2 Samuel 19, Daniel 9, 1 Timothy 1

Read 2 Samuel 19, Daniel 9, and 1 Timothy 1.

This devotional is about Daniel 9.

Daniel’s prayer here in chapter 9 is model for how we should pray in concert with the will of God.

First, what prompted Daniel’s prayer was God’s word. Verse 2 says, “I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.” It was his reading and understanding of Jeremiah’s prophecy that caused him to pray as he did. The lesson for us here is that the truths of scripture can lead us to pray. Daniel saw a promise in God’s word that had a time-deadline of 70 years so he prayed that the Lord would fulfill that promise. Likewise, when we see God’s promises in scripture that are as of yet unfulfilled, they can motivate us to ask God to make them happen.

Next, Daniel began his prayer with praise. Even though his people were in exile in Babylon, he believed that God was “the great and awesome God” (v. 4), that he was “righteous” (v. 7a), and that he was “merciful and forgiving” 9v. 9). God loves to hear us wrap our requests in worship; when it is our faith in God’s attributes—specific attributes—that compel us to pray, God is glorified and worship in our prayers.

The kernel of Daniel’s prayer, of course, was repentance. He arranged his physical appearance to express repentance (v. 3) and he acknowledged the sins of his nations (vv. 5-7) as well as his personal sins (v. 20: “confessing my sin…”). This focus on repentance was because he was praying for restoration. God’s purpose in exiling Israel was to turn their hearts back to him, so repentance was the proper response to their situation. While the purpose of our prayers is not always repentance, it is always appropriate to confess our sins to the Lord in our prayers. This aligns our hearts morally with his will and causes us to remember that our trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and his atonement for us.

My final observation about this prayer is that the reason for his request was the glory of God. Verse 19 says, “For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” He wanted the restoration God promised because he wanted God to be glorified. When we ask God for things in our prayers, are we thinking about how the answer to our prayers will bring him glory or are we focused merely on improving our situation for the better? While God is loving and compassionate toward us, his love and compassion will ultimately be experienced in eternity; until then, he allows problems and pain and tragedy and other issues because this world has not yet been redeemed. He is more concerned about the growth of his church and the coming of his kingdom than he is about our comfort, so our prayers should be about the things he cares about far more than they are about the things we care about. Too often we have that order inverted.

So, what are you praying about right now? Do the scriptures inform and stimulate your prayers? Are your prayers layered with worship and praise for who God is? Are you confessing your sins and claiming the sacrifice of Christ as the basis for your forgiveness and even your praying? Are you praying for the glory of God?

2 Samuel 6, Ezekiel 45, Mark 9

Read 2 Samuel 6, Ezekiel 45, and Mark 9.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 6.

In 2 Samuel 5 David became king of all Israel (vv. 1-5) and established Jerusalem as his capital city (vv. 6-10). Having accomplished these things, he then desired to make Jerusalem the religious capital as well as being the political capital of Israel. That goal required him to move the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.

Moving the Tabernacle was no big deal; it was a tent that was designed to be taken down and moved. The Ark of the Covenant was designed to be moved, too. It was built so that poles could be inserted into it. Those poles would allow it to be carried without any human hand touching it.

When the Philistines captured the ark in 1 Samuel, they returned it to Israel on a cart carried by oxen. Apparently this seemed like a good idea to David and the others because they followed the same strategy for moving the ark from Abinadab’s house to Jerusalem (v. 3). The poles that were designed to carry the ark must have still been around; the men probably used them to move the ark onto the cart. But it must have seemed easier to use oxen and the cart than to have two men carry the ark using the poles.

Although God’s people were technically disobedient by using the cart instead of the poles, God was merciful to them and allowed them to start the move using the carts. But when the oxen stumbled and the cart began to fall, Uzzah touched the ark in an attempt to keep it from being destroyed (v. 6).

Verse 3 tells us that Uzzah and the other guy escorting the cart, Ahio, were “sons of Abinadab.” Abinadab was the man who took the ark into his home to protect it when the Philistines returned it in 1 Samuel 7. So Ahio and Uzzah grew up with the ark in their home. They cared for it and watched over it as a family. It was a special responsibility that they took seriously. When David decided to move the ark, these two men wanted to personally escort it.

