Deuteronomy 25, Jeremiah 17, 2 Corinthians 3

Read Deuteronomy 25, Jeremiah 17, 2 Corinthians 3.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 25.

This chapter from God’s law is about justice and injustice. It begins in verses 1-3 by describing how disputes would be handled in Israel. They would be heard by judges would be charged with “acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.” Verses 2-3 describe the punishment that the guilty should receive if the judge feels it is appropriate (v. 2a).

Verse 4 commands the farmer to treat his ox with justice. As the ox works for the farmer, he creates value through his threshing work. It would be unjust to deny him food while he works, so the law prohibits the farmer from muzzling him.

Verses 5-10 are strange to us but we need to remember how important the land was to God’s people. Due to war, farm accidents, and other factors, men tend to die before their wives. If a woman were to continue living, she would need to remarry as she would need a man’s work to provide for her. But if she did remarry, her husband’s family line would not continue and they would lose their family land. Over time, the tribes of Israel would start to look very different. To prevent that, God commanded a man’s brother to marry his widow so that she would be provided for, his land would remain in his family, and his family name would continue (v. 6). But some brothers would not want to fulfill this responsibility to a sister-in-law. If a man refused to obey the commands in this chapter, he was denying justice to his sister-in-law and hurting his own family. This passage specifies embarrassing social consequences to the man who refused to continue his brother’s family (vv. 9-10).

Verses 11-12 were designed to protect a man’s ability to continue his family line. Though you could see how a woman might want to protect her husband from having the tar beat out of him, it was unjust to damage his family so an equally damaging consequence was prescribed for a woman who did this.

Verses 13-16 command God’s people not to be unjust in their commercial dealings with each other. Each person was to pay a fair price for what he bought. The “differing weights” were designed to deceive the buyer and the  Bible her says that “the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly” (v. 16). People who make tax policy in this country should read and consider this passage. It is fundamentally unjust to require one person to pay more than another person does (v. 16).

Finally, God commanded his people to treat the Amalekites with justice for attacking Israel when they were defenseless as they left Egypt (vv. 17-18).

While some of the things specified in this chapter seem arbitrary and petty, they emphasize to God’s people that God is just. It is part of his fundamental nature and, as his people, we it should become important to us to treat others fairly, with justice.

So, how about it? Are there some people in your life who are getting less than what they deserve from you? If you have power over someone’s life in some way, do you treat that person with justice?

Deuteronomy 24, Jeremiah 16, 2 Corinthians 2

Read Deuteronomy 24, Jeremiah 16, and 2 Corinthians 2.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 16:19-21.

The forecast for Judah, according to Jeremiah, continued to be bleak. There was going to be so many deaths from disease, famine, and sword that God told Jeremiah not to get married or have any children (vv. 1-4). Don’t start a family, Jeremiah, because you will lose some or all of them in death. That was God’s word to Jeremiah. Bleak.

Furthermore Jeremiah was prohibited from paying his respects at anyone’s funeral (vv. 5-7) or enjoying a feast at someone’s home (vv. 6-13). When the Lord’s punishment for Judah came, people would be terrified and then many of them would die.

As usual, the Lord made no apology for bringing this punishment. God’s people had forsaken him and done much evil in his sight (vv. 11-12, 17-18). As hard as it is for us to accept, they deserved to be punished by a just and holy God, just as all of us do.

Compounding their sin was the fact that they had the truth. The true Lord, the one real God, had revealed himself to them but they exchanged that for false gods (v. 18).

As bleak as all of this was, Jeremiah held out hope in the Lord and his promises. Someday, he knew, God would restore his people (vv. 14-15) and the knowledge of God would spread throughout the world (v. 19). Those who worship false gods would realize that their gods were false and would come “from the ends of the earth” to know the true God. This is a prophecy of us Gentiles coming to know God through Christ and, when they come, they will not find an angry God who is looking for people to kill. Instead they will find a willing instructor: “I will teach them—this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the LORD” (v. 21).

