1 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 9, 1 John 1.

Read 1 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 9, and 1 John 1.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 16.

As far as we know, the musical aspect of worship did not exist in Israel’s tabernacle before David came along. I could be wrong about that because the Bible just doesn’t say much about Israel’s worship practice, other than what was in Moses’ law. There were some “songs”–probably more poetry that was chanted than songs that were sung–like Moses’ and Miriam’s songs. Maybe they were used in some group settings in the tabernacle. But, as far as I can tell, until David came along, worship in the tabernacle consisted of teaching the law and offering various kinds of offerings–sin offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings, incense offerings, etc. 

Our passage for today, 1 Chronicles 16, seems to be the place where music was introduced formally to Israel’s worship. David (and probably many others before him) worshipped personally as he played the harp and sang to his sheep. But now, according to verse 4, the more musically-gifted Levites were organized and charged with the task of making music before the Lord. “He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel” (v. 4). That was their job! Instead of making show bread or offering burnt offerings, or teaching the law, these men (listed in verse 5a) were to spend all of their time in musical worship (vv. 37-38, 41-42).

Performing that ministry required preparation. They wrote worship songs, rehearsed personally and in groups. The ministry of music also, of course, involved playing and singing publicly before the Lord: “They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner: ‘Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” 

What a gift the Lord gave to his people–both Israel and the church–through David. Our worship is greatly enhanced by music. Good worship songs teach God’s word by reminding us of what God has done and introducing our children to God’s mighty works: “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Israel, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth” (vv. 12-14).

Good worship songs focus on God’s character (v. 29c, 34) and call us to trust in his promises (vv. 15-18). They call us to reflect on God’s works and to be thankful and give thanks to him for his grace (vv. 34-36). Paying people to make music to glorify God for the worship of his people may seem like a luxury, but David’s decision to do this and his leadership to organize it has blessed generations of believers ever since.

I give thanks for our worship leader, Nick Slayton, and for all who serve on our worship team. I give thanks for hymn writers, song writers, musicians, and singers that God has blessed with talent and desire to be used for his service. Let’s pray for them to keep walking with the Lord and to keep serving him for his glory. If you use music as part of your personal devotional/worship time, take a moment to pray for the musicians and songwriters you will listen to today.

1 Chronicles 3-4, Zechariah 2, John 17

Read 1 Chronicles 3-4, Zechariah 2, and John 17.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 4.

In 2000 Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book titled The Prayer of Jabez based on our passage for today, specifically 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. That book was a monster best seller with over 9 million copies sold. Many people—Christians and non-Christians—following the teaching in Wilkinson’s book have prayed the prayer of Jabez, asking God’s blessing on their lives. They treat this passage, again because of Wilkinson’s book, like it is a secret formula, almost a magic incantation for bringing God’s blessing on your life anywhere you want it.

But 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 is not an incantation or a secret formula to unleash God’s blessings in your life.

To understand Jabez’s prayer, we need to understand that God had promised material prosperity to the Jewish people if they walked in obedience to his laws. This goes all the way back to God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12. There, and in later passages, God promised land to Abram’s descendants.

What made Jabez “more honorable than his brothers” was that he believed God’s promise and asked God to fulfill it in his life. Jabez’s prayer was consistent with the covenant God made with Israel. The other descendants of Judah after David turned to idols as the source of their prosperity. They worshipped other gods in disobedience to God’s law and hoped to obtain more land and more prosperity from these gods. They also abused others to get what they wanted.

Jabez was different and “more honorable” because he had faith in God and prayed consistently with God’s promises for his people.

What Jabez’s prayer teaches us is that God is honored when we pray according to his revealed will—that is, according to what the Bible says.

When we pray in faith asking God to honor his promises to us in the word, God is pleased and will answer us according to his will. No Christian is promised the kind of material prosperity that Jabez prayed for. What God promises to us is to provide for our needs, to give us spiritual power to overcome sin and to become like Jesus, and to be with us as we go spreading the gospel to all the nations.

What if we prayed for those things instead of asking God to heal our chronic problems?

How would that transform our prayer life?

How would it change our church?

What might God do in this world if we prayed like Jabez—not aping his requests but applying the spirit of them to pray according to God’s promises and God’s will as revealed to us in scripture?

2 Kings 14, Micah 7, John 8

Read 2 Kings 14, Micah 7, and John 8.

This devotional is about Micah 7.