So when Uzzah touched the ark in verse 6, he was trying to do something good. He was trying to save the ark from accidental damage or destruction. He was trying to do what his family had done for 20 years, which was to watch over and protect the physical symbol of God’s presence in Israel. Yet verse 7 tells us that God was quick to punish Uzzah when he touched the ark, taking his life immediately for “his irreverent act” (v.  7).

Why would God do this, especially given that Uzzah was trying to save the ark, to protect it? He was not trying to defy the Lord or do something forbidden and get away with it. He was trying to help God out and watch over the ark for him.

My phrase there “help God out” describes why Uzzah died. God did not judge him or his brother (or David) for moving the ark improperly using a cart instead of the poles. God could have judged them for this, but he did not.

Yet their choice to put the ark on the cart in the first place exposed the ark to risk. God was merciful when the ark was moved improperly, but his mercy ran out when Uzzah disobeyed the Lord by touching the ark. His act was “irreverent’ (v. 7) not because he was leaning against it casually or sitting on it, or using it like a step-stool. His act of touching the ark was irreverent because the whole process was done carelessly, irreverently.

Instead of consulting God’s laws to see how the ark was to be moved, the people assumed that it would be OK to move it the same way the Philistines had moved it. When their method of moving it put the ark at risk, Uzzah did not trust the Lord to protect the ark himself; he instinctively felt it would be better to sin by touching the ark than to let the unthinkable happen and see the ark fall. But God wanted his people to learn to be careful in their worship through obedience.

David did learn the right lesson from Uzzah’s death, In verse 13 we see a reference to ‘those who were carrying the ark.” The word “carrying” indicates they were using the poles that God had commanded them to use.

This passage is difficult to apply directly to our lives because there is nothing like the ark of the covenant in our worship. That object was chosen by God to visually and physically portray his presence. There is no object similar to that in our New Testament worship.

But there are times in which we are irreverent toward God. When we do what seems right to us without consulting his word, we are acting a bit like Uzzah. Even if our motives are good and we desire to honor God, if we disobey God’s commands, God is not honored, he is disrespected.

Christians today do all kinds of things in God’s name. Approaches to evangelism try to downplay the Bible’s teaching on creation or miracles or historical events in the Bible. “Just focus on Jesus” the well-intentioned Christian or preacher says; don’t worry about the rest of the Bible. But this is dishonoring to the Lord.

It is dishonoring to the Lord because it relies on human ingenuity (like the cart or a steadying human hand) rather than seeking to understand and obey what God’s word said and trusting him.

Whenever we try to make it easier to become a Christian or to follow the Lord or to worship him, we ought to be very careful. While God does not often judge as immediately and severely as he did Uzzah, he wants us to understand how important it is to reverence Him and treat him as holy.

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. 

1 Samuel 5-6, Ezekiel 18, Ephesians 5

Read 1 Samuel 5-6, Ezekiel 18, and Ephesians 5.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 18.

Way back in the Ten Commandments God had said, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…” (Ex 20:5). God said that to explain his command against making graven images to worship. It sure seems like God said that one generation sins but the generations that follow will pay the price for those sins by receiving God’s judgment.

The people in Ezekiel’s time seem to have interpreted God’s law that way. They believed they were being defeated and deported into exile by the Babylonians because of the sins of their parents. They even created a little proverb for their pity parties, which we read here in Ezekiel 18: “The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (v. 2). Translation: “This bitter defeat and exile is all mom and dad’s fault! They drank the Drano but we’re the ones throwing up!” [Note: Do not drink Drano. Or Liquid Plumber.]

God used their pitiful proverb to raise the issue of responsibility here in Ezekiel’s prophecy, chapter 18. God promised to stop their proverb from spreading in Israel (v. 3) by teaching the people that the judgment they received was due to their own sins. Starting with Adam and Eve, people who are called to account for their sins have usually looked to shift at least some of the blame to someone else.

Here the Lord spoke through Ezekiel to tell him that God’s judgment falls on those who deserve it (v. 4c). He then illustrated this truth over three generations from one family. The patriarch of this family was a righteous man (v. 5) whose righteousness manifested itself in multiple ways (vv. 6-9a). God decreed then, “That man is righteous; he will surely live” (v. 9b).

