Judges 18, Ezekiel 7, Psalms 93-95

Read Judges 18, Ezekiel 7, and Psalms 93-95.

This devotional is about Psalm 95

Psalm 95 encourages us to lift our voices joyfully to the Lord. Verse 1-2 invites us (“Come…”) to “sing” and “shout.” Verse 2 calls us to “come before him” and “extol him.”

Why? Because he is the Creator and his creation is magnificent. Verse 3 tells us he is the great God and king above all. Verses 4-5 tell us that “the depths of the earth”–places that, to this day, humanity has not seen–are “in his hand.” Think about the massive amount of water in the world–over 300 million cubic miles! But God holds them in the palm of his hand, like the splash of water you put in your hand to rinse your mouth after you brush your teeth. That’s how great our God is.

But, that’s not all. The highest peaks of the mountains on earth “belong to him,” as does the sea and all the land on earth. So the first reason we should sing and shout and praise God joyfully is that he is the creator.

After all the noise of worship described in verses 1-5, the song that we call Psalm 95 turns more quiet, more reverent. It invites (again, “Come”) us to “bow down in worship and kneel before the LORD” (v. 6). The reason this time is that God watches over and cares for Israel, “the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” Like a conscientious shepherd, then, God watches over his people, making sure that not one of us is lost for all eternity.

But, we have a responsibility, according to verses 7d-11, which is to “hear his voice.” Jesus told us that the sheep know the shepherds voice and follow him. But what if we tune out God’s voice? What if we refuse to listen and follow our shepherd-Lord? Then we are like Israel during the desert wanderings after their exodus from Egypt. When the song writer referenced Meribah and Massah in verse 8, he was calling our attention to the events of Exodus 17. That’s where the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and God due to the lack of drinking water, so God commanded Moses to strike a rock with his rod and water poured forth. The point of this section is to remind us that God wants good things for us and will provide for us but we must trust him and not complain to him. When we harden our hearts and turn deaf ears to his voice, we show ourselves to be unbelievers, sheep not of God’s flock. Therefore, the rest that God promises will never be ours (v. 11).

If you know the Lord, you will love the Lord. You will want to sing his praises and bow reverently before him. You will listen when he speaks in his word and be eager to follow his commands.

Is that the state of your heart and your life? Or are worship, prayer, scripture reading, and preaching things you’d rather avoid or that you just endure? If it is the latter, you need to be saved.

Listen to the voice of the shepherd-Lord who watches over us. Hear his voice and follow his commands.

Judges 8, Lamentations 2, Romans 14

Read Judges 8, Lamentations 2, and Romans 14. This devotional is about Lamentations 2.

The book of Lamentations records the poetic but mournful outburst of the prophet Jeremiah to the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. All the devastation that God had warned about through Jeremiah happened in his lifetime, before his own eyes.

Jeremiah’s lament described the toll that the Babylonians exacted from Judah. Their pride as God’s people (vv. 1-4), their city and its magnificent temple (vv. 5-9), and the death of many people (vv. 10-22) were all causes for weeping by Jeremiah and the survivors of this battle. But why would God allow such devastation to fall on the people to whom he had promised so much? Of course the answer is their sin and rebellion against him, but Jeremiah speaks of that in a particular way in verse 14: “The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The prophecies they gave you were false and misleading.” It was a lack of truth by those who claimed to be prophets that led to this judgment of God. The key phrase in verse 14 is, “…they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.” If the people had only repented of their sin, they could have received a great deliverance like David’s deliverance over Goliath. But many people did not know how angry the Lord was with them for their sin and those who did (because they heard Jeremiah and other true prophets like him) chose to believe the lies of the false prophets.

So we see in this passage how much damage false teaching can do. It gives false assurance to people who need to repent. It tells people that God loves them and is pleased with them instead of calling them to look to God in faith to find their acceptance in the merits of Christ. We live in an era where enormous masses of people have been assembled into churches, yet there is little hunger for truth there. The message they hear may talk of salvation in Christ, but it is salvation from guilt, from financial hardship, from divorce, from childhood wounds, from addictions, from a meaningless life or whatever. Yes, Christ has the truth for all of these things, but that was not the core message he gave us to proclaim. Our message is not primarily about how to feel better and perform better; it is to bow in reverence and repentance before a holy God, loving him for his perfections, thanking him for his grace and mercy, desiring to become like him in our moral choices and in our attitudes toward others, and hoping for his kingdom over anything this life can deliver.

When people say that God’s judgment will come to America, I wonder what they think that means. Do they think that we will be conquered by some foreign government? If the USA were the “new Israel” then maybe a passage like this one would lend itself to that. But God is not working with nations these days; he’s calling out of the nations a people for himself (Titus 2:14) whom he will bring into his kingdom at his appointed time.

What we should be telling people to fear is not a political or military conquest but the final judgment, where God will punish each person—individually—who did not know him. Our message, then, is geared to do what Jeremiah condemned the false prophets for not doing: “they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.” While preaching against sin is unwelcome and considered unloving in our world, it is what God uses to turn people in faith and repentance to himself.

Deuteronomy 4, Isaiah 63, 1 Corinthians 5

Read Deuteronomy 4, Isaiah 63, 1 Corinthians 5 today.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 4.

In this chapter Moses transitioned from surveying Israel’s recent history to expounding on God’s law. Verses 1-14 form the transitional paragraph. In verse 10, Moses called on the adults who were children at the time to “remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb.” He reminded those who were there how terrifying it was to see the glory of God revealed on that mountain (vv. 11-13) and how God graciously stopped speaking directly to the people and, instead, mediated his word through Moses (v. 14).

In verse 15 Moses used the fact that God did not have a physical form to remind Israel of the fact that the Ten Commandments forbade them from making “for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape…” (v. 16). The rest of that paragraph (vv. 15-31) spelled out what would happen if Israel turned to idolatry. Israel’s history showed the complete fulfillment of what Moses described here.

Then, in verses 32-34, Moses called God’s people to contemplate world history. What God did for Israel, redeeming them as an intact nation from Egypt, was unprecedented. God did this, according to verse 35, to demonstrate the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God…. You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:2-3). Everything God did for Israel was proof that he was the only true God; therefore, according to verse 39, Israel should “acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.”

With these words, Moses reframed the Ten Commandments, which he will repeat in tomorrow’s reading in Deuteronomy 5. But Moses’s point here is that God’s commands were not a burden to Israel; they were gifts from the only being in the universe who knows absolute truth.

If Israel would reverence the Lord for who he is and what he has done, then they could see his commands as a blessing that, when obeyed, produce even greater blessings.

You and I are not Jews. We live under a different covenant. God’s power was not demonstrated to us on a fire-filled mountain; it was demonstrated to us in the resurrection of Jesus. God’s commands to us have many similarities and many differences to Moses’s law and his commands to us come with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Still, like Israel, we are called to believe God and follow him in faith and obedience to receive his blessings.

Does the Christian life seem like a burden to you or a gift? Are God’s commands a crushing load that you don’t want to carry or are they a path of liberation from bondage to sin and its consequences? As believers in Jesus, we are called to obey everything Christ commanded us (Matt 28:20). Since we believe in Jesus, we must also believe that obedience to his word will bring good, not harm, into our lives. So is there anywhere in your life where you are resisting the commands of God? Will you, by faith, submit yourself to the Lordship of Christ and follow him in obedience by faith?