2 Chronicles 27-28 and Revelation 16

Read 2 Chronicles 27-28 and Revelation 16.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 27-28.

In times of trouble, many people turn to the Lord for help. This is how some people become Christians; it is also how many people believers grow in their faith and become stronger Christians.

In contrast to all of that was Ahaz king of Judah that we read about in 2 Chronicles 28. Although he was the son of Jotham a man who “walked steadfastly before the Lord his God” (27:6), Ahaz “did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (28:1). He practiced idolatry, of course, but also stooped to child sacrifice (v. 3: “sacrificed his children in the fire”).

In response to his disobedient life, God allowed the Arameans to defeat him (v. 5a) and the Northern Kingdom of Israel as well (vv. 5b-8). The Israelites were especially brutal to Judah (vv. 6-8) until God sent a prophet to keep Israel from going too far (vv. 9-15).

But, instead falling before the Lord in humble repentance after these defeats, Ahaz humbled himself before the Assyrians (v. 16) and sought their help defeating the attacking Edomites (vv. 17-21). When the Assyrians made things worse instead of better (v. 20), Ahaz still did not seek the Lord. Instead, “In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the Lord. He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he thought, ‘Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me.’ But they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel.”

This is how unbelievers typically respond when the wages of sin catch up with them. Some unbelievers, of course, find Christ in these painful, difficult circumstances but others harden their hearts and choose to sin even more in defiance against God. At times we as believers do the same thing. We sin, God allows consequences for our sin and, to alleviate those consequences, we sin more hoping things will get better.

But they don’t get better! More sin adds up to more pain and consequences in our lives. Let’s learn from Ahaz and turn to the Lord in our times of trouble, trusting him to rescue us when we humble ourselves before him. If you’re struggling with a sin or its consequences and are looking for a way out, turn to the Lord and find your way out through honest repentance and humble obedience to his word.

2 Kings 13, Micah 6, John 7

Read 2 Kings 13, Micah 6, and John 7.

This devotional is about Micah 6.

I was named (unjustly) in a lawsuit once in my life. 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 because 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 asked 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.

1 Kings 19, Amos 5, 1 Peter 5

Read 1 Kings 19, Amos 5, and 1 Peter 5.

This devotional is about Amos 5.

Idol worship in Israel was a constant problem after the kingdom was divided. Not all of God’s people neglected the Lord, however. There were some who maintained their worship of the Lord. These people, apparently, were longing for God’s judgment which is often called “the day of the Lord.” That phrase is used about prophetic, end time events in the Bible that are still future to us, but it was also used for days of judgment in the Old Testament that have already happened.

Verses 18-20 warned those who wanted to see their countrymen punished: “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light…” (v. 18). Those who wanted God’s judgment to fall on Israel must have believed that they would be safe. They reasoned that performing the rituals of worship that the Lord commanded would protect them for his judgment. They must have been surprised, then, when the Lord said through Amos, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps” (vv. 21-23).

It is quite surprising to see God reject the worship of his people, especially since the prophets were constantly calling them to repentance (v. 6). What was the problem with the worship of those Amos described in this chapter?

There are two problems with it. First, they joined with the rest of their idol worshipping countrymen in exploiting others in court (compare verses 7, 10, and 15a with 24). Although these Israelites may have been obedient to the Lord’s commands about worship, they were disobedient to his commands in their ethics and morals. They lived a dual, hypocritical life so that they appeared devout on Saturday but lived like pagans on Sunday through Friday.

The second problem with this group was that their worship of the Lord was not exclusive and wholehearted. Verse 26 says, “You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god—which you made for yourselves.” The God who had redeemed them from Egypt long before (v. 25) was now just like every other false god they worshipped. They may have kept the ceremonial law of God but they broke the very first law of his commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me.”

We face the same kind of temptation—to worship the gods of materialism, worldliness, self-centeredness, or whatever—while showing up faithfully to church on Sunday and performing the outward acts common to Christians. We also can be tempted to worship the Lord with our lips while abusing his children in our everyday life. Let’s look within today and consider whether our devotion to the Lord is complete and whether or not it is reflected in our daily ethics and morals. That’s the kind of worship that God wants because it is the kind of worship that comes from a changed heart.

