Numbers 24, Isaiah 47, 1 Thessalonians 2

Read Numbers 24, Isaiah 47, and 1 Thessalonians 2.

This devotional is about 1 Thessalonians 2.

The Bible describes us Christians as “sheep” and he has provided shepherds to give us the spiritual guidance and leadership we need.

Some men are attracted to ministry, however, because they like the power over people’s lives that being a pastor or elder brings. Power is important and necessary for leadership, but some men use that power to abuse the people who are under their authority.

Here in 1 Thessalonians 2 Paul continued describing his ministry and relationship with the Thessalonians. After reminding them about their salvation in chapter 1, here in chapter 2 he reminds them of what he was like when he served among them. Paul and his team were not manipulative (vv. 3-4), they did not “butter them up” with flattery in order to extract money from the Thessalonians (v. 5) and they did not serve for the praise of men (v. 6).

Instead, Paul reminded the Thessalonian believers that he and Silas were innocent like children (v. 7a) and cared for them like a nursing mother cares for her child (v. 8). This kind of loving tenderness is the example to follow for any of us who serve the Lord in leadership. As a parent, an AWANA leader or teacher in one of our other children’s ministries, small group leader, or as an elder in our church, what goes through your mind when you think about serving his people in our congregation? Are you looking for their respect? Do you want them to fear you or love you?

In other words, is your service about you or is it about them?

Let this passage cause you to examine your motives about how and why you do ministry, then ask the Lord for the kind of nurturing heart toward the people you’re serving that a mother has toward her nursing infant.

Numbers 20, Isaiah 43, Proverbs 12:15-28

Read Numbers 20, Isaiah 43, Proverbs 12:15-28.

This devotional is about Numbers 20.

It is hard to read about Moses’ life and not identify with him. He faced one challenge after another. At one time or another everyone was against him, including his own brother and sister. Yet, despite the challenges, he kept leading, kept praying for the people, kept faithfully doing what the Lord commanded him to do.

Here in Numbers 20, he faced another crisis, a lack of water. It was a familiar crisis, because it had happened before as God’s people wandered around in the desert. Of course the people complained about it (vv. 2-5) and Moses, as he did so often in the past, went to God in prayer looking for the answer (v. 6) this time with his prayer-partner Aaron. God commanded Moses to “take the staff” (v. 8) which he had once used to strike a rock and bring forth water. This time, however, the instruction was to “speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water” (v. 8).

On his way to do what the Lord commanded (v. 9), the pressure of all this grumbling may have finally gotten to him. He and Aaron gathered the people (v. 10a), but then Moses made a speech. He called the people “rebels” and asked “must we bring you water out of this rock?” Hopefully God was included in that “we” but that’s far from certain because Moses’s next act was not to obey God by speaking to the rock as he had been instructed. Instead, Moses smacked the rock twice with his staff (v. 11). God graciously provided the water, but Moses and Aaron were judged for Moses’ disobedience (v. 12).

What caused Moses to disobey? God’s rebuke gives the answer. Moses disobeyed God “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites” (v. 12b). It was a lack of faith in that moment—not a lack of faith in God to provide the water, but the lack of faith to demonstrate the holiness of God to the people.

Had Moses obeyed God’s command to speak to the rock, God would have been exalted and revered when the rock miraculously made water. But by striking the stone with his rod, Moses was acting in anger, not in faith.

In the ministry, it is hard not to get frustrated and even angry with people when they disobey God’s word. It’s also hard not to become angry as a parent when our kids disobey. But, when we correct someone who is disobedient, are we concerned about them learning the holiness of God or are we mad because they’ve challenged our authority, exhausted our patience, or just disrespected us?

Any of these negative responses is sinful because they don’t come from a sanctified desire to show those we lead–and the world–the greatness of God. When we act in anger toward a godly purpose, we’re not acting in faith; rather, we’re trying to coerce obedience through anger or manipulation.

Anger, coercion, and manipulation do not honor God. When we act in these non-faith-filled ways, we should expect God to convict or discipline us. God wants to purge us of our disobedient ways and teach us how to lead in faith rather than from anger, fear, or any other motivation.

