bring his victim back to life, assuage the anguish or anger of the victim’s relatives, or commute his life or death sentence.

This is one of many reasons why we should not sin even though God forgives all our sins in Christ. We all like a feeling of control (or the illusion of control) over our lives but none of us can control the future, death, or the fallout from our sins.

By the grace of God, then, let’s choose not to sin but, instead, to choose what is righteous in God’s sight.

Exodus 11:1-12:21, Job 29, James 2

Read Exodus 11:1-12:21, Job 29, James 2.

This devotional is about James 2:12-13.

This passage is about the sin of favoritism (v. 1). Favoritism is a recurring problem that every church–meaning most Christians–will battle in our minds and hearts. Maybe we’re less overt than the people described in verses 2-3, but we all tend to gravitate toward people who look like us or seem like us. And, we all tend to be wary of people who look or seem different. 

At the end of this paragraph on favoritism, James commands us to “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom” (v. 12). This verse reminds us that we will all give account to God for our lives. If we have been truly saved by Jesus, we will not be condemned to experience God’s wrath on that day of judgment.

But, as Christians, we will give account to the Lord for how we’ve lived. James tells us to keep that in mind when he says, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged…” (v. 12a). That means we will answer to the Lord for our generosity–or lack of it–toward the poor. We will answer to him for any racist words or prejudiced actions toward other people. 

God’s law is our guide in these and every area of Christian obedience. James already referenced “the royal law… love your neighbor as yourself” in verse 8. Here in verse 12 he says that the law “gives freedom.” That’s not usually the way we think about laws. Laws, as we think of them, restrict our freedom. And that’s the way they act and feel to us before we become followers of Christ.

But once Christ comes into our lives, the Holy Spirit and the word of God go to work on our minds and our hearts. God uses his word to turn us from hating God’s law to seeing it as our pathway to holy living. David experienced this and sang about it throughout Psalm 119. Verses 97-98 give us just one example of this: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies.”

Do you love God’s word–even the parts we call “the law”? Do you read these passages everyday looking for insight about how to change your life to conform to God’s ways? When you have a moral choice to make, or you are talking to another person, do you think about the fact that you will have to answer to God for the choice you make or how you treat that person?

Let God’s law be your guide to holiness. Remember that you will give an account to the Lord for how you live so speak and act like it (v. 12) and ask the Lord to help you do that more and more by his Holy Spirit as you grow in your faith and knowledge of his word.

Genesis 17, Nehemiah 6, Matthew 12

Read Genesis 17, Nehemiah 6, and Matthew 12 today. This devotional is about Matthew 12.

God’s intention for the Sabbath was that man would take a day off from the way that he normally makes his living. It was to be a day of rest and a day to reflect on God, our Creator. So farmers would not plant, weed, water, reap, or do any of the normal activities that farmers do Sunday through Friday. The same was commanded for their wives and children and servants; everybody was supposed to get a break from their normal daily schedule.

This law was clear enough that it could be applied easily to most situations. Don’t farm your land, or fix your equipment, or type up those invoices, or make a fancy meal, or clean the house, or do the laundry. It was a day to rest, not to catch up on chores–work or personal. Do what needs to be done but keep it simple so you get a break and feel rested for a change. That’s the idea.

The problem with broadly-applicable commands is that it is not always clear how they should be applied. Obeying the command, “Do not work on the Sabbath” depends on how you define “work.” Is it work to make your bed? Tie your shoes? If you were a milkman who delivered milk by walking from house to house, that would clearly be forbidden on the Sabbath. But what if the milkman’s wife wanted to go for a long walk for recreation? Is that forbidden? The Pharisees hated ambiguity so they wanted every possible application of every law spelled out clearly. They specified how far someone could walk on the Sabbath to keep the milkman or his wife from doing “work” accidentally. This is one aspect of legalism.

Speaking of legalism, what exactly is it? It is a term that can be applied to at least two kinds of situations: First, anyone who thinks they can do good works to merit favor with God is a legalist. Second, anyone who thinks that his or her application of the Bible has the authority of the Bible itself is a legalist.

The Pharisees were legalists in both senses. They believed that their obedience to the law gave them favor with God. They also believed that they ways in which they applied God’s laws were as authoritative and binding as the law itself. That’s what’s going on here in Matthew 12:1-2. The disciples were not farmers. They were not working to earn a living by reaping. Instead they were getting a snack from someone else’s farmland. Taking small amounts of food from someone’s farm was allowed in God’s Law, so the Pharisees did not accuse the disciples of stealing. Instead, they accused them of working on the Sabbath. Because they applied the Sabbath law to any kind of reaping at all, they concluded that the disciples were doing what was “unlawful on the Sabbath” (v. 2b).

Elsewhere in the gospels we learn that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for distorting God’s intentions. The Sabbath law was supposed to be a blessing from God, not a burden. It was God imposed a day off on everyone so that everyone could enjoy life for at least one day a week. By denying the right to snack on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were making the Sabbath something unpleasant instead of enjoyable. Their legalism was not an obedience that pleased God, it was a burden that robbed people of the joy he wanted them to have.

