1 Samuel 18, Lamentations 3

Read 1 Samuel 18 and Lamentations 3.

This devotional is about Lamentations 3.

God punished Judah for her sins, particularly the sin of idolatry; Jeremiah was one of the faithful ones who:

  • worshipped the Lord only
  • prophesied on God’s behalf and
  • suffered for speaking the truth to his fellow Jews

Yet throughout the book of Jeremiah and here in Lamentations, we saw how the prophet Jeremiah took God’s punishment on the nation’s sins personally. Here in Lamentations 3, Jeremiah continued the personalization of God’s wrath. In verse 2, for example, he wrote, “He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light….” Notice how many times in verses 1-21 how many times Jeremiah used the word “I,” “me,” or “my.” Just scanning these verses shows you how the invasion of the Babylonians felt to Jeremiah like a personal attack from the Lord God.

Starting in verse 22, the prophet changed his perspective. Despite all the traumatic judgment God had brought on his people, Jeremiah looked to the Lord for hope. He realized in verse 22 that his sins and the sins of the nation called for much greater judgment even than what they had received. He understood that being alive to greet any new day was an act of God’s mercy; as he wrote, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (vv. 22-23). This marked a major shift in his perceptions.

In verse 24-25, Jeremiah affirmed that the Lord was the only real answer to the problems and traumas he and his nations faced. He urged himself and anyone who would read these words to seek the Lord (v. 25b) and wait patiently (v. 24b, 26a) for him and his salvation. All of this hope was based on God’s goodness. “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love” (v. 32).

While waiting for God’s deliverance, Jeremiah also recommended personal introspection: “Why should the living complain when punished for their sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: ‘We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven’” (vv. 39-42). This is what the people of Judah should have done before the Babylonians invaded. Repentance would have brought God’s mercy according to his promises in the Law. But, having felt his wrath for their sins now, repentance remained the only right response for his people.

In Christ our sins are forgiven and our eternity is secure. When we are in Him, God views us and treats as perfect because he has credited us with the perfect righteousness of Christ. Still, we are not fully redeemed in the sense that we continue to have a sin nature and we follow that sin nature with disobedience to God’s word. Although God does not punish us for our sins–those were punished on the cross–he usually allows the consequences of sin to play out in our lives and he will bring his hand of loving discipline into our lives to make us holy. That can feel like a personal attack unless we remind ourselves of God’s loving, gracious character as Jeremiah did in verses 22-26. If you’re experiencing some painful problems in life, have you looked to God’s character for encouragement and strength? Have you examined your life and expressed repentance for sins that may have brought these problems into your life?

Numbers 7, Song of Songs 5, Psalm 119:25-48

Today we’re reading Numbers 7, Song of Songs 5, Psalm 119:25-48.

This devotional is about Psalm 119:45: “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.”

Unbelievers sometimes complain that the Christian life is restrictive. You aren’t supposed to party and get drunk every weekend, you have to wait until you’re married to have sex, you are commanded to give to God’s work with your money, you’re supposed to worship in Sunday instead of going to the beach, and so on.

The Psalmist here in Psalm 119:45 thought that God’s commands were just the opposite of restrictive. He wrote, “I will walk about in freedom.” What kind of freedom did he have in mind? Verse 46 supplied one answer: “I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame.” That describes the ability to speak truth knowing that you won’t be refuted because God’s word is truth. Other freedoms that following God’s word gives you is the freedom from a nagging guilty conscience, freedom from the pain and consequences of sin, and freedom from the fear of death. I’m sure there are others but this is, to me, an attractive list of benefits that we receive for obedience to God’s word.

April is almost over so, if you’ve been reading these scriptures daily, you’ve had four months of regular, direct exposure to God’s word. I hope you’re thinking differently in some ways and finding some of the freedoms that are promised in scripture for those who believe and obey God’s word. But, keep it up! One day of healthy eating doesn’t make you a healthy person. One week of daily exercise doesn’t make you fit. Growing in Christ through God’s word is similar. It takes daily practice to unlock the growth benefits but they will come if you are consistent.

Exodus 29, Proverbs 5, Psalm 77

Today’s readings are Exodus 29, Proverbs 5, and Psalm 77.

This devotional is about Psalm 77.

