1 Chronicles 17, Zechariah 10, 1 John 2

Read 1 Chronicles 17, Zechariah 10, and 1 John 2.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 17.

David intended to build God a permanent home in Israel, a temple that would replace the tent that Israel had used in worship for centuries. Although God was pleased with David’s desire (see 1 Ki 8:18), he decreed that Solomon, not David, would build the temple (vv. 11-12).

Instead of letting David build him a literal house, God decreed that he would build a “house” (aka, a dynasty) for David (v. 10). This is the Davidic Covenant, God’s promise that a descendant of David would rule over Israel forever (v. 14) which will ultimately be fulfilled by Christ in his kingdom.

I’ve written about the Davidic Covenant before (here, here, and here), so let’s focus on David’s response to God’s promise to him which we read in verses 16-27.

First, David gave thanks for all God had done for him in verse 16. Verse 7 reminded David that God had elevated him from the lowly job of shepherd to the exalted status of Israel’s king. David hadn’t forgotten any of that and praised the Lord for it.

Second, David gave thanks for what God had promised him in the future in the rest of this chapter, verses 17-27. David knew that God alone had honored him. David said it was “…according to your will…” (v. 19) which acknowledged that this promise was God’s gracious choice, not something that David deserved. But in verses 20-22, David widened the scope of his thanks to all that God had done and promised for Israel. Like God’s promise to David, all that God had done for Israel was a work of his grace. He redeemed Israel “for himself, and to make a name for yourself…” (v. 21). In other words, God did what he did for Israel for his own glory. Likewise, he promised what he promised to David “…so that… your name will be great forever.”

God extends grace to people because he is gracious by nature. But, the result of his grace, and his purpose for doing it, is to bring glory to himself. God shows his power, redeems his people, and makes promises so that people will know that He is God (v. 26).

The same is true in your life and mine. God saved us so that we would praise, glorify, and worship his name. He did it so that we would tell others what he has graciously done for us and call them to submit to him accordingly. But he also saves us and answers our prayers so that we will thank him and worship him directly and so that we will find “courage to pray” (v. 25) in the future.

It is easy for us to forget that God owes us nothing but punishment for our sins, yet he graciously gives us every good thing according to his will in Christ. Do we remember to speak words that glorify him to others? Do we remember to pray prayers of worship and thanks for what he has done, is doing, and promised to do in Christ?

Spend a few minutes now remembering what God has done for you and considering what he’s promised to you in Christ. Then, speak a few words of thankful prayer to him in worship.

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 Samuel 22, Daniel 12, 1 Timothy 4

Read 2 Samuel 22, Daniel 12, 1 Timothy 4.

This devotional is about Daniel 12.

This chapter is the final chapter of the book of Daniel and the end of the interpretation of Daniel’s vision from chapter 10. The prophecy ends with great promise, but it also leaves Daniel and us a bit disappointed.

First, the promise: Verse 1 of Daniel 12 promised that after unprecedented human distress, “…your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.” This refers to believers who survive the Great Tribulation and reign with Christ in his millennial kingdom (Rev 20:4-6). Verses 2-3 here in Daniel 12 describe the second resurrection and final judgment (Rev 20:11-13). After the final judgment, those who have been redeemed by Christ will enter into his eternal kingdom (compare vv. 2-3 to Rev 20:14-21:8). Daniel 12:3 records the great promise: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”This is the promise of eternal life with our Lord.

The disappointing aspect of this passage is that we do not know when it will be fulfilled. In verse 4 the angel told Daniel to “roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end.” Daniel wanted to know more specifics. His question in verse 8, “…what will the outcome of all this be?” is a request to know more details about this prophecy. The angel gave him some specifics about timing in verses 11-12 but Daniel would not live to see it happen according to verse 13: “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” Even for us, who have more information about these events from Christ and from John in the book of Revelation, there is quite a bit of interpretation involved in handling these passages.

Why, then, does God give us so many details about these end-time events without telling us all the details we would need to know to about them? The answer is that he wants us to trust him. God wants us to understand that there will be rewards in the last day; those who are “wicked” (v. 10) will receive “shame and everlasting contempt” when the end comes. Those whose names are “found written in the book” (v. 1), who are “wise” (v. 3), who are “purified, made spotless and refined” will receive eternal life. We don’t need to know when or how the Lord will accomplish all these things. What we need to know is that he does promise to accomplish them and that we will be rewarded if we trust in him and wait for them to be fulfilled. 

