Numbers 28, Isaiah 51, Psalms 60-62

Read Numbers 28, Isaiah 51, Psalms 60-62.

This devotional is about Numbers 28.

When we think of worship, we think of music*. When the ancient Israelites thought of worship, they thought of the smell of burning meat, grain, oil, and wine.

Music, as a regular element of Israel’s worship, came later in Israel’s history. Sacrificing things to God was the primary way in which Jewish people worshipped him.

This chapter tells us about routine worship offerings. These are different than sin offerings or thank offerings. God commanded sacrifices when someone sinned or when they were thankful or when they had a child. But the offerings described here in Numbers 28 were not offerings presented for an occasion or because someone had sinned. These offerings were presented to the Lord as part of the everyday activity of the temple. In this chapter, we read about:

  • Food offerings (vv. 1-8). They were offered twice a day, morning and night (v. 4). Each time they were offered, a lamb was killed and burned thoroughly (v. 3). Grain and flour and olive oil were also offered with the lamb (v. 5) as well as wine (v. 7).
  • Sabbath offerings. This was a doubling of the daily food offerings that I just described for you (vv. 9-10).
  • Monthly offerings. These were offered at new moon (v. 14) and consisted of extra meat–two young bulls, one ram, and seven year-old male lambs (v. 11), puts the grain, oil, and wine described above (vv. 12-15).
  • Passover offerings (vv. 16-25).
  • Firstfruits offerings (vv. 26-27).

Food was precious to God’s people. It was hard and expensive to produce but valuable both to have and to sell. Yet God, who does not need food–ever–commanded Israel to offer to him what would have been delicious meals for us humans. This went on twice a day, every day.

Why? Because sacrificing valuable food to God, twice a day, everyday, with extras offered on Saturday and month, showed how God was worth more than the daily food and drink God’s people needed. It not only reminded God’s people that he was worth more than the things they produced and needed but that he must be prioritized over themselves and their families.

Think about how good the temple must have smelled on a daily basis. The smell was “pleasing” to God (v. 2) as an act of worship, but it smelled pretty pleasant, and appetizing, to God’s people, too, like the aroma of a good restaurant smells to us.

This is how Israel worshipped God. They routinely gave to him things that were precious and valuable to them.

We don’t bring sin offerings to God because Christ died for our sins, but we are still commanded to worship God. We give our bodies to serve him in worship as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1). We sing and speak praises to him, which Hebrews 12:15 calls “a sacrifice of praise.”

The question I have, after reading this passage is this: Do I routinely give the best of my worship to God? Do I gladly give him my best time and energy to serve? Do I sing loudly, from my heart, to praise and thank him for who he is and what he’s done for me? Do I come to church to worship gladly, every Sunday, and arrive rested and attentive? Or do I drag myself into church after staying up too late on Saturday night.

God deserves the best of our worship just as he deserved and demanded Israel’s best food, not to earn favor with God but because he is great and worthy of our love and our best.

How is the quality of your worship at this point in your life?


* For some Christians, that’s all they think of is music. But Christian worship has more elements than just worship music. Prayer, scripture reading, meditation, and even preaching are elements of Christian worship

Exodus 23, Job 41, Luke 5

Read Exodus 23, Job 41 and Luke 5.

This devotional is about Luke 5:15-16: “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Three years. That’s how long most scholars think Jesus’s public ministry lasted. Compared to most adult lives, three years is a pretty short time. Compared to eternity, which the Son of God has lived, three years is nothing. So, Christ had to make the three years he lived on earth count. He had three years to leave volumes of teaching material, gather followers, die for our sins, rise again, and commission his followers to take the gospel around the world. He did not have a lifetime to get all those important things done.

Yet, as interest in his ministry grew (v. 15), the Lord “…often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (v. 16). If they knew how short his life would be, some might have argued that prayer was not the best use of his time. Surely the time he spent alone praying could have been spent teaching or calling disciples. Christ had spent eternity communing with the Father and Holy Spirit; surely he could talk to them less often in order to accomplish more with his life. Then, when he returned to the Father, he’d have all the time eternity allows to communicate with the other members of the Trinity.

Clearly, Christ did not view prayer as a waste of time. Nor did he consider to be of little importance or low on his list of priorities. Just the opposite; his life and his mission were too important for him not to pray. Although he was busy and pressed for time, Jesus made time frequently to pray.

When life gets busy for you, do you neglect your time of prayer? Is prayer so low in importance and priority to you so that you only squeeze it in occasionally? Does prayer get cut from your day when there are high demands on your time?

