2 Samuel 17, Daniel 7, Proverbs 22:17-29

Read 2 Samuel 17, Daniel 7, and Proverbs 22:17-29.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 17.

Over the past few chapters in 2 Samuel, David has been reaping the bad harvest of the sin seeds he sowed in his adultery with Bathsheba. Nathan prophesied in 2 Samuel 12:10: “the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.” The “sword,” a metaphor for violence, showed up when David’s son Amnon raped David’s son Tamar and when Absolom retaliated by killing Amnon in chapter 13. In chapters 14-15a Absolom began positioning himself to challenge David as king. Then he did attempt to overthrow David as king in 2 Samuel 15b-16.

Here in chapter 17, David is running for his life and Absolom is seeking wisdom for how to defeat his father and solidify his hold on the kingdom of Israel. Absolom consulted two men for advice. Both had been advisors to David and were known to be men who gave wise advice. We do not know why Ahithophel began to advise Absolom instead of David but the advice Ahithophel gave was shrewd and accurate and would have benefited Absolom if Absolom had chosen to follow it.

The other advisor, Hushai the Arkite, was secretly loyal to David and, consequently, gave different advice to Absolom than Ahithophel gave. God was working in all of this, both through the presence of Hushai and the inclination of Absolom to listen to him. Verse 14 says, “For the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.”

The book of Proverbs advises us to seek and follow the advice of wise counselors and Ahithophel certainly qualified. But it is better to be on the Lord’s side than to have the best advisors in the world. Absolom could not win because his cause was unjust, selfish, and opposed to the will of God. God had made an everlasting covenant with David and the Lord would not fail to keep his side of the bargain. The best tactics, strategy, advice, and execution will be ineffective if it is not aligned with what God has chosen to do.

When you make decisions and seek advice, do you filter that advice according to scripture? Are you thinking about the commands of God and the moral truths his word teaches first before you follow the advice you are given? As Proverbs 21:30 says, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.” So seek and follow wise counsel, by all means, but remember to consult God’s word as your first and primary counselor.

2 Samuel 15, Daniel 5, Mark 15

Read 2 Samuel 15, Daniel 5, and Mark 15.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 15.

One of the consequences that Nathan prophesied would result from David’s sin with Bathsheba was that “the sword would never depart” from David’s house (2 Sam 12:10a).

The fulfillment of that prophecy began when Absalom killed Amnon after Amnon raped Tamar, Absalom’s sister. You will recall that David was angry when he heard about the rape, but he did nothing—not a rebuke of Amnon or, as far as we know, an attempt to comfort Tamar.

Where David left a leadership vacuum, Absalom stepped in. He comforted and cared for his sister and plotted for a way to get revenge against Amnon.

Once Absalom killed Amnon, he went into hiding and was only restored to Jerusalem when Joab interceded with David on his behalf, as we read yesterday. Still, there was plenty of friction between David and Absalom. Though he was allowed to live in Jerusalem, David would not allow Absalom to see him. Their relationship as father and son, then, was still broken.

Although the text does not tell us this exactly, Absalom’s actions in today’s passage indicate that resentment remained in the heart of Absalom. According to verse 1, Absalom began raising his profile within Jerusalem. Then he began to undermine David’s function as Israel’s judge; verses 2-4 tell us that he would stand waiting for those who had legal issues to resolve. Instead of allowing them to come to David for justice, Absalom would tell the petitioner that no one was available to hear his case and give him justice (v. 3). Absalom would then moan that he should be appointed judge so that the people could get justice (v. 4). When they would bow in deference to Absalom, he would treat them as a someone would a friend, not a subject in his kingdom (v. 5). All these actions caused people to think well of Absalom; indeed, verse 6 says that “he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.”

After four years of daily undermining David (v. 7a) when enough goodwill had been accumulated, Absalom made his move and got people to proclaim him king (vv. 8-12). David found himself being hunted again just as Saul had once hunted him in his youth (vv. 13-37). Though the Lord was still with David, the Lord also allowed David to experience this challenge to his kingdom. The challenge resulted both from David’s sin with Bathsheba and from David’s passivity in dealing with Tamar’s rape and Absalom’s murder of Amnon.

