Numbers 26, Isaiah 49, 1 Thessalonians 4

Read Numbers 26, Isaiah 49, and 1 Thessalonians 4 today.

This devotional is about 1 Thessalonians 4.

In this chapter Paul moved from discussing his history with the Thessalonians to addressing how they should live as Christians (vv. 1-2). Sexual purity was first on his list, an evergreen topic in every age (vv. 3-8).

Next was the issue of loving others and general living in light of our life in Christ (vv. 9-12). The Thessalonians had a God-given gift for Christian love, so much so that Paul said he didn’t really even need to write to them about it (vv. 9-10). When Paul wrote, “you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia” (v. 10a), he is referring to the generosity of the Thessalonian believers toward other believers and church in the wider region around them. This suggests that the Thessalonians had instinctively reached out to other churches and had been generous toward whatever needs they had.

Even though the Thessalonians had already demonstrated their love, Paul “urge[d] you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.” We all, from time to time, quit doing things that are good and productive just because they can be costly. Paul wasn’t chiding them for losing some of the loving ways they had developed; he was encouraging them not to stop doing the God-honoring things they had done by instinct.

As a parent and as a pastor, it is easy to take for granted the good things that our children and our church family members do. I might congratulate my kids when they get good grades–or improving grades–on their report cards, but I don’t usually pat them on the back when I see them he daily work of studying and doing homework.

Similarly, in our church, many people show up and serve faithfully each week. I do try to thank people from time to time, but it’s easy just to expect their faithful service. Positive reinforcement, though, can mean a lot. It matters more to some people than others based on their personalities, but it means something to just about everyone. Like Paul, then, it would be helpful for us to notice the good things our spouse, our kids and our friends do–the areas where they are growing in their Christian lives, when they serve faithfully, when they make good choices–and encourage them to keep it up. That bit of encouragement might help others keep doing good and it might stimulate them to do more in that area.

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.

Leviticus 19 and Isaiah 15

Read Leviticus 19 and Isaiah 15 today.

This devotional is about Leviticus 19.

Leviticus 19 contains a large number of commands on various topics. The passage begins with a call for God’s people to emulate his character: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”’” Every command in this chapter flows from the holiness of God.  If you want to know God, you must also desire to become holy. This chapter gives some specific ways in which holiness works out in the life of a believer.

Being “holy” simply means “set apart.” God is set apart from humanity in two ways: First, he is Creator and we are the created. There is a distinction between the Creator and creature that we can never cross. As Creator, God has certain qualities that we can’t understand, much less emulate. These are things like knowing all things, having all power, being everywhere present in the fullness of his being, and others. These are qualities that only God can have; they are one way in which God holy.

Usually, though, when we talk about God’s holiness, we are talking about his moral perfection. God is set apart from people in the sense that he is perfect morally. He has no sinful desires or actions. God did create us to emulate this quality. Adam and Eve began with a perfect moral nature; if they had refused the temptation offered to them in the garden, humanity would have existed in moral holiness just as God did. Since we chose to sin, however, we are unholy.

In Christ believers are declared to be holy and God’s Holy Spirit is working us over morally so that we become more holy like Jesus was, but it is an ongoing process that does not reach completion until we see Christ.

When God commanded Israel to be holy (v. 2), he was commanding them to set themselves apart from the nations around them. That required faith that living according to God’s commands would be better than living according to the ways that were common and their natural moral instincts. Many of the commands here in Leviticus 19 are easily understood as categories of holiness—either moral holiness, such as “no idols” in verse 4, or cultural holiness, such as “do not mate two different kinds of animals” in verse 19.

But what do you make of the command, “do not reap to the very edges of your field… leave them for the poor and the foreigner”? In what way does this command flow from the holiness of God?

The answer is this: God affirmed the righteousness of private property rights in verse 11a where he said, “Do not steal.” That command tells us people have a right to private ownership and that it is morally wrong to take, either by force or by deception, any property that justly belongs to someone else.

Our capitalist system is built on private property rights. Not only do you have the right to own productive assets (land, flocks, woodworking tools, trucks, whatever), you have the right to use those assets in ways that are productive. You also have the right to keep the products of that production and sell those products for a profit. That’s why people are allowed to own land, farm land, harvest, and sell what they have planted.

