Matthew 23

Read Matthew 23.

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Today’s reading continued to chronicle the life of Christ during the week of the crucifixion. Yesterday, we read that the religious leaders took turns trying to discredit Jesus by attempting to stump him with hard questions. Jesus turned every question back on the questioners and made them look foolish. So, Jesus was on defense in that chapter and refused to allow his opponents to score any points at all.

Here in Matthew 23, Jesus went on offense, warning his audience about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and teachers of the law and urging his audience not to live like these religious leaders.

Jesus was very specific in his complaints about the hypocrisy of these groups. He criticized them for:

  • not practicing what they preach (vv. 1-4).
  • doing everything for show, not from sincerity (vv. 5-12).
  • being an obstacle to God’s kingdom rather than a guide to it (vv. 13-15).
  • finding loopholes in God’s laws to exploit for their own selfish ends (vv. 16-22).
  • being scrupulous about obedience to the technicalities of the law while completely ignoring the moral and ethical commands of the law (vv. 23-24).
  • appearing squeaky-clean on the outside while being morally degenerate on the inside (vv. 25-28).
  • honoring the prophets that their ancestors killed while persecuting the prophets and teachers Jesus sent and was sending to them (vv. 29-36).

Let’s focus on verses 5-12. Although the religious men of his culture loved the accolades of great honor that were customarily given to them (v. 7), Jesus commanded his followers not to give titles and honor to our leaders (vv. 8-11). He could not have been clearer that Christian leaders are to be servants who serve in humility (vv. 11-12); consequently, he strictly forbid us from putting titles on each other.

Despite what Jesus clearly said, Christian leaders for centuries have demanded certain titles: Bishop Youknowwho, Pope Whatshisname, Cardinal Soandso, Saint Bernard, and even “Father”– the very title Jesus said not to use (v. 9).

Though the elders here at Calvary felt it was important for me to be called “Pastor,” I’ve always been more comfortable just going by the name my parents gave me. Even though I have an earned doctorate, I never tell anyone to call me Dr. Jones and this passage is the reason why. We call Paul “the Apostle Paul” but he never called himself that; instead, his letters began with his first name, “Paul” (Rom 1:1, 1 Cor 1:1, 2 Cor 1:1, etc.)

I think we should be careful about using titles in light of this passage, but the command here is less about whether you call me “Pastor Brian” or just “Brian” and more about whether I serve the Lord in order to get honor and respect from you.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law wanted the social status that came from being a religious leader (vv. 5-7). They did not view themselves as servants to their disciples but as princes who taught but also demanded much from their followers.

We are not immune to this temptation. Some people seek to be elders or deacons or teachers in the church because they want the respect of the people of the church. Jesus called us to remember that spiritual leadership is about service, not about self. May God help all of us to cultivate the servants heart that Jesus commanded and modeled for us, no matter what title people apply to our names or what positions of authority we occupy.

2 Chronicles 33 and Proverbs 31

Read 2 Chronicles 33 and Proverbs 31.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 33.

Some human governments move back and forth like a pendulum and that’s what Judah’s leadership was like at times during the divided kingdom. After all the good that Hezekiah did during his lifetime, his son Manasseh came in and reversed it all.

Verse 2 declared that, “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord” and verses 3-6 catalog his sins which included idolatry (of course), desecration of the temple, child sacrifice, divination, witchcraft, and spiritism. His actions were so evil that verse 9 said, “Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.”

God graciously sent his word to Judah (v. 10), then imposed punishment on him personally (v. 11). At his lowest point, however, “he humbled himself greatly” (v. 12b), “sought the Lord’s favor” (v. 12a) and God heard and delivered him (v. 13). It was genuine repentance, too, because verse 13c said, “Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.” He also “restored the altar of the the Lord” and “told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel.”

So, if he was truly repentant and showed genuine fruit of repentance, why did verse 2 include him among the evil kings of Judah?

The answer is that the phrases, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” or “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord” describes a king’s leadership more than it does his personal walk with God.

Of course, those two things are deeply linked and an ungodly leader is, of course, almost always an ungodly man. Manasseh is an unusual edge case. Although he repented, his repentance came after many years of ungodly living and ungodly leadership. His soul may have been saved after his repentance, but that did not erase the influence of his ungodly life and leadership. Despite his repentance, Manasseh was an unqualified evil influence as king of Judah, so that’s why he’ll always be considered an ungodly king, despite his repentance.