This is what we’re doing in evangelism. We are exposing the false gods that people worship (v. 20) and calling them to find truth in the LORD. This is the only hope that anyone has for avoiding the justice of our holy God. Better than that, when God has gathered in everyone he will save, we will enter his kingdom together and spend eternity at the feet of a God who said, “I will teach them” (v. 21). Instead of looking at his word as a burden to bear, something to choke down like a vegetable because it is good for us, we will eagerly feed ourselves with God’s nourishing truth and rejoice and be satisfied in his presence as he teaches us.

Who can you share this saving message with in the coming week?

Deuteronomy 22, Jeremiah 14, 1 Corinthians 16

Read Deuteronomy 22, Jeremiah 14, and 1 Corinthians 16.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 22.

Critics of the Bible often point to the punishments spelled out in a passage like today’s to show that the Bible is harsh, unreasonable, and unloving. Cross-dressers (v. 5), promiscuous single women (vv. 13-21), and people who commit adultery (v. 22-24) all get the death penalty for their sins, even though they were all “consenting adults.” Rapists also were to receive the death penalty (vv. 25-27). That maybe harsh by today’s standards of punishment but it probably is not an example modern critics will bring up. These punishments seem harsh only because of how comfortable we are with sin; in God’s sight, every sin is an eternal offense, so these punishments should teach us something about how our sins—and the desires that compel them—look to the holy eyes of God.

This passage is also a favorite of critics because some of these laws seem arbitrary (vv. 9-12).

But notice the other case laws in this passage. If someone else—whether you know him or not—is about to suffer the loss of his valuable property, you are supposed do what you can to prevent that loss (vv. 1-5). “Do not ignore it,” the scripture says in verse 1, verse 3, and verse 4.

More interestingly, you’re allowed to take a mother bird’s eggs but not the mother bird (vv. 6-7). The promise of obedience to this passage is “so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life” (v. 7b). But this act of conservation doesn’t benefit any Israelite person; it’s just good management of God’s creation. It teaches us not to be destructive just because we could be.

Verse 8 of our passage tells God’s people to make sure that they build reasonable safety precautions into their homes. Since people in these desert cultures used their roof to entertain in the evenings when the weather is more comfortable, God’s word commanded them to be careful to protect human life by putting appropriate fencing around the roof.

These laws show that God was not harsh or arbitrary at all toward people in general. He wanted to protect his nation from becoming a lawless culture full of promiscuity. The penalties spelled out in these passages were to protect the importance of the Jewish family and to emphasize important God’s holiness is to him. The laws against abusing birds and requiring Israel to watch out for each other’s property and protect each other’s lives show how much God values human life. They teach us not to be so self-centered that we look the other way when someone is about to lose their valuable property. Instead, we should watch out for others, showing them the kind of kindness and compassion that we would want others to show to us and that God himself does show for us. If we find a lost wallet or purse, a lost smartphone, or see a wandering child, God wants us to do what we can to help. We may not have a flat roof that needs to be fenced in but are we careful to clear our sidewalks of snow and ice? As people who belong to God, we should be conscientious and kind toward everyone, not just conscious of our own stuff.

Finally, the harsh punishments in this chapter remind us of the deep grace of God toward us. God hates sin and is uncompromising in how he wants sin to be punished. He is so uncompromising that he demands that every sin should be punished to the fullest extent of justice. Yet, because he loves his creation and is compassionate toward us, he did not look the other way when we wandered from his commands. Instead, he came in the person of Christ both to look for and find us when we were lost AND to bear the just punishment that our sins deserve. No sin is trivial in the sight of God but none is so putrid that Christ’s death cannot cover it. The cross-dresser, the adulterer, the promiscuous, the self-centered one who never helps another in trouble are all savable, if God wills, through the atonement of Christ. The same goes for those who speak lies, who gossip, who break things and hit people in uncontrolled rage, who lust but don’t touch, who take the eggs AND the mother bird.