Despite his righteousness, he had a son who was a very wicked man (vv. 10-13a). About him God said, “…he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head” (v. 13b). The sinful man’s son, however, followed his grandfather’s righteous steps, not his father’s wicked ways (vv. 14). His righteous life was despite the fact that he “…sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things” (v. 14b). Verses 17c-18 say, “He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live. 18 But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people.”

Verses 19-30 are a restatement and defense of the principle that God will punish each person for his own sins. The point for the Jewish people in Ezekiel’s day was stated in verses 30b-32: “Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”

This is why God’s word speaks so directly and forcefully to us about our sins, allowing us no exceptions, excuses or blame-shifting. It isn’t that God wants to punish us; it’s that he DOES NOT WANT to punish us.

It assaults our pride to repent and take full responsibility, but it will save us so much pain if we simply repent and fall on God’s mercy.

If all of this is true, then what does Exodus 20:5, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…” mean?

It means that sin often has consequences beyond the first generation. Those consequences are an indirect punishment.

Think about it this way: If one man kills another man and goes to prison for murder, he pays for his own crime. However, his children also pay. Although neither God nor the state hold the murderer’s children responsible for his crimes, they suffer the loss of their father, a bad reputation in the community, and the loss of his provision for the family. Those children are not responsible for his sins but they are paying a price for them.

Exodus 20:5 is a warning, then, about the snowball effect of sin on your children; it is not a promise that God will be vindictive.

1 Samuel 3, Ezekiel 16, Ephesians 3

Today read 1 Samuel 3, Ezekiel 16, and Ephesians 3.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 16.

Ezekiel 16 contains a long allegory comparing Israel to a woman.

How would you feel about a girl that you (1) saved from death when she was an infant (vv. 1-5), (2) protected as a young woman (vv. 6-7), then (3) married, cared for, and honored when she was old enough to become your wife (vv. 8-14), but who craved the attention of other men and was an unfaithful wife (vv. 15-19) while killing the children you had with her by sacrificing them to idols (vv. 20-23)? I think you’d be pretty mad about that. 

This is how the Lord felt about Israel’s idolatry (v. 30). Although God had been incredibly gracious to Israel unlike any other nation on earth, the people of Israel were unthankful and unfaithful to him for generations. Ezekiel’s vivid allegory in this chapter is designed to appeal to your sense of justice. We may feel ashamed about our sins, but have we ever thought about how deeply they wound the heart of God? That’s what this passage is designed to make us feel. 

Yet all was not lost for Israel. The Lord was heartbroken, jealous, and enraged by her behavior, and was willing to allow her to suffer for her sins (vv. 35-58). Though he had biblical grounds to divorce her because she broke the terms of their covenant (v. 59), God would be loyal to the one he chose and would forgive her sins and re-establish his covenant with her (vv. 59-63). This is the incredible mercy of God; he is loyal to us when we are disloyal to him. He may allow the consequences of our sin to catch up with us, but he never completely drives us away; in fact, he sacrificed himself to make atonement for our sins (v. 63) and keeps his promises to us by grace.

Joshua 3, Jeremiah 28, 2 Corinthians 10

Read Joshua 3, Jeremiah 28, and 2 Corinthians 10.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 28.

In Jeremiah 27, God commanded Jeremiah to develop a little object lesson for the kings of his era. He commanded Jeremiah to make a yoke and wear it around his neck (27:1-2), then to send a message to them urging them to submit voluntarily to the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar (vv. 3-12).

Here in Jeremiah 28 a prophet named Hananiah confronted Jeremiah with a prophecy of his own. He spoke his words “in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and all the people” (v. 1) and told them that God would break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon within two years (vv. 3-4). He even removed the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck and broke it to emphasize the message (vv. 10-12).

Jeremiah responded with an enthusiastic, “Amen!” (literally, v. 5). However, he warned Hananiah about making untrue prophecies (v. 9). With only two years or less for his prophecy to become true, his role as a prophet would either be validated or he would lose all credibility as a spokesman for God (v. 9). Later, God himself spoke to Jeremiah and sent him to warn Hananiah about the consequences of prophesying falsely in God’s name.

