2 Samuel 13, Daniel 3, Mark 13

Read 2 Samuel 13, Daniel 3, and Mark 13.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 13.

I wonder what family life looked like for David?

Whatever it looked like, it certainly did not resemble the lives of most other families in his kingdom. He was married to multiple women who bore him multiple children. By contrast, most Israelite marriages were monogamous. The few men who had more than one wife probably only had two wives and all of them lived in small homes. There was very little privacy and very little free time because everyone in the household had multiple jobs to do in order to provide for the entire family. David’s family, by contrast, lived in a sprawling palace and had everything provided for them.

The boys in David’s household almost certainly had a distorted view of women and the relationship that men had to women. For all his virtues, the fact that David had so many wives and still committed adultery indicates that his view of women was very narrow.

Maybe this is why his son Amnon treated Tamar the way he did in this chapter. Verse 1 says that he “fell in love” with her. Does this indicate that he was merely obsessed with her as a sex object? Possibly, but it also might mean that he had a narrow, deficient view of what love is and what a male-female relationship was about.

Regardless, his intentions toward Tamar were entirely sexual. Verse 2 tells us that her virginity made it “impossible for him to do anything to her.” He was not troubled that they could not marry because they were siblings. Since she was his sister, he could have talked with her and spent time with her without anyone thinking it was inappropriate. When he finally did get her alone in his room, thanks to the devious engineering of Jonadab, he did not pour out his heart to her, pledging his undying love to her.

No, he told her that he wanted to have sex with her (v. 11). When she did not cooperate, he raped her, but then “he hated her” (v. 15). I’ve always wondered why his attraction turned to antipathy so quickly. Maybe his fantasies all assumed she be just as hot for him as he was for her. Since she resisted instead of reciprocating, the whole illusion of a passionate relationship with her was now ruined for him.

As sad as this story is, David’s responses made it all so much worse. Verse 21 says that David “was furious.”

That’s it.

There is no mention of David rebuking Amnon, much less executing judgment on him for his act. There is no suggestion that David tried to console his daughter and, by not bringing her attacker to justice, he diminished her value as a person.

No wonder she was so devastated: Her innocence was forcibly taken from her. Her ability to marry was taken from her because men wanted only virgins as their wives. And, to make it all worse, her father got mad but did nothing.

Although Absalom cared for his sister and took up her cause in ways her father should have but didn’t, his approach was sinful. The right thing for Absalom to do was to become David’s conscience on behalf of Tamar. He should have vigorously lobbied David to do what was righteous and just for Tamar. Instead, Absalom sought and got revenge.

In response to this, David sinned again. Although he mourned the death of Amnon (vv. 36-37), he got over it and wanted to normalize his relationship with Absalom quickly (v. 39).

The problem David demonstrated in this passage was passivity in his family. Instead of showing leadership and doing what was right when one family member sinned against another, David emoted then did not act for justice and reconciliation.

I think family life, for some reason, is susceptible to this. It seems easy to just assume (hope?) that family members will get over it when they are abused or taken advantage of by their siblings. I feel this in my own life as a husband and father. It is easier for me to act, to know and do the right thing as an elder in our church than it is to know and do the right thing as a father.

But that’s no excuse to allow sin to go unaddressed, to allow problems to be left alone, hoping they go away. Godly leadership calls us to run toward issues, not away from them.

May God give us wisdom and courage to show this godly leadership; maybe that will rub off on our kids rather than a poor view of the opposite sex.

Numbers 15, Isaiah 39, Galatians 6

Read Numbers 15, Isaiah 39, and Galatians 6.

This devotional is about Numbers 15:37-41.

In these final verses of Numbers 15, God commanded the people of Israel to sew tassels to the corners of their garments. His command was for the people do this “Throughout the generations to come.” In other words, this is not a temporary, situational command but a lasting marker for the people of God.

But these tassels were not ornamental like the little rivets on your jeans are. Numbers 15:39-40 describes the purpose of these tassels: “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.”

These tassels, in other words, were there to remind Israel not to sin, particularly in the realm of sexual sins. At the very point of removing their garments, the tassels should have reminded them of God’s commands and that their covenants in marriage were made before God. It was one last emergency brake before two of God’s people committed immorality. I wonder how many sins were stopped and marriages were saved by this simple reminder?

Of course, if someone doesn’t care about God, or really wants to sin, or has never read in God’s law what the purpose of those tassels was, the tassels will do no good. Rules and regulations can be safeguards to those who desire holiness and obedience but tassels are mere hassles to us when we decide to sin.

And we all sin in some way. Maybe we’ve never taken off our clothes to commit adultery, but there isn’t one of us who hasn’t ignored the voice of our conscience, a clear command of scripture, or some other safeguard that could have kept us from sinning.