Here in Matthew 12, however, Matthew records a different emphasis of Jesus regarding Sabbath violations. Jesus pointed out ways in which people broke the law technically but they did so in a way that upheld the law’s intention. The first example Jesus cited was from David (vv. 3-4). He and his warrior-companions ate the temple show bread which was against the law, yet they were not condemned. The reason was that they were servants of God doing God’s work, just like the priests were. So, technically they broke the law but by taking and eating the bread, they were being served by the law’s intention–to provide for God’s servants. Likewise, the priests on the Sabbath were technically in a no-win situation. The temple duties allowed no Sabbath breaks for the priests but the priests made their living being priests. So, they were not allowed to let the temple activities lapse even for a day, but that required them to do the normal work of priests–a technical violation of the law. Yet Jesus said that “they are innocent” (v. 5b). Then Christ took things further; not only were the disciples not guilty of breaking the Sabbath by picking up a snack, Christ himself asserted the right to rule or overrule anything regarding the Sabbath because he was “Lord of the Sabbath.” He then pressed the issue further by healing a man deliberately on the Sabbath day to show his lordship over it (vv. 9-14).

The Pharisees’ zeal about the Sabbath wasn’t really about obedience to God; it was about control. They wanted to define everything so that there was complete uniformity; no ambiguity or exceptions were allowed. They could, then, define who was right with God and who wasn’t based on how well or how poorly everyone kept the rules.

Unfortunately, we sometimes do the same things. The “good guys” never wear denim on Sunday, or use the right translation of the Bible, or only buy American, or never listen to music that has a beat to it. But these (and other) rules are at best only applications of Biblical principles, not Biblical truths themselves. The Bible teaches us to accept each other in areas where there are genuine disagreements about application (Rom 15:7). You should never use someone else’s actions to justify doing something that your conscience bothers you about. And, if you are truly concerned for someone else’s spiritual life, I think it is good to humbly approach them to talk about how they are or are not applying a scriptural command. But let’s be careful not to judge and condemn each other based on our own man-made rules. Instead, each of us should submit ourselves and our actions to the Lord of everything–including the Sabbath–and do what we think is right in his sight based on the clear teachings of scripture.

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 30, Zechariah 12:1-13:1

Read 2 Chronicles 30 and Zechariah 12:1-13:1.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 30.

The revival and reformation in Judah that we read about yesterday continued in this chapter. The new aspect of this revival was a desire to celebrate the Passover which we read about today. God commanded Israel to observe the Passover every year so that the nation and each succeeding generation would remember God’s miraculous extraction of his people from slavery in Egypt.

But, beginning with Solomon, God’s people wandered away from obedience to God’s laws. That disobedience included not observing the feast days, like the Passover, which God commanded in his law. We saw this in verse 26 which said, “There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” The span of time between Solomon and Hezekiah was something like 200 years, so God’s people had no personal history to guide them. They didn’t have memories of celebrating the Passover with their families yearly so they were unprepared to celebrate this festival to the Lord properly. Their unpreparedness was described for us in verses 2-3 as well as 17-19,

In their excitement to celebrate the Passover, these unprepared people actually broke God’s laws concerning the Passover. It was Hezekiah’s prayers for them that saved them from God’s wrath (v. 20). God was merciful to them because Hezekiah prayed for them and because their hearts were right even though their actions were not. Good motives are not an excuse for habitual disobedience to God’s word but God is often merciful when his people are acting in love for him.

What strikes me in this passage is how much better it is to build godly habits and maintain them. Regular church attendance is very important, in my view, for maintaining your walk with God. It is one of several habits of godliness that a Christian needs to grow; however, there are many Christians who attend church sporadically and haphazardly. They attend now and then, maybe once a month. Then they may come for a few weeks in a row before dropping back to old, inconsistent patterns. It is much harder to start a godly habit–like Passover observance or church attendance–than it is to keep doing a habit that your parents and their parents established a long time ago.

BUT, if you’ve fallen out of practicing a godly habit, the best time to change that is now. It might not have been the correct time to observe the Passover (see verse 3) but it was better to re-start the observance as soon as possible than to continue to live in disobedience to the Lord.

So what’s the status of your habits as a Christian? By all means, continue to maintain the godly habits you have but, if you need to start a good, godly habit, DO IT NOW.

So what will you begin cultivating ASAP?

2 Chronicles 6:2-42, Habakkuk 1

Read 2 Chronicles 6:2-42 and Habakkuk 1.

This devotional is about Habakkuk 1.

Habakkuk, a prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, was very upset with the Lord in the first four verses of this chapter. He saw so much sin and violence (v. 3) among the Lord’s people but, when he called for God’s justice, he got nothing (v. 1).

God may have declined to respond to Habakkuk’s earlier complaints but he was more than happy to answer Habbakuk’s questions in verses 2-4 with an answer in verses 5-11. And what was that answer? God would punish the violence and sinfulness of the Jews by delivering his peopel in defeat to the Babylonians (v. 6).