No sinner is beyond the saving grace of God; if you’ve been redeemed from one of these sins—or from any sin at all—give thanks that God is uncompromisingly holy but also incredibly compassionate, loving, and gracious toward all of us who are unholy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exodus 4, Job 21, Hebrews 10

Read Exodus 4, Job 21, and Hebrews 10. This devotional is about Job 21.

Job’s complaint here in chapter 21 is a familiar one. It is something many believers in God throughout the ages have felt and said, namely that the wicked seem to live pretty great lives. According to Job, wicked people:

  • Live to a ripe old age (v. 7)
  • Get more powerful and wealthy with each passing year (v 7).
  • Watch their kids grow up and do well in life, too (v. 8).
  • Live in safety under no condemnation from God (v. 9).
  • Have business success year after year (v. 10).
  • Enjoy happy times with their families when they are not working (vv. 11-12).
  • Retire inspired and die happy (v. 13).

Despite all these blessings, they resist God their whole lives and want nothing to do with him (vv. 14-15).

In verse 16a Job recognized that God was the source of their prosperity: “their prosperity is not in their own hands.” Job’s reason for saying all this, then, was not, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” He was not about to ditch his faith in God and join the ways of wickedness because the wicked had better lives. He knew that God existed and that anything unbelievers enjoy in this life is by the [common] grace of God. For these reasons Job said, “so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked.”

Rather, Job brought up the topic of the prosperity of the wicked because he wanted to point out how unjust it all seems. In verses 17-18 Job complained that the wicked never seem to get what they deserve in this life.

In verse 19 Job quoted a common saying, “God stores up the punishment of the wicked for their children.” People who said this were comforting themselves that the children of the wicked would suffer for their parents’ sins. Job wanted none of that. He said, “Let their own eyes see their destruction; let them drink the cup of the wrath of the Almighty” (v. 20). In other words, God should punish the wicked now because when they are dead, they won’t care if their kids have to pay the pricetag for their parents’ sins (v. 21).

In fact, Job thought, everyone dies no matter what. The wicked and the righteous, those who suffer and those who enjoy a great life lie side by side in the cemetery (vv. 23-33). So what difference does it make if people live a godly or a wicked life?

The answer is not stated in this chapter but it is important to understand. The logic of Job in this chapter is hard to argue with. Lots of unbelievers live long, prosperous, and seemingly happy lives. Lots of believers suffer sorrow and even persecution. Both unbelievers and believers die. We all meet the same fate, so why should anyone do anything except for what they want to do?

Again, the logic of Job’s position in this chapter is hard to argue with if this life is all there is. Job had, in previous chapters, affirmed his belief in the resurrection but now here in chapter 21, he’s wavering a bit. “What if God exists but there is no afterlife? he thinks. Then it makes no sense to be godly because plenty  of ungodly people seem to sin and get away with it.

Well…, things probably aren’t as rosy for the unbeliever in this life as Job thinks. But, even if he’s right, there is more to life than this life. God does allow many unbelievers to skate through life without getting what they deserve for their sins. If this life is all that exists, then God would be unjust to let unbelievers get away with their sin.

But God is just; therefore, we know that justice will be done in eternity even if it doesn’t happen in this life.

So let’s be faithful to our just God even when life seems unfair and ungodliness seems like a better, happier path. As the author of Hebrews put it in Hebrews 6:10: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him….”

Trust in that truth even when life seems unfair. God will do what is right when this life is over.

Genesis 40, Job 6, Matthew 28

Read Genesis 40, Job 6, and Matthew 28.

This devotional is about Job 6.

In chapter 6, Job continued lamenting the painful afflictions that had come into his life. He had asked his wife in chapter 2:10b: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” But now the sorrow of his reversal in life was weighing down on him much more heavily. He viewed the devastation he had experienced as a direct attack from God (v. 4) and wished that God would just kill him so that he could die without cursing God (vv. 8-10). Job was tempted to curse God because he felt there was no future for him, nothing to look forward to, no encouragement left for this life (vv. 11-23). He concluded this chapter by asking for proof of his disobedience (vv. 24-30).