Have you been dealing with someone in your life out of anger? Have you been trying to get someone to do right by doing wrong in disobedience to God’s commands? Ask the Lord for faith to trust him as you speak truth in love rather than speaking truth in anger. Then watch to see if God chooses to work through you.

Numbers 12-13, Isaiah 37, Psalms 54-56

Read Numbers 12-13, Isaiah 37, and Psalms 54-56.

This devotional is about Isaiah 37.

Yesterday’s reading from Isaiah 36 described how the Assyrian king Sennacherib attacked the southern kingdom of Judah and put the city of Jerusalem under siege. Having successfully stopped the flow of water into the city, the Assyrians invited the people of Jerusalem to surrender before they died of dehydration and starvation.

Here in Isaiah 37, Hezekiah, the king of Judah, showed great spiritual leadership. Instead of mustering his army and trying to fire them up with a rousing speech, Hezekiah recognized that God was the only possible route to deliverance.

Hezekiah began his demonstration of spiritual leadership by humbling himself, personally before the Lord by putting on the garments of humility and going to the Lord’s temple (v. 1). Then he sent some of his deputies, themselves clothed in humble sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet (v. 2). Their message to Isaiah, in verse 3, was not “Get us out of this!” or even “Pray for us!” Instead, they acknowledged how desperate their situation and need for God was (v. 3) and pointed out to Isaiah that the Assyrians had spoken words of ridicule against the one true God, the God of Israel (v. 4a). As a result, they asked Isaiah to pray that God would preserve his people from this dangerous moment in their history (v. 5).

Isaiah responded by assuring Hezekiah’s officials that God would fight for Israel and repay the Assyrians for their blasphemy (vv. 5-7).

Meanwhile, Sennacherib sent a personal letter to Hezekiah once again denying that God would deliver them and calling on Hezekiah to surrender (vv. 9-13). Hezekiah took the letter he received and brought it before the Lord (v. 14). He prayed and began by praising God for who He is (v. 15-16) and calling on God to deliver his people (vv. 18-20).

At the end of Hezekiah’s prayer, he said the words that God always wants to hear: “…deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God.” As he called on God to fight for his people, Hezekiah tied his request to the demonstration of God’s glory (v. 20).

God answered Hezekiah’s prayer (vv. 21-38) and here we are thousands of years later reading about what God did and praising God in our hearts for his almighty power and defense of his people.

When we ask God for something in prayer, do we ever think about what God would get out of answering our prayers? The biggest human need we think we have is insignificant compared to the importance of magnifying the glory of God and calling people to surrender to him.

God is loving and compassionate toward his people but his main objective in this world is to spread the knowledge of himself throughout the world. Do we ask God to use our weaknesses, our needs, and the answers to prayer that we seek from him in ways that help spread the knowledge of God and bring worship to him? Or is our praying self-seeking, concerned mostly (or only) with getting what we want from God for our own relief or our own life-enhancement?

The kind of prayer God loves to answer is the one that recognizes God’s purposes in this world and aligns the answer we seek with the advancement of God’s agenda in some way.

If God were to give you today the answer you’ve been asking him for in prayer, how would that answer spread his knowledge in the world? Tying our requests to what God is concerned about—his kingdom—is important for an encouraging answer to our requests.

Think about what you find yourself asking from God in prayer. Is the answer you want really just a way to make yourself comfortable? Or do you see how answering your prayer might have an impact on the real reasons Christ came into the human race? Do you see how God is glorified when he answers in such “difficult” situations? When you pray, connect your prayers to the promises of God and his mission to reach his chosen ones and see if God does not answer more quickly, more completely and thoroughly in your life.

Numbers 11, Isaiah 36, Proverbs 12:1-14

Read Numbers 11, Isaiah 36, and Proverbs 12:1-14.

This devotional is about Numbers 11.

EVERYBODY had something to complain about in Numbers 11:

  • The people of Israel complained about how hard it was to live in the desert (11:1)
  • They also complained about the food that God graciously, faithfully, and miraculously provided for them (vv. 4-9).
  • Moses complained to God about what a burden it was to lead God’s people (vv. 10-15).
  • Even God himself had complaints, both with the ungratefulness of the people (vv. 1b-3) and also with the unbelief of Moses (v. 23).