Similarly, many of the trials we face in life are, in fact, the harvest of our own sins or our own failure to deal properly with the sins of others. Although confrontation, correction, and restoration are unpleasant things to do, they are righteous in God’s sight and can save us from many problems down the road.

Are you avoiding a hard conversation you need to have with a friend, a co-worker, your spouse, or your child? Don’t let fear keep you from doing what is right; failing to do what is right usually leads to even more problems later. Don’t run away from issues that need to be addressed; run toward them seeking a resolution that glorifies God.

2 Samuel 11, Daniel 1, Psalms 111-113

Read 2 Samuel 11, Daniel 1, Psalms 111-113.

This devotional is about Psalm 111.

At times we can look at God’s word as a burden. It is filled with commands and obligations and we are commanded to obey it all. The scripture warns of great judgement for those who refuse to obey God’s word and, even when we find forgiveness in Christ for our disobedience to God, we often still suffer sorrowful affects of our sin. These things can make God’s word feel heavy to us and cause us to be fearful whenever we open the scripture.

What we need to remember, though, is that God’s commands are not burdensome. They are not tedious, meaningless regulations like sitting at stoplight when there is absolutely no traffic coming from any direction but you have to sit there because it is the law. That’s not what God’s commands are like. In fact, according to Psalm 111, the commands of God’s words are a great blessing to us. They are given to us to make us happy, not burden us.

Verse 6 of Psalm 111 says, “all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.” That is something to be happy about because God’s commands give us something solid on which we can build our lives. One of the scariest things about life is the uncertainty of it. There is no guarantee that the plans you make in life will succeed. There is no certainty that the market will want your product. Even if people want it today, something better might come along tomorrow. Even though you may feel completely healthy, things can change.

If our plans, our jobs, our health, and many other things are uncertain, then how can we ever really feel joy and contentment? The answer is by building our lives on what is certain rather than hoping in things that are very uncertain. What is certain are God’s precepts–his commands and teachings. Verse 8 says, “They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.” You might lose everything, but if your life is built on God’s commands, they will uphold you when everything else falls apart.

Without Christ, we cannot build our lives on God’s faithful commands because each of us has an unfaithful heart that leads us astray. But, in Christ we have a new heart that desires to obey God’s word and the Holy Spirit who leads us to walk in his ways. These are great blessings to God’s people for, as verse 10 says, “all who follow his precepts have good understanding.” It is only when God turns on the lights in our hearts through regeneration that we understand how wise it is to follow God’s commands in obedience.

But when we obey God and experience a stable life because of his commands, we can’t take credit. Verse 10 ends the Psalm by saying, “To him belongs eternal praise.” This is why I wrote earlier that, “according to Psalm 111, the commands of God’s words are a great blessing to us.” It is God’s word that gives us insight on which we can build a stable life so all glory and praise go to him for his revelation and the blessed life that results from being built on it.

1 Samuel 2, Ezekiel 15, Ephesians 2

Read 1 Samuel 2, Ezekiel 15, and Ephesians 2.

This devotional is about 1 Samuel 2.

There is such a contrast in this chapter between the godly praise of Hannah in verses 1-10 and the evil acts of Eli’s sons in verses 12-26. Hannah not only gave praise and glory to God in her words, but she described who the Lord would honor and who he would humble. She also prophesied in verse 10 when she said, “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” At that point, there was no king in Israel, nor was any king on the horizon. Late in Samuel’s life, when his mother had almost certainly been dead for some time, Samuel, her son, would anoint the first and the second king of Israel.

