Deuteronomy 32, Jeremiah 24, 2 Corinthians 8

Read Deuteronomy 32, Jeremiah 24, 2 Corinthians 8.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 24.

When we read the Old Testament prophets, we see passage after passage that condemns the people for their sins and warns of coming judgment. The language that describes their disobedience seems so all-encompassing that we might conclude that there were no faithful people in Israel except for the prophets themselves.

Today’s passage in Jeremiah 24 shows that this is not true. Although most of God’s people were disobedient to his covenant, the basket of figs shows that there were some who loved God and lived obediently to him. The fact that Jeremiah described the good figs as “very good” in verse 3 shows that there were some strong believers scattered among the idol worshippers and other unfaithful people of Judah.

But, due to the unfaithfulness of the majority, even these “good figs” were carried away into exile, experiencing the curse of the covenant for the disobedience of the whole kingdom. That seems terribly unjust, but God did not abandon these faithful believers altogether. Instead, today’s reading offers hope for these believers. God promised in verse 6, “My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.” So his promises would be kept in his time.

However, in the meantime, God promised to reward these faithful ones with the thing they really needed anyway: a deeper discipleship with him. Verse 7 says, “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”

Just as even the faithful among God’s people experienced the effects of God’s judgment due to the sins and unbelief of others, so we will have pain and setbacks in our own lives, even if we faithfully follow the Lord. God’s promise to us is not a pain-free life or peaceful, material abundance. God’s promise to us is himself; and that will be more than enough if our hope is truly in him.

Deuteronomy 31, Jeremiah 23, 2 Corinthians 7

Read Deuteronomy 31, Jeremiah 23, and 2 Corinthians 7.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 31.

God had made extraordinary promises to his people and he had given them the complex gift of his law. I call his law “complex” because it should have been a blessing to Israel but it was, in fact, a curse. It could have been a blessing; if they had followed God’s laws, they would have been blessed in every way—spiritually, militarily, financially, and more. However, without a new nature, sinful people trying to live by God’s laws are always destined to fail. And, the Israelites did fail! Not only did they never get all the land God promised to them, they never had the financial prosperity or the spiritual power and joy that God promised to them. 

One reason why they failed to keep God’s law is that they did not know God’s law. Verses 12-13 describe the need for all the people to hear the law of God. This passage mandates that God’s law be read to his people, aloud, every seven years at the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 10). The purpose of this reading was not only so that they would know God’s law but so that they would “learn to fear the Lord your God…” (v. 12b). Likewise, their children would hear it and “learn to fear the Lord your God…” (v. 13b).

Fearing God is an Old Testament way of expressing true belief in God; it is similar to the concept of the new birth (or regeneration) in the New Testament. A person who feared God was one who received God’s law not just as a way to regulate behavior but rather as an expression of the character of the living God. He would hear all that God required of him and would be convicted of all the ways he had failed to live up to God’s laws already. He would also be struck with his own inability to keep these laws in the days ahead of his life. Knowing what God required of him and also how weak and sinful his own heart was, he would fall before the Lord looking for mercy for his past sins and grace to walk with God in the days ahead. If Israel had treasured God’s laws for the revelation that they were, God would have done great spiritual work within them and among them for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17).

But there is little evidence that God’s people even read God’s word once every seven years as this passage commanded them. The ignorance of his revelation is one of the main reasons why they never became the nation God promised them they could become.

This should remind us to treasure God’s word—read it, hear it, and obey it in our lives. You’re off to a good start today by reading these passages and this devotional. Now, be in church ready to hear God’s word on Sunday. Join a small group and soak up the reading and discussion of God’s word. God’s word is the blood that oxygenates a Christian’s spiritual life. Let that blood pump through your life and see what God does.

Deuteronomy 29, Jeremiah 21, 2 Corinthians 5

Read Deuteronomy 29, Jeremiah 21, 2 Corinthians 5.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 29.

Having repeated God’s laws and the terms of his covenant in the previous chapters of Deuteronomy (29:1), these last few chapters of Deuteronomy record some of Moses’ direct teachings to God’s people.