Here is a lesson for us about the foolishness of sin. I don’t know if anyone sins thinking, “I’ll just ask forgiveness for this later.” Our sinful choices usually involve more self-deception and justification than that.

But if anyone does think that way, they are missing a very important truth: your sin and mine leaves its mark on others. It gives them a way to justify their own sinful actions, a sort of “moral permission” that really isn’t moral at all but quiets their conscience enough to let them choose evil.

If you have influence over many people, many more of those people will try out your sin for themselves. May God help us say no to sin not only for our own spiritual health but also to prevent sin from spreading to those who follow our lead.

2 Chronicles 21 and Revelation 13

Read 2 Chronicles 21 and Revelation 13.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 21.

For all the good that he did, Jehoshaphat was unable to leave Israel with a godly successor. His son Jehoram got to be king because “he was his firstborn son” (v. 3c). That’s not a very good reason for choosing someone to be your successor. Solomon, for instance, was not David’s firstborn son; not even close.

Jehoram must have felt some insecurity about his reign because when he had “established himself firmly over his father’s kingdom, he put all his brothers to the sword along with some of the officials of Israel” (v. 4). He also married one of Ahab’s daughters who evidently influenced him toward idol worship (v. 6, 11).

God was gracious to Jehoram, to a point, despite his murder and idolatry, but that was only due to his covenant promise to David (v. 7). Although God did not remove him from being king, he did bring severe trials into Jehoram’s life because of his sins:

  • He faced rebellion from the Edomites (vv. 8-10) “because Jehoram had forsaken the Lord, the God of his ancestors” (v. 10b).
  • He received a stern letter of warning from Elijah (vv. 12-15).
  • He lost when attacked by Philistines and others (vv. 16-17).
  • He contracted an incurable bowel disease (vv. 18-19) and “died in great pain” (v. 19b).

Since Jehoshaphat ran such a tight ship religiously when he was king, one might reason that Israel enjoyed having Jehoram, a fellow idol worshipper, follow him and loosen things up. No such luck, though; when he died, “His people made no funeral fire in his honor, as they had for his predecessors” (v. 19c). Ouch! Verse 20 summed up his eight year reign this way, “He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.”

That phrase, ““He passed away, to no one’s regret” is a sad epitaph for anyone’s life.

It is foolish to live so that others regret your death. If you do that, you’ll spend your life trying to please everyone. But it is impossible to please everyone and even more impossible to please God at the same time you try to please other. That’s because God wants you to be holy and everyone else wants to be unholy.

But look at Jehoshaphat. He made some dumb decisions, but he lived for the glory of God to the best of his ability and he is remembered for that. Proverbs 28:12 says, “When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.” The way to be remembered well at your funeral is to live a righteous life and be the best manager for the Lord of whatever power and influence he gives you. People may be repelled by your high standards, your ethics, and your morals but over time they will respect the steady leadership you have provided.

1 Chronicles 26-27, Malachi 3, 3 John

Read 1 Chronicles 26-27, Malachi 3, and 3 John.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 27.

Have you ever called a company to talk to a specific person but didn’t have that person’s extension number? If a real, live person answered the phone, you could just ask to be connected to the person you’re trying to reach.

Frequently, however, you will get an automated response to your call. It will tell you to press 1 for this, press 2 for that, etc. One of the options is usually, “For a list of all extensions, press * or # or one of the numbers. Then you can listen as, one by one, in alphabetical order, the name and extension of each employee of the company is read to you.

This portion of scripture is like that directory of extensions. Starting back in 1 Chronicles 22, David began making preparations for Solomon to become king and build the temple. From chapter 23 through chapter 26 today, we’ve been reading lists of names of people who served in the Lord’s tabernacle in some way. Here in 1 Chronicles 27, we have …uh… chronicled for us the men who served as leaders in David’s army (vv. 1-15), the leaders of the tribes of Israel (vv. 16-24), and leaders in David’s administration (vv. 25-34). The impression this list makes is that David’s kingdom was large and well-organized. Each person who served was known by name and his role in the kingdom was documented. Notice just a few of these details:

  • There were royal storehouses (v. 25) and they were organized into districts, towns, villages, and watchtowers. Two men were responsible for these storehouses.
  • There were geographical assignments for certain things such as “the olive and sycamore-fig trees in the western foothills” (v. 28) and “the herds grazing in Sharon” (v. 29).
  • The king had men on his staff who were his confidant (Hushai) and counselors (Jonathan and Ahithophel (vv. 32-33).

