1 Chronicles 23, Malachi 1, 1 John 5

Read 1 Chronicles 23, Malachi 1, and 1 John 5.

This devotional is about Malachi 1.

The final book of the Old Testament has a pattern of writing that is distinct from any other book in the Bible. Malachi’s pattern of prophecy is:

  • God makes a statement (v. 2a, 6a-d)
  • God’s people question the statement (v. 2b, 6e)
  • God gives more explanation or support for the statement (vv. 3-5, 7-14).

Two topics are addressed here in Malachi 1 using that pattern. They are;

  • God’s love for Israel (vv. 2-5).
  • Israel’s dishonoring of God through blemished sacrifices (vv. 6-14).

The first topic, God’s love for Israel, is one that Israel may have questioned throughout the Old Testament era. God’s people experienced many setbacks and even captivity, so they may have questioned God’s love literally, not just through the literary conventions of verse 2b. How could God love a nation that faced so much military defeat for so long?

God’s answer is not to point many specific instances of his love but to contrast the outcome of Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, with the Israelites (vv. 3-5). Israel suffered defeats; no doubt about it. But Edom was about to be destroyed completely in God’s wrath while Israel had returned to their land after the exile. God’s love, then, was demonstrated by being faithful to his covenant with Israel even when they were faithless at hime). 

Life’s problems and negative circumstances can make us struggle to believe that God loves us. Malachi’s answer to that struggle is not to minimize the problems Israel had but to point them back to their own existence. God saved them and preserved them in ways he has not done for any other nation. This is the most powerful proof of God’s love that could exist.

When you and I wonder if God loves us, we need to take our eyes off our circumstances and remember how Christ saved us from our sins. He not only died for our sins but, before that, he chose you to receive that salvation through election. Then, on the day of his choosing, you heard the gospel message and the light of spiritual life turned on in your heart. It caused you to turn to Christ and gratefully receive salvation. All of this happened because God loves you.

In this life you will have problems, setbacks, struggles, and heartaches. God’s love does not spare us from these things. God’s love saves us from eternal destruction. That is much more loving than making sure your car always starts or that you always have more money in your bank account than you will ever need.

So, when you question God’s love for you, return again to the doctrines of salvation. Your salvation is the greatest evidence you’ll ever get of God’s love for you. Don’t forget it; remember it and thank God for it.

2 Kings 13, Micah 6, John 7

Read 2 Kings 13, Micah 6, and John 7.

This devotional is about Micah 6.

I was named (unjustly) in a lawsuit once in my life. The suit was withdrawn a few days later after the two main parties worked out a deal. Those few days when I thought I was getting sued were stressful, especially because the plaintiff suing us was a lawyer.

If you’ve ever been sued or even been on a jury or served as a witness, you know how stressful lawsuits can be. But imagine being sued by the Lord! That’s what’s happening here in Micah 6. This is a covenant lawsuit brought by God against his people. Verse 1 commanded Micah to initiate the lawsuit with the mountains serving as the jury. The earth was created before humanity was, so the mountains were personified in this chapter as witnesses to all that the Lord had done for his people (v. 2).

In verse 3 God asked the people of Israel why they have broken faith with him. The question in the second line, “How have I burdened you?” is an interesting one. It assumes that God’s people looked on his laws as burdensome and felt that serving him was difficult. God responded in verse 4a-b by reminding them that he relieved them of a true burden–the burden of slavery in Egypt. He also reviewed how he sent them leadership in Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (v. 4c-d). Then he told them again how protected them from the oracles of Balaam (v. 5a-c) and in their journey to the promised land (v. 5).

Israel responded in verses 6-7 like a defendant would in a lawsuit. The implied question of these verses is, “Okay, Lord; how much do you want to settle this out of court?” The offer kept escalating. Verse 7 says, “How about thousands of rams? No? Ok, how about 10,000 rivers of oil (v. 7b)? Not good enough? OK, then how about a human sacrifice (v. 7c-d)?”  

