Leviticus 14, Proverbs 28, Psalm 100

Read Leviticus 14, Proverbs 28, Psalm 100.

This devotional is about Psalm 100.

This simple song oozes with joy. Verse 1 calls all the earth to “shout for joy.” Verse 2 commands us to worship him “with gladness” and come before him (in worship) “with joyful songs.”

Joy is an attractive emotion. But why should we do all this shouting and singing and worshipping with joy? The answer is in verse 3. That verse is the hinge on which this Psalm turns. We should worship joyfully because we belong to God:

  • He is God (v. 3a) and he made us (v. 3b) therefore we are his (v. 3c). What you make, you own. What you own, you control. We belong to God because he’s God and we’re his creation. But, the verse goes on and says:
  • We are his people (v. 3d). This refers to God’s covenant with Israel. His promises to Abraham and his descendants formed a unique relationship which made all Israelites “his people” in a more significant sense than “his by creation.” This promise to Israel still stands but we Gentiles have been grafted into it by God’s grace (see Romans 11:13-17).

But then, after describing how we belong to God by creation and by grace, the Psalmwriter says this, “we are… the sheep of his pasture.” This image suggests God’s care for us. He provides for us “his pasture” which we need in order to be nourished and healthy. He protects us from predators and cares about our spiritual well-being. We’re in good hands because they are his hands, the hands of the perfect shepherd.

Because we belong to God, he watches over and cares for us. What more reason, then, does a person need to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (v. 4)? Verse 5 affirms that God is good, he is loyally-loving, and he is faithful. Why? Because we belong to him.

This is directly opposite to how we think. We think (in our sinful thought patterns, that is) that to belong to God means to be controlled, manipulated, subjected, harassed by rules and punished severely. This Psalm argues the opposite. Because we belong to God he will take care of us. Most dog owners will feed and water and care for their dog because it belongs to them. Most of the same people won’t do anything for the stray dog that goes wandering through their backyards. The stray dog may be “free” to what he wants, but he becomes dirty and starved in the process. The dog that is truly free is the one that is loved and cared for.

This is why we rejoice. We belong to God but he loves us and will provide everything that is good for us like a great shepherd provides for his sheep. This is something to be joyful and bring glad praise for today.

Have you approached him “with thanksgiving” (v. 4) yet? If not, do that next.

Leviticus 8, Proverbs 23, Psalm 95

Read Leviticus 8, Proverbs 23, Psalm 95.

This devotional is about Psalm 95.

God’s commands only seem burdensome to us because we want to make our own rules and live by our own desires. If humanity understood how much God loves us, we would all view God’s commands as loving and gracious because obedience to them will protect us from the damage and pain that sin causes us and others around us.

Here in Psalm 95, the songwriter encouraged God’s people to come together to sing and shout the Lord’s praises (vv. 1-2, 6) because of his greatness (vv. 3-5) and his care for his people (v. 7). In the last four verses, the song turned from encouraging God’s people to praise him to urging God’s people not to harden their hearts toward him as they had in the past (vv. 8-11).

When the song writer referenced Meribah and Massah in verse 8, he was calling our attention to the events of Exodus 17. That’s where the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and God due to the lack of drinking water, so God commanded Moses to strike a rock with his rod and water poured forth. The point of this section is to remind us that God wants good things for us and will provide for us but we must trust him and not complain to him. When we sit in judgment on God or his word instead of praising and thanking him, we are hardening our hearts to his grace (v. 7b) and cutting ourselves off from the good things he wants to do for us.

Do you find it hard to praise God? Does your mind go blank when the topic of giving thanks to God comes up? Could that be happening because you’ve hardened your heart against God, complaining that he hasn’t given you something instead of worshipping him for who he is and all that he has done for us?

God has been good to us. He has been merciful to us when we’ve rejected him and his word by saving us. Let’s praise and thank him, then, instead of hardening our hearts toward him.

Leviticus 2-3, Proverbs 18, Psalm 90

Read Leviticus 2-3, Proverbs 18, Psalm 90.

Today’s devotional is about Leviticus 2.