Although we know personally and theologically that Job was not perfectly sinless, we also know from chapters 1-2 that God did not allow these problems into Job’s life to punish him.

But Job didn’t know why God allowed all this trouble in his life. In that way, he’s like us most of the time. If I break the law and get caught, then I know that the “trouble” in my life is my fault while I’m being prosecuted.

But if I’m living my life as I always have and suddenly my house catches fire and burns to the ground, then I am left to wonder. Why did God allow this? Was it something I did?

When we cannot see a direct cause for the problems in our lives, we tend to speculate in one of two directions. Either:

  1. I did something and God is punishing me for it
  2. Or God is mistreating me unjustly.

This is what Job was wondering so he demanded that God answer him. In verses 29-30 he said, “Relent, do not be unjust; reconsider, for my integrity is at stake.  Is there any wickedness on my lips? Can my mouth not discern malice?”

If you were one of Job’s friends, how would you respond to the feelings and questions he expressed in this chapter? His friends were sure that God was not unjust so they were likewise certain that Job did something wrong.

Is that how we treat people who are hurting and dealing with problems? Do we assume that God is punishing them for something?

That isn’t comforting to anyone, but could it be correct? How would God want us to respond to someone in Job’s situation?

Maybe we know enough about Job’s story to give the right answer biblically. But does that knowledge guide us when we are talking with hurting people? Can we offer friendship and comfort and encouragement to other believers without wondering or implying that they are somehow to blame for their suffering?

2 Chronicles 34, Malachi 2

Read 2 Chronicles 34 and Malachi 2.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 34.

According to verse 1, Josiah was eight years old when he became king, When he was sixteen years old (v. 3: “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young”), he turned his heart to loving, learning about, and living for God. Those three “Ls”–loving, learning about, and living for God–are my summary of the phrase “he began to seek the God of his father David.”

When Josiah was twenty years old (v. 3: “in the twelfth year of his reign”) he began removing the known places of idolatry from Jerusalem and all of Judah (vv. 3b-7).

Then, when he was twenty-six years old (v. 8: “in the eighteenth year”), he began the renovation of Solomon’s temple (vv. 8-15). During that renovation, the “Book of the Law” (v. 14) was discovered. That refers, of course, Moses’ law; whether it meant all five books of Moses or just one book (such as Exodus or Deuteronomy) is unclear. What is clear is that God’s law had been neglected. Whatever Josiah and any other observant person in Judah knew about God was known by oral tradition, not by direct instruction, although perhaps they had some of the historical books (Joshua-2 Samuel) and the wisdom books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.

Having re-discovered God’s Law, however, the secretary and the king (v. 18) read it. The king immediately accepted the words he heard as God’s word and realized that God had promised judgment for disobedience to this covenant—disobedience that was common throughout his kingdom. His response to the message was, “Go and inquire of the Lord for me…” (v. 21). The goal of this inquiry was to find out what the Lord’s will was for the king and his people. Had the Lord already determined to bring judgment to them or would he accept the king’s repentance?

They consulted the prophet Huldah (v. 22) and learned from her that God had indeed willed judgment for Judah (vv. 24-25). However, verses 26-28 tell us that Josiah’s responsiveness to God’s word would mean mercy for him and the people during his life. Verse 27 put it this way, “Because your heart was responsive…” That phrase summarized Josiah’s response to God’s word. He (1) accepted it as God’s word, (2) believed that God meant what he said in his word and (3) sought to bring his life and his kingdom into obedience with what he learned in God’s word.