Thankfully, God is merciful to those who call on him in faith seeking forgiveness. If this devotional reminds you of a specific sin you’ve committed, now is the time to change your mind. Seek God’s forgiveness and then seek to return to obedience to the Lord. It may require some painful conversations to make amends but God promises his mercy to those who confess and forsake their sins.

Leviticus 8, Isaiah 3-4, Luke 23

Read Leviticus 8, Isaiah 3-4, and Luke 23.

This devotional is about Isaiah 3-4.

Like all of God’s prophets, Isaiah’s job was to speak out about the sins among his people, call them to repentance, and warn about God’s coming judgment if they do not repent. This is exactly what we read about today in Isaiah 3-4.

In other prophesies of judgment, idolatry is the main issue God addressed followed by the exploitation of others. There is plenty about the exploitation of others in this chapter (vv. 5, 12, 15) but nothing about idolatry.

Instead, the most specific sin addressed in this chapter is the seductive actions of women in those days (3:16-4:1). Verse 16 described their “outstretched necks,” which may refer to how they looked around to see if they had been noticed. If they did get a man’s attention they looked at him flirtatiously (v. 16d), and walked in ways that drew attention to the lower half of their bodies (v. 16e-f).

God’s judgment would remove all the things that accentuated their beauty (3:18-23). He would replace these items with things that humiliated, rather than accentuated (3:24). The men whose attention they worked so hard to get would become scarce because they would die in battle (3:25-26). It would get so bad that women would drastically outnumber men and would promise to provide for themselves if only one of the few men left would marry them (4:1).

The situation described in these verses is very different from the times we live in but there are some parallels. Young women today seem to prefer athletic wear to “fine clothing” (vv. 18, 24) so the apparel is different. Though women may prefer yoga pants and tank tops, those outfits can be tight and revealing. That makes it hard to look away from if you are a man.

Likewise, men today have not been exterminated in battle as the men of Israel and Judah were, but many men today are absent from life for other reasons. Too busy playing video games and living in mom’s basement, many young men never learn a trade or skill or earn a college degree. Young women go to college and get good jobs but have a hard time finding a good man to marry. I’ve met some women who willingly pay the rent and provide for the food (similar to 4:1) so that a guy can move in with her to keep her company while he continues to be jobless and unproductive.

While some of the specific manifestations of sin have changed, we live in a culture where many women choose immodesty and make moral compromises in order get the attention of men. As God looks at our sinful culture, he could say to men and women in our world, “It is you who have ruined my vineyard” (3:14c). In our world, “the elders and leaders of the people” would be entertainers and educators. Entertainers change what is acceptable for women and men to wear and do through the stories they tell and the looks they cultivate. Educators change what is acceptable in culture by shaming men for being masculine and encouraging women to be forward, aggressive, and sexual.

Not one of us can change an entire culture and this passage does not suggest that we seize the levers of government to make women and men act differently. Instead, the lesson for us is that “The LORD,,, rises to judge the people” (v. 13). The way you live, the look you cultivate, and the way you interact with the opposite sex may be acceptable in our world but that does not mean that it is pleasing in the eyes of God.

The lesson here, then, is to change yourself. Be modest in the way you dress and look, women, and raise your daughters to be modest and to trust God’s provision rather than seeking a man’s attention any way you can get it.

Men, take responsibility for your life. Find your place in society instead of letting “women rule” (3:12). Watch where your eyes go when you’re around other women and be faithful to the wife God gives you.

God will judge our society for the ungodly way people live. Christ offers the only way of escape–both from the judgment to come and from the sinful lifestyles that are accepted. As his followers, let’s live the way he calls and commands us to live even in a world that is ungodly.

Exodus 20, Job 38, Proverbs 7

Read Exodus 20, Job 38, and Proverbs 7.

This devotional is about Proverbs 7.

Proverbs 5 was entirely about sexual sin; Proverbs 6:20-35 discussed that subject again, and here we are in Proverbs 7 reading another whole chapter about adultery.

This time the focus is on the person who is unprepared for temptation to adultery. Verse 7 said that he was “among the simple… a youth who had no sense.” Verse 8 told us that he was “going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house.” Those phrases suggest, maybe, that he was curious; so does verse 25: “Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths.” He’d seen this woman before and found her attractive so he went near her place to see if he might by chance walk by her and get a better look. The tone of this chapter implies that he did not expect anything to happen.

But she expected something to happen. Verses 10-20 described her approach to this sin. She “seduced him” with “persuasive words” (v. 21).