Unbelievers who read the Old Testament commonly complain that “the God of the Old Testament” is a God of anger, wrath, and vengeance. Of course he is, because he is a holy God and there is a mountain of wickedness in this world where we live.

But anger, wrath, and vengeance are not even close to being a full description of God–whether in the Old Testament or New. The false gods that nations outside of Israel worshipped were far more angry and vindictive than the Old Testament’s revelation of Israel’s God. Israel’s God promised peace, love, and prosperity for obedience but the idols of this world demand appeasement only. In other words, people worshipped these gods not out of love and thanks but in fear of the negative consequences they promised to bring. 

Even today where most “gods” have been replaced by abstract spiritual forces like the concept of karma, people act in fear (“karma is a [bleep]!”) not out of thanks and love. Although Micah, here in chapter 7, described God’s judgment falling on Israel, he re-affirmed the important promises of God’s love to his now-forsaken people: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago” (vv. 18-20).

It is so important to remember these truths, especially when we suffer under the consequences of our own sin or fall under the discipline of the Lord. His promise of love and forgiveness is waiting for us. Will we turn in faith to claim these promises or wallow in our own self-pity and doubt?

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 Kings 13, Joel 2, 1 Peter 1

Read 1 Kings 13, Joel 2, 1 Peter 1.

This devotional is about Joel 2.

The locust plague described in Joel 1 was a devastation brought by literal locusts.

Here in chapter 2, however, many commentators see Joel using the locust plague of chapter 1 as a metaphor for the invasion of the Babylonian army upon Judah.

After describing how horrible the invasion of the Babylonians will be (vv. 1-11), Joel urged his people to repent in verses 12-17. Verse 12 holds out the promise again that genuine repentance was still possible even with the Babylonian threat so close at hand. Verse 13 described the repentance God was seeking: “rend your heart and not your garments.”

It was not the symbol of repentance such as tearing their clothes or some other outward work that God wanted. Instead, God wanted a broken-hearted repentance, a complete turning away from the idolatry that was so common in Judah and a “return to the Lord your God” (v. 13). That was the way to avoid the judgment of God that the Babylonians would bring.

Verse 13 also described the reason to return to God: “for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

We have read so much in the prophets about the promise of judgment and the delivery of that promise to Israel and then to Judah. It is easy to conclude, from those prophesies, that God is difficult, hard to please, and unreasonable toward his people.

The truth is just the opposite: God wanted nothing more than to be reconciled to his people. The judgment they experienced was due to their absolute refusal to be reconciled to him.

Although Judah did fall to the Babylonians, verses 18-32 hold out a promise of much greater hope. God would allow his people to be punished, but eventually he would bless his people with abundance (vv. 18-27) and with the power of the Holy Spirit (vv. 28-32).

The Lord began keeping this promise on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-21) but the consummation is still to come. While we wait for Christ to return and finish fulfilling the promises, the promise for today is, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved….” This is why we are still here and why the Lord has not returned. God is being reconciled to people as the Holy Spirit brings true conviction of sin and repentance and people put faith in Jesus Christ.

2 Samuel 23, Hosea 1, 1 Timothy 5

Today read 2 Samuel 23, Hosea 1, and 1 Timothy 5.

This devotional is about Hosea 1.

The Lord told some of his prophets to do difficult things.

He allowed others to experience difficult things as a result of their prophecies. 

The ministry he called Hosea to do has to have been among the most difficult: Hosea’s marriage was to serve as a metaphor for the Lord’s relationship to Israel. As we saw in today’s reading, God commanded him to marry a woman and told him in advance that she would be unfaithful to him.

Then, when she bore children, each child was given a difficult name. His firstborn son, Jezreel, was named after a valley (v. 5) but it was a valley where Jehu was killed and where Israel would suffer a great defeat.

Hosea’s daughter was named “Not Loved” and his final son was named “Not My People.” Imagine the jeering his children took from other kids because of their names; imagine how difficult everything about Hosea’s family life must have been.

Despite this difficult object lesson of judgment, however, chapter 1 ends with words of hope: “In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God’” (v. 10). Although Israel was unfaithful to God through their idol worship and that unfaithfulness would cause separation in their relationship with God, the separation would be temporary.

True to his word, God re-affirmed his commitment to Israel and promised again that he would complete the promises of his covenant.

Let this encourage you if you are feeling defeated by sin and wondering if God will forgive you. God’s nature is to be faithful and loving and that means he is forgiving to those who claim his promises by faith. So, claim his promises and turn to him for forgiveness.