Judges 1, Jeremiah 48, Romans 10

Read Judges 1, Jeremiah 47, and Romans 9.

This devotional is about Judges 1.

A repeated theme of Joshua and Judges is Israel taking the land of promise, but not completely. Their territory was larger sometimes and smaller at other times but Israel never occupied everything God promised them.

Why not?

Unbelief which led to inaction.

Here in Judges 1, Joshua was dead (v. 1a) and Israel was still procrastinating when it comes to taking their land. Judah followed God’s word in verses 1-21 and won some significant territory. But notice that they took Jerusalem at one point (v. 8) but then apparently lost it again (v. 21) and did not have it again until David took it many years later. Notice also the intriguing words of verse 19: “The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron.” The Lord was with them… but they couldn’t dislodge the guys with iron chariots. Why not? Because God is no match for iron chariots? No; because Judah did not believe God would give them victory over people with iron chariots. The Lord was with them, but they were not courageous enough to believe that and follow through with obedience.

God’s people were willing to follow God to a point, but when it came to confronting their fear and moving out of their comfort zones, they stopped obeying God’s word, claiming God’s promises, and decided to be happy with less than all the land God had promised them.

This is already starting to feel like a “name it and claim it” devotional. I definitely disagree with that theology and don’t want to bend the principles in this passage too far.

But, think about what’s going on in this passage. God makes promises. God’s people believe and act on those promises and succeed until the challenge looks hard. Then they quit and settle for less than what God promised.

Do we ever do that? Hasn’t God promised to be with us to the end of the age as we go and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20)? Yes, he has. But how much effort do we put into making disciples?

Hasn’t God said that we are his “handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)? Yes he has. But how much effort do we put into growing in grace, pushing out into new areas of ministry that might be uncomfortable for us?

What about in your work? Doesn’t God’s word say that, “All hard work brings a profit” (v. 23a)? Doesn’t it tell us to diversify what we do and try different things in order to find what will succeed (Ecc 11:6)? But are you stuck in a job that isn’t providing enough for your family because you feel comfortable and safe there?

How about when it comes to giving? Doesn’t the New Testament encourage generous giving to see God provide: 2 Corinthians 9:6-8: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” God’s word does encourage generous giving so that you can see God provide. But are you giving to his work sparingly or not at all?

Again, the New Testament doesn’t teach us that God wants us all to be rich or that we can have whatever we want in Jesus’s name if we just name it and claim it. But it does tell us that God will be with us and will bless things that we do for his glory. It may not be easy–iron chariots are nothing to sneeze at–but are we settling for less than God would give us if we stepped out of our comfort zone in faith and tried some things for his glory?

Joshua 16-17, Jeremiah 40, Romans 5

Read Joshua 16-17, Jeremiah 40, and Romans 5.

This devotional is about Joshua 16-17.

These can be tough chapters to read, with names like “Ataroth” (16:2), “Mikmethath” (16:6), and others. So, the strange sounding names make the passage hard to read. Furthermore, these chapters describe places that are unfamiliar and hard to visualize unless you have an old map of Israel handy. The point of the passage is to make a permanent record of what area of the promised land was assigned to each tribe of Israel.

So, don’t worry about all that stuff and, instead, notice this:

“They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.”

Joshua 16:10

…and…

“Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.”

Joshua 17:12-13

At the end of chapter 17, the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (Joseph’s sons) began complaining to Joshua. “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly” (v. 14). They wanted to reapportion the land of Israel within the existing borders. In other words, they wanted to take land away from neighboring tribes.

Joshua was all for them having more land, but not at the expense of other Israelites. Instead, in verse 15, Joshua told them to enter the forests of the Perizzites and Rephaites, start clear-cutting, and defeat these people when they came out to defend their land. When I read the response of Joseph’s descendants in verse 16, it is difficult for me to hear anything but a whiny tone of voice: “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron….” But Joshua stood firm; there would be no changes to each tribe’s original allotment. If they wanted more land, they were to go and take it from these other Canaanites. Although Joshua conceded in verse 18 that “they have chariots fitted with iron” and “they are strong” he maintained that “you can drive them out.”

History repeated itself.