Although Solomon described the price he paid for his adultery (vv. 22-23, 26-27), the focus of this chapter is on preparing yourself to be tempted without sinning. This is done by fortifying your mind and heart against temptation (vv. 1-5, 24) and being ready to say no when the temptation comes.

Are you flirting with sexual sin? Are you drawn to someone at work, in your neighborhood, or somewhere else? Like the young man in our story, you may be unprepared for temptation. A wise person will understand just how much temptation is available out there and how deceitful our hearts are, so listen to the warnings in this chapter. Learn how to spot the signs of someone who wants to sin with you, then put that person at arm’s length at all times. This will help you resist temptation when it arrives in your life.

Exodus 13, Job 31, Proverbs 6:20-35

Read Exodus 13, Job 31, and Proverbs 6:20-35.

This devotional is about Proverbs 6:20-35.

Proverbs 5 was devoted entirely to warning us against the sin of adultery. Here in 6:20-35, Solomon revisited that subject.

In Proverbs 5:16-22 Solomon advised us to protect against adultery by prioritizing and enjoying sex within your marriage. That instruction came at the end of the teaching on adultery.

Here in Proverbs 6:20-24 his recommendation for avoiding adultery comes at the beginning of the section, not the end as in chapter 5. In chapter 5, Solomon recommended an amorous marriage as the antidote to adultery. Here in chapter 6, as we’ll see in a moment, Solomon has another defense in mind against adultery. If we read Proverbs 5:16-22 and 6:20-35 together, we learn that we should use multiple layers of protection against this sin. One layer is a mind that is devoted to truth and prepares for the temptation of adultery (6:20-24). The other layer is a strong relationship with your spouse (5:16-22).

Let’s focus on the layer described here in 6:20-24. Verse 24 says that it is the teaching of godly parents (v. 20) that will keep “you from your neighbor’s wife.” How does that work exactly? Verses 25-29 tell us.

All temptations to sin consist of lies. Just as Satan promised Eve that disobeying God’s commands would liberate them to become “like God, knowing good and evil,” all temptations promise some kind of benefit with no cost. Adultery, of course, promises thrills and pleasure. If you feel yourself being attracted to someone else who is not your wife, temptation promises that the beauty of that person will be yours to enjoy (v. 25) if you begin a relationship with her.

But sin always hides the cost and Solomon’s teaching to his son in this passage is to consider the high cost of adultery (vv. 26-33). Sex with a prostitute is sinful but sex with another man’s wife is a much costlier sin (v. 26). It will bring punishment into your life (v. 29) just as surely as coals will burn you (vv. 27-28). If you learn this well when you are young, you will understand the real cost of adultery and see through the lies that temptation tells you.

Adultery is so costly because of the social shame after the sin is exposed that adulterers bear. Some sins make sense to us such as stealing to avoid starvation (v. 30). Yet even that sin exacts a cost when the shoplifter is caught (v. 31). Our hearts go out to a starving man who steals because he is just trying to stay alive (v. 30) so when his fine for stealing is paid, that is the end of the matter (v. 31). Adultery is not disposed of so easily. Verse 33b says, “…his shame will never be wiped away.” In other words, if you get caught committing adultery, that is going to stick with you and become a permanent part of your story. At the very least, the spouse of the person you commit adultery with will not forget (vv. 34-35). In his quest to get justice, he will not hide what you did but will spread the word so that the maximum number of people possible hear about it.

In the moments of temptation, these truths can help you find your way out of temptation without sinning. If you can remember that the promises adultery makes to you will prove to be false, it will be easier to say no when the temptation comes your way.

So, determine now to live a pure life and to remind yourself that the high cost of sin far outweighs the temporary pleasures the sin will offer you. This is the wise way to live–the pure way. May God give us grace to trust him and obey his word if any of us face this temptation in our lives.

Genesis 49, Job 15, Psalm 47

Today’s readings are Genesis 49, Job 15, Psalm 47.

This devotional is about Genesis 49.

The leadership power in Jacob’s family was about to pass from Jacob himself to his descendants in this chapter.

Remember that Jacob was selected to be the covenant heir of his father Isaac while Jacob’s twin brother, Esau, was rejected for that role. In this case, by contrast, all of Jacob’s sons would receive the covenant blessing. Each would become the leader of one of Israel’s tribes. In this chapter, Isaac conferred that blessing of tribal leadership on them and made prophecies about each one.

Although it was customary for the eldest son to to receive the greatest blessing, God had bypassed that custom with Jacob. That was based on God’s free choice alone. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, forfeited his covenant blessing as the firstborn by having sex with one of Jacob’s wives (v. 4, cf. Gen 35:22). This was not the last time a man’s immorality caused him to lose political power.