Josiah, therefore, modeled for Judah and for anyone who follows God what walking with God looks like–including you and me. We must read God’s word—not someone else’s description of God’s word or summary of God’s word —but the word itself. We must believe that it is true and applies to us and we must turn to God in repentance when we are convicted of disobedience to it. This is an ongoing thing, the everyday, day after day, reaction and response that should characterize our lives as people who, like Josiah, seek God (v. 3).

As we come to the end of this year, my hope is that reading these devotionals have helped establish a new pattern in your life. Keep that going in the next year! Keep seeking the Lord and responding to his word in faith and obedience. These are the results of genuine faith in God.

2 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 1

Read 2 Chronicles 16 and Zechariah 1.

This devotional is about Zechariah 1.

When Zechariah wrote these words (v. 1) were still 18 years or so to go in Judah’s 70 year exile. The end was not yet in sight but it was closer than the beginning. God’s message to the people in the first 6 verses of this chapter can be summarized as follows:

  • Your parents and grandparents refused to repent when the prophets preached to them that the exile that we’re in was coming. Don’t be like them (v. 4).
  • What happened to those ancestors of yours, anyway? Oh, yeah, they died in exile just like the prophets said. The prophets themselves died too, by the way (v. 5).
  • What survives from those days? God’s word; that’s what (v. 6). Everything God said would happen, did happen.
  • The point of these first 6 verses is that God’s word through the prophets had proved to be true. His word was so clearly true that even the rebellious ancestors were forced to admit, “The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.” God’s punishment for their sins was clear proof of the truthfulness of his word.

So, God’s message now was, “‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.” In other words, “Don’t wait for the punishment of sin to prove the truth of God’s word. Believe that God’s word is true now and turn to him accordingly.”

People in every generation have rejected and tried to discredit God’s word. They argue that there is no proof that the Bible is God’s word; it is just a human book, they think.

Leaving aside the prophecies that have already been fulfilled, God’s word is fulfilled day after day in the consequences that people experience for their sins. “The wages of sin is death” according to Romans 6:23; the fact that every sinner dies proves this word of the Lord to be true. The Bible also promises blessings for faith in and obedience to his word as well as judgment for unbelief and disobedience to his word.

You and I have the benefit of history. We can see how others who lived before us have disregarded God’s commands and sinned because they wanted to sin. What became of their lives? In every case I can think of, they proved that faithlessness and disobedience bring heartbreak and sorrow.

Receive the grace of God in the warning of these words and choose to believe that obeying God’s commands will be far better for you than disobeying them. That’s the lesson God wanted the people of Zechariah’s generation to learn from the exile. It is the same lesson he wants us to learn, too.

2 Chronicles 10, Zephaniah 2

Read 2 Chronicles 10 and Zephaniah 2.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 10.

We’ve read before about the foolish decision of Rehoboam to treat God’s people harshly rather than lighten the burden that Solomon put on them. What is interesting in this passage is the statement, “this turn of events was from God” (v. 15b). That phrase indicates that God willed that Rehoboam would “not listen to the people” (v. 15a). In other words, although Rehoboam made the choice, using his “free” will to make a foolish decision, his foolish decision was part of God’s foreordained will.

The reason God willed this was described in the next phrase of verse 15, “…to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.” That phrase reminds us that, while Solomon was still alive, God handed down judgment on him because of his idolatry. The judgment God handed down on him was a divided kingdom which was prophesied to Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s officials. You can read about all of this in 1 Kings 11-12.

So God ordained Rehoboam’s response in order to make his prophecy to Jeroboam come true. But how is that foreordination consistent with the idea of Rehoboam’s free will? Did Rehoboam really have a choice? If not, how could he be held accountable for the choice God made for him?

The answer to that question is that Rehoboam did have a choice and he made a choice to follow his sinful nature. The advice of his friends to be a difficult dictator (vv. 8-11) appealed to his pride and greed. He chose the decision he made because he was a sinner. His choice was consistent with his sinful nature.