1 Kings 16, Amos 2, Psalm 119:41-88

Read 1 Kings 16, Amos 2, and Psalm 119:41-88.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 16.

Evil is evil, right? If one sin condemns a person to eternity in hell, then it doesn’t really matter whether you are the least of sinners or the greatest of sinners. 

Not so; the paragraph above this one may sound logical, but it is false. It is true that one sin is too many for God to overlook; his perfect justice demands complete accountability for every sin. But that does not mean that each sin is of equal weight or that every sinner is equal in God’s sight. Sometimes we sin because the comfort of the crowd sinning around us gives us confidence to ignore the warnings of our conscience and give into the lusts of our hearts. But there are some people who are leaders when it comes to wickedness. They are innovative in the ways that they find to sin or they are more consistent and aggressive in how they sin. 

Ahab, king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, was one such leader of wickedness. We saw that in verse 30 when we read that, “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.” There were many wicked kings who led Israel before him but Ahab surpassed them all. And how did he do that? Innovation, baby: “He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria” (vv. 31-32). Translation: he happily and without pause did everything the kings preceding him did AND he brought Baal worship to Israel, even institutionalizing it by building a temple in Samaria, the capital city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. 

Verse 33 says, “Ahab also made an Asherah pole….” This phrase helps explain why this form of idolatry is worse than the idolatry that Jeroboam created in Israel. One key difference is that Jeroboam’s idolatry was a perversion of the worship of the true God. He created golden calves, yes, but he credited them with the Exodus story (see 1 Ki 12:28-30). What he did was idolatrous and sinful and offensive to God, but he did it for political reasons (1 Ki 12:26-28) and he tied his idolatry to Israel’s history. 

Baal worship was in a different category. It was imported from outside of Israel through Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel (16:31) and the reference to the “Asherah pole” Ahab installed (v. 33) suggests that Baal-Asherah worship had a sexual component  to it. Baal was the male and Asherah was the female in this unholy idol-couple. We are not given details in the scriptures of how these pagan idols were worshipped but we know this: Ahab’s actions in creating a temple for Baal and setting up an Asherah pole “…did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him” (v. 33b). Something about the way Baal and Asherah were worshiped was worse than the other forms of idolatry that Israel practiced. At the very least, it would cause them to blend in more and more with their pagan neighbors instead of being/becoming the holy people God set them apart to be in his covenants.

The lesson I’m taking away from this passage today has to do with leadership and sin. Ahab was a leader in sin because he was willing to sin the way everyone else before him did AND go beyond them. This is especially bad because, as king of Israel, he could create a climate where such sins were acceptable and openly practiced. We cannot force anyone to sin, but we can cause people to stumble into sin; those who look to us for leadership see what we find acceptable and unacceptable. This can give them the moral go-ahead to follow their own evil desires because it allows them to rationalize. “Hey, if king Ahab is hanging out around the Asherah pole, then there must be nothing too wrong with it.” But Jesus warned us about causing others who are immature, impressionable, and under our leadership to sin: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matt 18:6-7). 

Consider, then, the affect your sins have on your children and on other Christians who look to you for moral leadership. It is one thing to answer to God for our own sins, but Jesus promised accountability for those who mislead others into sin.

1 Kings 15, Amos 1, Proverbs 24:1-18

Read 1 Kings 15, Amos 1, and Proverbs 24:1-18.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 15.

Going forward it is important to remember a couple of things. First, the nation that has been called “Israel” for centuries was now divided. Ten and a half tribes revolted from Judah when Solomon’s son Rehoboam wouldn’t reduce the burden of the government on the people. The 10 1/2 tribes that revolted continued to be called “Israel” but we also call them the Northern Kingdom. The Bible doesn’t use that term, but it is a helpful one we’ve applied to help us remember that “Israel” now isn’t what it was under David and Solomon.

David’s family continued to reign over his tribe of Judah. They were now considered a separate nation. They were called Judah, but we also use the term Southern Kingdom to distinguish them from the Northern Kingdom / Israel.