The next two guys in line, Simeon and Levi, disqualified themselves with cruel vengeance far beyond what was justly warranted (vv. 5-7; cf. Gen 34:25). Although Reuben, Simeon, and Levi got to be tribal heads in Israel, they did not get to have a descendent become the king of Israel.

That honor fell to Judah. He had his moral problems, too (see Gen 38), but he was chosen to be the leader of the tribe that would bring Israel her king (v. 10). And, what a king he would be! Verse 10 says that, “he obedience of the nations shall be his.” This, of course, is a reference to Christ. Jesus came to be the Messiah, the king of Israel, but he has not fully assumed that role yet. When he reigns on earth in his Millennial kingdom, this prophecy will finally be fulfilled.

Verses 11-12 describe a time of massive prosperity. Vines and branches (v. 11) are fruit bearing objects; they have value. You wouldn’t tether a donkey or a colt to them because you don’t want those animals eating such valuable fruits. Unless, of course, there is so much fruit available that even the animals can enjoy it without it costing too much financially. Likewise, wine is valuable; you wouldn’t wash clothes with it unless it was so abundant that you didn’t fear “wasting” it. This is what life in the kingdom will be like when Jesus reigns. There will be no poverty, no lack. The world will be at peace under its true, perfect king and there will be prosperity like mankind has never enjoyed.

Isn’t it amazing to read such a detailed prophecy of Christ so many thousands of years ago? This prophecy has not been fulfilled, yet, but God has identified Jesus who will fulfill it and he has repeated the prophecy and given us even more information about life in his kingdom. Passages like this are one of many reasons why we know that the Bible is not just any book; it is God’s word. In it, God has told us what the future holds. The places where his prophesies have been fulfilled already give us greater confidence in one like this which we are still waiting to come to pass.

Trust the Bible; it is God’s word and he has proven it true over and over again.

Genesis 16, Nehemiah 5, Psalm 15

Today, read Genesis 16, Nehemiah 5, Psalm 15.

This devotional is about Genesis 16.

Genesis 15 was such a beautiful chapter about Abram’s relationship to God. After Abram saved Lot and his cohorts but refused to take any gains for himself in Genesis 14, God appeared to him in Genesis 15 and said, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Abram was honest with God about the pain of having no heir despite all God had promised him (vv. 2-3). God re-affirmed his promise to Abram (vv. 4-5) and even made an unconditional covenant ceremony for Abram (vv. 9-21). Verse 6 of chapter 15 told us that, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

What a beautiful chapter!

Once he left that metaphorical spiritual mountaintop, however, Abram acquiesced to the request of Sarai here in Genesis 16 (vv. 1-4). Her solution to the lack of an heir was reasonable and acceptable in their culture and it worked (v. 4)! But it was an act of unbelief in the promises of God and created all kinds of problems in Abram’s household (vv. 5-6). This is one of the ways that sin appeals to us. It offers us a direct and easy solution to the problems that bother us the most. And, it usually works, at least for a while. Because we are not all-knowing, we never see the consequences coming. We ignore God’s promises and his warnings, make choices in fear instead of faith, then are filled with regrets and complications.

One way people do this is by dating someone who is unsaved. Every Christian knows that it is wrong date an unbeliever. And, sometimes, God is gracious and saves an unbeliever who unequally yoked with a Christian.

More often, however, the believer compromises again and again. They know it is wrong to date an unbeliever, but they tell themselves that they won’t marry him or her. Besides, he’s a good guy or she’s a nice girl. They have strong qualities and good morals, so there’s really no risk. When a good Christian comes along, the believer thinks they’ll end the ungodly relationship. For now, though, it feels good to be loved.

And, in some cases, they tell themselves that they’ll remain pure even though their unsaved boy/girlfriend doesn’t understand the “wait until marriage” thing. That creates greater pressure to compromise morally than one already feels from his or her own physical body. When the unbeliever proposes, the Christian decides to marry him or her, hoping that God will save their spouse but feeling thankful for someone to love and marry.

Again, sometimes God is merciful and gracious, but that’s not usually how the story goes. Even when God is merciful and saves an unbelieving spouse, there are still tensions and temptations that go with compromising in this area. Not to mention that dating an unbeliever is a sin by itself.

I am concerned for professing Christians who are in relationships with unbelievers or with people who may profess Christ but don’t seem to walk with him much. I understand your desire and how tempting it is to compromise. But look at the problems that Abram and Sarai created by trying to solve their problems themselves instead of trusting the Lord to provide. The longer you live in one sinful situation, the greater the pressure will be to compromise morally again and again. It will not get easier to do right in the future. It will get harder, more painful and costly. Just trust the Lord and do what he tells you. I promise you, he won’t let you down.