2 Samuel 21, Daniel 11, 1 Timothy 3

Read 2 Samuel 21, Daniel 11, and 1 Timothy 3.

This devotional is about Daniel 11.

Today’s reading in Daniel 11 continued the interpretation of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10.

The speaker in this chapter was an angel who was sent to interpret Daniel’s vision. Daniel 10-12 is a remarkable passage that predicted in detail the future events that followed the Medo-Persian empire as well as some events that are still future to us.

Sorting all this out and explaining it is beyond what I’m trying to accomplish with these devotionals. But there is something devotional for us to take away from this passage today. In verses 30b-31 we read, “He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant. His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation….” This all refers to a king from the Seleucid (Greek) Empire named Antiochus.

The Jewish people were divided; some worshipped the gods of the Greeks and others worshipped the Lord. Verse 30 described Antiochus showing “favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.” These are the Jewish people who worshiped the false Greek gods. In verse 31, we were told that, “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice.” This refers to the time when Antiochus outlawed the worship of the Lord and ended the sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. He actually went further than just ending the sacrifices commanded in Moses’ law. Antiochus had an altar to Zeus constructed in the Jewish temple and sacrificed a pig (a ceremonially unclean animal, unfit for worship in the Lord’s temple) on that altar to Zeus.

Verse 32 told us that he would flatter the Jewish people who had forsaken the Lord for the gods of the Greeks, and then verse 32 concluded with this, “…but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” That statement prophesied the rise of the Maccabees, a group led by Judas Maccabaeus, who were faithful to Moses’ law and successfully battled Antiochus into withdrawing from Judea. The Maccabees then cleansed the temple and restored it to the covenant worship of the Lord.

Notice from verse 32 that they key to this resistance was that it was led by “the people who know their God.” This phrase means that they were students of God’s word and believed it. They believed God’s covenant with Israel was true and that God’s laws were to be kept. Their faith in God led to their unexpected victory. God’s word taught them who God was and that empowered them to claim God’s  promises by faith and valiantly—and successfully—fight when the odds were against them.

This passage, then, in addition to providing a prophecy that was historically fulfilled also gives us a template for successful resistance in a world dominated by unbelief and that wants to suppress and even extinguish our faith. The way we combat the hostility to God around us is to know him through his word, believe his promises and live accordingly.

2 Samuel 3, Ezekiel 43, Mark 7

Read 2 Samuel 3, Ezekiel 43, and Mark 7.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 43.

The exile of Judah to Babylon happened in three stages. Ezekiel and others were sent to Babylon in one of the earlier stages of exile and Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry happened there in Babylon (Ez 1:1).

Back in chapter 33:21-22, word came to Ezekiel and the other Jewish exiles in Babylon that Jerusalem had fallen to Nebuchadnezzar. This was the final stage of Judah’s exile, the one where Nebuchadnezzar killed many people and burned the city of Jerusalem, including the Lord’s temple.

From Ezekiel 34 onward, Ezekiel’s message to Judah turned to a hopeful one. He still prophesied pain and loss for God’s enemies (like in Ez 35, for instance) but, for God’s people, his message was God’s promise of restoration.

Whenever someone has a catastrophic loss–a business or personal bankruptcy, the death of a spouse or one that leaves in divorce–it can seem like things will never be good again. Imagine if the catastrophe happened to your nation–a nation of God’s chosen people. Imagine that the capitol city, the palace, and the temple that one of your greatest kings in history built was completely destroyed. Imagine that everyone you knew was either killed or carried off as a prisoner by the nation that invaded you. I think there would be a strong tendency for any of us to think, “That’s it; it’s over. Israel will never exist again.” These later chapters in Ezekiel’s prophecy were promises from God that the nation would not be over. In fact, God’s people would have a brighter future than ever someday. Judah and Israel would be reunited as one nation again (37:15-23) and God himself would be their king (37:24-28).

Starting in chapter 40, Ezekiel had a vision of a restored temple of the Lord. The past few chapters we’ve read in Ezekiel have described that new temple in great detail. So much detail, in fact, that Ezekiel was measuring it out by hand so that there would be a specific record of what God was promising to do.

There is more description to come of this temple in the chapters that remain of Ezekiel but in today’s chapter, Ezekiel 43, God explained why he described this temple to Ezekiel in such detail. Verse 10 says, “Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider its perfection, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple—its arrangement, its exits and entrances—its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations.”