Now Habakkuk had a much bigger theological problem. He couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t judge his countrymen but, when God did promise to punish them, Habakkuk couldn’t understand why he’d use a wicked nation like the Babylonians (v. 15). God is holy and eternal (v. 12a-b), so why would he use such unholy people? It made no sense.

We’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s reading of chapter 2 for God’s response but, in the meantime, consider the problem of the sliding scale of righteousenss. Habakkuk knew God’s people were doing evil (vv. 2-4) but the Babylonians were worse! Verse 13 asked the Lord, “Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

We can probably identify with Habakkuk’s complaint. If you’ve ever felt outrage when a good person died young while evil men live into their 90s, you know how Habakkuk felt. If you ever cried, “Unfair!” when you were punished for something when someone else was doing something worse, you’re using the same kind of reasoning that Habakkuk used.

The truth is that we are all guilty before a holy God. What Habakkuk said in verse 13a was right on the money: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing” so his next statement could have been, “…so we deserve your punishment, no matter how it comes.” But part of our sinful state is to demand that we be tested on a curve. “I am sinful, but not as bad as others” we reason, “so let God go after the worst offenders first! And, when he comes for me, I should get a much lighter sentence!”

But God’s justice is always just; that is, he pays out the wages of sin according to the pricetag that every sin has—death–regardless of how many or how few sins we accumulate. Instead of complaining to God about our circumstances and wondering why he hasn’t treated others worse than he treated us, we should take a very hard look at ourselves. We are guilty before a holy God. One violation of his law carries the death penalty so none of us has anything to complain about.

In fact, Judah had God’s law, their own history, and prophets like Habakkuk. The Babylonians were wicked but they were also going on much less truth than Judah had. As Jessu told us, the more truth you have, the greater your accountabilty will be before God.

In God’s great mercy, he poured out his justice on Jesus so that you and I could be saved from the eternal condemnation we deserve. God may allow the natural consequences of our sin to play out on this earth but at least we will be delivered from hell based on the righteousness of Christ. So we should be thankful for that.

But more than that, the awful cost of our sins that Jesus bore should teach us the truth about divine justice and adjust our expectations accordingly. So, have you found yourself complaining that you’re paying too much for your sins why others are not paying enough? Then think about this passage and let it realign your understanding of justice accordingly.

We have nothing to complain about and everything–because of God’s mercy–to be thankful about. Let’s thank God, then, for his perfect justice and for the mercy that Jesus provided us with by taking God’s justice for us on the cross.

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 29, Micah 6

Read 1 Chronicles 29 and Micah 6.

This devotional is about Micah 6.

I was named (unjustly) in a lawsuit once in my life and the suit was withdrawn a few days later after the two main parties worked out a deal. Those few days when I thought I was getting sued were stressful, especially since the plaintiff suing us was a lawyer.

If you’ve ever been sued or even been on a jury or served as a witness, you know how stressful lawsuits can be. But imagine being sued by the Lord! That’s what’s happening here in Micah 6. This is a covenant lawsuit brought by God against his people. Verse 1 commanded Micah to initiate the lawsuit with the mountains serving as the jury. The earth was created before humanity was, so the mountains were personified in this chapter as witnesses to all that the Lord had done for his people (v. 2).

In verse 3 God asks the people of Israel why they have broken faith with him. The question in the second line, “How have I burdened you?” is an interesting one. It assumes that God’s people looked on his laws as burdensome and felt that serving him was difficult. God responded in verse 4a-b by reminding them that he relieved them of a true burden–the burden of slavery in Egypt. He also reviewed how he sent them leadership in Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (v. 4c-d). Then he told them again how protected them from the oracles of Balaam (v. 5a-c) and in their journey to the promised land (v. 5).

Israel responded in verses 6-7 like a defendant would in a lawsuit. The implied question of these verses is, “Okay, Lord; how much do you want to settle this out of court?” The offer kept escalating. Verse 7 says, “How about thousands of rams? No? Ok, how about 10,000 rivers of oil (v. 7b)? Not good enough? OK, then how about a human sacrifice (v. 7c-d)?”

Verse 8 responds that the Lord wants a few basic things from his people; namely:

  • justice
  • mercy and
  • to walk with God.

Justice is about doing what is right and fair to others regardless of whether they are rich or poor, family or enemy. Mercy is about showing kindness to people who deserve justice but are repentant. It also means showing kindness to people in need even though you don’t have any legal or family obligation to them. Walking with God means loving him, worshipping him daily, and following in his ways.

The concepts outlined in Micah 6:8 are easy; living them out daily is hard. It is hard because of our sin nature; we like to favor people we like or people who can help us. We like to punish people who have mistreated us even if they are repentant. We also like to, sometimes, ignore people in need. Finally, walking with God is tough because we are, naturally speaking, enemies of God because of our sin nature.

This passage, then, describes the absolute need we all have for God to save us. We can’t save ourselves; we are guilty and unable to give our way out of the guilt. In Christ, however, we have both the forgiveness of sins that the gifts described in verse 7 could never buy for us and the ability now to walk with God by faith and to do justice and show mercy.