Genesis 30, Esther 6, and Psalm 29

Read Genesis 30, Esther 6, and Psalm 29.

This devotional is about Esther 6.

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

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

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

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

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

1 Chronicles 1-2, Zechariah 1, John 16

Read 1 Chronicles 1-2, Zechariah 1, and John 16.

This devotional is about John 16.

This section in John continues the teaching of Jesus on his final day of freedom. John recorded the teachings Christ gave as he and his disciples walked from the upper room (where they ate the Passover & Christ’s began the Lord’s Supper, John 14:31) to the Garden of Gethsemane (where Judas would betray him, John 18:1).

According to our passage today, John 16:1, these teachings were designed to fortify the disciples against rejecting him. Hard times would come to them for their faith in Jesus, including excommunication from their local synagogues (v. 2a). Christ gave the reason that people would persecute his disciples in 16:2b: “…anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.”

How foolish for anyone to think that the disciples were a threat to their lives or political power. Jesus’ students did not wish to overthrow the government and they weren’t trying to take over Judaism either. Yet governments would imprison them and religious people would persecute them, even taking their lives, in God’s name.

Verse 3: “…because they have not known the Father or me.” Unbelief exacts a high price; not only does it damn one’s soul for eternity, it skew’s one’s moral compass in this life as well. This is why morality is constantly being re-defined (downward) and why the ungodly are celebrated and followed while the loving, righteous people of God are shunned and persecuted. It is true that God created each of us with the voice of conscience. Conscience points the right way toward morality but that voice can be rationalized away, miseducated, dumbed-down, and even suppressed completely. The further we come toward the return of Christ, the farther our world moves away from what is right and good.

Yet Christ told us about these things ahead of time for our good: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (v. 33). The peace Jesus promised in this verse is not the outer peace of an undisturbed, unpersecuted life. It is the inner peace that reassures us when things get rough on the outside that Christ is in control and will ultimately end this turmoil forever when his time comes. Lean on this promise as you encounter hostility and trouble in life due to your faith in Jesus. 

2 Kings 7, Micah 1, Proverbs 25:1-14

Read 2 Kings 7, Micah 1, and Proverbs 25:1-14.

This devotional is about Proverbs 25:1-14.

I know nothing about metallurgy but I read on the Internet that “dross” is the “scum or unwanted material that forms on the surface of molten metal.” Verse 4 here in Proverbs 25 told us that if you “Remove the dross from the silver” that “a silversmith can produce a vessel.” That suggests–and, again, I’m not sure because… metallurgy–but it suggests that the dross weakens the silver in some way.

If you separate that scum from the silver, though, the silversmith can make something more valuable. That principle is applied in verse 5 which says, “remove wicked officials from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness.” Evil men who advise a ruler weaken him. They weaken his decision-making and his moral authority. Separate that scum from his rulership, then his authority and rule will be strengthened.

You don’t have to be a king to apply this to your life. Each of us has influences that weaken us. We have friends that get us thinking or talking negatively or friends that tempt us to sin. We watch too much TV and then complain that we don’t have time to read God’s word and pray. We listen to music or talk radio on the way to work when a good podcast or audiobook would encourage us or challenge our thinking.

What scummy influences in your life are weakening it? Skim them out and be a stronger person!

Joshua 2, Jeremiah 27, Psalms 78-80

Read Joshua 2, Jeremiah 27, and Psalms 78-80.

This devotional is about Joshua 2.

So much is different this time from the first time the Israelites sent spies into the promised land:

  • The first time, twelve men were sent to be spies—one from each tribe (Num 13:2). This time only two were sent (v. 1).
  • Instead of looking at the land exhaustively (Num 13:17, 21-22), they were told to “look over the land… especially Jericho” (v. 2b), so their task was to survey but with a particular focus on one city.
  • Instead of having to investigate the people, the land, the towns, the soil, and the trees (Num 13:18-20), this time they seemed to be looking more strategically.
  • Another difference was that this time the spies found an ally, although an unlikely one—a prostitute named Rahab (v. 1). Verse 1 says they entered her house “and stayed there.” I suppose that was a strategic decision; a house like hers frequently had men coming and going so maybe they decided it would be easier to avoid detection this way.

Regardless of what they may have thought, they were spotted and their mission and lives were jeopardized (vv. 2-3). While some have faulted Rahab for lying, the scriptures never suggest that she sinned; in fact, she is heralded for her faith and was protected from the death that her questioners received for their unbelief (Heb 11:31).

But above everything else that happened in this passage, Rahab provided the insight that Israel needed to move forward in faith. In verse 9 she said, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” Later she said it again: “…our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you…” (v. 11).

Out of all the things they learned in their survey trip, this seems to have made the biggest impression on the spies. When they gave their report to Joshua, they used her own words to express their confidence: “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us,” (v. 24).

Both Rahab and the spies understood that this was going to be a spiritual victory; as she put it: “…for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (v. 11). It was not Israel’s military might, superior weaponry, or ingenious tactics that would give them victory. It was the power of God and their faith (this time) in the promises he made to them.