Meanwhile, Eli and his sons were acting dishonorably before the Lord and, instead of giving prophesies, they were being prophesied against (vv. 27-36). The author of 1 Samuel described Eli’s sons in a general way in verse 12. Then in verses 13-17 he gave specific instances of their sin of having “no regard for the Lord” (v. 12). The manifestation of their ungodly attitude toward the Lord was first of all their treatment of his offerings. When the people brought sacrifices to the Lord, they were acts of worship to him, of course. But God had also decreed that some sacrifices were to also provide food for the priests (see Lev 6:25-26 for one example). The problem was not that Eli’s sons ate the sacrificial meat; the problem was that they cared nothing for the Lord, the worshipper, or the Law’s instructions about the sacrifices. All they cared about was getting the best portion of meat from the sacrifice and the ability to cook it as they wanted. 

Eli’s sons treated the meat of the sacrifices as property they could take for their own appetites. They also viewed the women who served in tabernacle as property they could take for their sexual appetites (vv. 22b). Eli’s sons, then, used their privileged position as priests to serve themselves with no regard for how the Lord was to be served. Eli did confront his sons about their sins and did urge them to stop (vv. 23-26), but he would not use the position and power the Lord gave them to make them stop. He had every right—responsibility even—to remove them as priests for their wicked acts, but he cared more about honoring them than he did about honoring the Lord (v. 29). 

All three of these men, then, were sinning in their capacity as leaders. His sons abused the privilege of leadership to bring them pleasure. Eli refused to use the power he had as a leader for the Lord’s glory. Instead, he used it to protect his sons, even though he was disgusted by their sins.

The problem with power is that it can seduce those who have it into using for their own enrichment or for their own protection rather than for doing what is good. The boss who takes credit for the work of his team, the pastor who steals from the church’s treasury or preys on women who come to him for spiritual help, the father or mother takes out their own frustrations on their children, the politician who uses public office to enrich himself or herself—these are all ways in which people use a position for selfish gratification instead of to serve the Lord by using that power for his glory.

Is there any area in your life where your actions as a leader benefit you but displease the Lord?

Samuel was brought to serve in the tabernacle by his mother, but God brought him there to replace the house of Eli with godly leadership. Samuel will show us how a godly leader operates and, of course, the sacrifice of Christ a little over a thousand years after this will show us how God wants us to use our leadership to serve not to be served. Think about where God has called you to lead; now, is your leadership there glorifying to him or gratifying to you?

Joshua 24, Jeremiah 46, Romans 8

Read Joshua 24, Jeremiah 46, and Romans 8.

This devotional is about Romans 8.

In the previous chapters of Romans, we were taught much about the Law and its relationship to humanity. In chapter 7, we learned that God’s Law is great and holy. Our problems with it are not with IT but with ourselves: “…the Law is spiritual but I am unspiritual….” Paul wrote of himself that he was, “sold as a slave to sin” (7:14) and his self-description applies to us as well.

As Christians, we are torn by our mental and spiritual desires to obey God’s law (7:21-22, 25b) and our sin nature, which rebels against God’s holy commands and makes us subject to death (7:16-20, 25c).

What is the remedy for this spiritual dilemma?

Romans 8:1: “ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are “in Christ Jesus” therefore the condemnation of the law has been removed from us. That removal took place through the atonement of Christ for our sins (vv. 2-3). The result of his atonement is that you are not guilty before God because God has credited to you the righteous life Jesus lived (his “active obedience”) and the atoning death Christ died (his “passive obedience”). Verse 3b-4 says that in these words, “And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Did you notice that phrase, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us….” If you are in Christ, you’ve kept the law fully. The law has no beef with you because Christ has fulfilled it all on your behalf. He’s met every standard spelled out there and paid every penalty for your failures (and mine).

Many Christians live with a feeling of defeat. We beat ourselves up for our sin struggles and our failures. If that’s you, please take heart today. If you’re in Christ, it’s all good. Jesus has done all that you will ever need to cancel the law’s condemnation over your life and to declare you perfect in the sight of God. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” so stop condemning yourself and live in the freedom of complete forgiveness!

Joshua 16-17, Jeremiah 40, Romans 5

Read Joshua 16-17, Jeremiah 40, and Romans 5.

This devotional is about Joshua 16-17.