However, God wanted his people to show generosity to the poor. Unlike other nations where the poor had to beg, borrow, or steal to live, God affirmed the right of his people to private property and to the cultivation of wealth but he also wanted them to be different from the nations around them by generously providing for the poor. Leaving food in the fields for poor people to reap on their own without fear of being killed or prosecuted for trespassing showed love and compassion for the poor. Instead of selfishly gathering every bit of profit, God commanded his people to be productive but also to provide a means for those who were poor to live.

That kind of love for one’s poor neighbor would set apart God’s people from the nations around them. It should also mark us, his people by faith, today. We should be generous to the poor—regardless of why they are poor–because we want to live a holy life that emulates God.

That doesn’t mean that we have to support every (or any) government program. Neither this passage nor any other passage in the New Testament puts the responsibility to provide for the poor on the government. But this passage does mean that we should do what we can personally to help anyone within our reach to meet their daily needs for survival. That goes against our human instincts to watch out for ourselves alone. By being counter to our instincts, caring for the poor is an expression of holiness because it sets us apart from people who despise the poor and even take advantage of them.

Have you given anything to help those in need lately? Being generous to the needy is part of the holiness of God that God wants to develop in your life.

Leviticus 1, Song of Songs 5, Proverbs 9

Read Leviticus 1, Song of Songs 5, and Proverbs 9.

This devotional is about Proverbs 9.

This chapter in Proverbs continues comparing wisdom to a woman and folly is also compared to a woman. You remember from high school, maybe, that this is a literary device called “personification.” Solomon has already “personified” wisdom as a woman; now folly is also personified as a woman. I will refer to them as “Wendy Wisdom” and “Polly Folly.”

Both of these women call out to people “from the highest point of the city” (v. 3b, 14b). This means that their invitations are broadcast and can be heard from far away.

They both invite people to come in to their homes and eat. Wendy Wisdom offers her own nourishment (vv. 4-5). It is the nourishment of a godly life (v. 10) which results in a disciplined life. Like healthy food, it isn’t always the most tasty, but it is healthy and will extend your life (vv. 6, 11).

By contrast, Polly Folly offers “stolen water… and food eaten in secret” (v. 17). This is a reference to sin. It is immediately enjoyable, even addictive, but like all addictions, it will kill you (v. 18).

In between the contrasts offered by these two women, Solomon talked about correction. There are two kinds of people: those who reject correction (vv. 7a, 8a) and those who accept correction (v. 8b).

Those who reject correction will turn and attack the person who tries to give it to them. If you’ve ever tried to show someone a problem in their life and they turn and accuse you of being unloving, unkind, critical, judgmental or the bad guy, this is the kind of person you’re dealing with. Of course, there are some people in the world who are unloving, unkind, critical, judgmental, and bad guys. The difference is in the motivation and delivery of the person bringing correction. A loving person cares about you; they want to see you avoid sin or help you get unstuck from a sinful situation, habit, or temptation. They speak up because they want to help you not to hurt you. Those who are unloving, unkind, critical, etc. just want to hurt you. It is the difference between a surgeon who cuts you open with a scalpel and a solder who cuts you open with a sword. Both of them are cutting–which wounds you–but they have very different motivations and results.

The person who accepts correction is wise (v. 8b) and is on a pathway to greater wisdom (v. 9). On one level he may love the sin you are correcting him for, but as a believer, he will recognize his sin is wrong and that it will bring pain and destruction if he persists in it. So your correction will help him grow and he “will love you” as a result (v. 8b). All of this points again to the importance of humility. People resist correction out of pride but those who are too proud to accept correction will eventually pay a much more painful price than wounded pride.

If you want to be wise, you have to start by being humble. Humility calls us to fear the Lord (v. 10) which “is the beginning of wisdom” but we progress down that path by continuing to accepting the truth in humility. That truth may come from the correction of God’s word or the correction of another person but if it is true, we should receive it even though it hurts.

Did you receive any correction this week–any criticism from your boss or a complaint about your actions or character? Criticism delivered lovingly is easier to take, but even our harshest critic can still help us onward toward wisdom if we have the humility to accept the criticism and change accordingly.

