2 Samuel 7, Ezekiel 46, Mark 10

Today read 2 Samuel 7, Ezekiel 46, and Mark 10.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 7.

Once he was crowned king over all Israel, David moved systematically to centralize Israel as a real kingdom. He took over Jerusalem from the Jebusites whom his tribe, Judah, had failed to dislodge. This was an act of obedience to the conquest command given to Joshua. It was also strategic; Jerusalem was a difficult city to defeat because it was built on a hill and surrounded by mountains. It was, therefore, an excellent capital city, which is what David did with it.

After securing a capital city for the kingdom, David consolidated worship in the capital by moving the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Now, here in 2  Samuel 7, David is settled for the first time in his adult life (v. 1). Given how much time he spent “roughing it” as a shepherd, then as a soldier, palatial life must have taken some getting used to. Also, given his heart for God, David must have visited the tabernacle often; some of his Psalms suggest as much. There must have been a big visual disconnect between the beauty of his newly completed palace and the tent that served as the Lord’s dwelling place on earth. In verse 2, David explained to Nathan the prophet how he was feeling about this and, in verse 3, Nathan gave him the go-ahead to build a temple for the Lord.

Nathan’s instincts were correct; David wanted to do something unselfish for God as an act of worship, so there was no moral reason to forbid him from building a temple. But God had other plans, so although David’s plans did not violate God’s moral will, they were not part of God’s sovereign will for his life. Nathan learned this in a dream as the Lord spoke to him (vv. 8-17). 

Notice how tenderly the Lord spoke to Nathan about his will. First he told Nathan to remind David that God had never commanded Israel to build him a permanent temple (vv. 5-7). Second, God reminded David that he chose him from a lowly position as a shepherd to become the king of Israel (v. 8). He also reminded David that he had prospered David in everything he did (v. 9a). 

Now God promised David greatness (v. 9b) and peace (vv. 10-11a) during his lifetime. Then, in verses 11b-16, God spoke about what would happen after David’s death. First of all, God would establish his son as king (v. 12) and would use his heir to build the temple that David desired to build (v. 13). Then God promised to love David’s son with permanence (vv. 12-15). Unlike Saul (verse 15), God would not remove David’s son as king, though he would discipline him when he sinned. Finally, in verse 16, God promised David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”

These promises, taken as a group, are called “the Davidic Covenant” and it is one of the key covenants for understanding the Old Testament. The promise that David’s throne “will be established forever” (v. 16) foreshadowed the coming of Christ, the final Davidic king who will restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6) and rule over it forever. This covenant with David is why both Matthew and Luke were careful demonstrate that David was an ancestor of Christ. 

When the book of Revelation describes Christ establishing his earthly kingdom in the future (Rev 20-22), it is this promise to David that Christ is fulfilling. The great thing about God’s grace is that Gentiles like us can be included in this promise by faith in Christ. This was always God’s plan as demonstrated way back in the Abrahamic covenant: “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:3b).

Christ began the fulfillment of these promises; when everyone he means to saved has come to know him by faith, the process of ending the kingdoms of this world and replacing them with the eternal kingdom of Christ will begin (2 Pet 3:1-15, Rev 11:15). This is the message that we deliver in the gospel: Trust Christ by faith and God will include you in the kingdom that Christ will establish. This is the hope that we wait for (Titus 2:13). The Bible constantly reminds us not to forget that Christ is coming to establish his kingdom; it holds forth this hope to us not only to encourage us (1 Thess 4:17-18) but also to stimulate us to live for eternity instead of living for the sinful pleasures or the temporary comforts of today (2 Pet 3:13-14). So let the promises to David that read about today guide you and help you to live for Christ, our Davidic king, this week.

Numbers 32, Isaiah 55, 2 Thessalonians 3

Read Numbers 32, Isaiah 55, and 2 Thessalonians 3.

This devotional is about 2 Thessalonians 3.

When I was growing up my pastor used to frequently say, “Some people are so heavenly-minded that they’re no earthy good.” That might be an apt description of the Thessalonians. The things Paul wrote about in 1 & 2 Thessalonians indicate a church that was focused on end time events–the coming of Christ, the arrival of the man of lawlessness, and the final judgement on earth were all topics Paul discussed in these letters.

Here in chapter 3, however, he urged them to pray for the spread of the gospel through his work (vv. 1-2). While it is good to be looking for the Lord’s coming, Christ has charged us with work to do here until he comes–namely reaching people for Christ and discipling them to obey him. Paul was more than willing to teach about the end times, but he wanted the churches to remain faithful in prayer for the gospel to keep growing.