This chapter describes how grain offerings were to be prepared and offered. However, there is no explanation in scripture about what grain offerings were for, other than to feed the priests (see v. 10a). At the very least, this kind of offering gave God’s people a way to worship and give thanks to him for providing for them. It also gave the people a way to bless the priests as they came to worship God.

Two regulations stood out about this offering. First, it had to be made “without yeast” (v. 11). Yeast usually (but not always) symbolized sin in Scripture. By insisting that the offering be prepared with out yeast, everyone from priest to every person, would remember that God is holy and completely without sin. This required the sinner to prepare himself to worship and to approach God with appropriate fear and reverence.

The second regulation that stood out in this chapter is the requirement to add salt. Verse 13 says it as clearly as it could be said: “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” Not much is known about this requirement, other than that there is salt everywhere where Israel was going, so it might be an expression of giving thanks for God’s faithfulness.

Regardless of when or why someone might offer this sacrifice, the requirement not to add yeast was a subtle reminder of God’s holiness. Each time they prepared for this sacrifice, the lack of yeast emphasized how completely separate God is from all evil. This was designed to show the worshipper how imperfect we are so that we would cry out to God for his help.

Have you thought recently about how holy God is and how repulsive sin is to him? Does your life reflect that as you become more like him? Or are you letting “just a little” yeast into your life? Let this passage cause you to reflect on where sin might be leaking (even just a little) into your life. Let it cause you to cry out to God for help removing the sinful yeast from your life.

Genesis 29, Esther 5, Psalm 28

Read Genesis 29, Esther 5, and Psalm 28.

This devotional is about Genesis 29.

Laban may have thought himself to be very clever. He managed to get 14 years of work and marry off both of his daughters at the same time.

Everyone else, however, suffered in this situation, but no one suffered more than Leah. Moses, the author of Genesis, recorded the difference in attractiveness between Leah and her little sister Rachel (v. 17). Surely Leah herself must have realized it. Watching her father trick Jacob into marrying her must not have felt good. She must have wondered if Laban felt he wouldn’t be able to find her a husband the usual way because she wasn’t attractive enough. She must have felt anxious about Jacob’s reaction when he found out what Laban had done. No doubt she was crushed by his disappointment with her and his continuing desire to marry Rachel.

The only thing that she seemed to have in her favor was her fertility. This gave her an advantage over Rachel who had difficulty conceiving (v. 31b). Since Jacob loved Rachel so much more than Leah, it seems likely that Rachel had, um, more opportunities to conceive than Leah. Yet Leah was the one producing the boys that Jacob wanted. Each child she bore was interpreted as a gift from the Lord, which it was (v. 31). Although her marriage was unhappy and her family life was stressful, Leah looked to the Lord for help and was grateful for his favor in her life.

So many people suffer from sad, unfixable situations. Thinking about Leah’s life can give us some perspective. We all have problems, heartbreaks, and disappointments in life but most of us have better lives than Leah ever had. Her marriage was sad from the beginning, from her first full day as a married woman. Most of us, probably, had (and have) a life that is better than that. Despite how messed up her situation was, Leah was thankful to the Lord for each son she bore to Jacob. Her motives were not always perfect, but her thanks to God was sincere.

When your life is unhappy, follow Leah’s advice and consider ways in which the Lord has blessed you. Praise him for what he has given you; don’t grieve over the things you have been denied. Leah’s disappointments in life were opportunities for her to learn how to walk with God. Her words after the birth of each son suggests that she made the most of those opportunities. May we do the same when we experience painful situations in our own lives.

2 Chronicles 19-20 and Revelation 12

Read 2 Chronicles 19-20 and Revelation 12.

We read yesterday about the foolish alliance that the godly king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, made with the ungodly king of Israel, Ahab. God saved Jehoshaphat even though he went into battle dressed like a target (see 18:29-31) and he caused Ahab to be killed even though he was trying to avoid detection (18:33-34).

