Genesis 43, Job 9, Psalms 17-19

Read Genesis 43, Job 9, and Psalms 17-19.

This devotional is about Psalm 19.

Someone* once said that God has given us two books: Scripture and nature. This is not a perfect analogy, but it is a useful one. Psalm 19 explores these two expressions of God’s revelation. Verses 1-6 describe the book of nature; verses 7-13 describe the book of scripture. Verse 14 gives a benediction to conclude the passage.

First the Psalmist writes about nature (also called “general revelation”). It tells us of the glory of God—what makes him great, unique, magnificent (v. 1a). God’s greatness is revealed by “the heavens” (v. 1a) and the “skies” (v. 1b). They bear witness to the craftsmanship of God. Rather than products of random chance, they speak powerfully of a God who created. Day and night, according to verse 2, they shout to humanity about the existence and magnificent power of God. They do this wordlessly (v. 3) but effectively in a way that testifies to all people, no matter where they reside on earth (v. 4a-b). In verses 4c-6, the Psalmist focused his meditation on the sun. It resides in the sky which God created to be its home (“a tent,” v. 4b) and emerges each day with brilliance and energy, like a man whose wedding day has finally arrived (v. 5a) or a sprinter who is ready to run for the gold medal (v. 5b). The movement of the sun sheds light on the entire earth so that no one is unaware of its existence or deprived of its benefits (v. 6). This testifies to the goodness of God; even those who reject him receive the gracious benefits of his creation. Many have tried to use science to disprove the existence of God but the more we learn about our world and universe, the more we see how finely tuned this world is to support life. All of this testifies to the power and goodness of God, but it does so wordlessly. Since it is wordless, it cannot tell us of God’s holiness, righteousness, justice, grace, etc.

Scripture (also called “special revelation”) is, therefore, more helpful and revelatory for knowing God. It is perfect (v. 7a), trustworthy (v. 7b), right (v. 8a), radiant (v. 8b), “pure” (v 9a), “firm” and “righteous” (v. 9b). These terms are piled up by the Psalmist to emphasize how much greater and more powerful the scriptures are than nature in revealing God. They are also more beneficial to the spiritual life of humanity as indicated in the phrases “refreshing the soul” (v. 7b), “making wise the simple (v, 7d), “giving joy to the heart” (v. 8b) and so on.

While creation is magnificent and draws the heart of the believer to worship, it is not nearly as valuable for our spiritual life as scripture is. That is why the Psalmist says they are “more precious than gold” and “sweeter than honey” (v. 10). Specifically, they warn us about sin and its consequences (v. 11a) while promising blessing to us for obedience (v. 11b). Yet the Psalmist knows that, in our own natural state we are unable to live obediently to God’s perfect, pure, priceless Word. Therefore, we need God’s grace in forgiveness and sanctification (vv. 12-13). He concludes this meditation on divine revelation with a prayer that God would be pleased with it as an act of worship (v. 14).

What an incredible gift the scriptures are to us; they provide everything we need to know God in his personality, character, will, and ways. This is why we read his word daily and why I try each week to explain and apply it to your life. There are many insights that come from studying nature, but the insights that transform lives for eternity come from God’s word alone.

*According to this article it was Francis Bacon. While I agree with the author’s criticism of the “two book” claim, Psalm 19 shows that the concept is a biblical one if the differences between these two revelations are understood.

Deuteronomy 25, Isaiah 52

Today’s OT18 readings are Deuteronomy 25 and Isaiah 52.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 25:4–kind of, but not really.

Lemme explain….

Deuteronomy 25:4 is a very simple command: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” I don’t know anyone who owns an ox. I’m sure I have some friend or acquaintance or friend of a friend who grows grain but I doubt that person uses an ox. So, on its face, this simple command seems to say nothing to any of us. It might be applicable to the Amish, but if you’re Amish, how and why are you reading this devotional online?

Anyway, this command looks like a dead instruction. It looks like a command that was relevant to God’s people for thousands of years but no longer. So, as people of God today, we can safely ignore it.

Right?

Not so fast. Paul quoted this passage in 1 Corinthians 9:9 and also in 1 Timothy 5:18, but 1 Corinthians 9 is the passage where he says the most about it. Here is his quotation of Deuteronomy 25:4 and a few verses of the surrounding context from 1 Corinthians 9:9-10:

9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.

This is an important passage because of what Paul’s handling of it teaches us about how to use scripture.

  • First, note that Paul ascribed the quote to Moses in verse 9a “…it is written in the Law of Moses….” But in verse 9c he attributed the verse to God when he wrote, “Is it about oxen that God is concerned?” This shows us that Paul and Christians in the New Testament believed that Moses’s law was God’s word because whatever Moses said, God said.
  • Second, because it is God’s word, it isn’t just about oxen. Paul argued that point in verse 9c-10b: “Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us….” His argument is that a command of scripture like this one that has a very simple, straightforward meaning and application, still has relevance for people who don’t own oxen or grow grain. That brings us to:
  • Third, the command in verse 4 teaches a principle that applies in many different settings that don’t include oxen. That’s what Paul said in the rest of verse 10: “…this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.” His point is that the ox is working so that the harvest will be valuable and that ox has a right to some of the value for his work.

So the command not to muzzle the ox points to a greater principle: “Don’t take all the value created by the work of everyone for yourself; let the workers have their share.” Paul went on to apply that principle to himself in 1 Corinthians 9 and to elders in the church in 1 Timothy 5:18. His takeaway from Deuteronomy 25:4 was, “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” Note that it begins with “the Lord.” In other words, this isn’t just wise advice, like “measure twice, cut once” that you might learn from watching someone cut a board too short. No, for Paul, his application of Deuteronomy 25:4 WAS God’s word and must be obeyed.