There are legitimate complaints, of course. God certainly had legitimate reasons to complain. But let’s consider the roots of illegitimate–that is, sinful–complaining. What causes it? This chapter reveals some common causes such as:

  • Discouragement. Verse 1 says the people “complained about their hardships….” Often our complaining is really a symptom of discouragement about our lives in other areas.
  • Entitlement. This is the attitude that says, “I deserve better.” Verses 4-6 reflect this. The people completely ignored the fact that they were slaves in Egypt. “At least the food was good,” they said. Their diet in captivity caused them to feel that they should always eat that way, even on a long trip to a home where better food (“flowing with milk and honey”) was waiting for them.
  • Nostalgia: The people remembered the past fondly (v. 5a). They conveniently forgot that things “cost nothing” (v. 5b) because they were slaves.
  • Unthankfulness: God provided food for them and made it easy (vv. 8-9). He had liberated them from slavery in Egypt was taking them to a promised land. Yet they were so obsessed with their desire for variety that they felt no gratitude for God’s daily provisions.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

If you are a leader, people will complain to you. So how do you deal with complainers and complaining?

  • Pray for the complainers (v. 2). Admittedly, Moses’s prayer here was for the end of God’s judgment but praying for complainers–preferably before God punishes them for complaining–seems like a very good strategy to me.
  • Pray for the needs you see but cannot meet (vv. 10-15). The burden of leading God’s people and providing for them was too much for Moses. Instead of complaining to his wife or his brother or Joshua, he took his burden to the Lord. Again, a good strategy.
  • Pray for God to empower the leaders you already have. God told Moses in verses 14-16 that he would provide help for the leadership burden. But notice that the help God provided came from “Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people” (v. 16). The leadership Moses needed was already waiting for him. All they needed was God’s power (vv. 17b, 28-29).

God did punish some of the people for their complaining but he was mostly patient in this passage. He was patient with Moses’ unbelief and provided the month’s worth of meat that he had promised (vv. 18-19, 31) even though Moses threw a fit when God made the promise, as if God would require Moses to do something that only God himself could do (vv. 21-23). He also provided the elders of Israel to share the leadership load with Moses (vv. 24-29).

Complaining comes so naturally to us, doesn’t it?

And why do we complain? Because we think we deserve better—a better job, a happier life, a better spouse, more obedient children—whatever.

Complaining is a symptom of an entitled heart; it demonstrates a heart that envies others, that lusts after things God has not willed for us. It rises from a mind that is focused on what we don’t have, but think we deserve, instead of seeing all that God has already faithfully given to us.

Instead of complaining, let’s learn to ask God for the things that we want and need in life (see James 4:1-3) and to be thankful for all that God has done for us (Colossians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Numbers 3, Isaiah 28, Acts 13

Read Numbers 3, Isaiah 28, Acts 13.

This devotional is about Acts 13.

Being part of the first church in Jerusalem must have been an amazing experience. People were being saved nearly every day and those who believed started meeting in one another’s homes for prayer, instruction, and fellowship. Here in Acts 13, the first Gentile church at Antioch, seems to have had a similar experience. Verse 1a told us that there were “prophets and teachers” there and they are named in the latter half of that verse. Although they enjoyed great worship and fellowship, God’s work needed to go forward so that more and more people would become part of the church and, when Jesus returns, experience eternity in the kingdom of God. So God spoke in the person of the Holy Spirit and called on the church to send Barnabas and Saul out to evangelize people and form new churches.

Thus began both the “first missionary journey” of Paul and Barnabas and the final stage of the Great Commission as described in Acts 1:8: “…to the ends of the earth.”

God worked through Barnabas and Saul (and, for some reason, Luke the author of Acts, switched to calling him “Paul” in verse 9). People came to believe in Jesus and they were organized into local churches. But I want to focus for this devotional on the importance God’s mission over our comfort. The church at Antioch sounds like an amazing experience and, human nature being what it is, Paul and Barnabas may have desired to stay there for many years doing the Lord’s work. It took the direct voice of the Holy Spirit to compel the church to send Barnabas and Paul out on their first missionary journey. They needed God’s prompting to do what Jesus had commanded us to do in Acts 1:8–just as the Jerusalem church needed the prompting of persecution to move to “Judea and Samaria” (Acts 1:8).

God acts sovereignly to make sure that his will is done so we never have to worry about the mission failing.