In addition to Judah, the tribe of Levi continued to serve as priests; however, they had no tribal lands. Instead, they were scattered by God’s will among all the other tribes of the nation. Since they were responsible for Israel’s worship and the temple was in Judah, many of them were loyal to Judah. That’s why we say that Israel had 10 1/2 tribes.

The Northern Kingdom, Israel, had 19 kings from the time of Jeroboam until the Assyrians defeated them and scattered them from their national land. Of those 19 kings, not one of them is described in the Bible as a righteous or good king. They all did evil in God’s sight.

The Southern Kingdom, Judah, had 20 kings from the time of Rehoboam until the Babylonians took them captive. Of those 20 kings, 8 were described in the Bible as righteous or good kings. We met the first of these good kings, Asa, today here in 1 Kings 15.

Although his father and grandfather were wicked men, “Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life” (v. 14). His devotion to the Lord was demonstrated by his commitment to rid the land of idolatry (vv. 12-13). Verse 14a began with the phrase, “Although he did not remove the high places…,” indicating that Asa was not fully able to extinguish idolatry in Judah, but that he did remove it from the public eye.

Idolatry was still practiced in Judah but it was done privately. It became like illegal drug use in our country—against the law and prosecuted when it was known about, but still practiced widely in secret. The fact that Asa “did not remove the high places” indicates that he knew idolatry was being practiced there, but did not channel government resources toward removing those high places of false worship.

That did not mean, however that Asa’s commitment to YHWH was weak or questionable or only for public consumption. The rest of verse 14 tells us that “Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.” His commitment was total even if his actions were not perfect.

One incident in Asa’s life demonstrated his commitment to the Lord. Verse 13 told us, “He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley.”

Unlike many powerful people who give exemptions, special favors, and “carve outs” to their own family members and friends who are in violation of the law, Asa’s love for God and his commitment to the Lord outweighed his loyalty and love to his family.

Deposing his own grandmother must have been a difficult choice emotionally—and possibly a costly one relationally—for Asa. But he did it because he loved the Lord and wanted to be faithful to him even if it cost him a relationship he held dear.

Jesus expected a similar commitment from his disciples when he said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37).

So we must ask ourselves this question: “Do we love God enough to stand for what’s right even when another person we love deeply stands on the other side?” If someone we love sins and is unrepentant or clings to unbelief or false beliefs, will we choose faithfulness to the Lord or the preservation of peace in the relationship?

Asa’s devotion to the Lord was demonstrated by his choice to stand for God even when it hurt and cost him personally. May we never have to make such a choice but, if we do, may the Lord give us grace to do the right thing.

1 Kings 11, Hosea 14, 2 Timothy 3

Read 1 Kings 11, Hosea 14, and 2 Timothy 3.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 11.

First Kings 10, which we read yesterday, seems to describe the apex of Solomon’s career as king. The queen of Sheba had heard about “the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord (10:1a). That last phrase is key because after she tested him with hard questions (10:1b-3), she saw everything there was to see about his kingdom (vv. 3-5). Her response was to praise God and give him glory for it all (v. 9). Her praise to God seems to show that Solomon gave praise to God for it all. It was his humility, his faith in God, and his obedience that led to such an amazing golden era in Israel’s history.

All of that started to unravel here in 1 Kings 11. Contrary to God’s commands (11:2), Solomon married women from every foreign nation around Israel in addition to his Egyptian wife (v. 1). And his marriages to these women were not merely diplomatic, a way of forming peace accords between Solomon and these other countries. Instead, verse 2c says, “Solomon held fast to them in love.” Indeed, he must have really, really been enamored with women because verse 3a-b says, “He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines….” At some point, Solomon’s harem became the idol in his life that displaced God. We see that in verses 3c-4 which say, “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.”

The result of his romantic idolatry was real idolatry. Verse 5 says, “He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.” The implication I see in this passage was that his desire to please his wives led him to do what they wanted him to do, namely worship idols with them. 