Verse 2 indicates the beginning of one of these talks when it says, “Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them….” Today’s passage emphasized once again the importance of obedience to God’s laws. Although God’s people were hardheaded and hardhearted (vv. 2-4), Moses reminded them of how God had provided for them (vv. 5-6) and fought for them, when necessary (vv. 7-8), on their long journey to the promised land.

Then, in verses 9-28, Moses stated his intention to have Israel re-affirm their covenant to the Lord (vv. 9-14), reminding them not to worship idols (vv. 16-18) and that curses would come if they did turn aside to idols (vv. 19-28).

Then verse 29 droped this intriguing statement: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” There is so much about God that is impossible for us to understand.

  • How can one God be three persons?
  • How can Christ be both human and divine?
  • When will Christ return?
  • Why did God allow a particular trial into my life?

These and other questions are beyond us. They require infinite knowledge to understand; therefore, they are secrets for God himself only to know. The middle of verse 29 reminds us that “the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever….” That refers to the promise of blessing they would have if they obeyed God’s covenant and the promise of curses if they disobeyed. God had revealed these things, so Israel should have known them and should have claimed them as belonging “to us” (v. 29). The reason God revealed these things is “…that we may follow all the words of this law” (v. 29c). The promises of blessing and curse exist to provide God’s people with all the motivation they should need to be obedient to God’s covenant commands.

This is a verse to memorize or at least remember, because we tend to reverse it in our thinking. We can easily become obsessed with “the secret things” that belong only to God. They can occupy our minds and thoughts and become the sole subject of our discussion and debates with others. When that happens, we tend to forget “the revealed things” that “belong to us.”

In other words, we ignore God’s commands–which God has revealed–and give ourselves to meditation on things that not only are not necessary for our obedience but are not even possible for us to understand. If parts of God’s word do not make sense to you–if you have unanswered questions, especially if they begin with the word “why”–this verse is a good one to keep in mind.

Some things are understandable only to God. In those cases, we are not responsible to understand the “secret things;” instead, we should give ourselves to obedience to “the things revealed.” There is more than enough truth revealed in scripture for us to learn, think about, and live out. Focus on those and leave to God the stuff that only he is capable of handling.

Deuteronomy 13-14, Jeremiah 6, Psalms 69-71

Read Deuteronomy 13-14, Jeremiah 6, Psalms 69-71 today.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 13-14.

There was no freedom of speech in ancient Israel; however, the only banned speech was religious–blasphemy and false doctrine. Deuteronomy 13 sets forth regulations against false doctrine. Verses 1-5 told God’s people not to believe a false prophet, even if he performed some kind of miraculous sign (vv. 1-2a). God used miraculous signs to authenticate his messengers, especially Christ himself, but they were not the measuring stick for what was true or false. Just as Pharoah’s magicians were able to do some miracles (see Ex 7:11-12 for one example), Satan can sometimes do impressive things with his supernatural powers. But God taught here in Exodus 13 that He sometimes would allow false teachers with supernatural signs and wonders to come to Israel. His purpose for allowing them was to test “you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and all your soul” (v. 3). No matter how impressive a supernatural demonstration was, God’s people were to remain obedient to his written word (v. 4), not abandon his word for the words of a false prophet.

False prophets were a threat to God’s people because they incited “rebellion against the Lord your God” (v. 5a). Given all that God had done delivering his people from Egypt and protecting and guiding them through the desert to the promised land, Israel should have had no problem with restricted theological speech. If you know the true God, there is no reason to dabble in false doctrine; only danger can come from that. God’s prescription, then, for false prophets was the death penalty (v. 5a). 

Not only were false prophets with impressive supernatural powers to be refused and punished in Israel, but verses 6-11 tell us that even if you have a personal connection to someone who tries to turn your heart to another god,  you should still see that they are punished (vv. 6-11). “Show them no pity,” God’s word says. “Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (v. 10).

Verses 12-18 describe how to handle false teachers once Israel was established in the land. After investigating charges of heresy in a nearby town fully (v. 14a), God’s people were to publicly and completely purge the town of its false doctrine, then permanently destroy that town itself for not obeying God’s commands about false doctrine (vv. 15-18).