Predicting that God will do something within a period of time where you will probably be alive is a bad idea. If it doesn’t happen, people will know that you are a fraud. Jeremiah, however, made a prophecy with an even shorter runway to fulfillment; he predicted that Hananiah would die within the year. The reason for this prediction was God’s judgment on him “because you have preached rebellion against the Lord.” Although Hananiah’s word was rosy and optimistic and encouraged people’s hearts, it was, in fact, urging them to rebel against the Lord instead of obediently following the word that came through Jeremiah.

God honored his true prophet, Jeremiah, by causing his prophecy to come to pass: “ In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died.” Hananiah didn’t make it two months (see v. 1) before God vindicated Jeremiah and discredited him.

God does not seem to bring such swift and clear punishment against those who speak lies in his name today. Why? Because God is merciful to them.

In fact, that was the point of Jeremiah’s prophecy to Hananiah. The reason he was told that his death was approaching was so that he could repent. Had he repented, God would likely have let him live for many more years. This is always why God’s word warns us—to lead us to repentance.

While disobedience to God’s commands may not lead to premature death, there are always painful consequences to sin. Let’s consider this when we are convicted of sin in our lives. It is unwise and unsafe to ignore the confrontations and warnings of the Lord. Conviction of sin is for our good; let’s welcome it and respond to it in repentance for God’s glory and our good (see Heb 12:4-11, esp. verses 10-11).

Deuteronomy 31, Jeremiah 23, 2 Corinthians 7

Read Deuteronomy 31, Jeremiah 23, and 2 Corinthians 7.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 31.

God had made extraordinary promises to his people and he had given them the complex gift of his law. I call his law “complex” because it should have been a blessing to Israel but it was, in fact, a curse. It could have been a blessing; if they had followed God’s laws, they would have been blessed in every way—spiritually, militarily, financially, and more. However, without a new nature, sinful people trying to live by God’s laws are always destined to fail. And, the Israelites did fail! Not only did they never get all the land God promised to them, they never had the financial prosperity or the spiritual power and joy that God promised to them. 

One reason why they failed to keep God’s law is that they did not know God’s law. Verses 12-13 describe the need for all the people to hear the law of God. This passage mandates that God’s law be read to his people, aloud, every seven years at the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 10). The purpose of this reading was not only so that they would know God’s law but so that they would “learn to fear the Lord your God…” (v. 12b). Likewise, their children would hear it and “learn to fear the Lord your God…” (v. 13b).

Fearing God is an Old Testament way of expressing true belief in God; it is similar to the concept of the new birth (or regeneration) in the New Testament. A person who feared God was one who received God’s law not just as a way to regulate behavior but rather as an expression of the character of the living God. He would hear all that God required of him and would be convicted of all the ways he had failed to live up to God’s laws already. He would also be struck with his own inability to keep these laws in the days ahead of his life. Knowing what God required of him and also how weak and sinful his own heart was, he would fall before the Lord looking for mercy for his past sins and grace to walk with God in the days ahead. If Israel had treasured God’s laws for the revelation that they were, God would have done great spiritual work within them and among them for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17).

But there is little evidence that God’s people even read God’s word once every seven years as this passage commanded them. The ignorance of his revelation is one of the main reasons why they never became the nation God promised them they could become.

This should remind us to treasure God’s word—read it, hear it, and obey it in our lives. You’re off to a good start today by reading these passages and this devotional. Now, be in church ready to hear God’s word on Sunday. Join a small group and soak up the reading and discussion of God’s word. God’s word is the blood that oxygenates a Christian’s spiritual life. Let that blood pump through your life and see what God does.

Leviticus 6, Isaiah 1, Luke 21

Read Leviticus 6, Isaiah 1, and Luke 21.

This devotional is about Isaiah 1.

This book of prophecy was written to the “kings of Judah,” the Southern Kingdom after Israel divided during the days of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. The Southern Kingdom was the “good” one of the two kingdoms, in the sense that it had 8 kings that “did right” in the sight of God during their reigns. Three of those good kings, Uzziah, Jotham, and Hezekiah (v. 1) ruled during Isaiah’s prophetic ministry. So, three out of the four kings who reigned over Judah did so during Isaiah’s life and ministry. Or, to look at it another way, 3 of only 8 kings who did what was right before God ruled during Isaiah’s ministry.