God was not passive about Solomon’s idolatry. Instead God promised that Solomon’s heir would lose the whole kingdom except for David’s tribe Judah (vv. 9-13). In addition to that promise, God raised up threats to Solomon’s kingdom from outside of it (vv. 14-25) and inside of it (vv. 26-40). Instead of finishing his reign in peace and prosperity, he left behind a disorderly, divided kingdom.

The lesson here, of course, is to be careful what you love. If you want to please anyone more than you want to please God, the temptations that follow that desire will be intense—too intense for most of us to resist. While God is gracious and merciful to forgive our sins, what he wants from us who know Christ is obedience from an undivided, loyal heart to him.

So, what is it or who is it that competes with God for your attention? Who do you want to please so much that disobeying God’s commands becomes an option or even a decision or habit? What pastime, or hobby, or ambition, or goal, or whatever captures your attention when your mind wanders? What do you daydream about? What habit are you developing that is disobedient to God’s word?

Whatever it is, get rid of it! Remove it from your life as much as possible and, when you find yourself turning your attention to it, turn to God in prayer and ask him to remove that affection from your heart. 

1 Kings 7, Hosea 10, 2 Timothy 1

Read 1 Kings 7, Hosea 10, and 2 Timothy 1.

This devotional is about Hosea 10.

God’s people in Israel and Judah committed many sins against him; chief among those sins was idolatry. If Israel had worshipped their God, he would have empowered them to keep the other commands and to offer the sin offerings he prescribed when they failed to keep his commands. But his people did not worship the Lord, therefore, they were slaves to ever other sin and wickedness that humanity can think of. 

But, as we see throughout scripture, God always leaves room for repentance. Although he is just in dealing out the judgments promised in his covenant, his prophets came to warn the people to repent and return to righteous living. Here in Hosea 10 we see one of the most beautiful pleadings by a prophet to God’s people. Verse 12 says, “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love….” Don’t those words give you hope? Righteousness, of course, means right living according to God’s laws. Do what God says is right and you will reap the fruit of unfailing love. 

Obedience to this command requires some heart-work to prepare for. Verse 12b says, “…break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord….” This is a visual way of describing repentance. The “unplowed ground” refers to the hardness of the human heart. This hardness causes people to seek anything but the Lord—we seek the prosperity or pleasure or protection offered to us by idols. Our idols are our selfish desires for materialism or pleasure or recognition or whatever else competes with the Lord for our full attention. The Lord in this passage calls people to repent of those idols, to “seek the Lord” from a repentant heart.

And how long should we do this? Verse 12b: “…until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.” Even in the Old Testament there are passages that show us that God’s righteousness comes as a gift, like the rain showers of heaven that cause plants on earth to grow. God wasn’t commanding his people to try harder to do right; he was calling them to turn to him in repentance, receive his righteousness as a gift, then “sow righteousness for yourselves [to] reap the fruit of unfailing love.”

Right here in Hosea, then, we find the basic outline of the gospel. The atonement of Christ is not spoken of here, but God’s people knew from the law that their sins needed to be atoned for. We believe and speak the same truths that Hosea held out to Israel. Turn to seek the Lord in repentance, preparing the soil of your heart, receive his righteousness like the gift of rain, then plant the seeds of righteous living in your life and watch how God grows them into the fruit of his unfailing love.

Do you believe that in Christ God has done all that you need to make this truth a reality? Are you living according to these truths, then, sowing the seeds of righteousness in your life?

1 Kings 3, Hosea 7, Titus 1

Read 1 Kings 3, Hosea 7, and Titus 1.

This devotional is about Hosea 7.

“I long to redeem them but they speak about me falsely. They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds. They slash themselves, appealing to their gods for grain and new wine, but they turn away from me.”

Hosea 7:13e-14

The entire book of Hosea describes God in a specific way that is emotionally understandable to us humans. God, in Hosea, is described as a jilted spouse who is totally devoted to his bride but she is unfaithful to him despite his promises and goodness. That description shows us how our sins are a breach of faith with God and how God is wounded by our unbelief and disobedience. 