What we should remember, however, is that until Jesus returns, we have work to do. It is easy to get very comfortable with the familiar–even (especially?) when God is using us and ministry is going well. But God did not call us to be comfortable, he commissioned us to spread the gospel and start churches.

This means that our church will sometimes have to part with people we love who are obedient to the mission. It has already happened to us in recent years and it will happen again.

This is also why we send 10% of our giving as a church away into missions and church planting. If we spent 100% of what God provided to us on our own work–even good, spiritual work–we would be disobedient to what God commanded us to do.

Maybe you’ve been considering some kind of change–giving more to the church or to missions, starting a new ministry here at Calvary, or going into church planting yourself. If comfort with the present situation is stopping you from taking on a new challenge for God’s glory, will you reconsider that in light of this passage?

Leviticus 7, Isaiah 2, Luke 22

Read Leviticus 7, Isaiah 2, and Luke 22 today.

This devotional is about Luke 22.

There are moments in life when it is hard to think about or care about anything other than the big thing that is about to happen. It might be a really big thing like major surgery or something a bit more exciting like a job interview, your wedding, or the birth of a child. For kids and teens, a big game or major exam might fit with what I’m describing.

You remember how it felt to be waiting for one of these big things. You might have gotten so nervous that you couldn’t sit down. You tried to watch TV or do something else to distract you but you couldn’t concentrate. When we’re faced with moments and events that scare us, it is hard to think about anything else.

At the end of this chapter, Jesus betrayed by Judas, arrested by the chief priests, and put on trial (vv. 39-71). He knew this time was coming and had predicted it to the disciples. In the first part of Luke 22, then, it would be normal for a person in Jesus’s position to be nervous and unable to think about anyone but himself.

That was not Jesus’s mindset, however. Instead, he sought to make the most of the time he had left with his disciples by having the Passover–his last supper–with them.

While Jesus was not focused on himself, the disciples certainly were. Oblivious to the danger that Jesus was about face, they were arguing openly with each other about which one of them should be “considered to be greatest” (v. 24).

Jesus used their argument as a teaching moment. He flipped their expectations about greatness and taught (as he had before) that the greatest servant is the one who matters (vv. 25-26).

So often we are defensive about our rights, sensitive about perceived slights from others, and miffed when we don’t get something that is owed to us. And, at our worst, we compare ourselves to others, accentuating in our own minds the ways in which we feel superior to those we measure ourselves against.

But the words of Christ in Luke 22:27 cut through all of that like a knife: “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” The greatest of all came to serve us and he served us well, bearing our sins in order to be our salvation.

As his followers, he calls us to emulate his example—serving him by serving each other. Do you have a servant’s heart or a “serve me” heart? How can you follow the pattern of Christ today? Who can you serve for the glory of God?

Leviticus 5, Song of Songs 8, Luke 20

Read Leviticus 5, Song of Songs 8, and Luke 20.

This devotional is about Luke 20:45-47: “While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 ‘Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.'”

Do you have a role model? Is there someone you look up to, someone whose life you’ve patterned your life after? Did you want to be like one of your parents or grandparents as you were growing up? Is there someone whose career you’ve emulated?

What about in your spiritual life? Do you have any spiritual role models–someone who led you to Christ or someone else who discipled you? Maybe you look up to a pastor or author whose work has been helpful to you in your walk with God?

There is nothing wrong with admiring someone else and patterning your life after theirs. In fact, there are many good things about it. A good mentor can help you avoid making mistakes in your life or career or walk with God by showing you some of the mistakes they’ve made or have seen others make. A good example can help you apply God’s word to your life when you’re not sure what to do in a certain situation.

The problem with heroes is not that we have them but that we choose them poorly. Here in Luke 20, Jesus cautioned the disciples not to choose the teachers of the law as their heroes. In fact, Jesus told the disciples to “Beware” of them. The scribes were people who had studied God’s law and had copied it by hand so that God’s word could be preserved and disseminated. They wrote commentaries about scripture and could apply to people’s lives. They could write contracts and were supposed to help people know what God’s will was, based on the Law. Every town had scribes and, because they were better educated and consulted for their expertise, may people looked up to them.