Here in chapter 19, a prophet named Jehu rebuked Jehoshaphat for his alliance with Ahab (vv. 1-2). Although “the wrath of the Lord” was on Jehoshaphat (v. 2b) he was still man who set his “heart on seeking God” (v. 3b).

What were the evidences of that his heart was set on seeking God?

First, he turned others to seeking God. Chapter 19 verse 4 told us that he reached out to the people “from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim.” This is a large area around Jerusalem, where Jehoshaphat lived. Beersheba was far to the south of Jerusalem, encompassing all of Judah and Simeon as well as a number of Israel’s enemies. “The hill country of Ephraim” was the area due north of Jerusalem, including the tribes of Benjamin and Dan. These are areas that belonged to the Northern Kingdom of Israel but Jehoshaphat traveled around these places “and turned them back to the Lord, the God of their ancestors” (19:4b).

Second, he delegated justice to others but charged them to judge in the fear of God (19:5-11). One man cannot do all that needs to be done, but a godly leader both delegates the work and urges those responsible to do the work in a way that pleases God because they fear God.

Third, he trusted God to keep His covenant (20:6-7) and defend His people (20:1-13), looking to God in prayer for these promises. Because of his faith God answered his prayers and miraculously delivered Judah from their attackers (20:14-26).

Fourth, he gave thanks and praise to God in worship when God delivered Judah from her enemies (20:27-28).

Jehoshaphat did some really stupid things (see 18:29-32 again. Sheesh). His obedience was imperfect (20:33) and failed to learn his lesson at times (20:35-36). God even disciplined him for some of these things (20:37). But because his heart was set on seeking God (19:3), God was merciful to him when he disciplined him and God blessed the areas where he was wise and faithful to the Lord.

Isn’t that encouraging? Even though he messed up a lot, his efforts to do right were blessed and praised by God because they came from a sincere heart of obedience. I hope this gives you some comfort and encouragement to keep seeking the Lord and striving to do what’s right. I hope it helps you not to be discouraged when the Lord’s discipline comes into your life but to keep seeking him for as long as you live.

1 Chronicles 17, Zechariah 10, 1 John 2

Read 1 Chronicles 17, Zechariah 10, and 1 John 2.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 17.

David intended to build God a permanent home in Israel, a temple that would replace the tent that Israel had used in worship for centuries. Although God was pleased with David’s desire (see 1 Ki 8:18), he decreed that Solomon, not David, would build the temple (vv. 11-12).

Instead of letting David build him a literal house, God decreed that he would build a “house” (aka, a dynasty) for David (v. 10). This is the Davidic Covenant, God’s promise that a descendant of David would rule over Israel forever (v. 14) which will ultimately be fulfilled by Christ in his kingdom.

I’ve written about the Davidic Covenant before (here, here, and here), so let’s focus on David’s response to God’s promise to him which we read in verses 16-27.

First, David gave thanks for all God had done for him in verse 16. Verse 7 reminded David that God had elevated him from the lowly job of shepherd to the exalted status of Israel’s king. David hadn’t forgotten any of that and praised the Lord for it.

Second, David gave thanks for what God had promised him in the future in the rest of this chapter, verses 17-27. David knew that God alone had honored him. David said it was “…according to your will…” (v. 19) which acknowledged that this promise was God’s gracious choice, not something that David deserved. But in verses 20-22, David widened the scope of his thanks to all that God had done and promised for Israel. Like God’s promise to David, all that God had done for Israel was a work of his grace. He redeemed Israel “for himself, and to make a name for yourself…” (v. 21). In other words, God did what he did for Israel for his own glory. Likewise, he promised what he promised to David “…so that… your name will be great forever.”

God extends grace to people because he is gracious by nature. But, the result of his grace, and his purpose for doing it, is to bring glory to himself. God shows his power, redeems his people, and makes promises so that people will know that He is God (v. 26).

The same is true in your life and mine. God saved us so that we would praise, glorify, and worship his name. He did it so that we would tell others what he has graciously done for us and call them to submit to him accordingly. But he also saves us and answers our prayers so that we will thank him and worship him directly and so that we will find “courage to pray” (v. 25) in the future.