To summarize those verses, God is telling Ezekiel to be specific about the temple so that God’s people would “be ashamed of their sins.” How exactly would a vision of a temple for the Lord with precise measurements make the people ashamed of their sins? The answer lies in the idea behind all of this: God’s people may have given up on him but he had not given up on them. God was able to restore them to the land, be their perfect king, and dwell among them in a perfect temple. What they needed to do was repent of their sins and hope in him for the fulfillment of these promises.

Truthfully, our ambitions for God are extremely limited but God wants to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (v. 20). Reading about God’s promises like this in his word should give us great hope and align us with his program and will again. God has promised incredible things for his people; do we believe that he will do them?

If we did believe that God will accomplish his promises, what would we do (or try) that we won’t do or try today?

1 Samuel 31, Ezekiel 40, Mark 6

Read 1 Samuel 31, Ezekiel 40, and Mark 6.

This devotional is about Mark 6.

If you live long enough, at some point someone whose birth and childhood you remember becomes someone important–a judge, a doctor, a professor, your governor, maybe even your pastor. Some people have a hard time respecting the accomplishments of someone they knew as a younger person. It might be hard to let someone take out your appendix if you remember changing that kid’s diapers.

Jesus faced this kind of credibility crisis here in Mark 6 when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth.

On one hand, the wisdom Jesus had was undeniable. As they said in verse 2, “What’s this wisdom that has been given him?” They never saw him apprentice with a rabbi, so how could they trust the things that he said? Likewise, his miracles were impressive. Again, verse 2 recorded the question, “What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?” Some of these people might have remembered that time he got lost, as a child, in Jerusalem. How was that kid now capable of restoring people’s limbs and returning sight to their blind eyes? He was just a simple carpenter and they knew his whole family (v. 3), so it was difficult to accept that God’s power was on him so clearly. Verse 3 ended by saying, “…they took offense at him.”

Of course, this is all an expression of unbelief. To believe that Jesus was the Messiah or even a great spiritual leader would require some humility. It’s a lot easier to retain your pride and cast doubt on Jesus’ legitimacy than it is to humbly accept that little Jesus, now grown, was really being used by God.

The result of their faithlessness was, according to verse 5 that “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” The people who should have been most proud of him were his biggest skeptics. Their skepticism–aka their unbelief–meant that God’s power in their village was restrained. When verse 5 says that “He could not do any miracles there” it isn’t saying that it was impossible for him to do miracles. Jesus had the same power that he always had. The point is that he couldn’t do miracles because people who needed healing would not come to him for it. They would rather keep their dignity in place than admit they needed Mary’s kid for anything. Verse 6 says, “He was amazed at their lack of faith.”

Faith, of course, is a response to God’s word, a positive reception of God’s promises and revelation. Although Christ is not physically here to do miracles for us, he has made many promises to us. I wonder how many times our unbelief keeps us from asking God to save someone we love, or to turn a wayward friend to repentance.

I wonder what God would do in our church if we came to him more often for help and asked him to work in our lives or the lives of others. I wonder how much our Lord wants to do for us and in us and through us if we would just show our faith and ask him.

What do you want to ask him for today?

1 Samuel 23, Ezekiel 33, Mark 1

Read 1 Samuel 23, Ezekiel 33, and Mark 1.

This devotional is about 1 Samuel 23.

God had chosen David to be Israel’s next king. David knew this, because Samuel had anointed him (1 Sam 16). Saul’s son Jonathan knew it, and he claimed that Saul knew it as well (v. 17). It was inevitable. Despite Saul’s best efforts to hunt David down and kill him, “God did not give David into his hands.”

This passage demonstrates David’s love for the LORD and his desire to please and obey him:

  • David sought the LORD’s will when the Philistines were attacking a Jewish city (vv. 1-2). He attacked the Philistines and defended them successfully, despite the fears of his men, because the LORD commanded him to do it (vv. 2-5).
  • David sought the LORD when he heard that Saul was coming for him (v. 10), and he believed and acted on what the LORD told him (vv. 11-13).

Why did God subject David to this relentless attack by Saul? Why did David have to wait for many years to become king, given that God had chosen him? Why did David have to travel from place to place to be safe and experience so many close calls (vv. 26-28)?

The answer is not specified in this passage, but it is revealed in many other passages of scripture. The LORD makes us wait and puts us in pressure situations to test our faith. Testing reveals whether we truly trust the LORD or whether we are following him only for the benefits he promised. It

Testing also strengthens our faith and teaches us to pray. When David did become king, he had experiences like this one to look back on. He could remember how God used him in military campaigns to save his people (v. 5). He could remember how God protected him from Saul (v. 14) and how God answered his prayers. These incidents would strengthen his resolve to do what was right when he became king later and they would form a habit of asking for God’s will and God’s guidance in his decisions as king.