But isn’t it interesting how God provided them with reassurance through Rahab? God could have found fault, I suppose, with them sending spies in the first place. There’s no indication that he directed Joshua to send them. His command was clear, as were his promises of victory, so the very act of sending spies could be seen as an act of unbelief. Instead of rebuking them, however, God gave them Rahab and her words of faith as the final boost they needed.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been ready to do the right thing morally in your life or the wise thing scripturally in your life and, just as you’re about to move forward, God provides just a little bit of reassurance that, yes, he’s in this decision? How gracious of the Lord to confirm his word; how merciful he was to spare a sinful woman like Rahab when she believed in him and acted accordingly. I hope this passage gives you some confidence today as you go out to live for him.

Numbers 14, Isaiah 38, Galatians 5

Read Numbers 14, Isaiah 38, and Galatians 5 today.

This devotional is about Galatians 5.

The thing about the Old Testament law, and any code of rules, really, is that they promise moral protection. If you never watch TV or go to the movies, you’ll never see something that causes you to lust or to covet. At least, that’s the theory behind some forms of legalism.

But Jesus told us that the desire to curse comes from the heart, not from speaking God’s name. Lust comes from the heart, too, not from seeing an attractive person. Those are opportunities to express the sinful desires within us, not the cause of the sins we commit.

Here in Galatians 5, Paul tells that Galatians that God freed them from the law. They should enjoy the freedom they have in Christ. But the freedom believers have in Christ is not the freedom to sin (v. 13). It is the freedom to live out the new spiritual nature we have through regeneration.

The law can’t really restrain the sin nature anyway. The only thing the law does is make us aware of our sinful desires and tell us what the penalties for sin are.

Instead of living by a religious code of rules or even a moral list of rules, spiritual freedom calls us to love others (vv. 13b-14). If we love others–that is, we choose to do what is best for them instead of what is best for us, or easiest for us–then we won’t steal from them, lie to them, deceive them into a harmful business deal, or do any of the major sins that people commit.

Furthermore, since we have the Holy Spirit within us now, we have the power to say no to the sinful nature within (v. 16).

“Walk in the Spirit” has been defined as something experiential, something emotional where you just feel the Holy Spirit and do what the feeling indicates. There are times when we sense God’s presence with us and in us, of course, but that’s not what Paul is talking about here.

“Walk in the Spirit” means cultivate your spiritual life. It is a command to read the word, pray, be instructed in the word, discuss truth and temptation with your brothers and sisters, and so on. As you put effort into cultivating your spiritual life, your spiritual life will blossom and bear fruit, just like your garden grows and makes vegetables when you water it, weed it, etc.

Verses 22-23 describe for us what spiritual growth looks like. These are categories of growth, things that we will see emerge more and more in the ways we act and react to life and people and circumstances and choices we make. You have the Holy Spirit within you and he desires to make you holy in your life, too. So invest in things that are spiritual and the Spirit will produce the fruit of the Spirit in you.

It takes time, however, to become like Christ so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see fruit immediately.

Leviticus 9, Isaiah 5, Proverbs 10:1-16

Read Leviticus 9, Isaiah 5, and Proverbs 10:1-16.

This devotional is about Isaiah 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

This chapter is more about why God will punish his people for doing wrong than what will happen in the future. One of the many reasons for punishment in this chapter is that God’s people intentionally re-defined morality. They said that good was evil and evil is good. Instead of measuring what is moral by the character of God–the only true righteous standard there is–the people of Judah substituted their own opinions for the genuine will of God. The “woe” pronounced in verse 20 was a statement that God would judge them so they should feel a great sense of angst.

Calling good evil and evil good was not something that only Judah did. In fact, throughout human history people have been trying to substitute our own opinions for the word of God. The same is true today. All kinds of things that God’s word condemns as evil are called “good” by our society. Some examples might be: unmitigated materialism, lying in order to win in politics or business, “open” relationships, same-sex marriage and opposite sex cohabitation without marriage, and many others.

God pronounced a woe on his people here in Isaiah 5 because they had forsaken truth. That’s what the next two phrases in verse 20 say: “…who put darkness for light and light for darkness…” Since God is truth, he is the only true standard for what is true of false, right or wrong. When you reject God and his revelation, you are then left with only your preferences, ideas, and justifications. Since each of us is a sinner, we have a strong tendency to try to rationalize our sins, leaving us with no light but only darkness. God provides us with the light of his truth. If we reject that, the best we can do is to try to redefine truth based on our own preferences. This thrusts us into the darkness of ignorance and unbelief. But, if we humble ourselves before the Lord and ask for his truth, he gives us the light of his wisdom to guide us daily.

It is very easy to point out the ways in which others all evil good and good evil but all scriptural application should start with ourselves. If we rationalize sin in our own lives, we are doing exactly what God pronounces a woe upon in this chapter. Maybe that means “saving money” by not giving to God’s work or using your faithful service in the church as a reason not to attend worship or small group faithfully. Maybe it involves calling gossip a prayer request or a warning to watch out for someone.

Are our lives consistently, even radically, aligned with God’s truth? Or do we re-define or re-interpret truth to relabel our own disobedience?