Sleepless nights are a fact of life for most adults. Some have them frequently, others rarely, but all of have times when we are too worried or wounded or whatever to sleep. The songwriter here in Psalm 77 described one of those times in the opening stanzas of this song. Verse 2 says, “at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted” while verse 4 says, “You kept my eyes from closing.”

God’s word has taught us believers to seek the Lord in those moments when we can’t sleep and the Psalmist did that in this song (vv. 1-3a). When he ran out of ways to ask for God’s help, he turned his mind to the ways God had revealed his power in the past. Verse 5 says, “I thought about the former days, the years of long ago, and verse 10 says, “Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.’” Which miracles, you ask? Verses 15-20 describe the miracles God used to deliver Israel from the Egyptians through Moses and Aaron. When. this songwriter lived, those miracles had happened hundreds of years before. They were not memories he conjured up from his personal experiences in the past; they were acts of God that he had read about in the books of the Law and heard taught in the tabernacle. Recalling these gracious works of God historically gave Asaph confidence to trust God for his need. In verse 13, the author wrote, “Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” Notice that all these verbs are in the present tense–you are holy, you are the God who performs miracles, etc. Because God had worked the past, the author was confident he would work in this situation.

When you can’t sleep at night, cry out to the Lord for help, then think about all he has done in the past that is recorded in the scriptures. Let their words give you confidence in God’s power for your life.

Exodus 8, Job 25-26, Psalm 56

Today we’re scheduled to read Exodus 8, Job 25-26, and Psalm 56.

This devotional is about Exodus 8.

In Exodus 7, we read yesterday that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened after Moses did two incredible miracles. Part of his hardening, it would seem, was related to the fact that his sorcerers were able to turn their staffs into snakes and were able to turn water into blood. Although Moses’s snake ate theirs and Moses was able to generate a whole lot more blood, in Pharaoh’s mind, perhaps, he had access to as much supernatural power as Moses did.

Today, however, as we read Exodus 8, Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to make frogs just as Moses and Aaron did (v. 7). Still, there was something about the plague of frogs that affected Pharaoh in a different way than the previous plagues because even though “the magicians did the same things by their secret arts” (v. 7), “Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away….’” (v. 8). Maybe the plagues were having a cumulative affect but, for the first time, Pharaoh looked to the Lord for relief.

He received that relief, too, but to emphasize to Pharaoh that this really was an act of God and not a mere coincidence, Moses allowed Pharaoh to choose the time when the frogs would go away (v. 10b). I don’t know why he said, “tomorrow” (v. 10a); I would have said, “Immediately! ASAP!” Just as he asked, however, the frogs all… um… croaked the next day (v. 13). Before the sun went down, however, Pharaoh “hardened his heart” (v. 15b) and would not let God’s people go.

Why exactly did he harden his heart? Verse 15 says it happened, “when Pharaoh saw that there was relief.” We do this sometimes, too. We suffer because of our sin or just because of foolish choices we make, so we get really serious about our faith. We cry out to God for help earnestly, with tears even, maybe. As soon as there is relief, however, we return to our unbelieving ways. I’ve seen this too many times to count in the lives of people I’ve tried to help. They come to me in pain and in fear, admitting that they’ve neglected the Lord and sinned against him. I pray with them and for them and try to encourage them but as soon as the pressure is off, they return to their routines and show no more interest in walking with God than they did before.

This is a symptom of unbelief. Pharaoh was an unbeliever which is why he responded to God’s work as he did. Unbelievers around us respond to God this way, too. We believers, however, are capable of nearly every sin that unbelievers do, including this one. We treat God like a spare tire, riding unseen and unthought about in the trunk of our lives until we find ourselves in an emergency. We turn to God when we need him, then return him to the trunk when life is back on track again.

Does that describe your walk with God? If so, learn from Pharaoh the difference between true repentance, which makes you want to know and glorify God, and the kind that only looks to God in emergencies. Ask God to give you true repentance and faith and learn to cultivate your faith in bad times and good times.

Genesis 37, Job 3, Psalm 35

Today we’re scheduled to read Genesis 37, Job 3, and Psalm 35.

This devotional is about Job 3.

Job received the blows of affliction well in chapters 1-2. He recognized that he was not entitled to the life he enjoyed and that God, as Sovereign, had every right to take away what he gave.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Job felt no pain. Here in chapter 3, he lamented being born. The pain of losing his children, his prosperity, and his health was greater than the joy he had experienced from those things. Dying before he lived long enough to enjoy anything was a more appealing prospect than losing the blessed life he’d had. His concluding words in verses 25-26 make your heart go out to him: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” Although he maintained faith in God, he still hurt and wondered why.