Verse 8 responds that the Lord wants a few basic things from his people; namely

  • justice
  • mercy and 
  • to walk with God. 

Justice is about doing what is right and fair to others regardless of whether they are rich or poor, family or enemy. Mercy is about showing kindness to people who deserve justice but are repentant. It also means showing kindness to people in need even though you don’t have any legal or family obligation to them. Walking with God means loving him, worshipping him daily, and following in his ways.

The concepts outlined in Micah 6:8 are easy; living them out daily is hard. It is hard because of our sin nature; we like to favor people we like or people who can help us. We like to punish people who have mistreated us even if they are repentant. We also like to, sometimes, ignore people in need. Finally, walking with God is tough because we are, naturally speaking, enemies of God because of our sin nature.

This passage, then, describes the absolute need we all have for God to save us. We can’t save ourselves; we are guilty and unable to give our way out of the guilt. In Christ, however, we have both the forgiveness of sins that the gifts described in verse 7 could never buy for us and the ability now to walk with God by faith and to do justice and show mercy.

2 Kings 6, Jonah 4, John 3

Read 2 Kings 6, Jonah 4, and John 3.

This devotional is about Jonah 4.

Have you ever allowed someone to talk you into doing something you really didn’t want to do? My guess is that most of us have. We all are reluctant to do certain things. Either we don’t want to do the activity itself or we are unsure, skeptical even, if the activity will be fun or productive or helpful or produce whatever result it promises.

We also may be reluctant because we see real risks. We’ve all had that sinking feeling that happens when we are reluctant to do something, do it anyway, then see that the very thing we feared is happening.

Jonah could relate. The people of Nineveh were wicked people, which is why Jonah hated them and resisted coming to preach to them in the first place back in Jonah 1. When he did reluctantly arrive in Ninevah, Jonah came preaching God’s judgment and offering no grace, as we saw yesterday.

Jonah did not want to preach to Nineveh because they were cruel to people they conquered and captured in war. Maybe some of Jonah’s friends or relatives had been tortured by them or maybe he’d just heard enough reports to know how violent they were. Regardless of the specific reasons why, Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. He did not want to preach to the people who lived in Nineveh. He did not want to see them respond well to his message. He did not want the king to repent in sackcloth and sit in dirt as he did in Jonah 3:6. Jonah was willing to die—“throw me into the sea“ (1:12)—rather than preach to the people of Nineveh. But God, in his inimitable way, changed Jonah’s mind and persuaded him to go to Nineveh–against his will–and speak against their sins.

Our reading today tells us why Jonah did what he did in chapter 1 and chapter 3. He went the opposite direction from Nineveh in chapter 1 and preached judgment without grace in chapter 3 because he was afraid the Lord would forgive the Assyrians of Nineveh: “He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity’” (v. 2). In our language, Jonah was saying, “I knew it! I knew this would happen!” If you’ve ever regretted letting someone talk you into something, you know the feeling. But in Jonah’s case, it was the positive result that he feared. He did not want to preach to the people of Nineveh lest they repent and avoid God’s judgment. When exactly what he feared happened, his hatred for the Assyrian people turned into anger at God himself.

God dealt with Jonah by confronting his anger (v. 4, 9). He asked Jonah whether he had any right to be angry in verse 4. Jonah ignored God’s question and went outside the city to see if God’s judgment would fall on them despite their repentance (v. 5a). God was gracious to Jonah, giving him a plant to provide him shade (v. 5b-6). Then God took away the shade (v. 7) and turned up the heat (literally) on Jonah (v. 8). The shade and the heat were an object lesson about God’s grace. Jonah didn’t deserve or earn the shade, so he had no reason to be proud when he had the shade or angry when it was taken away.

After this object lesson, God asked Jonah again if he was angry (v. 9a); this time he got the answer–of course I’m angry (v. 9b). God then used this object lesson to show how self-centered Jonah was. He was concerned about the plant, but not about the vast number of children (“who cannot tell their right hand from their left”) and animals who would be lost if Nineveh were destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah style.