The scribes liked the attention and status that being a scribe gave them, so they cultivated that attention can continually sought more of it. That’s why Jesus said in verse 46, “They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.” Their clothes (“flowing robes”) called attention to themselves. They had high expectations about how people would speak to them (“…love to be greeted with respect,” v. 46) and where people would seat them (“…the most important seats,” v. 46). They also acted spiritually for attention because Jesus said, “…for a show [they] make lengthy prayers” in verse 47. It would be easy to look up to men who were so learned, so dignified, and so spiritual.

But, Jesus said, these scribes “devour widows’ houses” (v. 47). This means that they used God’s law to exploit people who were weak and unable to retaliate. They could string some of God’s commands together or use logic to create “principles” that allowed some to take advantage of others. Instead of being servants and wise leaders to God’s people, they made themselves powerful and used their power for their own benefit.

Business leaders and politicians in our times find ways to do this. Did you ever wonder how someone could be a U. S. senator for decades, making a good but not lavish government salary, and yet become a multimillionaire? Isn’t it interesting that billionaires fly in private jets all over the world but cry about how fossil fuels and consumerism are destroying the planet?

What about pastors who buy expensive homes, drive new luxury cars, and live well while telling people that they need to give more? Many people look to others for leadership but our “leaders” are experts in seeking attention, promoting themselves, and getting rich at the expense of taxpayers and faithful givers.

Some people who lived this way get exposed in the media. But other people who live this way may die with their wealth and respect in tact. Jesus said, “These men will be punished most severely” (v. 47). Each of us must stand before a holy God who knows everything we did, how we’ve lived, as well as all of our reasons and motivations. There will be justice for self-centered hypocrites who expose others, but it may not happen in this life.

Still, Jesus told his disciples to “beware” of such people. That means you and I should be careful about who we admire. Do our heroes work hard to look and seem heroic? Do they seek attention more than they seek to do good work, to cultivate personal godliness, and sincerely help others?

What about us? Do we do things to get attention and seek the admiration of others? God knows our hearts and our motives. We must ask him to reveal and root such pride out of us and give us genuine hearts to love and serve him.

Genesis 13, Nehemiah 2, Proverbs 1:20-33

Today read Genesis 13, Nehemiah 2, and Proverbs 1:20-33. This devotional is about Genesis 13.

Abram and Lot must have had some kind of close personal relationship. Genesis 11:31 told us that Lot was Abram’s nephew. The fact that Lot went with Abram (12:4) when Abram left Ur suggests a close, personal friendship between Abram and Lot, one where Abram was most likely a mentor that Lot looked up to.

God had promised, in Genesis 12:3, that he would bless anyone who blessed Abram. Lot’s personal association with Abram sure seems to have brought God’s blessing to Lot’s family. As we read today in Genesis 13:6, Lot and Abram became so wealthy that “they were not able to stay together.” So, they separated themselves geographically and Abram graciously gave Lot the power to choose which land each of them would inhabit (vv. 8-9).

Verse 10 told us that Lot made his decision based on what would benefit him most economically. As a rancher, a “well watered” plain “like the garden of the Lord” would provide the best environment for Lot’s flocks and herds to thrive, contributing to Lot’s bottom line. So Abram and Lot parted for economic reasons and Lot chose his next home for economic reasons.

Verse 12 told us that “Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.” The next verse told us that Sodom was inhabited by wicked men. When I was growing up, messages I heard on this text suggested (maybe even stated directly) that Lot “pitched his tents near Sodom” because he was curious about the wicked lifestyle of the people who lived there. I don’t think that is correct, based on 2 Peter 2:7-8. I think Lot lived near the cities, especially Sodom, because it gave him a great market for his livestock. So, again, he chose what was best for himself and his family’s prosperity despite the spiritual threats Sodom would pose to his family.

I believe the prosperity gospel is wrong, a heretical distortion of the gospel.

But I don’t believe that prosperity is wrong; in fact, I believe that we should prosper—unless God chooses not to allow us to prosper–because our faith causes us to work hard and act prudently with money. So, I’m pro-economic growth for all of us within the sovereign and the moral will of God.

But, if prosperity drives all of our decisions, we will make bad moral choices (see 1 Timothy 6:10. This happened to Lot, as we’ll see.

How about you and me?