Yet, despite three good kings, Israel was a mess spiritually. Isaiah used very strong language to condemn God’s people for their rebellion (v. 2d) and for forsaking the Lord (v. 4e). But, within these words of condemnation are also strong words of promise. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (v. 18). As evil as the Judeans had become, God wanted nothing more than to forgive and restore them (v. 26). In fact, implicit in every judgment passage in the Bible is a call to repent. The terrible punishments that the Bible promises can be reversed because God is merciful. Nobody is too sinful to be outside the realm of God’s grace.

If you’re reading this but living in sin in someway, this is the promise for you. God will judge you for your sins and will punish you, but his mercy is there for the taking. Turn from your sin and ask God for his forgiveness.

If you’re walking with Christ today but fall into sin in the future, remember the lesson that God’s grace and mercy are there for you if you look to God in faith.

Exodus 33, Ecclesiastes 9, Luke 13

Read Exodus 33, Ecclesiastes 9, Luke 13.

This devotional is about Luke 13.

Before radio and TV and cable news channels existed, world news was scarce and was mostly confined to events that related to your own community or, at most, your own nation. So a natural disaster in New Zealand, for example, would never have been known about in Israel during the days Jesus lived on this earth.

Some bad news did get around and Jesus was informed of some here in Luke 13:1. The incident in question was brutal and tragic, but it was also political. It involved “Galileans,” so those were Jewish people who lived in the region where Jesus spent most of his life and ministry, the northern part of Israel called Galilee. These men were in Jerusalem offering sacrifices and Pilate–the Roman governor or that area–had them put to death as they offered their sacrifices in the temple. These men may have been plotting against the Romans, so Pilate may have chosen to make them a public example. Since Jewish people wanted Messiah to lead an insurrection against Rome, Jesus may have been informed of this situation to see if he would take on this revolt as the Messianic leader. Later in the chapter, in verse 31, Jesus was informed that Herod was plotting to kill him So there was a lot of political pressure swirling around Jesus at that moment.

Pilate’s actions were brutal but Jesus did not express moral outrage when he was told of this news. Instead, Jesus warned the people that the men who died were no more sinful than the average citizen of Galilee (v. 2). Jesus then raised the tension in the audience by speaking of eighteen who died in an accident when a tower in Siloam fell on them (v. 4). What about them? Did they deserve an untimely death because they were especially sinful? According to verse 3a, the answer is no. Whether one died by abuse of government power as in verse 1 or in accidentally as in verse 4, Jesus did not condemn the victims as being more sinful than anyone else. Instead, he used these incidents in the news to raise an uncomfortable truth: “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (v. 5).

There was a common superstitious belief that only the worst sinners died prematurely. That belief exists somewhat today in our culture when people talk about “karma.” But Jesus wants us to know that the only reason we are alive today at all is the mercy of God. If God gave us what we deserve, none of us would live a rich, full, happy life. We are all sinners living on the wrong side of God’s laws so he is perfectly just anytime one of us dies, whether at a good old age or way too soon.

Christ has redeemed us who believe from the eternal curse of our sin. Some who believe in him will escape the curse of physical death by being alive when Jesus returns. But none of us is guaranteed anything; physical death is a curse that has been handed down to all of humanity because of the fall.

God’s plan for redemption from physical death is to let most of us die and to raise us from the dead physically at the end of the age. It is wise for us, then, to be thankful for today and to use it as best as we can for God’s glory. It is also wise for us to share with others what Christ has done for sinners so that they may repent and avoid perishing spiritually.

But the most important application of this passage is for any of you who have not turned to Christ for salvation. The only way to avoid the curse of sin is to turn to Jesus for salvation. Take the time you have today to do that; you do not know what God may allow into your life tomorrow.

Genesis 44, Job 10, Hebrews 2

Read Genesis 44, Job 10, and Hebrews 2.

This devotional is about Hebrews 2.

The book of Hebrews is an impassioned attempt by an unknown author to persuade his fellow Jews who have professed faith in Jesus not to abandon their profession of faith and return to Judaism. The book argues that Christ is superior to anything else that can be offered to them religiously speaking.

Hebrews 2:1 opens this chapter with one of many pleas in the book to tend to their faith: “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” Most of chapter 1 argued that Christ is superior to angels. Chapter 2:2 picks up on that theme and reminds the readers that when angels spoke to people, what they said was God’s word. It was, therefore, required that the people who heard the word of God through angels believe and obey that word. How much more important, then, argued the author of Hebrews, that believers not drift away from the word of Christ since through him we have salvation (v. 3) and his message was authenticated by miracles (v. 4).