These can be tough chapters to read, with names like “Ataroth” (16:2), “Mikmethath” (16:6), and others. So, the strange sounding names make the passage hard to read. Furthermore, these chapters describe places that are unfamiliar and hard to visualize unless you have an old map of Israel handy. The point of the passage is to make a permanent record of what area of the promised land was assigned to each tribe of Israel.

So, don’t worry about all that stuff and, instead, notice this:

“They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.”

Joshua 16:10

…and…

“Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.”

Joshua 17:12-13

At the end of chapter 17, the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (Joseph’s sons) began complaining to Joshua. “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly” (v. 14). They wanted to reapportion the land of Israel within the existing borders. In other words, they wanted to take land away from neighboring tribes.

Joshua was all for them having more land, but not at the expense of other Israelites. Instead, in verse 15, Joshua told them to enter the forests of the Perizzites and Rephaites, start clear-cutting, and defeat these people when they came out to defend their land. When I read the response of Joseph’s descendants in verse 16, it is difficult for me to hear anything but a whiny tone of voice: “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron….” But Joshua stood firm; there would be no changes to each tribe’s original allotment. If they wanted more land, they were to go and take it from these other Canaanites. Although Joshua conceded in verse 18 that “they have chariots fitted with iron” and “they are strong” he maintained that “you can drive them out.”

History repeated itself.

Their fathers–who died in the desert of Sinai–failed to take the promised land because they thought the Canaanites were too big, too strong, too entrenched to defeat. In other words, the people of Israel were cowed by what they saw instead of trusting in the faithfulness of God’s promises. Now, the next generation received the land but they, too, were intimidated by those around them. They got their land but not nearly as much as God wanted them to have.

Why?

Because they did not act as if they believed God’s promises. If they had trusted God, they could have had more land and could have utterly defeated the Canaanites. Instead, they chose through cowardice and unbelief to settle for less than what God wanted to give them.

How often do we settle for low-level living? Do we believe that Jesus has all authority as he claimed in Matthew 28:19? If so, why don’t we go make disciples of all the nations as he commanded us to do?

Do we believe that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us (2 Pet 1:3)? Then why do we let sinful habits remain in us instead of driving them out?

The answer is that these things are not automatic. God’s promises are true but they are only activated by faith. And faith is not just an inner belief; it is an inner conviction that produces outward actions that demonstrate true trust in God.

Where in your life are you refusing to go for all that God has promised to us in Christ? Let’s take encouragement from Joshua’s confidence in these chapters and live by faith in that area today.

Deuteronomy 26, Jeremiah 18, 2 Corinthians 4

Read Deuteronomy 26, Jeremiah 18, and 2 Corinthians 4.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 18.

When I was a kid, I heard more than one preacher say something like, “If you’re in God’s will, you’re invincible until God is done with you.” I understand the theology behind that statement and Jeremiah probably did, too. The first part of today’s chapter about the potter’s house teaches that truth.

But Jeremiah certainly didn’t feel invincible.

In verse 18 Jeremiah learned about a plot against him by the people of Judah. The end of the verse the phrase, “…let’s attack him with our tongues and pay no attention to anything he says” suggests that their plans were to attack him verbally and ignore what he prophesied. But verse 23 shows that he saw their plots as much more serious: “But you, Lord, know all their plots to kill me….” That explains Jeremiah’s severe prayers against them, asking God to starve their kids (v. 21a) and allow them to lose violently in battle (v. 21b-e).

Those are harsh words, to be sure. Was it sinful for Jeremiah to pray them? Possibly, but we must also keep in mind that Jeremiah was acting as God’s messenger (v. 20) which was the source of their rejection. Even though his fear was personal and his prayer was severe, it was a call for God’s justice: “Do not forgive their crimes or blot out their sins from your sight. Let them be overthrown before you; deal with them in the time of your anger.”

This prophet, Jeremiah, who had interceded with God for his country and his countrymen, now understood, for the first time in his life, how God feels every time you or I or anyone else in humanity sins. He knew personally what it is like to extend grace to sinners (v. 20e) and then be personally rejected despite that gracious offer.