Verse 11 of our passage is the point of this entire book of Jonah. It was written to bring us face to face with our own poor priorities. We care passionately about things that do not matter at all and can be indifferent (or worse) toward people. This happens when we stop seeing people for what they are–eternal souls made in the image of God but bound as we once were by sin natures that distort everything.

When we start to think of people not as individuals but as groups–atheists, Scientologists, Hindus, or whatever–we might lose sight of the fact that they are people. People have strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, beliefs and doubts, parents and children. Generation after generation can be lost to the gospel if we assume that entire groups of people won’t listen to us, don’t care about God, are too proud to repent, or too sinful to desire forgiveness.

We notice when the comforts of life are gone and we regret their loss just as Jonah regretting losing his shade. But do we ever consider the eternal destiny of people in groups, especially people in groups we are inclined to dislike and avoid?

May God give us greater compassion for people and less dislike for people in groups we fear or dislike.

2 Kings 5, Jonah 3, John 2

Read 2 Kings 5, Jonah 3, and John 2.

This devotional is about Jonah 3.

Jonah’s message to Ninevah was simple: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” There is no call to repentance and no offer of grace to the repentant, for reasons we’ll see tomorrow.

Yet the people did repent, including the king of Ninevah (vv. 5-6). The king even issued a decree and explained why he called for repentance: “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (v. 9). And that’s exactly what happened: “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.” 

I have a couple of thoughts about all of this. First, don’t worry so much about having the perfect presentation when you give the gospel message or explain God’s truth to someone else. By all means do the best that you can, but understand that it is not your perfect presentation or your persuasive ability that will matter. If it is God’s message, God will use it to do his work. Just be faithful to what God has told us to say.

Second, repentance is always implied in any message of judgment God gives. The major and minor prophets (Isaiah-Malachi) exist is because God wanted to call his people to repentance. Though his words to them were direct, even harsh at times, they were designed to redeem people, not injure them emotionally.

Keep this in mind when the Holy Spirit brings painful conviction into your life or a friend (or even an enemy) brings an ugly confrontation to your door. If you receive truth and repent at the message, God’s forgiving and restoring grace is right there to meet you. 

2 Kings 3, Jonah 1, Jude

Read 2 Kings 3, Jonah 1, and Jude.

This devotional is about Jonah 1.

Some of the Lord’s prophets drew difficult assignments. Hosea, for instance, was told to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him. Jeremiah did time in prison and in a pit for his prophecies. Ezekiel lost his wife in death so that the Lord could prove a point. Elijah was targeted for death by Jezebel, a stone-cold killer.

But none of them ran away from the Lord’s will like Jonah did.

Why? Was he rebellious or weaker spiritually than these other men or is there more going on?

The answer lies in the second verse of our passage: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it” but it takes some historical knowledge to understand the significance of the Lord’s command here. Ninevah was the capital city of Assyria, the nation that would conquer the Northern Kingdom of Israel and cause a lot of problems for Judah as well. The Assyrians were known for their extreme cruelty to their enemies. They didn’t just conquer a kingdom, killing that kingdom’s soldiers as part of the battle; they tortured some of the people that they captured with cold-hearted brutality.

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh because he hated the Assyrians. There was almost certainly an element of fear in his heart toward them as well but, as we’ll see in the chapters ahead, it was hatred primarily that motivated Jonah to run away from God’s will.

Jonah’s story calls us to reflect on our own attitudes toward others. Do we hate atheists? Liberals? Muslims? Immigrants?

Are some of our political positions motivated by a desire to punish people we perceive as enemies or exclude them from any blessings at all? If you love the Lord, you know that love exists in you only by his grace. It was not your wisdom, your morality, or your innate spirituality that brought you to Christ; it was his love, his grace and mercy that changed your cold heart (and mine) to embrace his lordship and receive his salvation.

Do you love the Lord enough to pray and seek for others–even those who might be your enemy–to find that love and mercy too?