In the meantime, it is possible that some of the believers in Thessalonica had quit working and were living on charitable giving from other members of their church (vv. 11-12). This might be because they were so convinced that Christ would return any moment that they lost motivation to work. Or, perhaps that was unrelated to their interest in eschatology. Regardless of the reason, Paul must have heard that there were loafers in the congregation. He wrote this chapter, therefore, to remind them of his own example and teaching when he was in Thessalonica (vv. 7-10), to instruct the unproductive people to get to work (v. 12), and for the obedient people in the church to be wary of the disobedient and unproductive members (vv. 6, 14-15).

These strong statements remind us that the Christian life is more than words; it is truth lived out in a holy and productive life. God created us to care for and make productive use of the earth. Now that, in Christ, we are seeking to be obedient to the Lord, we must realize that living a productive life is part of God’s will for us. These passages apply to those who are “unwilling to work” (v. 10), not those who are unable to work. Other passages of scripture show us that homemakers are living productively, so this doesn’t mean everyone must be in the secular workforce. Still, there are some believers today who could work or do something productive who instead are “idle” (v. 6) and even “busybodies” (v. 11). This chapter calls all of us to put our faith into practice by providing for ourselves and our families.

I think it goes further, too, and reminds us of our need to be good managers of what God allows us to produce. So many Americans are building mountains of debt and are one financial setback away from dependency.

Are you working productively? Keep it up. Are you living below your means and preparing for the future? That’s what God wants us to do, too.

Numbers 29, Isaiah 52, 1 Thessalonians 5

Read Numbers 29, Isaiah 52, and 1 Thessalonians 5.

This devotional is about 1 Thessalonians 5.

What will the end of humanity look like? Everyone agrees that this earth is doomed–eventually. Some people believe that space travel will offer escape for the human race to some other inhabitable planet when our sun dies out or the earth becomes uninhabitable.

But, realistically, that’s the stuff of science fiction, not reality.

According to God’s word, human history will end here on this earth. And most of humanity will be utterly unprepared for it as we read today in verses 1-3. Verses 4-11 describe the contrast; while most of humanity will be unprepared for the end, believers “are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief” (v. 4). God’s word has described for us what will happen when the “day of the Lord” (v. 2) arrives. As students of his word, then, we should not be surprised when his judgment comes.

Still, although we are not in darkness, this passage urges us to “be awake and sober…since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (v. 6b, 8). The promise of salvation from God’s wrath in Christ (v. 10) calls us to be active and growing in our faith, not passive and complacent as if we are just passing the time until Christ comes.

This is always how the Bible applies end times promises to believers. The promise of deliverance through Christ should motivate us to become like Christ. We strive to become holy for many reasons–the new nature within, the Holy Spirit within, a desire to be like Christ–but one of the things that should motivate us to grow is the knowledge that Christ will return. Understanding that this world is temporary and that eternal things are, well…, eternal, lifts our thoughts from materialism, self-centeredness, pleasure-seeking, and other temptations. We lose our desire for these things when we realize all that God has promised to us eternally in Christ.

Have you lost your focus on eternity? Is your interest in the Lord, his word, and his character formed in your life cooling off? Let this reading remind you that the Lord is coming. So many things that seem important now will be completely irrelevant when Jesus returns; likewise, things that advance God’s work through evangelism and God’s holiness in people’s lives will be shown for the eternal value that they have. So let these words encourage you (v. 11a) but also refocus and re-energize you to know the Lord and participate in his work.

2 Chronicles 25, Zechariah 8

Read 2 Chronicles 25 & Zechariah 8.

This devotional is about Zechariah 8.

How much work would you do on a house that was about to be demolished?
How much would you spend fixing a car that had over 200,000 miles on it?
Would you put a lot of effort into anything that you thought might not last very long?

That’s the question God’s people were grappling with after they returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. God had returned them, yes, but what about the next time he was angry? What about the next world power driven to domination? Maybe some of the older adults would live out their natural lives in this homeland, but would their children enjoy the same peace and stability?

In this passage God assured his people that his blessings would reside in Jerusalem for a long time. People would get old there (v. 4) and watch families form, have children, and grow into adults (v. 5). That was hard for the people to believe (v. 6) but not for God to accomplish. Notice that he is called “the LORD Almighty” twice in verse 6.