Exodus 27, Ecclesiastes 3, Proverbs 8:1-21

Read Exodus 27, Ecclesiastes 3, and Proverbs 8:1-21 today.

This devotional is about Exodus 27.

From Exodus 25 through 30, God spelled out for his people how to create the tabernacle and all the things that belonged in it. Chapter 25:31-40 described the lampstand that they were to build. Here in 27:20-21 the Lord told them how to make the oil that would be burned in that lamp.

The lampstand itself had seven lamps–one in the center and six branches–three on each side (25:32, 37). Remember that–seven lamps on one lampstand.

This lampstand was placed “outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law” (v. 21a). That means it was in the holy place, just outside the Most Holy Place (or holy of holies, as it is sometimes called). God’s command was that these seven lamps were to be burning at all times; that’s what “from evening till morning” (v. 21c) means. The only time these lamps would ever go out was if the people (and, therefore, the tabernacle) were moving to a new place. When the tabernacle was set up and in use, the lamps were supposed to burn night and day.

The people of Israel had their own lamps which they used in their tents at night. When it was time to sleep, the lamps God’s people used at home were extinguished because they were not needed and might prevent them from sleeping. God never sleeps, so the ever-burning lamps were a testimony to God’s wakeful watchfulness over his people. Because God was always awake and on duty, his people could pray to him anytime–night or day.

Notice also that the oil for these lamps was to be brought by the people. Verse 20 says, “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning.” It was the duty of the non-priests to bring a constant fresh supply of this olive oil so that the lamps would never go out.

Also note that the responsibility to provide oil for the lamps passed from one generation to another. The last sentence of verse 21 says, “This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.”

Finally, note that a particular kind of olive oil was needed to fuel these lamps: “clear oil of pressed olives” (v. 20a). Commentators say that this kind of oil would burn with very little smoke. There was a purity to this kind of preparation that was fitting as a symbol of God and his presence.

So, what do we have here? Let’s review:

  • The priests were to make a lamp with seven spots on top where the fire light would appear.
  • This lampstand was placed outside the curtain where the Most Holy Place was. It was the closest thing to the Ark of the Covenant (beside the curtain that separated the Holy and Most Holy Places).
  • The seven lamps were never supposed to go out because they symbolized God’s presence and attention night and day.
  • The oil for this lamp was to be:
    • Pure olive oil to burn without smoke.
    • Provided by the people, not the priests
    • Continually provided by the people for every generation.

What does any of this have to do with us Christians? 

  • At the very least, it serves as a visual reminder to us of God’s constant presence. He is always awake, always alert, always watching over us and ready to hear our prayers.
  • The command for the people to provide the oil from one generation to another reminds us that we all contribute to God’s ministry. If we stop contributing to God’s work, the light of his presence may go out in the world.

But consider one more possible application of this passage: In Revelation 1:12, John saw “seven golden lampstands” and in verse 20 of Revelation 1 he was told that “the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” Admittedly, the tabernacle/temple only had one lampstand with seven lamps emanating from it so there are some differences. But because there were seven lamps on the lampstand in Exodus 27, God may have chosen these seven churches and used the symbol of the lamp to call up this image from the tabernacle/temple.

In Revelation 2 in God’s message to the church at Ephesus was that unless they repent, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (2:5). That was a promise that the church would cease to exist. The light of the gospel would go out in Ephesus and there would be no indication of his vigilant presence there. That happened; the church in Ephesus no longer exists because Ephesus no longer exists. The region where Ephesus was located is modern day Turkey–a Muslim-dominated nation.

If the lamps in Revelation 1-2 are to remind us of Exodus 27, then the fact that the people were to supply the oil so that the light never went out is significant. The light of God’s truth and God’s presence is only one generation from being extinguished. Unless God’s people continue to cultivate purity and contribute to his work, the light can go out and God will remove the lamp. Note that the elders of the church are part of the people of the church. Elders/pastors are not priests because Jesus is the one and only priest.

And what was it that the church in Ephesus needed to repent of? Lovelessness. Revelation 2:4-5 says, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

When we stop loving God and loving each other, we are no longer supplying the gospel with the fuel for its light. When there is no love in God’s church, the light goes out and God removes the lamp completely.

By God’s grace, then, let us love him and love each other. Cultivate a heart for God and serve him and his people in love. Without this love, the light of God’s presence in our church will go out.