Within these administrative lists, there are indications that some of the men were especially skilled in their jobs. Among the gatekeepers of the tabernacle, some “were leaders in their father’s family because they were very capable men” (26:6). Others were described as “capable men with the strength to do the work” (26:8). Jonathan, David’s uncle was “a man of insight and a scribe” (v. 32). He sounds like exactly the right man for that role.

My point in all of this is that sometimes people complain about “organized religion.” There are some who believe there is virtue in being disorganized and loose with details and responsibilities. Many people dislike accountability even though they accepted responsibility for the results of an area. These lists of men and their responsibilities show us that even way back in the days of the Old Testament, God’s servants in worship and kingdom administration were highly organized and their responsibilities were clearly defined. Not many people love administration–I sure don’t–but administration serves a purpose: it enables people to glorify God by serving others consistently and reliably.

Where is your place in the administration of God’s work in our church? If you are a leader, are your people well-organized with clear roles and responsibilities? Could it be that one of the best ways you could serve the Lord right now is to put some effort into administration?

1 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 9, 1 John 1.

Read 1 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 9, and 1 John 1.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 16.

As far as we know, the musical aspect of worship did not exist in Israel’s tabernacle before David came along. I could be wrong about that because the Bible just doesn’t say much about Israel’s worship practice, other than what was in Moses’ law. There were some “songs”–probably more poetry that was chanted than songs that were sung–like Moses’ and Miriam’s songs. Maybe they were used in some group settings in the tabernacle. But, as far as I can tell, until David came along, worship in the tabernacle consisted of teaching the law and offering various kinds of offerings–sin offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings, incense offerings, etc. 

Our passage for today, 1 Chronicles 16, seems to be the place where music was introduced formally to Israel’s worship. David (and probably many others before him) worshipped personally as he played the harp and sang to his sheep. But now, according to verse 4, the more musically-gifted Levites were organized and charged with the task of making music before the Lord. “He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel” (v. 4). That was their job! Instead of making show bread or offering burnt offerings, or teaching the law, these men (listed in verse 5a) were to spend all of their time in musical worship (vv. 37-38, 41-42).

Performing that ministry required preparation. They wrote worship songs, rehearsed personally and in groups. The ministry of music also, of course, involved playing and singing publicly before the Lord: “They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner: ‘Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” 

What a gift the Lord gave to his people–both Israel and the church–through David. Our worship is greatly enhanced by music. Good worship songs teach God’s word by reminding us of what God has done and introducing our children to God’s mighty works: “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Israel, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth” (vv. 12-14).

Good worship songs focus on God’s character (v. 29c, 34) and call us to trust in his promises (vv. 15-18). They call us to reflect on God’s works and to be thankful and give thanks to him for his grace (vv. 34-36). Paying people to make music to glorify God for the worship of his people may seem like a luxury, but David’s decision to do this and his leadership to organize it has blessed generations of believers ever since.

I give thanks for our worship leader, Nick Slayton, and for all who serve on our worship team. I give thanks for hymn writers, song writers, musicians, and singers that God has blessed with talent and desire to be used for his service. Let’s pray for them to keep walking with the Lord and to keep serving him for his glory. If you use music as part of your personal devotional/worship time, take a moment to pray for the musicians and songwriters you will listen to today.

1 Chronicles 11-12, Zechariah 6, John 19

Read 1 Chronicles 11-12, Zechariah 6, and John 19 today. This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 11-12.

The first of the two chapters we read today opens by describing David’s appointment as king. It was the Lord who chose David to be king, of course (v. 2b) but God’s people recognized and affirmed that choice after witnessing David’s military leadership (v. 2a). Verses 4-9 described how David took Jerusalem and made it his home. Verse 9 concludes with this, “And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him.”

That is the part that we all know. What follows in verses 10-47 is the part that we don’t usually think about. It is a collection of stories about the chiefs of David’s “mighty warriors” (vv. 10-25) followed by a list of the mighty warriors (vv. 26-47). Those men were skilled fighters and extremely loyal to David. Their loyalty to him and desire to please him led three of them to make a risky incursion into Bethlehem to get him a drink from the waters of home (vv. 16-19). Through these men God “gave his kingship strong support to extend it over the whole land, as the Lord had promised” (v. 10b). 