1 Kings 13, Joel 2, 1 Peter 1

Read 1 Kings 13, Joel 2, 1 Peter 1.

This devotional is about Joel 2.

The locust plague described in Joel 1 was a devastation brought by literal locusts.

Here in chapter 2, however, many commentators see Joel using the locust plague of chapter 1 as a metaphor for the invasion of the Babylonian army upon Judah.

After describing how horrible the invasion of the Babylonians will be (vv. 1-11), Joel urged his people to repent in verses 12-17. Verse 12 holds out the promise again that genuine repentance was still possible even with the Babylonian threat so close at hand. Verse 13 described the repentance God was seeking: “rend your heart and not your garments.”

It was not the symbol of repentance such as tearing their clothes or some other outward work that God wanted. Instead, God wanted a broken-hearted repentance, a complete turning away from the idolatry that was so common in Judah and a “return to the Lord your God” (v. 13). That was the way to avoid the judgment of God that the Babylonians would bring.

Verse 13 also described the reason to return to God: “for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

We have read so much in the prophets about the promise of judgment and the delivery of that promise to Israel and then to Judah. It is easy to conclude, from those prophesies, that God is difficult, hard to please, and unreasonable toward his people.

The truth is just the opposite: God wanted nothing more than to be reconciled to his people. The judgment they experienced was due to their absolute refusal to be reconciled to him.

Although Judah did fall to the Babylonians, verses 18-32 hold out a promise of much greater hope. God would allow his people to be punished, but eventually he would bless his people with abundance (vv. 18-27) and with the power of the Holy Spirit (vv. 28-32).

The Lord began keeping this promise on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-21) but the consummation is still to come. While we wait for Christ to return and finish fulfilling the promises, the promise for today is, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved….” This is why we are still here and why the Lord has not returned. God is being reconciled to people as the Holy Spirit brings true conviction of sin and repentance and people put faith in Jesus Christ.

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. 

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.

1 Samuel 26, Ezekiel 36, Mark 2

Read 1 Samuel 26, Ezekiel 36, and Mark 2.

This devotional is about Mark 2.

Who is most deserving of the chance to hear the gospel?

You and I both know the right answer to the question, “Who deserves to be saved?” The right answer is “nobody” because we’re all sinful and guilty before a holy God.

But who among us guilty sinners most deserves to hear the gospel message? If not everyone on earth can receive the gospel witness in his or her lifetime, then who should we evangelize first?

Jesus answered that question here in Mark 2:17 when he said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” This statement of Jesus was in response to the Pharisees’ criticism that Jesus ate with “tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus explained that these sinners received his attention because they needed it the most.

At this point in his ministry, a disinterested observer might argue that Jesus should have spent his time with the Pharisees because they had already demonstrated a clear interest in spiritual things. The sinners he chose to be with, by contrast, had turned away from God’s word. They had heard it in their homes and synagogues growing up but had chosen to live a different kind of life. For these reasons, the Pharisees would appear to have been a more receptive audience to Jesus than the tax collectors and other sinners.

But the key word in that last sentence is “appear.”

The Pharisees were all about appearances and their spiritual interests were about appearing righteous before others, not really becoming righteous. Sinners, by contrast, had the appearance of righteousness ripped from them when they sold out to become tax collectors, or thieves, or prostitutes, or whatever. The benefits they had received at first from their sinful lifestyles were diminishing when Jesus came into their lives and they were now experiencing the heavy costs of a sinful lifestyle. In a society as judgmental and rigid as theirs, it would be impossible to reverse course, stop collecting taxes, and become a respectable man again. These companions of Jesus–these sinners–were ripe for the grace-filled message of repentance and faith. That’s why Jesus wanted to be with them.

Who then is most deserving of the chance to hear the gospel? Well…, all sinners need it, of course, so we shouldn’t be picky when opportunity comes along.

