1 Samuel 15, Ezekiel 26, Philemon

Read 1 Samuel 15, Ezekiel 26, and Philemon.

This devotional is about the book of Philemon.

This is yet another of Paul’s prison letters as we saw in verse 1, “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ….” Verses 1b-2 tell us the recipients of this letter who were, “Philemon… Apphia [almost certainly Philemon’s wife] our sister and Archippus [possibly the son of Philemon and Apphia].” When we take this mention of Archippus and compare it to Colossians 4:17, “Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord’’ we begin to see that Philemon lived in Colossae.

This family was not the only recipient of this letter, however, for the last part of verse 2 says, “…and the church that meets in your home.” Although Paul has a couple of big, generous things to ask of Philemon, he did not want his requests to overwhelm the people too much.

In verses 4-7, Paul described his prayers for Philemon and the others. Then, in verses 8-19, Paul got to the core of the letter–to ask Philemon to forgive his runaway slave Onesimus (vv. 17-19).

After he forgave Onesimus, Paul then wanted Philemon to free Onesiumus so that he could serve with Paul.

But the verse that intrigues me in this chapter is verse 6: “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.” Paul considered Philemon a partner because of his faithful giving to God’s work (v. 7). But here in verse 6 Paul prayed for a spiritual benefit to come to Philemon. That benefit was that the “partnernership with us… in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.” In other words, Paul wanted Philemon’s financial support and prayer investment to strengthen Philemon’s faith. He wanted Philemon to know God better as a result of his “partnership” with Paul’s ministry.

Have you ever considered that serving the Lord and giving to his work could actually be good for you, spiritually? Not only do others benefit from this kind of “partnership” but YOU benefit from it because it “deepens your understanding” of Christ and his mission.

So I have to ask, What is your level of spiritual growth? Did it peak when you were called to be saved or is it growing? If you feel that you are stuck and not growing, then you need to find a place to serve. Serving Christ, investing in his kingdom, is helpful to your spiritual life. So, find a place to serve if you don’t have now already and watch how your understanding of God, his goals, and his people grow as a result.

Joshua 8, Jeremiah 34, Proverbs 16:16-33

Read Joshua 8, Jeremiah 34, and Proverbs 16:16-33.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 34.

Zedekiah, though he was an ungodly king, had led Israel to free their Hebrew slaves (vv. 8-9). It was never God’s plan to have Jews who were permanently held as slaves in Israel or Judah. Instead, God’s law created a form of indentured servitude. A Jewish person who was in a financial corner could sell himself to another Jewish man for up to six years. On the seventh year, he was to be set free. Jeremiah pointed this out in verse 14. In verse 15-16, he had positive words for how they had freed their Hebrew slaves and even made a covenant with God about it (vv. 8, 15c).

Unfortunately, God’s people broke their covenant with him and took back the very slaves they had freed (v. 16). God prophesied again that they would be taken into exile by the Babylonians (vv. 17-20) as this act of unfaithfulness to the covenant was added to many other sins of the nation.

Entering a covenant to free the slaves was not necessary. They could have simply freed the slaves and honored that verbal decision accordingly. But making that covenant was a good thing, even if it was unnecessary. It is pleasing to God when we resolve to do the things that we know from his word. What isn’t pleasing to God, however, is when we tell God we will do something and then we change our minds and refuse to do it.

Have you told God you would do something–read the Word, tithe, attend church more faithfully, find a way to serve the poor, or something else–and then took it back? I’m not talking about obeying imperfectly; I’m talking about deliberately changing your mind about a good decision you made for God? Jesus died to save us from the covenants we make and break but he also empowers us to keep the covenants we make with God and others. If this passage reminds you of something you promised to God but either changed your mind about or just became lax about, then resolve today to return to that thing and do it for the glory of God.

Genesis 37, Job 3, Matthew 25

Read Genesis 37, Job 3, and Matthew 25.

Today’s devotional is about Genesis 37.

We know that Joseph becomes the hero that saves Israel–the man and the nation–from starvation.

But, that’s still in the future. Here we see Joseph as a teenager (v. 2b) and he doesn’t look very heroic at all. Although he had many sons, Jacob (aka Israel) showed favoritism to Joseph. We see that stated directly in verse 3 which says, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons….” The benefits Joseph received as the favorite son were:

  • The ability to tattle on his half-brothers (v. 2). This suggests that Joseph had some kind of supervisory role over the other sons of Israel. See also verse 14.
  • The “ornate robe” Israel made for Joseph (v.3).

But there was a price for this favoritism, too. Joseph may have had a great relationship with his dad, but, because of his father’s love, his brothers “hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.”

There is no favoritism with God, but that does not mean that God’s blessings are equally distributed. Joseph’s dreams (vv. 5-11) were revelations from God that would later be fulfilled. They caused Joseph further relationship problems (v. 8, vv. 10-11) but they prepared him for what would happen to him later in his life.

Before Joseph received the honors God had prophesied for him in his dreams, he was mistreated and nearly killed by his brothers (vv. 17-36). They mocked him (v. 19), robbed him of his robe (v. 23), imprisoned him in a well (v. 24), then sold him into slavery (v. 28).

Instead of feeling God’s love, Jacob may have felt abandoned by God. The honors God promised him in his dreams must have now seemed impossible. Joseph had no family, no love in his life anymore. He now had nothing to look forward to but a lifetime of slavery.

But God never fails to keep his promises and his plans for Joseph were not done. The trials he was now enduring were putting him into place and preparing him for what God was going to do with Joseph later.

Are you discouraged about your life? Do you feel abandoned and unloved–by God or by other people? Let this passage encourage you. Suffering and trials are part of God’s will for us. They teach us to depend on the Lord, not on the favor of men. They also put us in places and situations where we can serve God. So, whatever you’re suffering today, ask God for the grace to endure it faithfully and trust him and his plan to rescue and use you in his will someday in the future.