Verse 5 began to turn the thought to a much more personal connection between believers and Christ. The author of Hebrews quoted Psalm 8 and referred to how God has “put everything under” the feet of humanity, but that this claim has not been realized yet. However, Christ has been crowned with glory and honor (v. 9) and his death on behalf of humanity makes him “the pioneer” of humanity’s salvation (v. 10).

And what was the purpose of this salvation?

Verse 11: “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”

Of the many reasons why Christ became human and died, one of the main reasons was personal—he wanted to join the human family so that, though his redemption, we could join his family, the family of God.

What an incredible expression of the grace of God!

God would have been enormously gracious to simply send Christ to atone for our sins, then annihilate us instead of sending us to hell. That would have rescued us from eternal punishment which is more than we sinners deserve.

But instead of merely rescuing us from eternal torment—as merciful as that was—Christ wanted to make us his brothers and sisters! That truth helps us when our minds question God and our faith is weak. Jesus came into the world, taught us the meaning of salvation, performed miracles to attest to the validity of his claims, then became the pioneer of the redeemed human family, subjugating all creation to himself, then calling us his family so that we can reign with him by grace.

This is a truth–one of many–that should keep our faith going when the going gets tough. Whatever you’re facing today, know that Christ has won the ultimate victory and we will participate in it by his grace when God’s decreed time comes.

Genesis 31, Esther 7, Matthew 22

Read Genesis 31, Esther 7, and Matthew 22 today.

This devotional is about Genesis 31.

People steal from their employers in different ways–taking cash, removing small items, doing personal tasks with company time or resources, etc.

One (of many) reasons people use to rationalize this theft is that they don’t feel they are appreciated and paid well enough for how hard they work. He or she feels entitled to steal as a matter of justice.

I wonder if something like that was a factor in Rachel’s decision to steal Laban’s idols (v. 19). The story of Laban and Jacob is told from Jacob’s perspective in scripture. He was the one who contracted to serve 7 years to marry Rachel and he was the one who was duped into marrying Leah instead. But Rachel was damaged in this deal as well. The man who loved her was given to her sister! What if Jacob decided he loved Leah after he got over the shock of being swindled and decided not to marry Rachel after all? What if Laban refused to marry both of his daughters to the same man?

Furthermore, although she did eventually get to marry Jacob, she was now merely one of two wives instead of his one and only–the way Sarai was to Abram and Rebekah was to Isaac. Also, the fact that Jacob’s other wife was her sister probably heightened the tension between them.

When we consider the situation from Rachel’s perspective, it is not hard to imagine that she felt used and deceived and devalued by her father. Her theft of his idols, then, might have been an act of payback for how poorly she felt Laban had treated her.

Whatever her motivation, Rachel’s decision to steal nearly caused her to lose her life (v. 32). The consequences of her theft were far more costly than the value of his idols. I think about this whenever I see a news article about someone who was caught embezzling money. $10,000 or $40,000 or $100,000 is a lot of money. But it isn’t worth losing years of your life in prison over. In many cases, people stole less money than they would have earned if they’d stayed out of jail.

God was merciful to Rachel despite her theft and to Jacob despite his absurdly over-the-top penalty he promised Laban if anyone was found with Laban’s idols (v. 32). Don’t count on receiving that kind of mercy yourself if you are dishonest and take something that doesn’t belong to you. The rationalizations we make to convince ourselves to sin (or soothe our conscience after we’ve sinned) sound convincing in our own heads but completely absurd when said out loud. This is why we are wiser to follow God’s commands than to justify to ourselves why we can sin.

One more thing about this passage occurs to me: Do you see how deception spreads like a cancer? Jacob deceived his brother and his father. He was deceived by his father-in-law and saw his wife do something deceitful that she hid from him. It is the principle of sowing and reaping again. Like sowing corn, you get more back than you sowed so be careful about what you’re sowing.

Genesis 22, Nehemiah 11, Matthew 15

Read Genesis 22, Nehemiah 11, Matthew 15.

This devotional is about Matthew 15.

Not too many people have the guts to correct Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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