Exodus 9, Job 27, Hebrews 13

Read Exodus 9, Job 27, and Hebrews 13.

This devotional is about Hebrews 13.

The author of Hebrews wrapped up his message by giving believers some ways to put our faith into action. It starts with love (v. 1) which shows itself in how we act toward other believers (again, v. 1), how we receive and care for outsiders (v. 2), and how we pray for and care for those who are suffering under persecution for Christ (v. 3).

Living for Christ in this age means honoring marriage with purity (v. 4), living without greed and materialism (vv. 5-6), acting properly toward the leaders of our church (vv. 7-17), and praying for all those who are serving the Lord (vv. 18-19). Finally, the author of Hebrews prayed a beautiful benediction over the original readers of this book (vv. 20-21) and closed (vv. 22-25).

For today’s devotional thoughts I’d like to focus on verses 15-16: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” These verses follow verses 11-14 where the author of Hebrews made one final reference to Jesus as our priest. Just like the body of a sin offering is offered outside the camp, Jesus was sacrificed outside the city of Jerusalem (v. 12). Going to him for salvation is, metaphorically, like leaving the “city” of Judaism. All who follow Christ are now outsiders but that’s OK because we’re looking for an eternal city anyway (v. 14).

But just as there were thank offerings and free will offerings in the Old Testament whereby a worshipper could bring a sacrifice just because he loved God, now the author of Hebrews says that we Christians bring a thank offering in our words. He tells us to offer this offering “continually;” that is, many times throughout our lives. And the content of this offering is “the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” This is evangelism. One of our acts of worship as Christians is to claim Jesus openly and tell others about our faith in him.

The second type of Christian sacrifice is described in verse 16: “ And do not forget to do good and to share with others….” This consists of being generous to others. It may be others who have a need or simply others whom we choose to bless by giving. So we do not bring a sacrifice for our sins, to appease God’s wrath for what we have done. Jesus paid the penalty for this himself and his blood makes “the people holy” (v. 12). Like an Old Testament worshipper who brings freewill offerings just out of love for God, we bring sacrifices of worship to God when we openly identify with Christ and share his eternally life-changing message and when we are generous to others around us.

Here’s an opportunity, then, for us to look at serving God this week. Are there lost people around you who don’t even know that you are a Christian? Look for an open door to speak to that person about Christ. Are there others around you who have needs or who just would be blessed by your generosity? Reach out to bless them with what you have–a financial gift, a meal, whatever. God loves these kinds of Christian sacrifices because they show our love and devotion to Jesus. Yes, the Lord loves our worship and praise in singing and prayer, but he also is delighted in our actions through evangelism and showing kindness to others.

Exodus 6, Job 23, Proverbs 6:1-19

Read Exodus 6, Job 23, and Proverbs 6:1-19 today.

This devotional is about Proverbs 6:1-19.

Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us seven things that the Lord finds detestable. I find myself nodding my head in agreement quite readily with the first six. “Haughty eyes” — signifying someone who is so overbearingly proud that it is written all over his or her face—are easy to dislike. So is someone who lies, or is violent to the innocent, or is constantly coming up with new scams, or who rushes to the next opportunity to sin, or who knowingly testifies falsely in order to cause trouble for someone else or benefit himself. It is not hard to find these things offensive.

But what of #7: “a person who stirs up conflict in the community”? On the surface, this one is easy to agree to as well; however, you and I are probably more likely to be involved in this than in any of the other sins. Who stirs up conflict in communities? People who like to argue, or who want to agitate for change, or who want to depose the current leader so that they can become the new leader, or who just insist on being difficult. The church is notorious for this kind of behavior. People who complain about the length of the pastor’s sermons or about the new youth leader, or about the song selection on Sunday—these are people who stir up conflict. I won’t even mention politics or current events in the news. You already know those topics are filled with people trying to stir up conflict to get votes, or likes, or clicks, or viewers.

Conflict in any community is inevitable because we are sinners. Sinners are selfish and will sow seeds of discord or even pick a fight if it serves our selfish purposes. Christ, however, calls us and empowers us to live in love rather than in selfish conflict. Having received God’s love in Christ, God wants us now to seek to make peace instead of stirring up strife. Is there anyone in your life with whom you have conflict right now? Did your actions stir this conflict up? Or, did your response to him or her help escalate the conflict? What is one thing you can to do “serve one another humbly in love” (Gal 5:13c) in this situation? Now, go do that thing praying that the Lord will use you to make peace.