But none of this was easy. It must have been discouraging and unpleasant to live on the run the way David and his men did. The Psalms that David wrote while he was on the run show that he struggled with fear as Saul chased him (see Psalms 59 and 63 for two examples).

So it was appropriate and necessary for Jonathan to encourage David, as we’re told he did in verses 15-18. But notice that Jonathan didn’t encourage David by telling him, “Everything will be ok. You’re too good at hiding for Saul to ever find you. He’s getting too old and won’t be around much longer.” In other words, Jonathan didn’t minimize the problem to try to make David feel better.

Instead, verse 15 tells us that Jonathan “…helped him find strength in God.” How did he do this? Two ways:

  1. By telling him not to be afraid (v. 17a). Fear is a natural human emotion, but it is the opposite of faith. When Jonathan told David not to be afraid, he was reminding him of the power of God. The LORD God who had protected David’s life to this point would not fail to keep protecting him in the future. So David had nothing to fear.
  2. By reminding him of God’s promises. When Jonathan told David that he would be king, he wasn’t making up a fanciful wish out of thin air. He was reminding David what God had promised. Samuel had delivered this promise to David when he anointed David. Jonathan believed it and reminded David of it.

What a great friend Jonathan was! Not just because of his humility (v. 17e), but because of his godly heart, solid theology, and determination to bolster David’s faith when his circumstances were bad.

Do you have any Christian friends who are discouraged? Follow Jonathan’s example. Remind him or her that God is all powerful, so there really isn’t anything to fear because the LORD’s will will overcome. Remind your friend, too, of God’s promises: that Christ is coming again for us, that he will raise us again to new life, wipe every tear from our eyes, vanquish his enemies and bring us safely into his kingdom where we will rule and reign forever.

A friend who can speak this kind of encouragement is a godly friend. Help your friends “find strength in God.”

Judges 6, Jeremiah 52, Romans 12

Read Judges 6, Jeremiah 52, Romans 12.

This devotional is about Judges 6.

This chapter in Judges describes how the Lord disciplined Israel’s idolatry using the Midianites. The Midianites’ flavor of oppression was unusual. They weren’t into swordplay and slaughter; rather, stealing was their brand. They would enter your property and do whatever they wanted to your family and your stuff, so the Israelites fled to the hills for some privacy and protection (v. 2).

The Midianites treated Israel like slaves. They allowed God’s people plant crops on their own land, doing all the hard work of breaking up the ground, planting the seed, and nurturing the plants as they emerged from the ground (v. 3a). Then the Midianites would swoop in, camp on Israel’s land and take everything from the harvest (vv. 4-6). In desperation, Israel cried out to the Lord for help (vv. 6-7). Before sending a military leader, God sent a prophet (vv. 8a). His prescription was repentance, reminding Israel of their disobedience to God’s covenant (vv. 8b-10).

There is no indication that Israel repented of their sins, but God identified a military man anyway; his name was Gideon. The only problem was that he was a military man disguised as a complete coward. We see this first of all based where God met him. Verse 11 says he “was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.” This was an impractical place to thresh wheat. The best threshing was out in an open place where the wind blew freely, not down in a pit where the grapes were normally crushed. But what the winepress lacked in practicality it made up for in privacy. Gideon went there “…to keep it from the Midianites.” Only a complete moron would thresh in the winepress, so Gideon went there on purpose, not because he was a moron but because they wouldn’t look for the wheat there.

That choice of Gideon’s, however, shows that he was not a mighty man by nature despite what the angel of the Lord said of him in verse 12. If he were a mighty man by nature, he would have threshed in the open with his sword strapped to his belt. He would have been ready to defend his food against the Midianites instead of hiding from them. So, when God spoke to Gideon, he was designated a “mighty warrior” not because he really was but because “The Lord is with you” (v. 12b).

In addition to being a weakling warrior, Gideon was also not much of a theologian. His response to the assertion that God was with him was to question God’s faithfulness in verse 13. Maybe he believed that God’s promises were only positive; if so, he hadn’t read the law very well. The kind of oppression he experienced was exactly what God had promised if Israel worshipped idols. Ignoring the idols in his very own household (v. 25), Gideon blamed God for Israel’s problems rather than realizing their problem was sin.