These sections remind us how seriously God takes his word and how destructive false doctrine is to true worship. While we live in a free society and do not impose such serious penalties on false teachers as Moses commanded in this passage, we should not toy with or tolerate deviations from God’s written word. It provides the standard for what is true or false; to entertain false doctrine just because there were signs and wonders involved or loved ones involved is to tolerate that which God says is destructive.

Watch carefully where you turn for spiritual information; your spiritual life (not to mention anyone living in your home under your authority) depends on holding fast to the purity of God’s word.

Deuteronomy 11, Jeremiah 4, 1 Corinthians 10

Today, read Deuteronomy 11, Jeremiah 4, and 1 Corinthians 10.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 11.

Here in Deuteronomy 11, as Israel was just about to enter the promised land, Moses urged the Israelites to love God and keep his commands (v. 1). It should have been easy for them to trust the Lord because they saw with their own eyes God’s greatness and power (v. 2), his deliverance from Egypt (vv. 3-4), and his judgments on those who rebelled against him and his servants (vv. 5-7). If the generation who heard these words saw all these things but didn’t recognize from experience that there are immense benefits to obedience and high costs for disobedience to God’s word, then nobody would ever recognize these things. So Moses urged them to live in obedience to these commands (v. 8) so that they could enjoy all the blessings of obedience (vv. 9-12).

The generation to which Moses wrote these words did have a measure of obedience and did experience some of these blessings. Unlike their parents, they did not disobey when God commanded them to take the promised land. Instead, they marched in boldly, in faith, and defeated Jericho and many surrounding cities.

Yet they did not obey consistently. We know that because they were not able to drive out the Canaanites. God promised he would do it for them if they obeyed him (vv. 22-25), but it didn’t happen. Despite all the blessings and curses they had seen and all that God had promised, they did not serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Instead, the history of Israel in the promised land was one of enslavement to idolatry and struggle to survive, just as God had promised in verses 16-17.

So what led to the failure of God’s people to get everything that God had promised to them? It was a lack of genuine faith and new spiritual life. God’s laws are righteous and just and bring blessing to those who obey them, but without a gracious change of heart through regeneration, no one can obey them. Though the Lord urged them to know his word and keep it always before them (vv. 16-21), they had the same sinful hearts that you and I came into the world with and still struggle with today. Israel’s history demonstrates again and again how much all of humanity needs the saving power of God. Even when we know all the good that can come from obedience, our sinful hearts turn to unrighteousness automatically apart from the grace of God.

These passages to Israel, while encouraging in what they promise, should cause any reader (including the original readers) to cry out to God for help. On our own, without the grace of God in new life, none of us can live up to God’s righteousness laws and thus receive his blessings.

That is why Jesus came. If humanity could obey God, we would never need a savior. We would only need to hear his word and obey it.

But, lacking the ability to serve God on our own, the promises and commands in this passage should overwhelm people with their human inability and drive us to cry out to God for the grace of Christ to believe and obey his word despite all our human inklings against faith and obedience.

As believers, we have the changed heart within that most Israelites lacked throughout their history. God’s grace in salvation teaches us to reject the passions of idolatry and worship and serve God alone (Titus 2:11-14) and it also empowers us to do what God commands us to do in his word (Phil 2:13).

But since we retain our sinful nature even after trusting Christ, we need to be reminded again and again of all that God has promised us if we obey his word. We also need to be continually reminded that God made obeying his word possible through his grace on the cross. Since we have these things—everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)—let’s claim those promises by faith and receive the blessings God offers by living obediently to his word.

Deuteronomy 4, Isaiah 63, 1 Corinthians 5

Read Deuteronomy 4, Isaiah 63, 1 Corinthians 5 today.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 4.

In this chapter Moses transitioned from surveying Israel’s recent history to expounding on God’s law. Verses 1-14 form the transitional paragraph. In verse 10, Moses called on the adults who were children at the time to “remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb.” He reminded those who were there how terrifying it was to see the glory of God revealed on that mountain (vv. 11-13) and how God graciously stopped speaking directly to the people and, instead, mediated his word through Moses (v. 14).