Their fathers–who died in the desert of Sinai–failed to take the promised land because they thought the Canaanites were too big, too strong, too entrenched to defeat. In other words, the people of Israel were cowed by what they saw instead of trusting in the faithfulness of God’s promises. Now, the next generation received the land but they, too, were intimidated by those around them. They got their land but not nearly as much as God wanted them to have.

Why?

Because they did not act as if they believed God’s promises. If they had trusted God, they could have had more land and could have utterly defeated the Canaanites. Instead, they chose through cowardice and unbelief to settle for less than what God wanted to give them.

How often do we settle for low-level living? Do we believe that Jesus has all authority as he claimed in Matthew 28:19? If so, why don’t we go make disciples of all the nations as he commanded us to do?

Do we believe that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us (2 Pet 1:3)? Then why do we let sinful habits remain in us instead of driving them out?

The answer is that these things are not automatic. God’s promises are true but they are only activated by faith. And faith is not just an inner belief; it is an inner conviction that produces outward actions that demonstrate true trust in God.

Where in your life are you refusing to go for all that God has promised to us in Christ? Let’s take encouragement from Joshua’s confidence in these chapters and live by faith in that area today.

Joshua 9, Jeremiah 35, Psalms 81-83

Read Joshua 9, Jeremiah 35, and Psalms 81-83.

This devotional is about Joshua 9.

What would you do if your country was being attacked by a ruthless band of vagabonds who, despite their limited means, were winning their battles with seemingly supernatural help? That’s the question that the Gibeonites were asking themselves during Joshua’s conquest of Canaan; their answer is recorded here in Joshua 9.

I think my answer would have been unconditional surrender: “Take us over; we’re all yours. Please be merciful to us.”

The Gibeonites, however, didn’t try this. It seems impossible, but perhaps they had heard about the instructions God gave in Deuteronomy 7:1-2: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.” That last sentence, “Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy” doesn’t seem to leave any room for surrender. Again, is it possible that the Gibeonites had heard about these instructions? It seems unlikely, but given how much they (vv. 9-10) Rahab (Josh 2:9-11) knew about God and his work on behalf of Israel, maybe word about God’s instructions had spread, too, along with these reports.

Regardless of what they knew about Israel, the Gibeonites responded to the threat of Israel through deception. They concocted a story about being from a “distant country” (v. 6, 9) and backed it up with costumes and props that would support their story (vv. 4-5, 11-13).

Their plan worked and Israel entered into a treaty with the Gibeonite without even knowing where they were from (v. 15, 19). Verse 14 notes that, “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.” In other words, they trusted the information from their 5 senses enough that they did not look to the Lord for insight and wisdom.

Note the contrast between Joshua 7 and today’s passage in Joshua 9. In Joshua 7, Israel was defeated by Ai, and Joshua started praying (7:6-9) but God told him to stop praying and start rooting sin out of the camp (vv. 10-12). I take this to mean that Joshua should have known there was a sin problem since God had promised to defeat Israel’s enemies and had done so—miraculously so—in Jericho. Joshua and the elders of Israel were asking God, in Joshua 7, why when they should have been asking him, “Who sinned?”

Now here in Joshua 9 they were tempted to depart from God’s clear instructions and yet they did not think to ask God. Instead, they decided to follow what seemed reasonable.

You and I face this kind of temptation, too. We know what God has said but we think the option in front of us is some kind of exception to God’s clear word. When we do this, we are putting ourselves at risk. At the very least we risk making an unwise decision; often we are making a sinful decision, one that will cause us great pain later.

In this case, the Gibeonites saved their skin through this deception (vv. 16-18). That was not the most damaging outcome that could have happened to Israel but it did cause the leadership to lose some credibility (v. 18d).

My question about this passage is: Did Israel really need to honor this treaty? The Gibeonites were completely dishonest. Their argument for the treaty was a total lie and they sold their lie with deception. Doesn’t their dishonesty invalidate the agreement?

I think it probably would have been permissible morally to break their treaty. However, Israel’s leaders were at fault here, too. They could have investigated the claims of the Gibeonites more thoroughly and they could and should have sought guidance from the Lord.

Given that Israel agreed to this—foolishly—it may have been permissible morally to attack the Gibeonites, but it was probably not the godly response. Joshua’s statement in verse 20: “This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them” was, at last, a godly way to look at the situation. Psalm 15:4b says that a godly person “keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind.” This is why Jesus cautioned us not to take oaths at all (Matt 5:33-37).

