Genesis 6, Ezra 6, Psalms 1-3

Read Genesis 6, Ezra 6, and Psalms 1-3.

This devotional is about Psalm 1.

God created us to be social creatures. It is natural for us to seek acceptance from others, to try to find a group where we fit in and belong. One way to belong is to do what others are doing. Find a group that seems like they might accept you, do what they do and sooner or later, they will accept you as “one of us.”

People have differing personalities so the desire for acceptance is stronger in some of us than others. But we all want to fit in somewhere. Our happiness is largely determined by the quality of our relationships, so we look for friends in order to be happy.

That desire to fit in can be a positive force for good in our lives, but it can also be destructive. I said above that, “our happiness is largely determined by the quality of our relationships,” but Psalm 1 says that a happy person (that’s what “blessed” means in this context) is one “who does not walk in step with the wicked.”

This statement runs counter to our instincts. If people accept us and offer us friendship, we naturally want to “walk in step” with them. Psalm 1:1 warns us, however, that the happiness we find in acceptance will not last if we find our acceptance with wicked people. Wickedness is always destructive. Ultimately, God will judge the wicked but even before that judgment, the Bible teaches us that wickedness leads us into destructive ways. The feeling of acceptance and safety we find among wicked friends will lead us to do wicked things to “keep in step” with them. Those wicked actions are like seeds buried in the ground; eventually, they will bear fruit in our lives and the fruit of wickedness will always be painful and destructive.

The contrast to those who seek acceptance from the wicked is found in verse 2. The happy person, the “blessed one” (Ps 1:1a) is the person “whose delight is in the law of the Lord.” Because God is eternal and perfect, his word points us to eternal principles that will always be right. They may bring short-term pain but, if we love God and his word, if you are one who “meditates on his law day and night,” you will find stability and fruitfulness in your life (v. 3). Meanwhile, the wicked seeds sown by wicked people will cause them to be blown away (v. 4), rejected in God’s judgment (v. 5). Ultimately, their ways will lead “to destruction.”

I’m glad you’ve subscribed to these devotionals and I hope they are a blessing in your life. My goals for them are (a) to help you be in the Word each day by making it as easy as possible and (b) to help you look at your life through the microscope of God’s word, think about what you see there, and make changes accordingly.

The first thing I want you to consider is, who do you spend your time with? Do you spend your time in God’s word and with his people? Or are you trying to keep in step with wicked people–ungodly friends as school, ungodly co-workers or family members?

Through technology, we can spend time with celebrities, actors, athletes and journalists. We don’t spend time with them in real life, of course, but media and the Internet and apps allow them to communicate what they do with their time, what they think is good or bad, cool or uncool, etc. These people may have a strong following but most them them care nothing about God. If you aren’t careful, you can be heavily influenced by their ungodly lives by spending lots of time uncritically in their “virtual” presence.

The beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to re-assess  your life. Maybe it is time to look at where your time is spend and make some changes for God’s glory and for your own flourishing (v. 3).

1 Kings 21, Daniel 3

Read 1 Kings 21 and Daniel 3.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 21.

There are two types of leadership: (1) positional leadership and (2) personal leadership. A personal leader is someone who is influential because of who they are. They have the right combination of characteristics that cause other people to follow them naturally. This kind of person is sometimes called a “natural born leader.”

A positional leader is someone who occupies a position that gives them influence over others. Your boss is a positional leader because he decides whether you keep your employment and pay, or get demoted or promoted. Even if you personally dislike your boss or wouldn’t follow that person (or any positional leader) if you didn’t have to, you have to follow him or her because they can help you or hurt your career.

Ahab definitely had positional leadership. He was the king of Israel. But when it comes to personal leadership, he seems to have far less of that quality than his wife Jezebel had. In this chapter of scripture, Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard and attempted to get it in a righteous way. He made Naboth a fair offer (v. 2) and accepted Naboth’s rejection, even though it hurt his feelings (vv. 3-4). Later on in this chapter, after receiving the Lord’s declaration of judgment for his sin (vv. 21-24), he responded with a degree of repentance (v. 27).

So if Ahab had a few principles, why was he said to be unlike anyone else “who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord” (v. 25)? One answer to that is his own idolatry (v. 26) but a key component was the personal leadership influence of his wife Jezebel. The last phrase of verse 25 told us that he did all this evil, “…urged on by Jezebel his wife.” It was was her personal leadership–her influence–that gave Ahab the confidence to follow some of his own sinful tendencies. Furthermore, we read in this chapter that it was her idea to frame and kill Naboth (vv. 7-14) in order to make it easy for Ahab unjustly to take Naboth’s vineyard (vv. 15-16). Jezebel led her husband into sinful actions that he (seemingly) would not have taken himself (v. 7).

One important lesson, then, is to be careful about who you marry and, generally, who your friends are. Relationships give people great power over the choices and decisions of others. If you’ve ever done something you were reluctant to do (or that it never occurred to you to do), you know how powerful personal leadership can be. So be careful to choose people who are growing Christians with high moral character to be the closest people in your life.

Even though it was Jezebel’s idea, Ahab was still accountable for what happened. Don’t ever let yourself believe that your sin is excusable just because you were following someone else. Ultimately we will answer to God for everything we do regardless of what led us to do it.

Who are the biggest personal influences in your life? Are those people leading you (influencing you) in godly ways or ungodly ways? Would making some changes in your relationships help you to make better, more righteous decisions?

Genesis 30, Esther 6, and Psalm 29

Today read Genesis 30, Esther 6, and Psalm 29.

This devotional is about Esther 6.

Haman was a man on the rise in Xerxes’s kingdom of Persia. Back in chapter 3 we read that Xerxes honored Haman “elevating him and giving a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles” (3:1). Haman was so influential that everyone else in Xerxes’s regime “knelt down and paid honor” to him because the king had commanded that (3:2). The only man who didn’t kiss up to Haman was Mordecai, Esther’s guardian. As you will remember from chapter 3, Haman wanted to kill ALL the Jews because of Mordecai’s disrespect. That is how seriously Haman took himself and how deeply proud he was in his heart.

Here in chapter 6, Haman’s pride starts to become his downfall. Mordecai had saved king Xerxes’s life back in chapter 2:21-23 by exposing a plot to assassinate him. Now, on a night of insomnia, Xerxes read the record of Mordecai’s heroics (6:1-2) and determined to honor him.

Just at that moment, Haman showed up; when the king asked Haman how someone should be honored, Haman, because of his pride, assumed he was the one to be honored (v. 6) and hatched a plan to get maximum attention for himself in the city (vv. 7-9). But, in a cruel twist, Xerxes ordered Haman to provide for Mordecai–a man he hated–the ceremony of honor Haman had recommended. With no choice in the matter, Haman did it (v. 11) but was humiliated by the experience (v. 12). Those who loved Haman saw this as a bad sign and predicted Haman’s ruin despite all the honor he’d been receiving before this.

We haven’t reached the end of the story yet in our reading. But (spoiler alert): they were right. Things were about to go very badly for Haman. His story illustrates Luke 14:11: “…all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Keep this in mind when you experience some success and gain some notoriety for it. Pride messes with the morals of people; it causes us to think that we deserve things we don’t deserve. It convinces us that we are exempt from the laws of sowing and reaping and that we can play by different rules because we produce so consistently and so well. Many of the men who are caught in the #metoo scandals illustrate this very truth, just as Haman did.

Don’t let pride bring out the ugly in you. Don’t let it lead you down a path of sin because that sin will deliver you to destruction. Be thankful for any success you have and stay humble. Keep serving the Lord and others and let him exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:6).