In verse 15 Moses used the fact that God did not have a physical form to remind Israel of the fact that the Ten Commandments forbade them from making “for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape…” (v. 16). The rest of that paragraph (vv. 15-31) spelled out what would happen if Israel turned to idolatry. Israel’s history showed the complete fulfillment of what Moses described here.

Then, in verses 32-34, Moses called God’s people to contemplate world history. What God did for Israel, redeeming them as an intact nation from Egypt, was unprecedented. God did this, according to verse 35, to demonstrate the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God…. You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:2-3). Everything God did for Israel was proof that he was the only true God; therefore, according to verse 39, Israel should “acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.”

With these words, Moses reframed the Ten Commandments, which he will repeat in tomorrow’s reading in Deuteronomy 5. But Moses’s point here is that God’s commands were not a burden to Israel; they were gifts from the only being in the universe who knows absolute truth.

If Israel would reverence the Lord for who he is and what he has done, then they could see his commands as a blessing that, when obeyed, produce even greater blessings.

You and I are not Jews. We live under a different covenant. God’s power was not demonstrated to us on a fire-filled mountain; it was demonstrated to us in the resurrection of Jesus. God’s commands to us have many similarities and many differences to Moses’s law and his commands to us come with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Still, like Israel, we are called to believe God and follow him in faith and obedience to receive his blessings.

Does the Christian life seem like a burden to you or a gift? Are God’s commands a crushing load that you don’t want to carry or are they a path of liberation from bondage to sin and its consequences? As believers in Jesus, we are called to obey everything Christ commanded us (Matt 28:20). Since we believe in Jesus, we must also believe that obedience to his word will bring good, not harm, into our lives. So is there anywhere in your life where you are resisting the commands of God? Will you, by faith, submit yourself to the Lordship of Christ and follow him in obedience by faith?

Numbers 4, Isaiah 29, Proverbs 11:19-31

Read Numbers 4, Isaiah 29, and Proverbs 11:19-31.

This devotional is about Proverbs 11:19-31.

Generosity is a key theme in today’s readings. We see it in verses 24-26 with three separate proverbs on the subject.

  • Verse 24 talks about people who gain more and more even though they give a lot of what they have away. Those people are contrasted with those who cheat others what they owe them and yet become poor.
  • Verse  25 states that the generous will proper and be cared for when they have cared for others.
  • Verse 26 talks about how other people view the generous. People call down curses on hoarders but ask God to bless those who sell the products that they have.

Are you a generous Christian?

I believe every Christian should tithe and give to God’s work above the tithe. But are you quick to help others in need when you see that need? Do you enjoy giving to others with no expectation of return?

I can tell you from my own life that helping someone through giving brings more joy than buying more stuff.

These proverbs, however, teach that giving actually enables prosperity. Not only should we be generous, then, because of the joy of generosity and because it pleases God; we should be generous because God blesses generous people with financial blessings. Take some time to consider how generous you are or aren’t. Consider: Are you trusting God by faith or hoarding things in fear?

Then step out and become a more generous person. When you do, watch to see how your life is enhanced because of your obedience in generosity.

Leviticus 26, Isaiah 24, Acts 9

Read Leviticus 26, Isaiah 24, and Acts 9.

This devotional is about Leviticus 26.

Great blessings continued to be promised here in Leviticus 26. If only Israel had believed God (vv. 1-3), they would have:

  • abundant rain in season yielding fruitful harvests (v. 4).
  • a consistent supply of food (vv. 5, 10).
  • peace and security from wild animals and invading armies (v. 6)
  • military victory if war did break out (vv. 7-8)
  • growing population base (v. 9)
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: fellowship with God, who would live among them (vv. 11-13).

Following those positive promises were promises that there would be consequences if they disobeyed God’s word (vv. 14-39). This is what Israel actually got, for the most part, because they disobeyed God.

But notice that God described these consequences in verse 23 as “my correction” and he said that the purpose of these punishments was to “break down your stubborn pride.” This is what God does for those he loves. He blesses us when we follow him in obedience and he brings correction, painful though it may be, to humble us and teach us to follow him.

Here in the church age, God’s blessings to us are not necessarily the material prosperity he promised to Israel. We will enjoy that when his kingdom comes to earth, but that is not always his will for his elect in this age.