Jeremiah knew, after the plot described in this chapter, what it was like to be righteous but have sinners hate him because of it.

If we can identify at all with Jeremiah’s anger, it ought to teach us to hate sin. The sins that we love so much, that we coddle and cherish or that we excuse and defend, are plots against God. Our wickedness is a crime against his holiness. God was so angry with us that he allowed Jesus to endure all the sufferings and humiliation of the cross.

What Jesus experienced on the cross was not only the rejection of sinful humanity; it was the wrath of God against me for my sins, my plots against him, my crimes of unholiness. Only by his grace through our Lord Jesus Christ is that wrath turned away from me and everyone else who is in Christ.

But the anger Jeremiah felt at the plot against him and how it resembled God’s anger against all sinners is something we should keep in mind when we struggle with temptation. If we can see sin how God sees it, it will help us turn to him for help to overcome it.

Deuteronomy 22, Jeremiah 14, 1 Corinthians 16

Read Deuteronomy 22, Jeremiah 14, and 1 Corinthians 16.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 22.

Critics of the Bible often point to the punishments spelled out in a passage like today’s to show that the Bible is harsh, unreasonable, and unloving. Cross-dressers (v. 5), promiscuous single women (vv. 13-21), and people who commit adultery (v. 22-24) all get the death penalty for their sins, even though they were all “consenting adults.” Rapists also were to receive the death penalty (vv. 25-27). That maybe harsh by today’s standards of punishment but it probably is not an example modern critics will bring up. These punishments seem harsh only because of how comfortable we are with sin; in God’s sight, every sin is an eternal offense, so these punishments should teach us something about how our sins—and the desires that compel them—look to the holy eyes of God.

This passage is also a favorite of critics because some of these laws seem arbitrary (vv. 9-12).

But notice the other case laws in this passage. If someone else—whether you know him or not—is about to suffer the loss of his valuable property, you are supposed do what you can to prevent that loss (vv. 1-5). “Do not ignore it,” the scripture says in verse 1, verse 3, and verse 4.

More interestingly, you’re allowed to take a mother bird’s eggs but not the mother bird (vv. 6-7). The promise of obedience to this passage is “so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life” (v. 7b). But this act of conservation doesn’t benefit any Israelite person; it’s just good management of God’s creation. It teaches us not to be destructive just because we could be.

Verse 8 of our passage tells God’s people to make sure that they build reasonable safety precautions into their homes. Since people in these desert cultures used their roof to entertain in the evenings when the weather is more comfortable, God’s word commanded them to be careful to protect human life by putting appropriate fencing around the roof.

These laws show that God was not harsh or arbitrary at all toward people in general. He wanted to protect his nation from becoming a lawless culture full of promiscuity. The penalties spelled out in these passages were to protect the importance of the Jewish family and to emphasize important God’s holiness is to him. The laws against abusing birds and requiring Israel to watch out for each other’s property and protect each other’s lives show how much God values human life. They teach us not to be so self-centered that we look the other way when someone is about to lose their valuable property. Instead, we should watch out for others, showing them the kind of kindness and compassion that we would want others to show to us and that God himself does show for us. If we find a lost wallet or purse, a lost smartphone, or see a wandering child, God wants us to do what we can to help. We may not have a flat roof that needs to be fenced in but are we careful to clear our sidewalks of snow and ice? As people who belong to God, we should be conscientious and kind toward everyone, not just conscious of our own stuff.

Finally, the harsh punishments in this chapter remind us of the deep grace of God toward us. God hates sin and is uncompromising in how he wants sin to be punished. He is so uncompromising that he demands that every sin should be punished to the fullest extent of justice. Yet, because he loves his creation and is compassionate toward us, he did not look the other way when we wandered from his commands. Instead, he came in the person of Christ both to look for and find us when we were lost AND to bear the just punishment that our sins deserve. No sin is trivial in the sight of God but none is so putrid that Christ’s death cannot cover it. The cross-dresser, the adulterer, the promiscuous, the self-centered one who never helps another in trouble are all savable, if God wills, through the atonement of Christ. The same goes for those who speak lies, who gossip, who break things and hit people in uncontrolled rage, who lust but don’t touch, who take the eggs AND the mother bird.