The promise of this chapter was that people should make significant capital investments in the land and the city again because those investments will pay off (vv. 12-13). The ultimate investment they needed to make was in God’s house, the temple. Verse 9 says, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Now hear these words, “Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.”’” God was committed to these blessings but in order for the spiritual aspects of them to manifest (such as verse 8), they needed to rebuild the center of worship and instruction, the temple.

That was the application for them. What about us? Jesus could return at any moment and God’s presence rests in the people, not in a church building. So how would this passage apply to us?

The New Testament teaches clearly that Christ’s coming could happen at any time and that no one knows when it will happen. We should be ready, therefore, for Jesus to come. BUT, the same apostles who taught us to be ready for Christ’s coming also commanded us to be busy while we wait for Jesus (see 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13). We should not wait for Jesus as if we are waiting for a bus; we should wait for him as if we are waiting for guests to come to our home. They could come at any time so we should be busy preparing to welcome them. We should invest in God’s work as if it will last 100 years or more because it might last that long on this earth and, even if it doesn’t, God will reward us for investing our time for him and his work.

One more thing about all of this: In Zechariah 8, God’s concern was that his people think long-term by building a building. Buildings can be great tools but God’s work is about people, not buildings. So when I talk about investing in God’s work “as if it will last 100 years or more” I am talking about reaching and discipling the next generation. Do you have a younger person in your life that you are investing in spiritually? A church can die in one generation if it fails to reach, train, and engage the next generation in ministry. All of us, then, should be looking for younger people–our children/grandchildren first–to disciple and develop. It is too rare to see in one church “men and women of ripe old age” (v. 4) and “boys and girls playing there” (v. 5). It is a rare thing to see but a beautiful thing in God’s sight. May it be true of our church as we seek to invest in the Lord’s work for generations.

2 Kings 18, Hosea 11

Read 2 Kings 18 and Hosea 11.

This devotional is about Hosea 11.

Some people look at family life as restrictive. They describe it as being “tied down” or call their spouse a “ball and chain.” Children are, to them, a burden rather than a blessing. Or, if they are children, they think of their parents as taskmasters instead of loving leaders and protectors.

This is how Israel looked at God. It is true that God gave them a number of laws to regulate their worship and their lives. But it is also true that God released them from true bondage, the bondage of slavery in Egypt. In this chapter, God explains his side of his relationship with Israel. In verse 1, he proclaimed his love for Israel like a loving father for his child. God called them out of bondage in Egypt, and nurtured them like a loving parent would to his infant or toddler. Look at the terms of tender love in this passage. God:

  • loved Israel “when Israel was a child” (v. 1a).
  • He called his son “out of Egypt” (v. 1b).
  • He “taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms” (v. 3a-b).
  • He “healed them” (v. 3d).
  • He “led them with cords of human kindness” and “ties of love” (vv. 4a-b).
  • He lifted them to his cheek (v. 4c-d)
  • He “bend down to feed them” (v. 4e)

How did Israel respond to God’s many acts of tender love? They “went away from me” (v. 2b) sacrificing “to the Baals” (v. 2c).

Israel’s idolatry, then, was a refusal of his love. It was like a child who receives his parents’ love and then, when he turns 18, spits on his mom and dad and leaves the house for good.

God explained that he would allow Assyria to rule over Israel because “they refuse to repent” (v. 5). But he also promised not to give up on his people (vv. 8-9). Though they totally rejected him and would suffer the consequences, God would not reject them forever. Instead, he would change them spiritually for good. Verse 10 says, “They will follow the Lord….” This phrase looks forward to the day when Israel will be genuinely converted. They will stop pretending to obey God and instead will love and obey him from the heart.

This did not happen when Jesus came the first time. When God became a man in the person of Christ, “He came to his own but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). This happened so that the few Jews who did receive Jesus would fan out into the world with the message of salvation for Jews and Gentiles alike. Some day, soon, Christ will return and will fulfill this promise. He will give new life to the people of Israel, saving them and causing them to worship him–finally–from the heart.

For us, it is important to see in this passage how tenderly God thinks of us. John 1 says that those who received Jesus were given the right to be called God’s sons (Jn 1:12). Think about how lovingly God describes himself in relationship to his sons in this passage–teaching them to walk, lifting them to his cheek, bending down to feed them (vv. 1-4). Realize, then, that God’s commands to us are not burdensome regulations designed to weigh us down but they are protections against the pain and ugliness of sin just as your household rules protect your children from injury and exposure to wickedness.

1 Kings 18, Ezekiel 48

Read 1 Kings 18 and Ezekiel 48.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 48:35b: “And the name of the city from that time on will be: the Lord is there.”