We can, however, enjoy God’s fellowship (vv. 11-13) in this life while we wait for the kingdom to fulfill all the other promises he made. We can also enjoy the conviction that God will not forsake us when we sin against him but that his correction is designed to humble us and to turn our hearts in confession and repentance to him.

How is this working out in your walk with God these days? Are you enjoying the comfort of his fellowship even if you may be experiencing some trials? Or are you stubbornly living in disobedience and, maybe, experiencing his correction in your life? If you are walking with God and not harboring any sin, then keep going. Don’t allow the lies that sin tells us to rob you of the blessings of God’s fellowship.

If you need to repent, though, claim God’s promised forgiveness and have your walk with him restored.

Exodus 17, Job 35, Luke 1

Read Exodus 17, Job 35, and Luke 1.

This devotional is about Luke 1.

Stories often begin with words like this, “There once was a man…” or “Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away….” These opening lines establish for us readers how we should interpret the story. They tell us that the story is either fiction or legend. Fictional stories are completely made up. Legends are old stories about people and events that may have had some historical basis, but that are not being told as fact.

Fictions and legends can be entertaining. They can also powerfully illustrate principles or ideas that are more easily learned from stories. Fictions and legends should not, however, be treated as literally or historically true. They serve a different purpose than conveying history.

Some people say that some or all of the stories in scripture are fiction or legends. People who say that will allow that the Bible teaches some principles, but not that the Bible is literally true. This is nonsense for several reasons. Our reading here in Luke 1 shows one of those reasons.

When Luke wrote, he claimed that he was writing about facts, not fiction. Consider these elements:

  • The things Luke wrote about were “fulfilled among us” (v. 1). That’s not appropriate language for a fictional story or an old legend.
  • The stories came from “eyewitnesses” (v. 2)–people who actually saw what Jesus did and heard what he said.
  • Luke himself did research, double-checking the claims he’s heard with these eyewitnesses. We see this in his statement, “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning” (v. 3b).
  • Luke’s purpose was, “…so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (v. 4). Knowing the certainty of something is different than illustrating a principle.

In addition to these, Luke told us the time (v. 5a–“the time of King Herod”), the names of the people involved (Zechariah and Elizabeth), and their family ancestry in verse 5. Luke also told us that what happened to Zechariah happened in the temple (v. 9) and that his sudden loss of speech was witnessed by a group of people (v. 22).

In all these ways, Luke claims that his writings are true. Not true in the sense that they describe spiritual realities–although they do that, too. No, Luke is saying that the people are real, they lived in the real world at a specific time and in a specific place. When we say that the Bible is “literally true,” that’s one thing we mean. We mean that everything the Bible claims is true–the spiritual concepts, the miracles, the miraculous revelations of angels–all of it.

This is important for a few reasons:

  1. If all the Bible is true in every way, then we can’t just pick and choose to believe what “feels true” or “seems true” or “resonates with my truth.” We must believe all of it or reject it all.
  2. If the Bible claims to be true in every way, then we must interpret it accordingly. That includes the promises and prophesies of scripture that have not happened yet.

Do you believe that the Bible is true–all of it, in every way? Then don’t be selective about what you believe or about which aspects you will obey. Instead, receive it all as God’s word that has been revealed in real time to real people. Then, obey it all completely.

Exodus 8, Job 25-26, Hebrews 12

Read Exodus 8, Job 25-26, and Hebrews 12.

This devotional is about Hebrews 12.

Like us, believers in the Old Testament were saved by grace through faith. They did not know as much as we do, but they knew that they could not save themselves or atone for their own sins.

Unlike us, believers in the Old Testament learned about God in a more terrifying way. Here in Hebrews 12, verses 18-21 described God’s self-revelation to Moses and the people of Israel. God visually and audibly revealed his holiness to Moses and the people. He took the burning bush that Moses saw and magnified it by 1000 when he set Mt. Sinai on fire and shrouded it with darkness and storms (v. 18). His words were preceded by blaring trumpets (v. 19a) and thundered out loud from heaven (v. 19). God commanded them not to touch Mt. Sinai (v. 18a). If one of their animals wandered over and touched it, they must kill that animal by stoning it (v. 20b). The point there is that the animal was now holy, so they couldn’t even touch it to take its life; they had to kill it by touchless means. Even Moses was terrified by what he saw (v. 21).