Genesis 50, Job 16-17, Psalms 20-23

Read Genesis 50, Job 16-17, and Psalms 20-23. This devotional is about Job 16-17.

There are times when we need to speak hard but truthful words to each other. Jesus commanded us to go a fellow believer who sins and point out their fault (Matt 18:15).

But that command is for a situation where you have direct knowledge of the sin, either because you were sinned against, or saw the person sin, or the believer is not hiding the sin.

We are not commanded to make assumptions about one another or accuse others of sin when we have no evidence. It is never wrong to ask if someone is in sin but it is never right to accuse without a clear basis.

Job’s friends had no evidence that he had sinned. Not one of them pointed out a specific instance of sin or even suggested specific ways in which he might have caused himself this trouble by sinning. They worked backward from his calamity to accusations of sin because, in their theology, God punishes sinners and rewards the righteous. Job’s tragedies were all the evidence they thought they needed to accuse him.

Nobody likes to be accused so it is insulting to accuse someone without evidence, especially if the person being accused is actually innocent. Job was dealing with incredible trauma and, instead of being comforted, his “friends” railed on him to ‘fess up. It is a cliché to talk about “adding insult to injury” but that’s exactly what Job’s friends did. His statement in 16:2b, “you are miserable comforters, all of you!” expressed the frustration he felt based on how he was being treated.

What Job needed was not accusers who would help him come clean but loving friends who would help him.

And what would have been helpful to him? Two things:

  1. Encouragement: In 16:4b-5 he said, “…if you were in my place…. my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.” A godly friend would have comforted Job with affirming words that God’s ways were always right, so this would turn out someday for good.
  2. Prayer. In 16:20-21 we read these words, “My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.”

How can you help a fellow believer who is hurting? Encouragement and prayer.

Is someone coming to mind who needs this? Pray for them now, then contact them to encourage and pray with them.

Genesis 34, Job 1, Proverbs 3:21-35

Read Genesis 34, Job 1, Proverbs 3:21-35.

This devotional is about Job 1.

The first portion of Job 1 carefully painted a picture of Job, the man as an outstanding man:

  • Verse 1b told us that he “was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”
  • Verse 2 told us that he was wealthy and successful by giving us a full inventory of his assets, then concluding, “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.”
  • Verses 3-5 told us that he was a loving, godly family man. He loved God and his family so much that he interceded with God on behalf of his children as a “regular custom” (v. 5f).

As we read these opening verses, we are led to an obvious conclusion. Job had it all–a close walk with God that showed in his personal actions, his financial success, and his family life.

No wonder God loved Job so much, right? No wonder he led such an ideal, enviable life. Job was such a great guy that God gave him everything a man could want–yes?

Satan looked at it just the other way around. When God pointed to Job as a model human being (v. 8), Satan scoffed. “Of course he loves you, God! You’ve given him everything he could possibly want!” (vv. 9-10).

This caused Satan to offer God a bet: “I’ll bet you, God, that if you take away all the good stuff Job enjoys, “he will surely curse you to your face” (v. 11b). God accepted Satan’s wager, protecting only Job’s life from being taken by the evil one.

Just like that, Satan swooped in and took Job’s wealth and his children from him on the very same day (vv. 13-19).

How did Job respond to this?

Not in the way Satan expected. Satan’s belief was that Job’s love for God was based on God’s blessings on Job. Take those away and “he will surely curse you to your face” (v. 11b). But Job worshipped the Lord (v. 20) and said, “…may the name of the Lord be praised” (v. 21).

Job also did not accuse God of taking away his love just because he suffered such deep, sudden losses.

Job still had a lot of processing to do, as we’ll read in the remaining of the chapters of this book. But his initial reaction to what happened to him was to leave it with the Lord: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (v. 21c-d). This is a godly response to the heartaches, traumas, and trials of life.

Is that how you respond to problems in your life? Or is your evaluation more performance based? Your theology is performance based if you love God because he’s given you what you want in life or if you measure God’s love for you based on how well your life is going. Either of those options is unbiblical. Both of them lack faith.