This final chapter in the prophecy of Ezekiel described in detail the land God promised to a restored nation of Israel. The chapter reaffirms the land-based portion of the covenants God had made with his people. It states that the promise of land given to Abraham in Genesis 12:7b: “To your offspring I will give this land” will be fulfilled literally. The chapter promises again that the portions of land promised generally to the twelve tribes of Israel in Genesis 49 and more specifically in Joshua 13-19 would be given to those tribes.

There are good, godly men who believe that the promises God gave to Israel in his covenants have been fulfilled in us here in the church age. I do not agree with that interpretation and I don’t see how passages like this which are so specific could be fulfilled generally or “spiritually” in the church. The only alternative, then, is to believe that these promises have yet to be fulfilled and that they will be fulfilled in the time period we call the Millennium.

This is not the place to go into specifics about the Millennium or other prophecies in the Bible about the end times. The final verse of Ezekiel, however, sums up the great hope that all believers in every age have: “And the name of the city from that time on will be: the Lord is there.” This is the realization of the promise lost in the Garden of Eden, that humanity will live under the loving rule of God, knowing him, worshipping, and fellowshipping with him constantly. When the Lord lives on earth among us, when his name is the name of the city because he is there, when we are free of our sin and shame and can worship him truthfully, fully, constantly and live completely for his purpose–then life will be everything it could be and should be but cannot be in this unredeemed state.

Is this a focus in your life? As you live each day, do you think about what it means to live for the glory of God? Do you think about Christ’s return ever and ask for him to come? Is there anyone around you today that you could speak to about their need for Christ and what Christ has done for them? This is how God wants us to live once we come to know him by faith. We live faithfully for him, obeying his word and trusting him while also longing for and looking for his return.

Judges 17, Jeremiah 30-31

Today we’re reading Judges 17 and Jeremiah 30-31.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 31:36, “‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the Lord, ‘will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.’”

There is a method of interpreting scripture that interprets the promises God made to Israel, the nation, as fulfilled in us, the church. The church, according to this interpretation, is a full replacement for Israel.

There are significant problems to that method of interpretation. A primary problem is the specificity of God’s promises to Israel. Note in verses 38-39 how specific the proper place names are: “… this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah.” How can these specific places be “spiritualized?” If you believe that “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16), then why did God keep making these promises to the nation, including specific places in the Promised Land, if he meant them in some kind of spiritualized way?

The only answer that makes sense and takes these promises seriously is a literal interpretation of them. In the future, after Christ returns, God will re-establish the nation of Israel in the land on earth with Jesus as king. We Gentiles will take part in that kingdom because we’ve been grafted in (Rom 11:13-17) and because it was always God’s plan to include people from all nations, not because we have replaced Israel.

The fact that Jewish people still claim a unique identity is a testimony to God’s faithfulness to these promises. Someday he will make good on every promise. When that happens, his people will be redeemed spiritually (vv. 33-34) and everyone on earth will “know the Lord” (v. 34). Human life will finally be restored to the condition God created us in–holy, devoted to him, and perfect in our faith and obedience. All of this will happen, of course, only by the grace of God: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Deuteronomy 7, Isaiah 35, Psalm 148

Read Deuteronomy 7, Isaiah 35, Psalm 148.

This devotional is about Isaiah 35.

In this chapter Isaiah continued foretelling what life in the eternal kingdom of God will be like. Verses 1 and 2 and 5-10 describe a bright future in which God’s glory will be revealed (v. 2e-f) through the prosperity of the land (vv. 1-2), through the physical restoration to perfection of all creation (vv. 5-7), through the people of God (vv. 8-10).

Verses 3-4 in this chapter provide an island of present-tense reality. Isaiah encouraged his reader to encourage others who belonged to God but were old and tired. He wanted to see them strengthened (v. 3) so he reminded them of God’s promise to return in order to punish the wicked (v. 4 c-f). These two truths, that God would punish his sinful enemies (v. 4c-f) and that he would provide a kingdom of love and joy for eternity (vv. 5-10) were given to encourage and strengthen the faithful but aging believers in their camps. These truths could be used to give spiritual strength and stability to believers (v. 3).

When you find yourself feeling down or lacking faith in God or in any way needing strength, remember that “your God will come” and, when he does, he will impose justice on the unbelieving and prosperity on his people. Remind yourself often that this world is not the end and that a just and loving God is waiting to bless you for eternity if you belong to him. In other words, let God’s promises encourage you when you feel like quitting, slowing down, or slacking off. Trust in the Lord and keep serving him and you will see him do amazing things when we reach his kingdom. The discouragements and problems we endure in this life will be worth it when we are with the Lord.