David was a great warrior and leader but he didn’t win battles by himself. He was successful because God was with him and God used these men to accomplish his will through David.

If you’re a leader, who are the other leaders on your team? Who shares the work of leading with you? If the answer is, “nobody,” then you need to ask God for help and look around for others who could be developed into that role.

If you’re someone who supports the leader, a leader under him or a “foot soldier” (so to speak), are you devoted to your leader? Assuming he or she is a leader God approves of, would you do whatever you could–even taking on some risk (v. 19)–to help your leader(s) accomplish the will of God?

2 Kings 15, Nahum 1, Proverbs 25:15-28

Read 2 Kings 15, Nahum 1, and Proverbs 25:15-28.

This devotional is about Proverbs 25:15-28.

In my life, I’ve had positions of leadership and positions where I was following a leader. Being a good leader is hard but, at times, being a good follower can be hard, too. Being a good follower is the subject of this devotional.

It is helpful to understand that the main leader sees things differently than everyone else. The main leader is accountable for the whole situation–the things he knows and doesn’t know that are happening, the decisions he makes and that he doesn’t make, and the results of all of it.

So, the main leader is accountable for more than anyone and everyone else. Consequently, the main leader can often be slower to make decisions. A wise leader needs to consider what the outcome might be of any decision. He also needs to think about the cost of the decision. Every decision has a cost. It may cost money or future opportunity. It might cost in terms of people questioning or complaining. A decision might lead to people leaving the church or becoming less active, or, in the business world, customers may take their business elsewhere.

Until you are the main leader, you rarely think about the costs of a decision. Until you are the main leader, you will tend to underestimate how much a decision might cost. This can make it frustrating to be a follower of the main leader.

Different kinds of people can be described as “influential followers.” An assistant pastor can be an influential follower; so can an elder, a deacon, or a respected church member. In other contexts, a staff member or vice-president or highly skilled worker can be an influential follower.  So can a customer who buys a lot. When you are an influential follower, you see things that the main leader might not see or might not want to see. You see things that need improving and have ideas about how to improve them. You see opportunities that the main leader might not see or appreciate.

I know from being in this situation what it is like to see an opportunity that the main leader doesn’t see or doesn’t think is important. I know how frustrating it is to know that you’re right about something but get very little interest from your main leader. It is easy to get so frustrated that you become obnoxious to the main leader or to leave in order to become the main leader or find another main leader to follow.

So what do you do if you are an influential follower but you haven’t been able to persuade the main leader to take your advice or suggestion? You patiently keep proposing the idea to the main leader. As we read today in Proverbs 25:15, “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” Leaders often make mistakes by not listening to others with good ideas, but followers often make the mistake of impatience when proposing new ideas. This proverb counsels us not to give up or leave or get mad when the main leader doesn’t listen. It counsels us to be patient and learn how to gently but persistently persuade those who lead you.

Do you have a leader that is frustrating you? A parent, a husband, a boss, or some other kind of leader? Please understand that the burden of leadership in these roles is heavy. You can’t appreciate how hard it is until you’ve done it. So be patient but don’t give up trying to influence the leaders above you. Be gentle but persistent, like a stream that slowly shapes and smooths the rock it flows over. You can persuade those who lead you, but you need to approach that persuasion the right way. This proverb gives excellent advice for how to do that.

1 Kings 20, Amos 6, 2 Peter 1

Read 1 Kings 20, Amos 6, and 2 Peter 1.

This devotional is about Amos 6.

A stable life is a peaceful life but, if we’re not careful, it can become a complacent life.

Complacency, to me, is very similar to laziness. It is a satisfaction with life that causes someone to quit striving for excellence. This is the attitude that the Lord, through Amos, addressed here in Amos 6.

Verse 1 tells us that this is directed to two groups of people—those “in Zion” which was Jerusalem, the capital of the Southern Kingdom of Judah and “on Mount Samaria” which was the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Who lives in these places? “Notable men” as verse 1 calls them live there; in other words, this is a prophecy directed to the leadership (aka “the government”) of both nations.

Verses 4-7 describe the life of leisure these people have. They “lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches” (v. 4a). They “dine on choice lambs and fattened calves” (v. 4b). They “strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments” (v. 5). they “drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions” (v. 6).

Sounds like a nice life, don’t you think? God didn’t think so because he said: “But you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.” That was a reference to the spiritual decline of the nation.

This is one reason why materialism is so dangerous to spiritual growth. When you have everything you want, it is easy to believe that God is not important.