This verse and a half in Hosea 7:13-14 shows us the heart of God. He said, “I long to redeem them,” showing how personally and deeply God desires to be reconciled to humanity. But the remainder of verse 13 and verses 14-15 describe why we are not reconciled to God. Our estrangement from God is due to the fact that people “speak about me falsely” (13e). This refers to the way that people blame God for our self-inflicted problems. Those problems are described earlier in this chapter:

  • “They practice deceit” (v. 1d).
  • “They delight the king with their wickedness, the princes with their lies” (v. 3a-b).
  • “They are all adulterers” (v. 4a).
  • and so on.

When we sin against God and then blame God for our crappy lives, we speak about him falsely (v. 13e).

Furthermore, instead of turning to God in our misery, people “do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds. They slash themselves, appealing to their gods for grain and new wine, but they turn away from me.”

This explains why the world is so damaged and distorted, why people are so unhappy, and why there is so much unbelief. The result is that, at the end of history, God will judge humanity for all these sins.

Jesus has provided an escape, however. He loved us beyond what a jilted husband or wife would naturally love. He gave himself even though we “turn away” from him (v. 14e). He redeemed us from the slave market of sin we sold ourselves into and, by grace alone, changed our hearts so that we desire his love and see his goodness.

As Christians, we need to be reminded of these things because the dominant narrative of our times is that the problems of this world prove either that God cannot exist or that, if he does exist, he cannot be good. These are the same lies that God condemned when he said, “…they speak about me falsely” (v. 13f).

The truth is that God is more loving and good than we can possibly imagine. His goodness is the only reason there is anything good in life at all–and there are many good things about life, even for unbelievers! His love is the only reason that anyone believes in him at all–not because he’s hard to believe in but because our hearts are hardened so thoroughly by sin.

Take some time to think about where your life would be if God had not redeemed you in Christ. Then give thanks for all that we have in Christ and speak to others about him when they wail about their problems and appeal to other gods (v. 14). God longs to redeem and he is redeeming people all over the world. Let’s be agents of that redemption.

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.

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.

Deuteronomy 24, Jeremiah 16, 2 Corinthians 2

Read Deuteronomy 24, Jeremiah 16, and 2 Corinthians 2.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 16:19-21.

The forecast for Judah, according to Jeremiah, continued to be bleak. There was going to be so many deaths from disease, famine, and sword that God told Jeremiah not to get married or have any children (vv. 1-4). Don’t start a family, Jeremiah, because you will lose some or all of them in death. That was God’s word to Jeremiah. Bleak.

Furthermore Jeremiah was prohibited from paying his respects at anyone’s funeral (vv. 5-7) or enjoying a feast at someone’s home (vv. 6-13). When the Lord’s punishment for Judah came, people would be terrified and then many of them would die.

As usual, the Lord made no apology for bringing this punishment. God’s people had forsaken him and done much evil in his sight (vv. 11-12, 17-18). As hard as it is for us to accept, they deserved to be punished by a just and holy God, just as all of us do.

Compounding their sin was the fact that they had the truth. The true Lord, the one real God, had revealed himself to them but they exchanged that for false gods (v. 18).

As bleak as all of this was, Jeremiah held out hope in the Lord and his promises. Someday, he knew, God would restore his people (vv. 14-15) and the knowledge of God would spread throughout the world (v. 19). Those who worship false gods would realize that their gods were false and would come “from the ends of the earth” to know the true God. This is a prophecy of us Gentiles coming to know God through Christ and, when they come, they will not find an angry God who is looking for people to kill. Instead they will find a willing instructor: “I will teach them—this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the LORD” (v. 21).

This is what we’re doing in evangelism. We are exposing the false gods that people worship (v. 20) and calling them to find truth in the LORD. This is the only hope that anyone has for avoiding the justice of our holy God. Better than that, when God has gathered in everyone he will save, we will enter his kingdom together and spend eternity at the feet of a God who said, “I will teach them” (v. 21). Instead of looking at his word as a burden to bear, something to choke down like a vegetable because it is good for us, we will eagerly feed ourselves with God’s nourishing truth and rejoice and be satisfied in his presence as he teaches us.

Who can you share this saving message with in the coming week?