Genesis 33, Esther 9-10, Psalm 32

Read Genesis 33, Esther 9-10, and Psalm 32.

This devotional is about Esther 9-10.

There are good, godly men who don’t believe that God cares about Israel as a nation any longer. They believe that God’s promises to Israel have been fulfilled in Christ and in the church. The Jews that exist today, then, are just like any other race of people on earth. There are some who are elect and will trust Christ by faith to become part of the church just as in every other nation. But, to those who believe that the church has replaced Israel, there is nothing special about national Israel.

I do not believe that.

I believe that God’s covenant with Abraham remains and that there are promises he made to Israel that have yet to be fulfilled. Those promises will be fulfilled by Christ and, when they are, then Christians and Jewish believers will be united as one people of God in eternity.

I believe this for many reasons, one of which is that Jewish people still exist with their ethnic identity in tact. Throughout human history, there have been repeated efforts to extinguish their existence. You are aware of Hitler’s attempts to destroy the Jews and that they have enemies today, such as the PLO, who want to wipe them out as well. But these modern threats are only the latest. Here in Esther, we’ve been reading about how Haman wanted to eradicate the Jews from the earth. Yet, in God’s sovereign will, he placed Mordecai and Esther in Xerxes’s palace to thwart Haman’s genocidal intentions.

What’s so interesting about the book of Esther is that God’s name is not mentioned at all, not once in any form. And, Esther became queen through immorality (chapter 2) and neither she nor Mordecai are portrayed as believers in YHWH or adherents to Judaism as a faith. The closest reference we see in Esther to God or faith in him is when Esther asked the Jews in Susa to “fast for me” and said “I and my attendants will fast as you do” (Esther 4:15-16). That’s it! She doesn’t even mention prayer with this fasting; just the fasting.

It may be true (it likely is, actually) that Esther and Mordecai were believers. But the author of Esther does not say so or detail for us what their walk with God was like. The purpose of the book of Esther is not to laud these two people for their faith, but to show how God was faithful to his covenant regardless of whether any of the Jews were faithful to him. This book also shows us how God works sovereignly. There is not one miracle described in the book nor is there any divine revelation to help out the main characters. In the book of Esther, people acted rationally, with intention and in fear at times without any divine intervention or even any overt acknowledgement on God. And yet, God still worked in their everyday lives to save his people from being extinguished. God may not be mentioned directly in the book of Esther, but his faithfulness to his covenant and his care for his people are demonstrated on every page.

Israel today lives in unbelief. There are Jews, of course, who have embraced Christ as Messiah and become Christians like we are. But the nation we call Israel was politically created and is one of the most progressive (in the moral sense; in other words, “liberal”) nations on earth. Yet just as God protected and cared for his people in Esther, regardless of their faith or lack of faith, he is preserving his people and watching over them. There will come a day when they will turn to Christ in faith (see Romans 11 and most of the book of Revelation). Those Jews who die before that day will perish in hell just like any other person who does not submit to Christ in faith. But God is faithful and will make good on his promises to Abraham, David, and others.

For us, the lesson of Esther is to trust God. Things around us may look good at times; at other times, they may look bleak. God has ways of accomplishing his will even through unbelievers and he will do it. So hope and trust in him, not in people, governments, programs, or anything else.

1 Chronicles 17, Zechariah 10, 1 John 2

Read 1 Chronicles 17, Zechariah 10, and 1 John 2.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 17.

David intended to build God a permanent home in Israel, a temple that would replace the tent that Israel had used in worship for centuries. Although God was pleased with David’s desire (see 1 Ki 8:18), he decreed that Solomon, not David, would build the temple (vv. 11-12).

Instead of letting David build him a literal house, God decreed that he would build a “house” (aka, a dynasty) for David (v. 10). This is the Davidic Covenant, God’s promise that a descendant of David would rule over Israel forever (v. 14) which will ultimately be fulfilled by Christ in his kingdom.

I’ve written about the Davidic Covenant before (here, here, and here), so let’s focus on David’s response to God’s promise to him which we read in verses 16-27.

First, David gave thanks for all God had done for him in verse 16. Verse 7 reminded David that God had elevated him from the lowly job of shepherd to the exalted status of Israel’s king. David hadn’t forgotten any of that and praised the Lord for it.

Second, David gave thanks for what God had promised him in the future in the rest of this chapter, verses 17-27. David knew that God alone had honored him. David said it was “…according to your will…” (v. 19) which acknowledged that this promise was God’s gracious choice, not something that David deserved. But in verses 20-22, David widened the scope of his thanks to all that God had done and promised for Israel. Like God’s promise to David, all that God had done for Israel was a work of his grace. He redeemed Israel “for himself, and to make a name for yourself…” (v. 21). In other words, God did what he did for Israel for his own glory. Likewise, he promised what he promised to David “…so that… your name will be great forever.”

God extends grace to people because he is gracious by nature. But, the result of his grace, and his purpose for doing it, is to bring glory to himself. God shows his power, redeems his people, and makes promises so that people will know that He is God (v. 26).