Our struggles may be painful, but they keep us dependent on Christ. If it has been a good year for you financially, how’s your walk with God going? If your life is placid and relatively problem free, have you started to dabble in sin or slack off on your church attendance?

If you have become complacent spiritually–or in any other way in your life–what would be a good way to respond to the teaching and rebuke in this passage of scripture?

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 12, Joel 1, 2 Timothy 4

Read 1 Kings 12, Joel 1, and 2 Timothy 4.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 12.

One verse explains what happened to Solomon’s son Rehoboam and what happens to anyone who thinks they have authority to benefit themselves. That verse is verse 7: “They replied, ‘If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.’” Did you catch it? “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them…?”

That is what leadership is all about—serving those you lead. Solomon, despite his great wisdom, imposed a heavy tax burden on his people. Those taxes enabled him to build all the grand structures that made Jerusalem a world-class city and to support all his wives and girlfriends. The people went from prosperous and happy (1 Ki 4:20, 10:8) to begging his son for relief (12:3). That’s because Solomon turned from having a servant’s heart (1 Ki 3:7b-9) to believing he was entitled to whomever and whatever he wanted. 

An entitled attitude can develop at any stage of life—witness Solomon who had a servant’s heart when he was young and gradually began to feel that he was entitled. But I wonder if youth and immaturity don’t make people especially susceptible to a feeling of entitlement. When you’re young, everything is done for you because you haven’t learned to do it yourself. But at some point in your life you must learn to do things for yourself, to set goals and accomplish them, to understand that setbacks and hurdles are part of life and that you have to find ways to overcome them. Nobody but your parents owes you devoted love; you have to cultivate that with another person if you want to get married and have a happy family yourself. Nobody owes you a job or a decent standard of living. Your employer does not owe you a promotion or a raise or a carefully mapped out career path where you ascend to greater leadership and prosperity. Because you are human—made in God’s image—society does not have the right to take your life or to mistreat you. You have the right to life, to private property, and to justice. With those basic protections in place, whatever else happens in your life is up to God’s providence and your decision-making. 

Rehoboam, I’m sure, lived a very entitled life. He never had to tend sheep or fight in battles like his grandfather David did. His friends (v. 10), likewise, were probably sons of high officials in Solomon’s administration (see 1 Ki 9:20-23). None of these kids had to work for anything; the good life was provided to them in abundance and they all saw how Solomon did whatever he wanted. Their advice to Rehoboam was not to serve his citizens by getting off their backs and out of their way so they could provide for themselves (12:4, 9); rather, their advice was that Rehoboam should push them harder and to show them who’s boss (vv. 10-15).

The result of Rehoboam’s decision was a rebellion that nearly led to civil war (vv. 16-21). Only God’s direct revelation kept Israel from decimating itself (vv. 22-24). All of this happened in God’s providence (v. 24: “…this is my doing…”) as a consequence of Solomon’s sins (11:34-39). But this incident reminds us to watch out for the sin of pride manifested in an entitlement mentality. If you use your power and influence for yourself, that is a sin against God. It is also a prescription for trouble because eventually those you use and abuse will seek relief.

If anyone in our government were paying attention, this passage should warn them of the potentially devastating consequences of helping themselves to too much of the wealth of a nation’s citizens. Many people in our country are upset by “welfare mothers” and others who are accused of abusing our welfare system. But what about the politicians, regulators, lawyers, bureaucrats, defense contractors, and consultants? What about the lobbyists, bankers, farmers and workers in other industries who get government subsidies or exemptions from laws everyone else has to follow? What about government employee unions who vote for politicians who then give greater wages and benefits? Are these groups of people truly serving the citizens or are they using the public for their own enrichment? Instead of condemning the poor for being poor, we should look first toward the prosperous who do not design, manufacture, or sell anything but instead become prosperous by confiscating the profits of those are productive. 

For the moment, we can not do much about the burdensome government we elected and empowered. But we can learn how to serve those we lead instead of using them for our own enrichment. Learn the lesson of Rehoboam and banish the entitlement mentality from your heart. Be a servant just as God served us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Kings 6, Hosea 9, Titus 3

Read 1 Kings 6, Hosea 9, and Titus 3.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 6.