  • Do we choose to take a job with a better salary without considering how it might affect our families?
  • What about the choices we make when it comes to spending money? Are your kids enrolled where they are in high school or college because you can save money that way? Did the spiritual and moral costs of that decision factor into your choice

Money is important; we all need it to live and I pray for the prosperity of our church members within the will of God. But don’t let money drive you to make disastrous moral decisions.

Lot would have been so much better off if he had offered to reduce his flocks and herds so that he could stay with Abram. He probably wouldn’t have been better off economically–at least not at first–but he would have retained the moral example and instructions from Abram which would have benefited him in every area of his life. Be wise; don’t allow every big decision you make to be decided only to the money needed.

Genesis 7, Ezra 7, Proverbs 1:1-19

Read Genesis 7, Ezra 7, and Proverbs 1:1-19.

This devotional is about Ezra 7.

Isn’t it interesting that this book of the Bible is named after someone who doesn’t appear until chapter 7? And, the book of Ezra only has 10 chapters, so the man Ezra is absent from most of it.

And yet, it is fitting that this book is named after Ezra because Ezra, we will see, was given by God to be a key spiritual leader for Israel. Verses 1-5 told us that Ezra had the human pedigree needed to hold the office of priest (see also verse 11: “Ezra the priest”). This was important because of God’s commands about the office of priest. But, one could be humanly qualified to be a priest without actually being a true spiritual leader. Eli’s sons from another era are an example of that.

So what made Ezra special? Well, the grace of God of course. But, in keeping with that grace, Ezra prepared himself. Before he showed up in Jerusalem to be a spiritual leader in Israel, he “was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given” (v. 6b). Ezra prepared to teach God’s word before he showed up to serve as a leader of God’s people.

That preparation is elaborated on in verse 10. How did he become the man verse 6 says was “well versed in the Law of Moses”? According to verse 10a, he “had devoted himself to the study… of the Law of the Lord.” He put in the time; he was in the word himself.

That’s not all though, because verse 10 goes on to say, “Ezra had devoted himself to the… observance of the Law of the Lord.” That means he obeyed it himself. After he learned what it said, Ezra abided by it in the way that he lived his life. Only then did he devote himself “to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (v. 10c).

This is the pattern that any and every one of us who leads spiritually must follow. We must be in the word personally, applying it personally and obeying it personally before we teach it to others. If we try to teach without study, we will lead people to error and false doctrine. If we study without application, we will be exposed as hypocrites, creating a crisis of credibility for ourselves and causing some who follow us to stumble.

Are you an elder in our church? A deacon or deaconess? A Calvary Class teacher? An AWANA leader? A parent? Almost everyone of us is leading someone in some way. May the Lord use Ezra’s method of preparation for leadership to call us to prepare well before we speak in God’s name.

2 Chronicles 31, Zechariah 13:2-9

Read 2 Chronicles 31 and Zechariah 13:2-9,

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 31.

Hezekiah restored the temple and the priesthood (chapter 29) led Judah to observe the Passover again after generations of ignoring it (chapter 30), and called his people to return to serving and worshipping the Lord from the heart (also chapter 30). God worked through his leadership and the people responded favorably to the Lord. The word “revival” is used whenever a large number of people turn or return to the Lord. Here in 2 Chronicles 31, we see the results of genuine revival from the heart.

The first result is the removal of idols. Idolatry was a constant struggle within Israel and Judah and even when godly kings ruled, it was still practiced in secret. After God revived the hearts of his people under Hezekiah, they voluntarily destroyed their own idols as a result (v. 1). This demonstrated true repentance–a true turning from sin to serve the Lord alone. That’s what happens in our lives, too, when God works to revive and strengthen our commitment to him.

Another result of revival is giving to the Lord’s work from the heart (vv. 2-19). The Levites and priests had abandoned their ministries, as we saw in chapter 29. This was partially due to their own disobedience and partially due to the lack of funding they were receiving from God’s people. After God worked through Hezekiah to revive the hearts of people, the people gave so generously to the Lord’s work that the priests and Levites had more than enough for themselves (vv. 9-10). How did this happen? People started tithing faithfully (vv. 5-6). When people were faithful in tithing, there was more than enough to provide for God’s work and God’s servants. In fact, there was so much more than what was needed that the priests just starting piling it up (vv. 7-8) and built storerooms to warehouse it all (vv. 11-13). In addition to providing for the priests, were two additional results to this faithful tithing. First, there was heartfelt praise and thanks to the Lord for his provision (v. 8). Second, there was adequate provision for more men to dedicate themselves to serve the Lord (vv. 16-19).