That’s how God revealed himself to the people of Israel. We read and learn from that revelation, of course, but that’s not how God reveals himself to us.

Instead, God reveals himself to us with the promise of a heavenly city where he lives (v. 22a), occupied with joyful (not scared) believers in him (v. 22b). He reveals himself to us through the church (v. 23). Yes, he reveals himself as our judge according to verse 23b-c, but he is a judge whose justice has been fully satisfied by Christ (v. 24). Instead of crying out for justice like Abel’s blood did, Christ’s shed blood cries out that justice is satisfied and God’s mercy may be extended to us (v. 24).

So, we worship and serve the same God as the people of the Old Testament, but the God we share in common with them has revealed himself in love and acceptance. He remains holy, just as he was in his Exodus revelation, but by his grace we are welcomed as his friends through Christ.

Based on all this, what should we do with God’s word? Does the grace of God revealed to us mean that we can be casual or selective in our reception and obedience to God’s word? No. Verses 25-29 tell us not to be careless with God’s word. Instead, knowing how fearful God’s revelation in the Old Testament made people, and how fierce his punishment was to those who rejected his word (v. 25), we must be all the more diligent to receive and obey God’s word (vv. 26-27). Just as he judged the unbelieving in those days, he will also judge us if we do not believe his word today (v. 29).

But, our response to God’s revelation should not be dominated by fear. Moses and the Israelites were dominated by fear when they received God’s revelation (vv. 19-21), but not us. Instead, we should be thankful for all God has done for us while we worship him in reverence and awe (v. 28). We must not forget that God is holy, and just, and powerful. But, because we have received the promise of eternal life (the “kingdom that cannot be shaken,” v. 28), our worship should be both thankful and reverent. We should be grateful for all God has done for us and has promised to us in Christ, but we must always remember that he is forever holy and commands us to be holy as well (v. 14).

Are you thankful for the salvation you have in Christ? Are you learning to love God’s holiness and justice as you grow in your faith? Do you have a greater desire to be holy yourself and do you find yourself growing in holiness–by turning away from sin–more and more in your life?

All this is accomplished by receiving God’s word in faith and obeying it. That’s what the writer of Hebrews means when he says, “do not refuse him who speaks” (v. 25a). When you read God’s word and hear God’s word, search your heart and mind and actions for motives and thoughts and acts that displease God. Then, ask for forgiveness and for help to obey going forward in your life. This is the proper response that people who have faith in God will have to the revelation of God’s holiness, grace, and justice.

Genesis 47, Job 13, Hebrews 5

Read Genesis 47, Job 13, and Hebrews 5. This devotional is about Hebrews 5.

Hebrews 4 began comparing Jesus to the OT priests. That comparison was continued here in chapter 5. In today’s reading the author of Hebrews was concerned for us, his readers. We might think of Jesus, he reasoned, as someone who was harsh because he was holy. Our conception of Jesus might be that he despises us as moral weaklings because he is so strong, so perfect in his moral vision and action.

The chapter started out, then, with a concession to our thinking. High priests in the Old Testament were chosen from “among the people” (v. 1). They were guys just like us with the same struggles and frustrations and problems. As a result, a priest like that was “able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness” (v. 2). After all, before he can atone for anyone else’s sin with an animal sacrifice, he had to admit to his own sinfulness by offering a sacrifice for himself (v. 3).

Still, not anyone can become a priest; you can’t even volunteer for the job (v. 4), so Jesus was chosen by God to become our high priest just as Aaron and his family were originally chosen for that task (vv. 4-6). So why should we expect Jesus to have any compassion on us since he was not merely one of us and was chosen especially by God for this task?

Verses 7-9 answer that question. Many times I’ve felt that “Jesus had it easy” compared to the struggles that you and I face as fallen people. If I was “in very nature God” (Phil 2:6), I sometimes think, then it would be easy to obey God and always do the right thing. It’s an excuse I’ve made for my own sins and failings in life, but it feels true.