Are there any promises you’ve made that you should live up to, even though you made them foolishly and they will be more costly than you expected to fulfill? Let his passage inform your life; be careful about what you commit to do but, if you do commit to do something, make sure you do it. This is an approach that honors our Lord.

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 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 2, Isaiah 61, 1 Corinthians 3

Read Deuteronomy 2, Isaiah 61, and 1 Corinthians 3.

This devotional is about Isaiah 61.

Early in his preaching ministry, Jesus returned to Nazareth, the small town where he grew up. On the Sabbath day he stood up to read God’s word and the passage he read was our scripture for today, Isaiah 61.

Christ read verses 1-2a of Isaiah 61, then stopped before the phrase “and the day of vengeance of our God….” Then he told his neighbors and friends from Nazareth, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

Although Christ will make good on the rest of the promises of Isaiah 61, it was not his intention (or God’s will) for him to do that during his first coming to this world. God still has a remarkable future in store for Israel, but it will not be fulfilled until Christ returns a second time. In the meantime, though, Christ is still proclaiming “good news to the poor” (v. 1c), binding “up the brokenhearted” (v. 1d), proclaiming “freedom for the captives” (v. 1e) and releasing prisoners “from darkness” (v. 1f).

This is the good news that Christ came to deliver. It is the promise he arrived to fulfill. Although all humanity is damaged and wounded by sin, Christ offers release from the penalties of sin and comfort from the damage that sin does in us and to us.

Remember this when the door opens to share Christ with someone: Jesus came to deliver people from the slavery of their sins, to patch up their broken hearts, and to shine light into the darkness where they are groping around looking for truth.

So let’s look for ways to tell people what Christ has done for us and what he will do for them if they bow before him in repentance and faith.

Exodus 16, Job 34, James 5

Read Exodus 16, Job 34, and James 5.

This devotional is about James 5.

Are you a man or woman of your word? If you tell someone you will do something or be somewhere or arrive at a certain time, can that person count on you?

Or, do you have to preface or follow something you’ve said with the statement, “I swear!” or “I promise!” Those phrases are necessary when we know we can’t be trusted. When we’ve just failed to keep a commitment or have a habit of being undependable, we have to resort to saying, “I swear” or “I promise” to manufacture a little bit of credibility for ourselves.

Jesus commanded us, his followers, not to say these things. James repeated those words of Jesus here in James 5:12: “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Otherwise you will be condemned.” The point of saying “a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” is that you will do what you agree to do or you will be honest if you can’t, won’t, or don’t want to do it. Because we want people to like us, we all have a tendency to say “yes” to things that we really don’t want to do. James reminds us that following Jesus means being upfront and honest with others.

A person who is consistently honest and keeps his or her word is someone who can be trusted in the future. That kind of person, so rare in our world, never needs to say, “I swear” or “I promise.”

Life happens sometimes and prevents us from keeping our word when we had every intention of doing so. When that happens, the best thing to do is go to the person who was counting on you and apologize, taking responsibility and explaining–truthfully–what happened.

These days, of course, everyone has a cellphone on them, so missed commitments can be renegotiated. A renegotiated commitment is not a broken commitment. A person who keeps his commitments will keep his commitments or he’ll contact you to explain or apologize as soon as possible.

Today you will be asked for things–to show up at a meeting, to take on a responsibility, to come for an appointment, to bake cookies for your kids’ bake sale–whatever. Christians are people of truth; if you can’t do what is being asked of you, there is absolutely no shame in saying, “No.”

Remember that is one of the options James said we could say in verse 12. As followers of Christ, let’s make our commitments slowly, carefully, and with every intention of fulfilling them. Do this day after day, week after week, and people will learn that you can be trusted. That is a character quality that pleases the Lord.

Genesis 28, Esther 4, Psalms 10-13

Read Genesis 28, Esther 4, and Psalms 10-13.

This devotional is about Genesis 28.

Jacob’s name means “cheater.” He was named this because of the pre-natal prophecy that his older twin brother would serve him and because he came out of the womb grasping at Esau’s heel.

Jacob lived up to his name, too, buying Esau’s birthright cheaply and deceiving Isaac to get the firstborn’s blessing.