If Jesus made time to pray when he had only three years to change the world, surely you and I should make more time for prayer than we do. Make prayer a priority in your life, not an afterthought.

Genesis 18, Nehemiah 7, Matthew 13

Read Genesis 18, Nehemiah 7, and Matthew 13. This devotional is about Matthew 13.

The Parable of the Soils and Christ’s interpretation of it takes up most of this chapter of Matthew, from verse 1 through verse 23. In addition to that parable, we have:

  • The Parable of the Weeds (vv. 24-30, 36-43).
  • The Parable of the Mustard Seed (vv. 31-32).
  • The Parable of the Yeast (v. 33)
  • The Parable of the Buried Treasure (v. 44).
  • The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (vv. 45-46)
  • The Parable of the Dragnet (vv. 47-50).

The Parable of the Weeds and the Parable of the Dragnet have the same message–many people who look like they belong in Christ’s kingdom and think they belong in it will be excluded from the kingdom at the judgment (vv. 40-43, 49-50).

The Parable of Buried Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price also have the same message and it is the one I want us to consider today.

These parables are straightforward: a man finds something valuable but under-appreciated so he liquidates everything he has–his house, his farm animals and equipment, his wife’s jewelry, the fillings in his teeth if necessary–to buy the valuable treasure or pearl of great price.

And he does it “with joy” (v. 44)!

Wouldn’t it be a pain to get rid of everything you own and be homeless with just the clothes on your back? Yes, it would, unless you were going to get something of greater value than all of that stuff.

This is what Jesus said the kingdom of heaven would be like. It is so priceless, such a treasure, that you and I should give up everything to get it. Of course, the cost of the kingdom is not paid to God. God paid the cost for your entry into the kingdom in Christ because you and I could not do it ourselves.

No, the cost Jesus is referring to here is the cost of not going our own way and doing our own thing. If someone gave you an all-expenses paid trip around the world for one year, the trip is a free gift. But to experience that gift you’d have to quit your job. You might have to sell your house because you wouldn’t have any income to pay the mortgage, maintenance, taxes, etc. You would also pay a non-financial cost of missing out on things at home while you are gone.

This is what Christians “pay” for following Christ. When we receive the free gift of salvation, we give up the right to direct our own lives. Jesus is now the boss; he decides what morals we live by and his kingdom dictates the decisions we make with our lives.

His lordship is what leads some people to literally sell everything and move to a different city or a foreign country to start churches. They understand the value of the kingdom and the joy and rewards that await, so they are less focused on accumulating some material things in this life and more focused on serving Jesus in this life in order to benefit the coming kingdom of Christ.

Maybe God has put a desire in your heart to serve him in some way, but the cost of doing so seems high. You know you’ll lose some free time that already seems in short supply. Or, you know that it will cost money or that you won’t advance in your career or whatever.

Christ here calls us to consider what is truly valuable. His kingdom, his work, is so much more valuable than the cheap plastic trinkets that seem so valuable to us now. Let’s take a few moments and re-assess what we’re living for, what is important, what is worth investing in, and what is worth liquidating for the greater value of serving our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Kings 7, Ezekiel 37

Read 1 Kings 7 and Ezekiel 37.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 7:1.

The last verse of 1 Kings 6, which we read yesterday, told us that Solomon spent seven years building the temple of the Lord.” The first verse here in chapter 7 says, “It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace.” The chapter and verse divisions in the Bible are not inspired and were long after both the Old and New Testaments were complete. Someone decided to end chapter 6 with the statement that the temple took seven years. The same person decided to start chapter 7 with the contrasting statement that Solomon’s palace took thirteen years to build. That was an unfortunate decision because the original author meant for these two statements to stand back to back as a contrast. He wanted us to know that Solomon spent much more time on his home than he did on the Lord’s house.

I guess Solomon’s house could have been beset by construction delays but that’s probably not why his house took so much longer to build. If we compare the dimensions that are given in chapters 6 and 7, we will see that Solomon’s house was much larger than the temple. Notice:

  • 1 Kings 6:2 says the temple was 60 cubits by 20 cubits by 30 cubits.
  • 1 Kings 7:2 says the palace was 100 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits.

So the two buildings were the same height but Solomon’s house was much bigger–longer and wider–than the temple he built for worshipping the Lord.