I bring this up in this devotional because it is an important lesson for interpreting the Bible and for living the Christian life. None of the Bible was written TO us directly. There is no letter to the Ypsilantians in any copy of scripture I’ve ever owned. But all of the Bible was written FOR us and, as God’s creation and as his children by faith in Christ, what he wrote through Moses thousands of years ago is authoritative, instructive, important, and applicable to us. Our job is to interpret what he said carefully, to discern the larger principle taught in any scripture, then to apply it to our lives and live it.

This is what I’m trying to do in these daily devotionals. I hope it helps you to know God’s word better, live it more consistently, and learn how to interpret and apply it for yourself.

Numbers 9, Song of Songs 7, Psalm 119:73-96

Read Numbers 9, Song of Songs 7, Psalm 119:73-96.

This devotional is about Psalm 119:73-96.

This Psalm is a long acrostic poem. Each stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in alphabetical order. It is also a love poem for God’s word. The Psalmist writes in every stanza words of praise and thanks to God for giving his law to Israel. He also claims throughout to love and live by God’s laws.

Like most Psalms, this songwriter had problems in life. Some of those problems, he felt, were afflictions from God (v. 75b). Others were persecutions (v. 84b) brought on by others. Or, perhaps, he had one major problem which he saw from two perspectives–(1) the persecutions of men (2) allowed by God’s sovereignty to afflict him for his own discipline and growth. Regardless, the Psalmist never claimed that his love for God’s word or his obedience to it gave him a trouble-free life. Instead, he found through his delight in God’s laws encouragement (v. 81b), comfort (v. 76) a basis for companionship with other godly people (v. 74, 79), guidance on how to live (v. 89, 93), and understanding about what is righteous and unrighteous in God’s sight (v. 85). Having benefited in all these ways from God’s word, he pleaded with God to rescue him according to the promises he’d read in God’s word (vv. 76b, 94) and to keep his heart faithful to obey God’s word (v. 80).

Scripture and prayer are God’s primary ways to minister grace to us while we live in this world and wait to be with Christ. We stray into sin when we stop looking for God’s help through prayer or stop looking to his word for our growth, guidance, and hope. It is possible–I know because I’ve done it–to be in God’s word each day and still have one’s heart grow cold to God’s word. This is why we should follow the Psalmist’s example and pray for God’s help to have insight to apply God’s word (v. 73), to think about God’s word (v. 95b), and to be tender to our own sinfulness so that we can be corrected by God’s word (v. 80).

I would encourage you to pray before reading these devotionals, before we worship together on Sunday, and anytime you are going to hear God’s word. Ask God to convict you, to give you insight into yourself, to give you understanding about what to do with his word once you understand it, and to give you courage to believe and obey it. This will help you keep from growing cold to the Lord and his truth.

Exodus 29, Proverbs 5, Psalm 77

Today’s readings are Exodus 29, Proverbs 5, and Psalm 77.

This devotional is about Psalm 77.

Sleepless nights are a fact of life for most adults. Some have them frequently, others rarely, but all of have times when we are too worried or wounded or whatever to sleep. The songwriter here in Psalm 77 described one of those times in the opening stanzas of this song. Verse 2 says, “at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted” while verse 4 says, “You kept my eyes from closing.”

God’s word has taught us believers to seek the Lord in those moments when we can’t sleep and the Psalmist did that in this song (vv. 1-3a). When he ran out of ways to ask for God’s help, he turned his mind to the ways God had revealed his power in the past. Verse 5 says, “I thought about the former days, the years of long ago, and verse 10 says, “Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.’” Which miracles, you ask? Verses 15-20 describe the miracles God used to deliver Israel from the Egyptians through Moses and Aaron. When. this songwriter lived, those miracles had happened hundreds of years before. They were not memories he conjured up from his personal experiences in the past; they were acts of God that he had read about in the books of the Law and heard taught in the tabernacle. Recalling these gracious works of God historically gave Asaph confidence to trust God for his need. In verse 13, the author wrote, “Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” Notice that all these verbs are in the present tense–you are holy, you are the God who performs miracles, etc. Because God had worked the past, the author was confident he would work in this situation.

When you can’t sleep at night, cry out to the Lord for help, then think about all he has done in the past that is recorded in the scriptures. Let their words give you confidence in God’s power for your life.

Life is a Farm

Soybean farming
Soybean farming on organic agricultural plantation

…the law of the farm, remind[s] us that if we sow corn, we’ll reap corn. If we sow soy beans, we’ll reap soy beans. Similarly, in our spiritual life, we will reap what we sow.

We have the help and power of the Spirit of God. He leads us away from a sinful life and develops in us the fruit of the Spirit (5:16-26). But these results are not automatic. As believers we have the power and leadership of the spirit to become holy but those things are activated in our lives by obedience to Christ and his word.

When we disobey God’s word, we are sowing sinful seeds in our life and, if they are not uprooted, they will produce what sin produces—pain, death, destruction (v. 8a). When we obey God’s word we are sowing spiritual seeds in our life and those seeds will produce what the Spirit produces—eternal life (v. 8).

–Pastor Brian Jones (aka Daily PBJ)

This is an excerpt from my daily devotional, 27in52. You can read the whole devotional here: https://pastorbrianjones.com/2020/05/11/galatians-6/

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