It is easy for us to forget that God owes us nothing but punishment for our sins, yet he graciously gives us every good thing according to his will in Christ. Do we remember to speak words that glorify him to others? Do we remember to pray prayers of worship and thanks for what he has done, is doing, and promised to do in Christ?

Spend a few minutes now remembering what God has done for you and considering what he’s promised to you in Christ. Then, speak a few words of thankful prayer to him in worship.

1 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 9, 1 John 1.

Read 1 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 9, and 1 John 1.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 16.

As far as we know, the musical aspect of worship did not exist in Israel’s tabernacle before David came along. I could be wrong about that because the Bible just doesn’t say much about Israel’s worship practice, other than what was in Moses’ law. There were some “songs”–probably more poetry that was chanted than songs that were sung–like Moses’ and Miriam’s songs. Maybe they were used in some group settings in the tabernacle. But, as far as I can tell, until David came along, worship in the tabernacle consisted of teaching the law and offering various kinds of offerings–sin offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings, incense offerings, etc. 

Our passage for today, 1 Chronicles 16, seems to be the place where music was introduced formally to Israel’s worship. David (and probably many others before him) worshipped personally as he played the harp and sang to his sheep. But now, according to verse 4, the more musically-gifted Levites were organized and charged with the task of making music before the Lord. “He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel” (v. 4). That was their job! Instead of making show bread or offering burnt offerings, or teaching the law, these men (listed in verse 5a) were to spend all of their time in musical worship (vv. 37-38, 41-42).

Performing that ministry required preparation. They wrote worship songs, rehearsed personally and in groups. The ministry of music also, of course, involved playing and singing publicly before the Lord: “They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner: ‘Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” 

What a gift the Lord gave to his people–both Israel and the church–through David. Our worship is greatly enhanced by music. Good worship songs teach God’s word by reminding us of what God has done and introducing our children to God’s mighty works: “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Israel, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth” (vv. 12-14).

Good worship songs focus on God’s character (v. 29c, 34) and call us to trust in his promises (vv. 15-18). They call us to reflect on God’s works and to be thankful and give thanks to him for his grace (vv. 34-36). Paying people to make music to glorify God for the worship of his people may seem like a luxury, but David’s decision to do this and his leadership to organize it has blessed generations of believers ever since.

I give thanks for our worship leader, Nick Slayton, and for all who serve on our worship team. I give thanks for hymn writers, song writers, musicians, and singers that God has blessed with talent and desire to be used for his service. Let’s pray for them to keep walking with the Lord and to keep serving him for his glory. If you use music as part of your personal devotional/worship time, take a moment to pray for the musicians and songwriters you will listen to today.

1 Kings 3, Hosea 7, Titus 1

Read 1 Kings 3, Hosea 7, and Titus 1.

This devotional is about Hosea 7.

“I long to redeem them but they speak about me falsely. They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds. They slash themselves, appealing to their gods for grain and new wine, but they turn away from me.”

Hosea 7:13e-14

The entire book of Hosea describes God in a specific way that is emotionally understandable to us humans. God, in Hosea, is described as a jilted spouse who is totally devoted to his bride but she is unfaithful to him despite his promises and goodness. That description shows us how our sins are a breach of faith with God and how God is wounded by our unbelief and disobedience. 

This verse and a half in Hosea 7:13-14 shows us the heart of God. He said, “I long to redeem them,” showing how personally and deeply God desires to be reconciled to humanity. But the remainder of verse 13 and verses 14-15 describe why we are not reconciled to God. Our estrangement from God is due to the fact that people “speak about me falsely” (13e). This refers to the way that people blame God for our self-inflicted problems. Those problems are described earlier in this chapter:

  • “They practice deceit” (v. 1d).
  • “They delight the king with their wickedness, the princes with their lies” (v. 3a-b).
  • “They are all adulterers” (v. 4a).
  • and so on.

When we sin against God and then blame God for our crappy lives, we speak about him falsely (v. 13e).

Furthermore, instead of turning to God in our misery, people “do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds. They slash themselves, appealing to their gods for grain and new wine, but they turn away from me.”