God’s role in this was simply to allow him to do what he wanted to do. God could have been gracious to Rehoboam. He could have softened the king’s heart to listen to the wisdom of Solomon’s advisors (vv. 6-7) but, as the Sovereign Lord “who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph 1:11), God let Rehoboam decide and act according to his sin nature. That decision accomplished the plan of God to divide the nation. It meant that God’s prophecy would be fulfilled by the free choice of King Rehoboam.

Free will does not mean “free” in the absolute sense. I am free to try to flap my arms and fly like a bird, but my choice to try that will not change my nature. By nature, I don’t have the capacity to carry out my choice to fly like a bird. Free will, then, means that I am free to choose according to my nature. As sinners, we choose what is selfish and wrong and destructive because of our sin nature. The choice was ours, it was freely made, so we are accountable for it.

When we make good choices, it is because God has been gracious to us. He brings wisdom or circumstances that change our thinking and he softens our hearts to receive that wisdom. The choice is still freely made but it is because of God’s grace.

So God’s sovereignty does not violate free will. Instead, God–according to his plan and purpose–either lets us choose according to our nature or he enlightens us by grace so that we make a better choice. This is how God accomplishes his will while still letting us exercise our wills. It is also why we are held accountable for the choices we make even though they were foreordained by God. Rehoboam did what he wanted; God just stood back and let him do it so that his sovereign plan would be accomplished.

The point for us is to ask for God’s grace to make good, wise, godly choices in life. Don’t let me do what I want to do, Lord! Instead, give me the grace to do what is right in your sight. This is the prayer of a godly person who wants to use God’s gift of free will in a godly way.

2 Chronicles 6:2-42, Habakkuk 1

Read 2 Chronicles 6:2-42 and Habakkuk 1.

This devotional is about Habakkuk 1.

Habakkuk, a prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, was very upset with the Lord in the first four verses of this chapter. He saw so much sin and violence (v. 3) among the Lord’s people but, when he called for God’s justice, he got nothing (v. 1).

God may have declined to respond to Habakkuk’s earlier complaints but he was more than happy to answer Habbakuk’s questions in verses 2-4 with an answer in verses 5-11. And what was that answer? God would punish the violence and sinfulness of the Jews by delivering his peopel in defeat to the Babylonians (v. 6).

Now Habakkuk had a much bigger theological problem. He couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t judge his countrymen but, when God did promise to punish them, Habakkuk couldn’t understand why he’d use a wicked nation like the Babylonians (v. 15). God is holy and eternal (v. 12a-b), so why would he use such unholy people? It made no sense.

We’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s reading of chapter 2 for God’s response but, in the meantime, consider the problem of the sliding scale of righteousenss. Habakkuk knew God’s people were doing evil (vv. 2-4) but the Babylonians were worse! Verse 13 asked the Lord, “Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

We can probably identify with Habakkuk’s complaint. If you’ve ever felt outrage when a good person died young while evil men live into their 90s, you know how Habakkuk felt. If you ever cried, “Unfair!” when you were punished for something when someone else was doing something worse, you’re using the same kind of reasoning that Habakkuk used.

The truth is that we are all guilty before a holy God. What Habakkuk said in verse 13a was right on the money: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing” so his next statement could have been, “…so we deserve your punishment, no matter how it comes.” But part of our sinful state is to demand that we be tested on a curve. “I am sinful, but not as bad as others” we reason, “so let God go after the worst offenders first! And, when he comes for me, I should get a much lighter sentence!”

But God’s justice is always just; that is, he pays out the wages of sin according to the pricetag that every sin has—death–regardless of how many or how few sins we accumulate. Instead of complaining to God about our circumstances and wondering why he hasn’t treated others worse than he treated us, we should take a very hard look at ourselves. We are guilty before a holy God. One violation of his law carries the death penalty so none of us has anything to complain about.

In fact, Judah had God’s law, their own history, and prophets like Habakkuk. The Babylonians were wicked but they were also going on much less truth than Judah had. As Jessu told us, the more truth you have, the greater your accountabilty will be before God.