Numbers 23, Isaiah 13, Psalm 128

Read Numbers 23, Isaiah 13, and Psalm 128.

This devotional is about Numbers 23.

When we left Israel yesterday, Balak the king of Moab had enlisted the help of Balaam to bring a divine curse on the people of God. Balaam was eager to earn the money that Balak was offering so he went with Balak’s delegation so that he could curse Israel. God, however, met with Balaam and told him only to say what the Lord told him.

I think it is pretty clear that Balaam was a heathen prophet who did not know the Lord but knew of the Lord and enquired of God on that basis. God, for his own reasons, chose to communicate with Balaam even though he was not a genuine worshipper.

Here in Numbers 23, Balak is ready for Balaam to earn his money and start cursing Israel. But, just as he said, Balaam was only able to say what God told him to say (v. 26) so blessings were what came out of his mouth. In one of those blessings Balaam said this, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind” (v. 19). We’re all thankful for the fact that God does not, even cannot, lie; but what about Balaam’s statement that God is “not a human being, that he should change his mind”? In 1 Samuel 15:11 we will read, “I regret that I have made Saul king….” This sounds like God changed his mind about something quite important–which man should lead and serve Israel as king. God seems to have changed his mind about sending judgment on the Ninevites in Jonah 3:10, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” He also seemed to change his mind about Hezekiah’s death (2 Kings 20:1, 4-5). So why did God tell Balaam to say that God is not a human being that he should change his mind?

The answer is that God does not change his mind, but that changes are part of his plan. In the case of Saul, God’s regret was over Saul’s unbelief and disobedience. God, of course, knew that Saul would be disobedient but he wanted Israel to see the contrast between a guy who looked like a king “should” look (Saul) and David, a king who would follow God genuinely, from the heart. I

n the case of Jonah, the whole purpose in sending him there was to warn them about judgement so that they would repent. Their repentance was part of God’s plan so that he would withhold judgment until a later time and so that Jonah and Israel would learn an important lesson about hatred.

Finally, in the case of Hezekiah, God’s “mind change” was done to demonstrate his power to Hezekiah when Hezekiah cried out to him in faith.

So, it is true that God does not change his mind. His plans and decrees were established in eternity and do not change in real time. As Psalm 119:89 says, “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” We don’t need to worry, for instance, about whether God will change his mind about the return of Christ or about our salvation. God has promised these and other blessings to us and he will fulfill those promises just as he fulfilled his promise to Israel that they would enter the land under Joshua (which is what happened fairly soon after the events recorded here in Numbers 23).

Trust God, then, your life takes unexpected turns that make you question his purpose or his control. God is not a man that he should lie or change his mind.

Genesis 19, Nehemiah 8, and Psalm 18

This devotional is about Genesis 19.

Today we’re reading Genesis 19, Nehemiah 8, and Psalm 18.

A few years ago, just after 8 p.m., I was driving south on Maple Rd. in Saline to pick up my daughter from a choir rehearsal. All of a sudden, the sky lit up with blue light. It was so bright and the source of that light seemed to be behind me. Then it flashed brightly and was gone. I kept waiting for a sound…, something. A crack of lighting? No, it was bright for too long to be lighting and the weather conditions certainly didn’t seem right for that. Was it an explosion? That didn’t seem right either because the light was so blue.

It wasn’t until I saw the news this morning that I learned it was a meteor. I’d never seen something like that before. It was completely unexpected.

This is what the judgment of God on Sodom and Gomorrah was like. Abraham had never seen anything like it and I’m sure his heart sank when he saw it (vv. 28). Likewise, when Lot tried to warn his would-be sons-in-law, they “thought he was joking” (v. 14b). Even Lot himself and his family had to be hustled out of Sodom by the angels (v. 16). The prophecy they received about God’s coming judgment seemed unbelievable because they’d never seen anything like it before. When it happened, it was surreal because they’d never seen anything like it before.

This is how it will be when Christ returns to judge the world. It is hard to visualize that happening because none of us has ever seen anything like it. Whether we can visualize it or not, it is true and it will happen in reality. Like Abraham and like Lot, we should take God’s promise of judgment seriously and we should warn those around us that God’s judgment is coming. It might seem to those we warn that we are joking (v. 14b), but God is merciful and has promised to save some in this age.

The return of Christ and his judgment will be like nothing you or I have ever seen before. But it is true and it will happen. What are we doing about that?

Here’s a video of that meteor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SqbKhRaqHg