When we intentionally try to reach someone, however, we should think like Jesus did. So many churches have started in our area recently. How many of them are seeking to reach the poorest areas of Ypsilanti. How many are attempting to reach the working class family that is out of work or the single mother on welfare? How many of them are reaching out to the many Muslims who have moved into our area? How many have created prison ministries or outreaches to addicts?

How about our church? Literally surrounded by corn, we are a church located where the suburbs and the farms meet. That’s where God put us so we should try to reach those around us.

We have poor people around us, too, that we serve through our food pantry. There are addicts and alcoholics in every place–urban, suburban, and rural–so we have those around, too. Have we done as Jesus did and looked for people who may be ready to hear about true hope in Christ?

1 Samuel 17, Ezekiel 28, Psalms 102-104

Read 1 Samuel 17, Ezekiel 28, Psalms 102-104.

This devotional is about Psalm 102.

The superscript to this Psalm, “A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord,” describes verses 1-11 very well. The person who penned this prayer cried out for the Lord’s help (vv. 1-2), then described what his current life felt like in verses 3-11. In verse 10 the phrase, “because of your great wrath,” coupled with verse 16 seems to indicate that the songwriter was writing in response to the Babylonian captivity. He is distressed, then, because God’s judgment has fallen on Judah. Although it was a national event, it affected the Psalmist in a deeply personal way. He was emotionally devastated when he considered his circumstances.

In verse 12, however, he turned his prayer from describing his circumstances to describing God. Despite what had happened, he was confident that God was still ruling the universe securely from his throne (vv. 12, 15) and that he would be merciful and restore the nation (vv. 13-20). Someday, God would be glorified in the land among his people again (vv. 21-22).

The beginning of that restoration was 70 years away, however, and would probably be outside the remaining lifetime of this writer. What hope, then, could he have?

Verse 23-28 answer that question. The Psalmist would not live to see the promises he wrote about in verses 13-22 but he still had hope. His hope was in eternity. Verse 26 told us that this world would come to an end but that would not be the end of God’s people. In verse 28 he wrote,

“The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.” – Psalm 102:28

Given that those words came after the Psalmist described the end of heaven and earth, it seems clear that he is describing eternity with God.

Life in this world can be disappointing, even devastating, but this is not the only reality that exist. When we hope in God and believe his promises by faith, we can be confident that a perfect future awaits us in eternity. Let this hope encourage you today no matter what you’re dealing with now or what may happen today. God is still ruling and when this age is over, we will live eternally in his presence.

Judges 11:12-40, Lamentations 5, Psalms 90-92

Read Judges 11:12-40, Lamentations 5, Psalms 90-92.

This devotional is about Psalm 91.

This beautiful song begins with a universal claim: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” The “shelter of the Most High” refers to the tabernacle. This phrase is a poetic way of expressing a person’s deep desire for God. When someone wanted to know God so much that he spent every possible moment in the place where God’s presence was promised, that person, according to verse 1, would be protected by God (“shadow of the Almighty”).

Verse 2 moves from the universal to the specific: “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” In other words, verse 1 promised God’s protecting shadow over anyone who delights in God so the author (probably David) stated his intention in verse 2 to look to God for the refuge offered in verse 1.

And what kind of refuge did God offer? Refuge:

  • from someone trying to capture the author according to verse 3a (“the fowler’s snare”) and
  • from fatal disease according to v 3b (“pestilence”).

God gave refuge like a mother bird gives to her young (v. 4), refuge from fear of being captured or killed overnight (v. 5a) or from military attacks by day (v. 5b:).

God gave refuge from disease whether at night (v. 6a) or at noon (v. 6b). In the heat of battle, when men were dying all around, the Psalmist believed that God would protect the one who trusts him (v. 7) and would punish those who deserve it (v. 8).

The Psalmist had two reasons for his confidence in God’s protection. The first reason was God’s angelic protection for those who trust in the Lord (vv. 9-13). The second reason for his confidence was that God would answer the prayers for help of those who love him (vv. 14-15).

The result of all this protection will be a long life on this earth (v. 16a) and salvation when this life is over (v. 16b).