In God’s great mercy, he poured out his justice on Jesus so that you and I could be saved from the eternal condemnation we deserve. God may allow the natural consequences of our sin to play out on this earth but at least we will be delivered from hell based on the righteousness of Christ. So we should be thankful for that.

But more than that, the awful cost of our sins that Jesus bore should teach us the truth about divine justice and adjust our expectations accordingly. So, have you found yourself complaining that you’re paying too much for your sins why others are not paying enough? Then think about this passage and let it realign your understanding of justice accordingly.

We have nothing to complain about and everything–because of God’s mercy–to be thankful about. Let’s thank God, then, for his perfect justice and for the mercy that Jesus provided us with by taking God’s justice for us on the cross.

2 Chronicles 4-6:1 and Nahum 3

Read 2 Chronicles 4-6:1 and Nahum 3.

This devotional is about Nahum 3.

As we’ve read already in Nahum 1-2, God’s judgment on Ninevah was mostly due to their extreme violence. Remember that God’s law–imprinted in our consciences and written in his word–is the standard by which we are judged. It is impossible to keep the law of God because of our sin natures but that does not exempt us from accountability to the Lord and judgment by the Lord for breaking his laws. What our inability to keep his laws requires is his grace. Christ secured that grace by taking our penalty on the cross and he forgives us by grace when we trust in Christ’s cross-work for us.

So the kings and people of Nineveh were responsible before God and guilty before him for all the nations they attacked without cause and the soldiers and civilians who were killed by their military aggression. Verse 1 here in Nahum 3 describes this city as “the city of blood.” Verses 2-3a vividly depict their powerful armies and verse 3b detailed the results of their attacks: “Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses…” Verses 5-19 warn this wicked city and her king (v. 18) of God’s impending humiliation (vv. 4-7) and defeat of Nineveh. The prosperity that the Assyrians enjoyed at that moment would be stripped from them like locusts decimating a farm (vv. 16-17).

Warfare and tyranny run through the history of humanity. As “civilization” has advanced, technology has improved our lives and, simultaneously, made the killing and destruction of war more efficient and massive.

We should consider how our country wages war. Although we do not take over countries and enslave them the way that the Assyrians did, it is my opinion that the American presidents are far too quick to drop bombs on and send troops into other nations. Our leaders use military might to advance their political agendas. In the process, they have sacrificed too many American soldiers, too many soldiers from foreign lands who were forced into service by their government or merely wanted to defend their land against our invading armies, and too many civilians.

Passages like this one in Nahum call world leaders to be careful about waging war and to repent for wars that were and are unjust. As American citizens, we should do what we can to hold our leaders accountable for how recklessly and needlessly they wage war and provide weapons to foreign governments. God is watching; if he held Nineveh accountable for her unjust wars, what will he do to us?

1 Chronicles 18, Jonah 2

Read 1 Chronicles 18 and Jonah 2.

This devotional is about Jonah 2.

Jonah seems like such a rare person–a disobedient prophet. Surely all the prophets struggled with disobedience in their everyday lives as all believers do. Jonah’s disobedience, however, was disobedience to be the prophet God commanded him to be. He refused to go where God commanded him to go because he did not want to deliver the message God wanted him to deliver.

What is often misunderstood about Jonah, however, is the reason for the fish that swallowed him. This passage is sometimes taught as if the fish was God’s judgment, God’s dungeon to punish Jonah. The truth is that the fish saved Jonah’s life. Verses 5-6 describe a man who was drowning until “…you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit (v. 6c). And why did God do this? Because Jonah was repentant: “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple” (v. 7).

The fish was an unpleasant place to be, I’m sure. It was certainly part of God’s discipline in Jonah’s life. God’s discipline is never “pleasant at the time, but painful” (Heb 12:11). Yet those painful, unpleasant times save us from the self-destruction of our sins. When God allows you to drown in your own sin but saves you through his discipline, the proper response is the one Jonah brought: “I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”