This explains why the world is so damaged and distorted, why people are so unhappy, and why there is so much unbelief. The result is that, at the end of history, God will judge humanity for all these sins.

Jesus has provided an escape, however. He loved us beyond what a jilted husband or wife would naturally love. He gave himself even though we “turn away” from him (v. 14e). He redeemed us from the slave market of sin we sold ourselves into and, by grace alone, changed our hearts so that we desire his love and see his goodness.

As Christians, we need to be reminded of these things because the dominant narrative of our times is that the problems of this world prove either that God cannot exist or that, if he does exist, he cannot be good. These are the same lies that God condemned when he said, “…they speak about me falsely” (v. 13f).

The truth is that God is more loving and good than we can possibly imagine. His goodness is the only reason there is anything good in life at all–and there are many good things about life, even for unbelievers! His love is the only reason that anyone believes in him at all–not because he’s hard to believe in but because our hearts are hardened so thoroughly by sin.

Take some time to think about where your life would be if God had not redeemed you in Christ. Then give thanks for all that we have in Christ and speak to others about him when they wail about their problems and appeal to other gods (v. 14). God longs to redeem and he is redeeming people all over the world. Let’s be agents of that redemption.

1 Samuel 19, Ezekiel 30, Philippians 2

Read 1 Samuel 19, Ezekiel 30, and Philippians 2 today.

This devotional is about Philippians 2.

What are some ways we believers in Christ are distinct from the world around us? We have different beliefs about the past and the future, for one. We have different morals that cause us to make different choices and respond differently when we sin. We spend our time and our money differently. We certainly have a different understanding of who God is and what he’s done for us in Christ. These are all important differences, but maybe they don’t distinguish us from the rest of the world as much as we’d like to think that they do.

Here in Philippians 2, Paul invited the believers and us to consider the immense humility and sacrifice of Christ to save us. He urged us to follow Christ’s example by “looking to the interests of others” (v. 4).

But when he wanted to teach us how to stand out from the unredeemed people around us, he commanded us: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (v. 14). Living this way “in a warped and crooked generation” would cause us to “shine among them like stars in the sky.” (v. 15).

Let’s face it–people complain a lot.

We complain about the weather, about relatives and friends, about bosses, about what’s required of us in our jobs, about how little we’re paid and how much we pay in taxes.

We complain about having to fix our cars or stuff that breaks at home, about traffic jams and long lines at the grocery stores.

People also argue a lot, too. Look at your Facebook feed. You probably don’t even have to scroll more than once or twice (or at all) before you see two or more people arguing about politics or sports or something else.

Complaining and arguing are symptoms of discontentment. When we complain to someone about their behavior, we’re showing our discontentment with them. Complaining like that is about trying to change that person, to control him or her into acting differently or becoming different in some way.

But, if someone does change that behavior, then we move on and find something else about them that makes us discontent. Complaining about the weather or the traffic, or something else is an expression of discontentment with our circumstances.

Arguing is about being discontent with what we’re getting or not getting. If I argue with a clerk in a store about the price of an item, it is because I am unhappy about the price. If I argue with a co-worker that I’m doing too much of the work on a project that we’re both assigned to do, that’s an expression of discontentment. Arguing comes from having a different point of view in some instances—like sports or politics–but it often results from a feeling of injustice.

Jesus was treated with extreme injustice. He had no sin but was made a sin offering for us. It was quite inconvenient (to say that least) to give up the worship of heaven for the scorn of humanity. If anyone had the right to complain or argue about the glory he wasn’t getting (or the mistreatment he was getting), it was Jesus. But Jesus never complained about anything nor did he ever argue with anyone about anything but truth.

There are many differences between believers and unbelievers but verses 14-15 tell us that the most obvious difference to an unbeliever between us and them is our contentment. As we saw yesterday, Paul was content to live and minister for Christ or die and be with Christ. He was content to remain in prison and give the gospel to the guards or be released to witnesses to another city about Christ. Instead of complaining or arguing, we should find something to give thanks for.