It seems to me that many Christians believe that heartbreak is un-Christian. We feel guilty about mourning; we think that glorifying God means smiling through every trial. We often put smiles on our faces to hide our pain so that other’s won’t question our salvation or spiritual maturity. But there is a way of hurting, of crying out, of wondering why that does not curse God. Submission to the will of God does not mean turning off your feelings. Trusting God does not mean eradicating all questions from your heart and mind. It means processing all the pain while recognizing your dependence on God. It means looking to him for hope and help instead of as an object of cursing.

Have you suppressed your questions, fears, and heartaches because you think that’s what good Christians do? If so, you haven’t really solved anything nor have you opened up the capacity within yourself to grow from your trials. God allows our faith to be tried to expose to us pockets of unbelief and to refine them out of us. Being honest about how you feel is part of that process.

If you’re hurting today or wondering why, ask God. Journal your thoughts and fears. Wonder aloud. Just don’t accuse God of evil and injustice. Ask him, instead, to show you how your circumstances fit into his plans. Ask him to strengthen you through this trial so that you will grow because of it.

Genesis 35-36, Job 2, Psalm 34

Today we’re scheduled to read Genesis 35-36, Job 2, and Psalm 34.

This devotional is about Job 2.

In Job 1 we were introduced to this famous man of the Old Testament. Although he is not tied through any genealogy to Israel, he was someone who worshipped the true God. As 1:1-2 told us, “he feared God and shunned evil.”

(By the way: people refer to Job sometimes as “the oldest book in the Bible.” It might be, but we really don’t know. My Old Testament professor in seminary wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Job and he thought the author could be Solomon based on the Hebrew text. But Job the man probably lived prior to Abraham, so his story is quite old regardless of when God inspired someone to write it.)

Anyway, in chapter 1 we learned that Job loved God, had a large, loving family, and was financially prosperous. God pointed him out to Satan as an example of spiritual greatness. Satan responded by asking and receiving permission to test Job’s faith.

After taking everything Job had but his wife, here in chapter 2 Satan received permission to cover Job’s body with painful sores. He was now suffering immensely inside and outside. His wife, also a victim of everything Job suffered except for the sores, was unable to contain her anger at God. “Curse God and die!” she said to her husband in verse 9. In verse 10, Job responded with a condensed form of his understanding of discipleship: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” The longer version was spoken in Job 1:20-21: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

In both of these quotations, we are challenged to accept our place as the “creature” in the “Creator-creature” hierarchy. God is the Creator; he owns all things, including us, right down to the length and quality of our lives and the health (or not) of our bodies. Anything we have is on loan to us from God because we came out naked and leave naked (1:21a-b). If it was loaned to us by God, he has the right as the Creator to reclaim it anytime he wants: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Our mission in life is, whether happy or sad, prospering or suffering, to worship and praise God: “may the name of the Lord be praised.” When Job asked his wife, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” he was speaking reverently and in submission to God, his Lord and Creator.

But Job’s attitude is a tough one to replicate, isn’t it? God did not create us to suffer; he created us to worship and serve him in joy. It was the entrance of sin that brought suffering into the world. Since God could have stopped the entrance of sin or the causes of our suffering, it feels unjust to us when suffering comes into our lives.

This is why suffering–trials–is the test of our faith. When we curse God, we call him unjust. We appeal to our own sense of right and wrong, a sense that is permanently skewed in our direction. We want mercy when we do wrong but justice when we feel that wrong has been done to us. God allows us to suffer to expose our unbelief, the weaknesses in our faith, so that they can be purified from our hearts and we can trust him even more purely and fully.

Everyone reading this is suffering in some way, or emerging from suffering, or heading toward it, probably unknowingly. Let the presence of pain in your life strengthen your walk with God. Let it cause you to turn to him for hope and comfort not away from him in anger or bitterness. Let it teach you how to truly praise God from the heart and trust him. Remember that Job did not have the answer to “why” that we were given in chapters 1-2. All he had was his theology and his circumstances. When those two seemed irreconcilable, he went with his theology and staked his hope there.

May God grace us to do the same.