No sinner is beyond the saving grace of God; if you’ve been redeemed from one of these sins—or from any sin at all—give thanks that God is uncompromisingly holy but also incredibly compassionate, loving, and gracious toward all of us who are unholy.

Deuteronomy 5, Isaiah 64, Proverbs 14:1-18

Read Deuteronomy 5, Isaiah 64, and Proverbs 14:1-18 today.

This devotional is about Isaiah 64.

Isaiah longed in this chapter for a personal visit from God (v. 1). However, he wanted something different from the vision of God he saw in Isaiah 6. Instead of seeing a vision of the Lord that was high and exalted as in chapter 6, he wanted God to descend to the earth personally to bring judgment on his enemies, the enemies of Israel (v. 2c-d) so that they would see that Israel’s God was the true God (v. 4).

Isaiah realized, however, that God helps “those who gladly do right” (v. 5) but that he and his people were not in that category (v. 5b). Instead, he acknowledged that, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (v. 6). As a result, “No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins” (v. 7).

So many people in the world talk about God, saying that they are spiritual or into spirituality. But Isaiah said, “No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you.” As sinners, we want a god in our image not the Lord God who is holy and who punishes sin. To know God as he really is, you and I and anyone else must realize who we are before God: “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (v. 8). This is an expression of repentance and an acknowledgment that no one can know God apart from his grace to save us from sin.

This is how a person becomes a Christian (to use modern terminology, appropriate for this age though not for Isaiah’s). When we have been turned to God in repentance by his grace, we long to see God for who he is, not for who we’d like him to be. We want to see him descend into this world and bring judgment on it (vv. 1-4) so that his kingdom will begin.

Remember this is what is at stake when you talk about Christ to others. The world needs to know that God is real and that he judges sin and sinners. Everyone in it needs to come face to face with the reality that we are wicked in God’s sight and even our best actions are useless in his sight: “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (v. 6b). No one can come to know God until they know and acknowledge this; but when someone does acknowledge it, he or she will find that God is no longer an angry judge but, instead, a loving Savior.

Numbers 33, Isaiah 56, Acts 19

Read Numbers 33, Isaiah 56, and Acts 19.

This devotional is about Numbers 33.

This chapter is an overview/review of all the places Israel went in their journey from Egypt (vv. 1-5) to the edge of the Promised Land (v. 48: “…by the Jordan across from Jericho”). It is a factual account. Each place they camped is mentioned but the (mostly sinful) events that happened in each one are not recorded. Consider:

  • After they leave the area around Mt. Sinai (v. 16a), they go to Kibroth Hattaavah (v. 16b). According to Numbers 11, God consumed some complainers there (11:1-3), commissioned elders to help Moses (11:16-30), and provided quail and some more judgment (11:31-35) before they left Kibroth Hattaavah (11:35). None of that is mentioned here in Numbers 33:16.
  • From Kibroth Hattaavah, Israel went to Hazeroth (33:17). According to Numbers 12:1-16 that’s where Moses’s brother Aaron and sister Miriam complained about Moses and were confronted by God about it. Miriam contracted leprosy (12:10) until Moses prayed for her (vv. 13-15). But here Numbers 33:16, none of that is mentioned.

I could go on, but you get the idea. This list of places here in Numbers 33 doesn’t even mention Israel’s rebellion when God commanded them to take the land (Numbers 14). Instead, here in Numbers 33:36 we’re told they “camped in Kadesh” (where the rebellion happened, among other things) and then, in verse 37, we’re told, “They left Kadesh.” Aaron died at the next stop (vv. 38-39), and that’s the only significant thing we’re told about each of these places.