The author of Hebrews, however, wants none of that nonsense. The truth is that Jesus felt the power of temptation more powerfully than we do because he resisted completely rather than giving in early like we often do.

Furthermore, Christ had to face every trick and attack and ally the devil has ever had because there was so much at stake in Jesus’s earthly life. Jesus life, while lived in joy, was also more difficult and frustrating than you or I can possibly imagine.

Verse 7 describes Christ as a man who was tormented emotionally by the thought of the cross–not the pain of suffering but the trauma of death. Death is complete separation from life and the living but Jesus was the author of life, the one who breathed it into Adam’s nostrils.

But the creator and giver of life, the one who came to give it “more abundantly” was going to be cut off from life by death, the penalty of sin on the day he was crucified.

That included physical death but also spiritual death–separation in relationship from God the Father and the Holy Spirit for a time. Jesus prayed fervently–in Gethsemane for sure, but probably elsewhere, too–for some way to avoid all this lifeless separation. The end of verse 7 says that Christ “was heard because of his reverent submission” but God did not grant his request!

Think about that the next time God answers your prayer with a “no.” Jesus knows what that feels like! He experienced the pain and disappointment of sincerely, humbly, deeply asking his Father for something that God was not willing to grant.

Why?

Verse 8: “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” As a parent, you don’t always give your kids what they want because what they want is not what is best in the long term.

Similarly, God denied Jesus’ request for salvation from death so that he could accomplish salvation, yes (v. 9) but also so that he could completely understand what it means to submit to the difficult will of the Father (again, verse 8).

These days, Jesus is the one who prays for us when we ask for help in temptation. He’s the one who aches for us when we are brokenhearted, bereaved, or beaten down by life’s struggles, disappointments, and worries.

Really, now, would you rather have another sinner representing you before God as your priest?

Or would you rather have someone who bravely faced and defeated the most powerful temptations and the most personal, difficult struggles that humanity could ever know?

Be encouraged! Whatever you’re facing in life, Jesus is praying for you and representing you before the Father.

There is nobody better or more qualified to do it.

Genesis 32, Esther 8, Matthew 23

Read Genesis 32, Esther 8, and Matthew 23.

This devotional is about Matthew 23.

This chapter continues the teachings of Jesus during the Passion Week–the last week of his life before the crucifixion. The vast majority of this chapter prophesies against the Pharisees for the many sins Jesus saw in them.

The chapter opened with Jesus acknowledging that the Pharisees had some legitimate authority over the disciples (vv. 2-3a). But Jesus immediately warned his disciples not to follow their hypocritical example. Verses 3b-4 say, “But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

Christ’s condemnation, “they do not practice what they preach”, is a warning to every disciple, especially those of us who serve in teaching roles in the church.

Every Christian, including every elder and teacher, remains a sinner who struggles daily with the desires and habits of our sinful nature within us as well as the weakness of being human in a fallen world. That means that all of us will preach better than we practice most of the time.

Jesus’s instructions in this passage are not a requirement to be perfect before we teach and lead others spiritually. Instead, they are a warning not to exempt yourself from what you command others to do.

When I was a kid, the pastor of our church was fired for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was that he did not tithe, even though tithing was required of all members and was something he taught. When confronted about this he said, “We tithe our time.” In other words, he felt that since he worked more than 40 hours a week in the church’s ministry and his wife volunteered to serve a lot in the church, then he was not required to tithe. The time they spent serving, in his mind, offset the lack of financial giving from himself and his wife.

That’s hypocrisy.

That is what Jesus condemned in this passage–an intentional exemption of the preacher from the things he commanded and demanded of others.

If a man preaches that the fruit of the Spirit is self-control but then loses his temper, he is not automatically a hypocrite. He is a man who continues to struggle with his sinfulness.

But if he preaches self-control, yet frequently loses his temper and sins with his tongue but never expresses repentance or changes his ways, then he is acting in the kind of Pharisaical way Jesus condemned in this passage.

Do you require your children to be better Christians than you are? Do you allow yourself to do things that you’d never allow them to do? Do you condemn your children when you catch them sinning even though you do the same sin(s) in private?

Then repent of your hypocrisy and ask God to develop in you personal integrity. Learn to practice godliness in your life then learn to preach what you practice.