Solomon’s father David was a mighty and successful (and mighty successful) warrior. He was also an accomplished musician and a top-notch song writer. But what was Solomon really good at? He never fought a day in his life. Though he wrote some Psalms they are not as numerous or well-known as David’s psalms. If he played an instrument, we don’t know anything about his skill level or even what he played. So where in life did Solomon excel?

Wisdom, yes, but that was supernaturally given to him by God. He was gifted at writing Proverbs and other wisdom literature. But his true gifting seemed to be in administration. The descriptions of his kingdom suggest a man who was skillful in getting things done by coordinating the efforts of others.

That’s one way of describing what wisdom is: it is skill in living. A wise man is a more skillful decision-maker than a fool. This includes moral decisions, of course. The fool decides based on his sinful passions rather than on what is right and wrong. But a wise man applies good decision-making to everyday life. That was where Solomon excelled and we see his excellence described here in 1 Kings 6 as he began to build the Temple.

What he planned for God’s temple was magnificent but he didn’t just plan it. He thought about every detail and he made all the decisions. Verse 7 always amazes me: “In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.” Nothing was built at the temple site; it was designed and manufactured elsewhere, brought to the temple, then put into place like a child would snap Legos into place. That takes an immense amount of detailed thinking and planning.

Church ministry has a lot of administration involved in it; more than you may realize. Church administration gets very little attention, but it is incredibly important for making sure God’s work is done with skill. I am thankful for volunteers in our church who are good at administration. As they use their gifts for his work, God is served–worshipped–every bit as much as when we are skillfully led in worship or hear a well-crafted message.

But in the middle of describing Solomon’s important work, God said this to him: ““As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.” While God was honored by David’s desire to build a temple and Solomon’s skill in making it happen, what he really wanted was obedience to his word. It was the devotion of the Israelites to the Lord and his word that would cause him to “live among the Israelites” not the magnificent temple Solomon built. It is another reminder of what God really cares about; great architecture and skillful craftsmanship can be powerful acts of worship, but they are nothing compared to a life that is focused on hearing and obeying the Word of God.

1 Kings 4-5, Hosea 8, Titus 2

Read 1 Kings 4-5, Hosea 8, and Titus 2.

This devotional is about Titus 2.

BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Titus 2. 

Titus 2 beautifully describes why the church needs to be intergenerational.

It begins in verse 1 by telling us that there is an appropriate way to live if you believe in the truth of the Christian faith. Verses 2-10 describes what that appropriate way of life looks like. Titus was to teach:

  • older men how sound doctrine should lead them to live carefully and in ways that are healthy in faith, love, and endurance (v 2.).
  • older women to live reverent, good lives. But, the purpose for living such lives was, in part, to teach younger women.

And what were the older to women to teach?

  • “…urge the younger women” to live lives devoted in purity to their families (v. 5).

Meanwhile, younger men needed to be taught how to control their actions (v. 6) with Timothy himself being an example for them to follow in every way (vv. 7-8).

Slaves should seek to serve their masters as best as they can in all honesty (vv. 9-10).

The reason for all of this is God’s grace (v. 11). It has appeared to “all people”; this phrase, in context refers to “all types of people” whether old (vv. 2-3) young (vv. 4-6), men (vv. 2, 6) or women (vv. 3-4), free or slave (vv. 9-10). Although we never lose our sinful desires in this life, God’s grace teaches us to say no to them (v. 12a). This is what being “self-controlled” (vv. 2, 5 & 6) means. It is learning to say no to sin no matter how strong our desire is for it.

Older people have had more experience with sin—in their own lives and in seeing its effects in the lives of other—so they can tell younger people how much sinful passions lie to us in what they promise and how to avoid giving into those passions.

The result of this teaching is that believers will learn how “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (v. 12) while we wait for the return of Christ (v. 13). One of Christ’s main purposes in coming the first time was “to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (v. 14b). Without older men to lead the way for younger men, without older women to mentor and instruct younger women, a local church’s adults will make the same sinful choices over and over again, generation after generation.

But one of God’s gracious gifts to us is the gift of older, wiser believers who can encourage, instruct, guide, and lead (by example and by words) the younger adults in the church. Then, as each generation grows in its understanding of the gospel and person holiness, the church gets stronger and Christ accomplishes the goals he came here to accomplish (v. 14).

If you’re an older person, are you having an effect in the life of someone younger? If you’re a younger person, do you have relationships with older believers who can help you grow in your faith? This is what Christ wants for his church so consider how you can serve or benefit from the service of others to grow more like him in your faith and walk with God.