What a comforting song; yet, the author of this Psalm died eventually and we know that bad things do happen to godly people. So what do we make of the author’s confidence?

First, the promises of this Psalm are for David and the kings that follow in his line. This fact is indicated in verses 11-12 which Satan quoted to Jesus as he was tempted. Unlike what we are often told, Satan did not quote this passage out of context. He understood that it was God’s promise to David that insured a king in David’s line would receive God’s special protection because of the covenant God made to David.

Secondly, based on God’s covenant with David, the king could be certain that nothing would happen to him until he had fulfilled the mission God gave him to do. Although he may fight in many battles, even losing some (v. 7), God promised to watch over the leader’s life until that leader’s work in this life was completed. Verse 16 promised “long life,” not the absolute avoidance of death. The promise, then, is that the Davidic king who loved God and put his hope in God did not need to fear premature death either by war or disease. God’s protection would be on his life until he finished what God gave him to do.

While the promise in this passage applied first to David and to the heirs of the covenant God made with David, I believe this Psalm also comforts us with a principle we can count on: we are invincible on this earth until we have completed God’s work if we trust in the Lord and seek him habitually. While some godly people die younger than we would expect, that does not happen due to some random event outside of God’s will. Instead, those who fear the Lord and seek to live for him generally live a long life on this earth (v. 16a). When someone dies “prematurely,” it is because God had another plan for them.

Finally, when the time comes to die, God’s promises to “show him my salvation” when we trust in him (v. 16b). This is a reference to the deliverance believers receive after death.

In our moments of night time fear (v 5a, 6a) and daytime threats (v. 3, 7), the only hope we have is in the promises and mercy of God. Though Christ fulfilled God’s promise in this passage as the Messiah, the final Davidic king, the invitation is still universal: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High…” (v. 1). This applies to us: When we make the Lord our love (v. 1a, 14a) and look to him for protection from all the threats around us, we are indestructible until God says it is time for us to go.

Whatever you fear today, remember that the Lord is watching over you and that, even if the worst happens, you still have the promise of God that God will “show him my salvation.” That means you will be rescued from these dangers, ultimately, in eternity.

Judges 5, Jeremiah 51, Romans 11

Read Judges 5, Jeremiah 51, and Romans 11.

This devotional is about Romans 11.

Romans 10 discussed the fact that many Israelites rejected the good news about Christ but, today in chapter 11, Paul was quick to address the fact that not all Jews were in unbelief (v. 1). In verses 2-10, he reminded us that the Jewish people lived in unbelief and rebellion against God for most of their history. So the idea that only some of God’s chosen people were actually chosen to have faith in him is not something new. It is how God has always worked, saving a “remnant” who trusted him from the heart (vv. 5-6).

But why did Israel reject Jesus when he came in human flesh? Wasn’t God’s promise that Messiah would rule over all Israel? Yes, that was the promise and it will still happen (v.26). The reason it didn’t happen with Jesus’ first coming, however, was God’s desire to save us Gentiles (vv. 11-25). God will still redeem Israel, just as he promised, but not “until the full number of Gentiles has come in” (v. 25b).

This is all an expression of God’s mercy (v. 32). He hardened Israel, for a time, so that he would save us. The power of this grace overwhelmed Paul in verses 33-36. It caused him to remark on the greatness of God’s wisdom (v. 33a) and how his wisdom is beyond human comprehension (vv. 34-36).

Is this how you respond to doctrines that are hard to understand? Does the doctrine of election or of the Trinity lift your spirit to worship the immense wisdom of God? Or, does it cause you to question and even deny those doctrines because they are hard for us to understand?

God is all-wise and all-knowing so are we really surprised that he does things we find hard to understand? If everything about God were simple and made perfect sense to limited, fallible people like us, then we should be concerned. So let the difficult doctrines of scripture, the ones you find hard to understand or to accept as true, cause you to look to God in awe. His judgments are “unsearchable… and his paths beyond tracing out!”