This is what happens when God works in a group of people. People stop loving and start hating and repudiating their idols and they start giving faithfully to God’s work. As God’s work is better funded, his servants are able to do more for him and a virtuous cycle begins.

What is the state of your heart before the Lord? Are you praying for God to revive the hearts of people in our church and our community? Are you tithing and giving generously to the Lord’s work through our church?

2 Chronicles 27-28, Zechariah 10

Read 2 Chronicles 27-28 and Zechariah 10.

This devotional is about Zechariah 10.

One of the metaphors that repeats throughout scripture is that people are like sheep. Like sheep, people are given to wandering off on their own. They will follow the voice of a leader–a shepherd–they trust but without a shepherd, they tend to wander into trouble. A good leader of people, then, both provides a clear voice for the people to follow and watches out for them to keep them from straying too far from the group. When sheep stray too far from the herd, they are vulnerable to predators and to accidents. A good shepherd leads his sheep and watches out for them.

Here in Zechariah 10:3 God expressed anger toward the leaders of his people. The reason for his anger is that these shepherds give voice to lies. Verse 2 says, “The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain.” The result of these false, destructive, deceitful instructions was that “the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.”

God promised to provide the leadership that the kings and priests and prophets were not providing. Verse 3c-d says, “the Lord Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah….” But notice the result of that leadership in the next phrase of verse 3, “and make them like a proud horse in battle.” The metaphor changes, then, from the pool being like wandering sheep to becoming strong, able horses in battle. This suggests that God’s leadership takes us when we are weak, foolish, and vulnerable but develops us into strong, capable creatures.

Jesus was the shepherd God had in mind for this as we see in verse 4a, “From Judah will come the cornerstone” which is one of the images used to describe Christ. Christ has become the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). He is the cornerstone on which God’s people and our lives are built (1 Peter 2:6-7). Part of the leadership he provides is to give undershepherds (1 Peter 5:2-3) to his people to serve the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4). The elders of our church, then, are here to provide you with the spiritual leadership and nourishment you need to make you strong and able to serve the Lord like a warhorse in the spiritual battles we face in this life.

Thank you for spending the time to read the Old Testament with me this year and to mediate with me on the meaning of these texts each day. I trust this is helpful to your life and that you’re using the word to grow in your faith.

But be sure to put what we’ve been learning into practice in your life. This is the goal of spiritual growth–to make us useful to God and his cause. What have you learned as a believer this year? How have you grown in your faith? Where are you serving the Lord more capably than before?

2 Chronicles 19-20, Zechariah 4

Read 2 Chronicles 19-20 and Zechariah 4.

This devotional is about Zechariah 4.

God was moving his people back to Jerusalem in the days of Zechariah. A man named Zerubbabel was the leader in charge of rebuilding God’s temple (v. 9). In this chapter, the Lord sent some encouragement to him.

The people who returned to Jerusalem were poor. They had an immense amount of work to do rebuilding the city and the temple; but the resources they had to do that work were miniscule.

A massive job to do and few resources to use can easily result in discouragement. God sent Zechariah to Zerubbabel to remind him that he had the ultimate resource in God. How would he be able to rebuild that temple? “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (v. 6). The natural, financial, and human resources at Zerubbabel’s disposal were few but only resource he needed was spiritual, the power of almighty God.

As a result, neither Zerubbabel nor God’s people should give up or be discouraged by meager beginnings. As verse 10 says, “Who dares despise the day of small things….” Everything that exists once started as something small and modest. Every large church, for example, was once a small church; indeed, it was once merely the idea and desire of a small group of people. If God is in the project, it will not be stopped; if he is not in it, it will not ultimately succeed.

Are you ever tempted to look at your ministry or your life or something else that belongs to God and think, “This is never going to amount to anything!” Verse 10 is for you: “Who dares despise the day of small things…?” Trust God that the desire to serve him matters. Your resources may be few and the beginning may be humble, but God is more than powerful enough to make something great.