The traffic that frustrates me so much is no fun, but I’m thankful that a car can take me long distances much faster than I could walk them. If you want to shine brightly like the North Star on a pitch black night, learn to speak words of thanks and contentment instead of complaining and arguing. This is a very specific, daily way we can show the difference Christ and faith in him has made in our lives.

Deuteronomy 23, Jeremiah 15, 2 Corinthians 1

Read Deuteronomy 23, Jeremiah 15, and 2 Corinthians 1.

Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth to continue to address problems in the church, just as he did in 1 Corinthians. One problem, which he addressed in verses 12-24, was criticism he received for changing his travel plans after he had told the Corinthians he was coming to visit them. Before he got to that issue, however, he took time to praise God for how God had comforted him during the troubles he and his ministry partners had experienced in Asia (v. 8).

Why does God allow problems into our lives? Why aren’t his servants exempt from problems as a reward for their ministry of the gospel? There are at least four answers and three of them are discussed in this chapter.

First, God allows problems into our lives because we live in a fallen world. Until the redemption of all things is complete, problems will be part of life for everyone–believers and non-believers alike. This we know from other texts, not this chapter.

Second, God allows problems into our lives so that he can comfort us and teach us to comfort others (v. 4). The best people to help you when you are persecuted are those who have endured persecution themselves. The best people to help you when you face a life-threatening illness are those who have been there. They are the “best people” to help because they can empathize with your struggles more deeply and more personally. They know what encouraged and helped them when they were struggling, so that makes them more equipped to help you.

Third, God allows problems into our lives to test and strengthen our faith. Verse 6 says that problems produce “in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.” That “patient endurance” is not just giving up and taking it, like when you’re stuck in stopped traffic on the freeway and there is nothing you can do about it. “Patient endurance” is the ability to trust God throughout the duration of a trial rather than giving up faith in him. Trials reveal whether we are truly trusting in God or whether we are self-deceived about our faith. They also teach us to look to God for comfort, help, and deliverance which strengthens our faith when God delivers us. Verse 9 made the same point when it said, “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” For true Christians, trials drive us closer to God while problems in life drive unbelievers further from him. That doesn’t mean you’ll never question God; read the Psalms and you’ll see plenty of verses that question God. Instead, while your faith may waver and feel week, it will ultimately hold and eventually get stronger through trials.

Fourth, God allows problems into our lives to teach others how to pray. Verse 11 says, “…as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” As you go through problems in life and ask others to pray for you, your trial gives them the opportunity to learn intercessory prayer. When the trial ends, it gives other believers who prayed for you the opportunity to give thanks to God.

What problems and struggles are you facing right now? Which of these lessons do you feel God is teaching you most directly? If you’re not facing a trial in your life right now, give thanks for God’s favor but study the list above, too, to fortify yourself for when the problems arrive.

Exodus 9, Job 27, Hebrews 13

Read Exodus 9, Job 27, and Hebrews 13.

This devotional is about Hebrews 13.

The author of Hebrews wrapped up his message by giving believers some ways to put our faith into action. It starts with love (v. 1) which shows itself in how we act toward other believers (again, v. 1), how we receive and care for outsiders (v. 2), and how we pray for and care for those who are suffering under persecution for Christ (v. 3).

Living for Christ in this age means honoring marriage with purity (v. 4), living without greed and materialism (vv. 5-6), acting properly toward the leaders of our church (vv. 7-17), and praying for all those who are serving the Lord (vv. 18-19). Finally, the author of Hebrews prayed a beautiful benediction over the original readers of this book (vv. 20-21) and closed (vv. 22-25).

For today’s devotional thoughts I’d like to focus on verses 15-16: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” These verses follow verses 11-14 where the author of Hebrews made one final reference to Jesus as our priest. Just like the body of a sin offering is offered outside the camp, Jesus was sacrificed outside the city of Jerusalem (v. 12). Going to him for salvation is, metaphorically, like leaving the “city” of Judaism. All who follow Christ are now outsiders but that’s OK because we’re looking for an eternal city anyway (v. 14).

