Genesis 38, Job 4, Psalm 36

Read Genesis 38, Job 4, Psalm 36.

This devotional is about Psalm 36.

After we sin, and the pleasure of it is gone, and the price tag comes due, it feels pretty stupid.

Before we sin, however, sin seems like a great idea. We delude ourselves into thinking that we won’t get caught or we justify our disobedience by telling ourselves that our case is exceptional. Or maybe we don’t even think very far beyond the moment; the promise of sin clouds our thinking and keeps us from counting the cost.

David had a message for us in this Psalm. Sin is not only stupid, it is arrogant. Verse 2 says, “In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” This is how our hearts deceive us. Your heart and mine tells you and me to ignore the truth of God’s word and the wisdom about life that is offered there and to trust our own judgment. When we choose to do wrong, we flatter ourselves into thinking that we have it all figured out.

Verses 5-9 sing to the Lord, praising him for his faithfulness, his righteousness, his justice, his love, his abundance, his life, and his light. Believing these truths about God can cause us to make righteous choices in our lives. When I want to do wrong but choose to do right, it is a choice to follow God’s wisdom over my own. It is an act of faith, believing that God’s ways will be better than following my own ways–no matter how flawless my plans seem or how brilliant my evil heart tells me I am.

Verse 12 calls us to look at those who’ve come before us. They’ve already made the moral choices that we are tempted to make. They believed the lies of their sin-cursed hearts. What happened to them? “See how the evildoers lie fallen—thrown down, not able to rise!”

Sin will please you for a moment and kill you in the end. God’s commands, however lead us to better things: Verse 9 says, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (vv. 8-9).

Choose the light.

Genesis 17, Nehemiah 6, Psalm 16

Read Genesis 17, Nehemiah 6, and Psalm 16.

This devotional is about Genesis 17.

Two major events in Israel’s history were recorded in this chapter. First, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham (v. 5). Second, God commanded Abraham and his descendants to obey the covenant of circumcision (vv. 9-14). Of all the commands God gave to Israel throughout the generations, this is the only one that they obeyed faithfully. The generation that entered the promised land had not been circumcised by their fathers, but that appears to be the only time when this covenant was not practiced faithfully (see Joshua 5:2-8).

Circumcision created a permanent, physical mark on a man’s body that separated him from people in other nations and specified that he belonged to the nation of Israel. That was important for preserving the unique ethnic identity that God wanted. The Hittites, the Perizzites, Rephaites, and later the Philistines and many others had their own identity for a time, but then were absorbed into other nations and ethnicities. Circumcision set God’s people apart from these other nations.

But the covenant of circumcision had a much greater importance than just creating and preserving a national identity for Israel. God told Abraham here in Genesis 17:7 that the purpose of the covenant was, “to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” Although it was a physical mark, it had a spiritual purpose. Faithfully marking each man physically, apart from the spiritual purpose, made it an empty ritual.

For us Christians, ordinances and routines such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, faithful church attendance, and Bible reading and prayer are some of the ways in which God’s grace helps us to grow in Christ. But a person can do those things without God actually becoming “your God” in the sense that you know him as Lord and Savior. But even as genuine Christians, we can lose focus on our walk with God while continuing to practice these things. Our practice of them becomes work that we do by habit or by willpower or because we think they earn merit with God rather than expressions of our love for God.

But that’s not what God wants from us! He didn’t save us so that we could mindlessly practice routines. He saved us so that we could walk with him and live for him from the heart.

So, is there anything you’re doing as a Christian that is expected of Christians but that does not come from your heart? Ask God to re-ignite your passion for him so that you become again a person who walks with God faithfully from the heart.

1 Chronicles 29, Psalms 133-135

Read 1 Chronicles 29 and Psalms 133-135.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 29.

The large number of commands and rules in Moses’ law can make us feel like serving God is merely a matter of “dos” and “don’ts.” If people did everything the Lord commanded them to do and didn’t do what he commanded them to avoid, they may have thought that God was pleased with them. And, when they sinned, if they merely “did” the offering God commanded, all would be well again. The Pharisees seemed to believe this to be true and possibly many Christians do as well. 

But 1 Chronicles 29 argues against such an objective, works-based approach to God. David spoke to the assembly of God’s people in 1 Chronicles 29 and described for them the wealth that he had provided for the materials in the temple Solomon would build (vv. 1-5a). David then invited the leaders of Israel’s tribes to contribute to the Lord’s work in the temple as well (v. 5b).

The people responded well to his invitation and gave generously to the stockpile of materials that a magnificent temple required (vv. 6-8). All this was done with joy–“the people rejoiced”, “they had given freely and wholeheartedly” and “David the king also rejoiced greatly” (v. 9). Then David prayed a magnificent prayer of praise in verses 10-19 and led the people to praise the Lord with him (v. 20). David’s prayer took no credit for the abundance of the Lord’s provision but instead marveled at how God’s abundant provision for them enabled them to give so much wealth to him (v. 12a, 14-16).

Then David focused on the heart: “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity” (v. 17a). It is not our performance of giving or righteous good works or religious ceremonies that God wants; it is a heart that desires him, is devoted to him, and obeys and gives and serves him out of awe and worship and thanks and love. All of these things would have come naturally to us if sin had not entered the world, but we did sin. Therefore, selfishness and wicked desires invaded the space God created in us to be devoted to him.

David recognized that it was only God’s gracious work in the heart that enabled true devotion to Him so he prayed that God would do this work in the people (“keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you”) and in Solomon (“give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees”). As believers in Jesus, we’ve received a new nature that leads us toward a holy life. But we need God’s continual work to “keep these desires and thoughts” (v. 18), just as David prayed, because of the constant battle we do with sin. 

Your obedience to the Lord may be spot on today in the sense that you’ve been consistently doing the Lord’s commands and have avoided sinful choices as far as you know. But what is the state of your heart? Habitual obedience is good but it only pleases the Lord when it comes from within. May God purge our hearts of our sinful desires, open our eyes to our spiritual blindspots, and give us a heart that is increasingly devoted to him.

Deuteronomy 32, Jeremiah 24, 2 Corinthians 8

Read Deuteronomy 32, Jeremiah 24, 2 Corinthians 8.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 24.

When we read the Old Testament prophets, we see passage after passage that condemns the people for their sins and warns of coming judgment. The language that describes their disobedience seems so all-encompassing that we might conclude that there were no faithful people in Israel except for the prophets themselves.

Today’s passage in Jeremiah 24 shows that this is not true. Although most of God’s people were disobedient to his covenant, the basket of figs shows that there were some who loved God and lived obediently to him. The fact that Jeremiah described the good figs as “very good” in verse 3 shows that there were some strong believers scattered among the idol worshippers and other unfaithful people of Judah.

But, due to the unfaithfulness of the majority, even these “good figs” were carried away into exile, experiencing the curse of the covenant for the disobedience of the whole kingdom. That seems terribly unjust, but God did not abandon these faithful believers altogether. Instead, today’s reading offers hope for these believers. God promised in verse 6, “My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.” So his promises would be kept in his time.

However, in the meantime, God promised to reward these faithful ones with the thing they really needed anyway: a deeper discipleship with him. Verse 7 says, “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”

Just as even the faithful among God’s people experienced the effects of God’s judgment due to the sins and unbelief of others, so we will have pain and setbacks in our own lives, even if we faithfully follow the Lord. God’s promise to us is not a pain-free life or peaceful, material abundance. God’s promise to us is himself; and that will be more than enough if our hope is truly in him.