Israel went from place to place to place after verse 37 through verse 47 because they were wandering under God’s judgment. All those over age 20, except for Joshua and Caleb, lived out their lives wandering in the desert and died out there (15:28-30).

So, when we get to verse 48 in today’s reading from Numbers 33, all the disobedient people have died. Only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb are left and Moses will died, too, before Israel enters the land.

Having cataloged every place where God’s people camped along the way, God spoke through Moses and gave instructions (vv. 50-51). He commanded the people to (1) “drive out all the inhabitants…(v.52a). (2) “Destroy all their carved images and cast idols” (v. 52b). (3) “…demolish all their high places (v. 52c). (4) “Take possession of the land and settle it…” (v. 53) and (5) “Distribute the land by lot…” (v. 54).

Then, verse 55 warns that failure to obey God’s commands would cause them “trouble” (v. 55c) which would lead to God’s judgment (v. 56).

So, in this summary chapter, we have two responses to God subtly contrasted. God delivered everyone (vv. 1-4) but then most of God’s people sinned and rebelled against him (vv. 3-49). A new generation is given a fresh opportunity to obey the Lord and receive his blessings (vv. 51-54) or disobey him and receive his judgment (vv. 55-56).

A big factor in whether or not the new generation would succeed was whether or not they drove the Canaanites out of the land and destroyed their idols (v. 52). If they allowed godless people to stay, and let their idols linger, they would fall into sin and find God’s judgment (vv. 55-56).

This warning corresponds to our lives as Christians, too. Our growth and joy in Christ will be hindered by sinful people who linger in our lives and idols from our culture that we refuse to eliminate. Are you holding on to, and secretly worshipping sinful things in your life? Ruthlessly remove them in obedience to God’s word so that they do not become “barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides” (v. 55).

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.

Numbers 14, Isaiah 38, Galatians 5

Read Numbers 14, Isaiah 38, and Galatians 5 today.

This devotional is about Galatians 5.

The thing about the Old Testament law, and any code of rules, really, is that they promise moral protection. If you never watch TV or go to the movies, you’ll never see something that causes you to lust or to covet. At least, that’s the theory behind some forms of legalism.

But Jesus told us that the desire to curse comes from the heart, not from speaking God’s name. Lust comes from the heart, too, not from seeing an attractive person. Those are opportunities to express the sinful desires within us, not the cause of the sins we commit.

Here in Galatians 5, Paul tells that Galatians that God freed them from the law. They should enjoy the freedom they have in Christ. But the freedom believers have in Christ is not the freedom to sin (v. 13). It is the freedom to live out the new spiritual nature we have through regeneration.

The law can’t really restrain the sin nature anyway. The only thing the law does is make us aware of our sinful desires and tell us what the penalties for sin are.

Instead of living by a religious code of rules or even a moral list of rules, spiritual freedom calls us to love others (vv. 13b-14). If we love others–that is, we choose to do what is best for them instead of what is best for us, or easiest for us–then we won’t steal from them, lie to them, deceive them into a harmful business deal, or do any of the major sins that people commit.

Furthermore, since we have the Holy Spirit within us now, we have the power to say no to the sinful nature within (v. 16).

“Walk in the Spirit” has been defined as something experiential, something emotional where you just feel the Holy Spirit and do what the feeling indicates. There are times when we sense God’s presence with us and in us, of course, but that’s not what Paul is talking about here.

“Walk in the Spirit” means cultivate your spiritual life. It is a command to read the word, pray, be instructed in the word, discuss truth and temptation with your brothers and sisters, and so on. As you put effort into cultivating your spiritual life, your spiritual life will blossom and bear fruit, just like your garden grows and makes vegetables when you water it, weed it, etc.

Verses 22-23 describe for us what spiritual growth looks like. These are categories of growth, things that we will see emerge more and more in the ways we act and react to life and people and circumstances and choices we make. You have the Holy Spirit within you and he desires to make you holy in your life, too. So invest in things that are spiritual and the Spirit will produce the fruit of the Spirit in you.

It takes time, however, to become like Christ so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see fruit immediately.