Can you trust God when problems enter your life?

1 Kings 11, Ezekiel 41

Read 1 Kings 11 and Ezekiel 41

This devotional is about 1 Kings 11.

Non-Christians who read the Bible sometimes complain about how large a role the wrath of God plays in the story of Scripture. They are not wrong; God is frequently described as being angry in the pages of scripture.

The truth is, God has a lot to be angry about. He gives us life, has created a planet and a solar system that reliably and predictably provides our basic human needs of water to drink, air to breathe, and food to eat. He gave us each other so that we could know the joys of family and friendship. He called us to worship him alone and promised blessings and joy to us if we worship him.

Despite all of this, mankind as a group has rejected him and his word in order to live selfishly. Instead of thanking him for food, water, and air, we consume these things without giving them a second thought and we idolize material things instead of enjoying and giving thanks for what we have. Instead of loving one another, we resent others for not loving us enough or meeting our expectations; we use and abuse other people instead of serving them and giving thanks for them.

What I just described is only the beginning of the ways in which we’ve dishonored and disobeyed God. No wonder God is angry.

Here in 1 Kings 11, the scripture describes for us the kind of selfish life that Solomon began to live. In disobedience to God’s commands (v. 2), Solomon married women from other nations (v. 1). His marriages to them may have had political, diplomatic value but they were more personal than that because verse 2 ends by saying, “Solomon held fast to them in love.” Just as God predicted (v. 2), Solomon’s heart turned away from God and he “did evil in the eyes of the Lord….” This is why God was angry with him; verse 9 says, “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel….” This is the heart of sin, of disobedience to God. When we love God, we keep his commands. When we become enamored with other things (or other people), our hearts grow cold to God and we look to sinful things for pleasure.

Because of Christ’s love for us and his death for us, we no longer live under the wrath of God. Christ bore every bit of God’s wrath for us so that we would not fear his wrath but could love and live for him, just as he created us to do. We have the Spirit of God within us which makes us thankful for God and his works and stimulates the desire to love and please him. Nevertheless, each of us still has a sinful nature within that causes us to stumble. It is important to remember that breaking God’s laws results in personal consequences for our relationship to God. If you break the laws of our state or nation, nobody in the government gets mad at you; they seek justice but it doesn’t make anyone angry. When we break God’s laws, however, we bring grief to the heart of God who has done so much for us.

Try to keep this in mind today when you are tempted to sin. Not only is sin a bad idea because it creates human problems for us; it is a bad idea because it represents a personal rejection of God. Honor your Father in the choices you make today because you love him and are thankful for all he has done for us.

1 Kings 9, Ezekiel 39

Read 1 Kings 9 and Ezekiel 39.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 9.

David and Solomon had a good relationship with the kings of Tyre. They seemed to enjoy knowing each other but they certainly enjoyed the prosperity that their trade relationship brought to each of them. David and Solomon benefited greatly from the natural resources that Tyre sold and shipped to them. Verse 10 referenced the “twenty years” that Solomon spent building the magnificent temple of the Lord and the even more magnificent palace where Solomon lived. Now, in verse 11, we read that Solomon gave 20 towns to Hiram king of Tyre. The text doesn’t say, but it is possible that the 20 towns corresponded to the 20 years Solomon spent building–1 town to represent 1 year.

Hiram was probably delighted to be told that these towns would now be part of his kingdom. Delighted, that is, until he took a tour. Verse 12 told us that after his tour, “he was not pleased with them.” Instead of hiding his displeasure, he asked Solomon what was up: “What kind of towns are these you have given me, my brother?” (v. 13a) is a rhetorical question. Hiram’s answer to that question was not very good. At the end of verse 13 “he called them, the Land of Kabul.” “Kabul” according to the footnote in our NIV text “sounds like the Hebrew for good-for-nothing.”

Does this mean that Hiram was ungrateful for Solomon’s gift? Maybe.

But it probably indicated something of Solomon’s stinginess. These last few chapters in 1 Kings have been describing Solomon’s vast income and wealth in detail. Solomon extracted high prices and high taxes from others and became a wealthy man accordingly. But, if his gift of towns means anything, he was stingy. Solomon received extravagantly but he seems to have given very sparingly.