Here in Genesis 28, Jacob is leaving home for two reasons. The stated reason was for his leaving was to find a wife in his mother’s extended family (vv. 1-5). The real reason he left, however, was to save his life from Esau’s desire for revenge as we saw yesterday in chapter 27. He went with Isaac’s blessing–both the blessing of firstborn that he deceived Isaac into giving him and the specific blessing for success in this mission (vv. 3-4).

Was Jacob feeling good about his life? Was he excited about finding a woman to marry and transitioning more fully into adulthood? Or, did he feel guilt about his deceptive ways, anxiety about whether or not he would find a woman he wanted to marry, and fear about Esau hunting him down?

We don’t know. What we do know is that he was about to experience some of the same deceptive treatment he had distributed to others. How would he fare against the deceptions of Laban?

God began preparing the man Jacob to become a man of faith. Although he and Rebekah manipulated and deceived Isaac into blessing Jacob, it was God’s decree that mattered, not the human blessing of Isaac. So God vividly appeared to Jacob and promised that the covenant blessing of Abraham would be his (vv. 10-15). Had Isaac succeeded in blessing Esau, it wouldn’t have mattered because God’s decree was for Isaac to receive that blessing.

Jacob received God’s blessing by faith and personally made a covenant with God himself (vv. 20-22). His father’s God had now revealed himself to Jacob and Jacob believed. If he was feeling guilt, anxiety, or fear before now, he should have gotten great peace and reassurance from the vision we read about today. God would be with him; everything would be well because of His promises.

Jacob had no idea what joys and hard tests awaited him when he arrived at Paddan Aram but God did. So, God revealed himself to Jacob and called him to live by faith in His promises. Although there would be difficult, painful days ahead, Jacob had God’s promises to carry him through.

Sound familiar? Whatever trials you’re experiencing today or may encounter tomorrow, do you believe that God loves you and will keep his promises to you? Then lean on that; hope in God and wait for his deliverance.

Genesis 15, Nehemiah 4, Matthew 10

Read Genesis 15, Nehemiah 4, Matthew 10 today. This devotional is about Genesis 15.

Genesis 14, which we read yesterday, described how Abram and his men battled and defeated four kings who had beaten five other kings and had taken Lot captive. Scripture gives us no indication here of how that battle affected Abram emotionally but it is possible that, even though he won, Abram was traumatized by the experience.

If Abram was traumatized by that battle, it is not surprising to see God giving him comfort in the opening words here in chapter 15. In verse 1 God said, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield….” That phrase indicates that God was the one who had just protected Abram in battle and would protect him in the future, too.

But God went on to tell Abram that knowing God was worth more than all the wealth and power that Abram refused at the end of chapter 14: Verse 1e says, “I am… your very great reward.” 

Abram had received other promises like this from God so in verses 2-3 he questioned God about this promise. Specifically, he wanted to know how God could keep this promise given that he and Sarai had no children. 

Questioning God is a spiritually-risky thing to do. God is sovereign; he is creator. We have no right to question his will because we are his creation.

But questioning God is not always a sin. In fact, there are two types of questions. Sometimes we ask questions to understand what God has said. At other times, we ask questions to undermine God and suggest that his promises are not worth trusting.

Abram’s question was not an attack on God or his word, it was a sincere effort to understand what God said and how it would be accomplished when it seemed so unlikely.

God answered Abram’s sincere question with his word. Notice that verse 4 says, “Then the word of the Lord came to him.” God and Abram had already been talking so why was this phrase necessary?

The point was to remind us who is making the promise. God graciously gave Abram a clarification (v. 4) and a re-affirmation of the promise (v. 5). Though God’s answer may not have been totally satisfying, Abram accepted it in faith anyway (v. 6a).

Then verse 6b recorded one of the most important statements in the book of Genesis: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” God declared Abram to be a righteous man. That declaration was not based on something Abram did to create or demonstrate his own righteousness. Rather, God considered Abram to be perfect based on his faith, not his obedience.

The lesson for us is that living by faith means trusting God’s word even when God doesn’t answer all our questions.

God commands and calls us not to be perfect on our own, but to believe; to fall in total dependence on God’s promises. 

Do this when obeying God seems risky or you are afraid or you doubt God’s goodness or wonder if God’s promise really applies to you. Fall in total dependence on his promises and watch God keep his word.