The same is true in your life and mine. God saved us so that we would praise, glorify, and worship his name. He did it so that we would tell others what he has graciously done for us and call them to submit to him accordingly. But he also saves us and answers our prayers so that we will thank him and worship him directly and so that we will find “courage to pray” (v. 25) in the future.

It is easy for us to forget that God owes us nothing but punishment for our sins, yet he graciously gives us every good thing according to his will in Christ. Do we remember to speak words that glorify him to others? Do we remember to pray prayers of worship and thanks for what he has done, is doing, and promised to do in Christ?

Spend a few minutes now remembering what God has done for you and considering what he’s promised to you in Christ. Then, speak a few words of thankful prayer to him in worship.

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 27, Ezekiel 37, Mark 3

Read 1 Samuel 27, Ezekiel 37, and Mark 3.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 37.

Here we have, perhaps, the most famous vision of Ezekiel—the valley of dry bones. Remember that Ezekiel was a very visual guy so many of God’s messages to him were in the form of stunning, even strange, visions that were highly visual metaphors for spiritual truth. Today’s passage is an excellent example. The Lord took Ezekiel to a valley and put him on the floor of that valley. As he looked in all directions, he saw human bones strewn across the valley (vv. 1-2). Then God asked him a very loaded question: “…can these bones live” (v. 3a)? Wisely, Ezekiel punted on the question; instead of giving a direct answer, Ezekiel deflected the question back to the Lord with the response, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know” (v. 3b). God then commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones that the Lord would bring them to life (vv. 4-6). When Ezekiel obeyed, the bones flew together and assembled full skeletons (v. 7). Then, out of nowhere, they were covered with tendons and muscles and skin so that they looked like people, “but there was no breath in them” (v. 8). 

Ezekiel then spoke again, calling in the name of the Lord for breath to enter these dead bodies (vv. 9-10). All of this would have terrified me, but for Ezekiel it was just another strange vision. At least, that’s how it seems. With this living army of soldiers standing all around Ezekiel, God gave him the interpretation of this vision. It was a vivid picture of how God was going to bring the dead nation of Israel back to life again (vv. 11-13). A change in metaphor (but not in meaning) happened in verse 15. There Ezekiel was commanded to write on two sticks—one to signify Israel and the other to stand for Judah (vv. 15-16). He was then to hold them in his hand so that they appeared to be one stick (v. 17). This indicated that God would not only resurrect Israel, he would reunite it (vv. 18-22). 

Finally, God told Ezekiel some more detail about this incredible prophecy. This people, Israel, who had struggled with idolatry for hundreds of years would finally be devoted to God (v. 23). Furthermore, God promised, “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd.” This is a reference, of course, to David’s greater descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. God promised that, when he came and took the earthly throne of David everything would be different. God’s people would be obedient to him (finally!—v. 24), would live in the promised land forever (v. 25) and would enjoy a thriving existence under God’s eternal covenant (vv. 26-28). This is all a reference to the coming Millennial kingdom of Christ. Despite all Israel’s sins, God has not abandoned his promises to them. Some day, Christ will rule over all. 

It is amazing that Israel still exists today as a people. The Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Philistines, the Hittites have all be assimilated into other cultures and ethnicities. But God’s chosen people still exist; you’ve never met a Midianite but you’ve met more than one Jewish person in your life. All of this is evidence that God is keeping his promise to Abraham; when Christ returns, that promise will be completed. And, by the grace of God, we Gentiles will be included by faith when this happens! 

Judges 5, Jeremiah 51, Romans 11

Read Judges 5, Jeremiah 51, and Romans 11.

This devotional is about Romans 11.

Romans 10 discussed the fact that many Israelites rejected the good news about Christ but, today in chapter 11, Paul was quick to address the fact that not all Jews were in unbelief (v. 1). In verses 2-10, he reminded us that the Jewish people lived in unbelief and rebellion against God for most of their history. So the idea that only some of God’s chosen people were actually chosen to have faith in him is not something new. It is how God has always worked, saving a “remnant” who trusted him from the heart (vv. 5-6).

But why did Israel reject Jesus when he came in human flesh? Wasn’t God’s promise that Messiah would rule over all Israel? Yes, that was the promise and it will still happen (v.26). The reason it didn’t happen with Jesus’ first coming, however, was God’s desire to save us Gentiles (vv. 11-25). God will still redeem Israel, just as he promised, but not “until the full number of Gentiles has come in” (v. 25b).

This is all an expression of God’s mercy (v. 32). He hardened Israel, for a time, so that he would save us. The power of this grace overwhelmed Paul in verses 33-36. It caused him to remark on the greatness of God’s wisdom (v. 33a) and how his wisdom is beyond human comprehension (vv. 34-36).

Is this how you respond to doctrines that are hard to understand? Does the doctrine of election or of the Trinity lift your spirit to worship the immense wisdom of God? Or, does it cause you to question and even deny those doctrines because they are hard for us to understand?

God is all-wise and all-knowing so are we really surprised that he does things we find hard to understand? If everything about God were simple and made perfect sense to limited, fallible people like us, then we should be concerned. So let the difficult doctrines of scripture, the ones you find hard to understand or to accept as true, cause you to look to God in awe. His judgments are “unsearchable… and his paths beyond tracing out!”