Solomon probably thought he was a gracious, magnanimous giver when he handed over the keys to these towns. The problem is that the receiver of his gift didn’t think so. If you want to make someone feel loved, appreciated, and that you’re spoiling them, you need to give them something that THEY value, not something that you value. To use the idea of “love languages,” you need to find out what communicates love to the other person and express your love in that language.

How are you doing on that? Are you thoughtful and generous in your giving to others or are you stingy and self-centered? When God gave us a gift of love, he gave us his very best–our Lord Jesus who willingly sacrificed himself for us. We should keep his gift in mind and treat others with that kind of love and care which Jesus showed.

2 Samuel 17, Ezekiel 24

Read 2 Samuel 17 and Ezekiel 24.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 24.

Ezekiel truly lived his prophesies. Many of his actions were object lessons to Israel. Ezekiel 24 records the most difficult object lesson of Ezekiel’s life. The chapter begins with the Lord commanding Ezekiel to record the date because the siege of Jerusalem began on that day (vv. 1-2). Nebuchadnezzar’s defeat and exile of the Southern Kingdom of Judah happened in stages; Ezekiel was taken as one of the exiles in an early stage of Nebuchadnezzar’s attack. Now that he has Jerusalem under siege, the final stage of the Babylonian conquest of Judah has begun.

The toll that being God’s prophet took on Ezekiel’s life is explained in verses 15-27. Because God’s people had idolized the temple, God wanted to show them what losing to Nebuchadnezzar would be like. So the Lord told Ezekiel that his wife was about to die (v. 16) and that he was not to do the customary acts of mourning for her (vv. 16-17). Instead, he was supposed to go about his life looking as he always did, though the Lord did concede in the phrase “groan quietly” that it would be painful and difficult for him (v. 17). Ezekiel gave the prophecy one morning and by that evening his wife died, just as the Lord had said (v. 18). When Ezekiel refused to mourn for her outwardly, everyone wanted to know what to make of his actions (v. 19). His answer was that they also would not mourn when the thing they loved the most—the temple—was destroyed (v. 21).

By why wouldn’t they mourn if they loved the temple so much? The answer is not stated in this chapter, but one commentator I consulted wrote that the people would not mourn because they should have expected that it was coming. Jeremiah in Jerusalem was prophesying that Jerusalem would fall and the temple would be destroyed. Ezekiel was prophesying the same thing in Babylon, so when it happened it should not have been surprising. Furthermore, Nebuchadnezzar was laying siege to Jerusalem. That meant his army was camped around the city preventing anyone or anything from coming or going. This would kill commerce in the city and, being a city, would prevent adequate food from coming in. The people of Jerusalem, then, would slowly starve until many of them died and those who lived were too weak to mount a threat to Nebuchadnezzar’s army. It took a long time for a siege to work and the people would have known that day after day they were getting weaker and more vulnerable. At some point, they would know that defending the city would be impossible so losing their freedom, their city, and their temple would be inevitable. Though they inwardly mourned the loss of these things, there was no sense in grieving because they knew it was coming for a long time.

What a hard price Ezekiel had to pay to be the Lord’s servant! But his loss illustrates something important that every person—even us believers—needs to understand. We cling to idols too much and to the Lord too little. Our idols maybe our relationships that we trust more than we trust God; they might be the job or the income that job provides that gives us a comfortable life. Our idols might be softer, too, or more spiritual. They might be a pastor or Christian author that we admire. May it is our reputation of godliness or service to the Lord. Whatever it is that we love and desire, if it replaces the Lord at the top of our affections, do not be surprised if the Lord topples it. It will be painful and it may seem like God is harsh and unloving. But the truth is that no idol is what God is, and no idol can do for you what God can do. To to cling to anything instead of the Lord will cause problems in your life. God may allow unbelievers to have their idols in this life and deal with them in the next; for his children, though, God loves us too much to let us worship something that is not him.

If you’ve faced a loss in your life that has you questioning God, you should consider whether that thing you have lost meant too much to you. It is never pleasant to lose what you love, but if what you love is keeping you from God, it is necessary for the Lord to prune it from our lives. May God give us grace to look to him in those hard moments of pruning.