But just as there were thank offerings and free will offerings in the Old Testament whereby a worshipper could bring a sacrifice just because he loved God, now the author of Hebrews says that we Christians bring a thank offering in our words. He tells us to offer this offering “continually;” that is, many times throughout our lives. And the content of this offering is “the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” This is evangelism. One of our acts of worship as Christians is to claim Jesus openly and tell others about our faith in him.

The second type of Christian sacrifice is described in verse 16: “ And do not forget to do good and to share with others….” This consists of being generous to others. It may be others who have a need or simply others whom we choose to bless by giving. So we do not bring a sacrifice for our sins, to appease God’s wrath for what we have done. Jesus paid the penalty for this himself and his blood makes “the people holy” (v. 12). Like an Old Testament worshipper who brings freewill offerings just out of love for God, we bring sacrifices of worship to God when we openly identify with Christ and share his eternally life-changing message and when we are generous to others around us.

Here’s an opportunity, then, for us to look at serving God this week. Are there lost people around you who don’t even know that you are a Christian? Look for an open door to speak to that person about Christ. Are there others around you who have needs or who just would be blessed by your generosity? Reach out to bless them with what you have–a financial gift, a meal, whatever. God loves these kinds of Christian sacrifices because they show our love and devotion to Jesus. Yes, the Lord loves our worship and praise in singing and prayer, but he also is delighted in our actions through evangelism and showing kindness to others.

Genesis 23, Nehemiah 12, Matthew 16

Read Genesis 23, Nehemiah 12, Matthew 16.

This devotional is about Nehemiah 12, particularly verses 27-47.

Compared to the growth and expansion of the kingdom that David and Solomon saw, what Nehemiah and his countrymen were doing was small.

But, compared to the ruin that Jerusalem had been for 70 years and the powerlessness and exile that God’s people had experienced for a generation, the days of Nehemiah and Ezra were amazing. They were more hopeful than successful, like a sprout from the ground on a farm that hadn’t produced anything in years. A sprout is not the same as an acre of corn ready to be harvested, but it is a reason to be hopeful. Every acre of corn began with a spout, after all.

So, these were not Judah’s greatest days politically or economically. But God was moving in his people and for his people again. He was working in the hearts of pagan kings and governors to protect and provide for his people. The people were expressing repentance for their disobedience to his word and were publicly recommitting themselves to obey his covenant. And what was result of all of this work God was doing in Jerusalem? Singing!

The wall around Jerusalem was a defense mechanism. It had no real spiritual purpose, like the altar and the temple did. It was there to protect the inhabitants of the city from enemy attacks.

But Nehemiah saw the repair and rebuilding of this wall as a spiritual act, because Jerusalem was God’s city. It was the place where his temple was, where his name would dwell, and eventually where his Messiah would reign. So, when the wall was finished, Nehemiah organized a ceremony to dedicate it (v. 27). And, one of the key features of that dedication ceremony was singing. “Two large choirs” (v. 31) were organized “that gave thanks” (vv. 31, by singing during this ceremony (v. 40).

They were joined by “musical instruments prescribed by David the man of God” (v. 36). The two choirs stood on top of the wall to give thanks, then they came together to continue that singing in the temple (v. 40).

The result of all of this music was joy. Look at how verse 43 described it: “And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.”

The music offered to God on that day had such a powerful affect that people wanted it to continue. People brought provisions to the temple (v. 44) to provide for musicians and singers (vv. 46-47). Their actions show what a key, important role music has in the worship of God’s people.

When God is working in people’s lives, they want to praise him in song. Music lifts our hearts when they are wounded and it gives us a way to express our joy when we are glad and thankful for what God has done.

Music can be part of your walk with God as well. Not only can we be thankful for our worship team members who lead us in worship each Sunday, we in this age have the gift of recorded music to help us worship in our private devotional times, to encourage us when we are down, and to help set our hearts to thankfulness and praise as we go to work each day.

Why not pick an uplifting song of praise to listen to on your way to work today? Sing along and let the Lord use this gift to help you start the week off in dedication and praise to him.

That pretty much always works for me.