What he lacked in military strength and theological prowess was also matched by his lack of leadership standing. In verse 15, Gideon pointed out that he was the youngest member of his family, which was from a weak clan, in a weak tribe. In a culture that valued positional leadership, there was nothing about Gideon’s position to suggest that he was poised for leadership.

Then there is the issue of his faith. God urged him twice to stand on God’s promises to Israel and defeat the Midianites (vv. 14, 16). Believing God’s written word in the Law alone was more than enough for Gideon, or any other man in Israel, to liberate God’s people. But even after hearing God’s direct call (v. 16), seeing God face to face in the angel of the Lord (vv. 17-23), being used by God to destroy the altar to Baal and replace it with a proper altar to Israel’s God (vv. 25-32) and to summon an Israelite army when Israel’s enemies threatened invasion (vv. 33-35), Gideon got scared again and tested God twice (vv. 36-40). Christians talk all the time about “putting out a fleece” to discern the will of God, but that’s not what Gideon was doing. He was looking for a loophole, a way out of doing what God had commanded him to do (v. 36b: “…If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised…”).

It is hard to respect Gideon after reading this passage, yet God used him as we’ll see in the next two chapters of Judges. When it comes to our own lives, however, we are often like Gideon. We sin, then blame God for the consequences. We know that we should live obediently to God’s commands because we’re banking on God’s promises, but we get scared and we look for loopholes, exceptions, and emergency exits. Yet, God is gracious to us still. He does not become angry with us, judge us, and move on from us in anger. He works through our unbelief with us and shows us that, if we will just trust him by living obediently, he’ll be with us.

So, can you trust him today and do the right thing—the thing that scares you but that you know from God’s word is the thing you’re supposed to do?

If God can use a guy like Gideon, certainly he can use us. We’re made of the same weak stuff that Gideon was made of but we have the same almighty God who stands by us when we live in faith to his promises.

Judges 1, Jeremiah 48, Romans 10

Read Judges 1, Jeremiah 47, and Romans 9.

This devotional is about Judges 1.

A repeated theme of Joshua and Judges is Israel taking the land of promise, but not completely. Their territory was larger sometimes and smaller at other times but Israel never occupied everything God promised them.

Why not?

Unbelief which led to inaction.

Here in Judges 1, Joshua was dead (v. 1a) and Israel was still procrastinating when it comes to taking their land. Judah followed God’s word in verses 1-21 and won some significant territory. But notice that they took Jerusalem at one point (v. 8) but then apparently lost it again (v. 21) and did not have it again until David took it many years later. Notice also the intriguing words of verse 19: “The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron.” The Lord was with them… but they couldn’t dislodge the guys with iron chariots. Why not? Because God is no match for iron chariots? No; because Judah did not believe God would give them victory over people with iron chariots. The Lord was with them, but they were not courageous enough to believe that and follow through with obedience.

God’s people were willing to follow God to a point, but when it came to confronting their fear and moving out of their comfort zones, they stopped obeying God’s word, claiming God’s promises, and decided to be happy with less than all the land God had promised them.

This is already starting to feel like a “name it and claim it” devotional. I definitely disagree with that theology and don’t want to bend the principles in this passage too far.

But, think about what’s going on in this passage. God makes promises. God’s people believe and act on those promises and succeed until the challenge looks hard. Then they quit and settle for less than what God promised.

Do we ever do that? Hasn’t God promised to be with us to the end of the age as we go and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20)? Yes, he has. But how much effort do we put into making disciples?

Hasn’t God said that we are his “handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)? Yes he has. But how much effort do we put into growing in grace, pushing out into new areas of ministry that might be uncomfortable for us?

What about in your work? Doesn’t God’s word say that, “All hard work brings a profit” (v. 23a)? Doesn’t it tell us to diversify what we do and try different things in order to find what will succeed (Ecc 11:6)? But are you stuck in a job that isn’t providing enough for your family because you feel comfortable and safe there?

How about when it comes to giving? Doesn’t the New Testament encourage generous giving to see God provide: 2 Corinthians 9:6-8: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” God’s word does encourage generous giving so that you can see God provide. But are you giving to his work sparingly or not at all?

Again, the New Testament doesn’t teach us that God wants us all to be rich or that we can have whatever we want in Jesus’s name if we just name it and claim it. But it does tell us that God will be with us and will bless things that we do for his glory. It may not be easy–iron chariots are nothing to sneeze at–but are we settling for less than God would give us if we stepped out of our comfort zone in faith and tried some things for his glory?