Solomon’s house wasn’t just a residence; it was a government building where he also lived. We can see that in verse 7 where we read about “the throne hall, the Hall of Justice, where he was to judge…” and then verse 8’s statement, “…the palace in which he was to live, set farther back, was similar in design.” But the human author of 1 Kings wanted us to see that Solomon’s palace was much larger and took much longer to build than the temple did. The point is that Solomon did an incredible job building a house for the Lord but he spent even more money building a house for himself. He was self-centered, materialistic, and showed poor priorities in the contrast between these two buildings.

Do our lives reflect the same struggle with priorities or self-centeredness? Do we give our best energy to our career or our hobbies but give leftovers to serving the Lord? Do we spend money lavishly on ourselves while being stingy when it comes to financially supporting the Lord’s work?

Genesis 3, Ezra 3, Psalm 3

Today we’re reading Genesis 3, Ezra 3, and Psalm 3.

This devotional is about Ezra 3, so read that chapter if you can’t do all of today’s reading.

The events recorded in Ezra happened late in Old Testament history. They happened after the kingdoms of Saul, David, and Solomon and after those kingdoms were divided into the Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom). Because of Israel’s idolatry, God used the Assyrian Empire to scatter the northern kingdom of Israel. Years later, God then used the Babylonians to take the southern kingdom, called Judah, into captivity. Daniel and his friends were living in Babylon due to that captivity. Daniel, while reading Jeremiah, realized that the captivity would end after 70 years. Ezra recorded what happened after that 70 years of captivity ended.

Cyrus the king of Persia was moved by the Lord to send the people of Judah living in exile back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. We read about that in Ezra 1. Ezra 2 recorded the names of those returned. At the end of Ezra 2, yesterday, we read, “When they arrived at the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families gave freewill offerings toward the rebuilding of the house of God on its site” (Ez 2:68).

Today in Ezra 3 we read that the people “assembled together as one in Jerusalem” (v. 1b). They built an altar and began the routine sacrifices commanded in Moses’ law (v. 3). They also celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 4) and began rebuilding the Temple (vv. 7-13).

One thing that is impressive about this chapter is how quickly the people organized to begin worshipping the Lord together as a group. Verse 1 refers to the “seventh month” but that doesn’t mean seven months after they arrived. It means the seventh month on the Jewish calendar, the month when the Feast of Tabernacles would be celebrated (v. 4, 6). Although Ezra did not say so, the events of verses 1-6 happened probably only 3 or 4 months after the exiles returned to Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem they returned to was a mess. It had been completely destroyed by the Babylonians 70 years before and was uninhabited during that time. When they got there, they had to figure out who owned what property, then repair or rebuild some kind of home to live in.

But the people who returned also needed to make a living, so they also had to begin working to start an economy going again. Verse 3 says that they “had settled in their towns” but that “settling” was only a bare subsistence. They were far from a thriving, vibrant community at that point.

And yet, they began their worship as a nation and their obedience to God’s word pretty quickly. It is true that Cyrus sent them there to rebuild the temple (chapter 1), but it would have been easy to make excuses–very plausible excuses–about the importance of making sure they could survive before they began worshipping God corporately again. They also could have said, “Well, we need to rebuild the temple first, then we can do the sacrifices and feast days.” But the temple took two years to get going (v. 8). Rather than wait, their faith in God and zeal for his glory caused them to obey his word as soon as they could.

All of this indicates what a priority worship was for these Israelites. Unlike their ancestors who worshipped idols and mixed God’s word with pagan gods and rituals, the 70 years of exile had chastened them and had shown them the importance of faith in God’s word and obedience to it.

I wonder if we would respond the same way? If some natural disaster wiped out all of our homes and businesses and leveled our church building, would those of us who survived that want to get together as soon as possible to start worshipping again?

I’d like to think that gathering again as a church family would be very important to us. Maybe a tragedy like that would make it so. But, when I think about how many people in our church only attend our Sunday worship here and there, I wonder.

Many people are faithful to our worship services Sunday after Sunday but many others attend for a Sunday or two, then disappear for weeks at a time. They all have reasons but how many of those reasons are just excuses laid on top of poor priorities? And that’s just Sunday services we’re talking about. Small group attendance and Calvary Class attendance is even more random and unpredictable.

This passage, and the coming of a new year, give us a chance to think about our priorities and where our time is spent. The fact that you’re reading these devotionals probably puts you in the category of people who are committed to the Lord and his work in our church. But, there is always the temptation to get distracted and let priorities fall out of whack. Don’t let that happen to you and, if you have a chance to encourage someone else who isn’t attending regularly, take the opportunity to speak to them for their good as a believer in Christ.