2 Kings 22, Zephaniah 2, Proverbs 26:1-16

Read 2 Kings 22, Zephaniah 2, and Proverbs 26:1-16.

This devotional is about 2 Kings 22.

Josiah was eight years old when he became king.

When he was a mere twenty-six years old, however (v. 3: “in the eighteenth year”), he supervised the renovation of Solomon’s temple (vv. 3-7). During that renovation, the “Book of the Law” was discovered. This is a reference to Moses’ law, but it is unclear whether or not that meant all five books of Moses or just one book (such as Exodus or Deuteronomy). What is clear is that God’s word had been neglected. Whatever Josiah and any other observant person in Judah knew about God was known by oral tradition, not direct instruction from God’s written word.

Having re-discovered God’s word, however, the secretary (v. 8)  and the king (v. 10) read it. The king immediately accepted the words he heard as God’s word (v. 11) and realized that God had promised judgment for disobedience to this covenant—disobedience that was common throughout his kingdom.

His response to the message in verse 13 was, “Go and inquire of the Lord for me….” This inquiry was to find out what the Lord’s will was for the king and his people. Had the Lord already determined to bring judgement to them or would he accept the king’s repentance?

Having consulted the prophet Huldah (v. 14), they learned that God had indeed willed judgment for Judah (vv. 16-17).

However, verses 18-19 tell us that Josiah’s responsiveness to God’s word would mean mercy for him and the people during his life. Verse 19 put it this way, “Because your heart was responsive….” He, therefore, modeled for Judah and for anyone who follows God what walking with God looks like.

We must read God’s word—not someone else’s description or summary of God’s word —but the word itself. We must believe that it is true and applies to us and we must turn to God in repentance when we are convicted of disobedience to it.

I’m glad you’re reading these devotionals but are you reading the Bible passages first? Are you finding truth for yourself in these daily chapters from scripture in addition to the truth I email you every morning?

Most importantly, are you doing anything about the truths that God is bringing to your attention from the word?

2 Kings 5, Jonah 3, John 2

Read 2 Kings 5, Jonah 3, and John 2.

This devotional is about Jonah 3.

Jonah’s message to Ninevah was simple: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” There is no call to repentance and no offer of grace to the repentant, for reasons we’ll see tomorrow.

Yet the people did repent, including the king of Ninevah (vv. 5-6). The king even issued a decree and explained why he called for repentance: “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (v. 9). And that’s exactly what happened: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” 

I have a couple of thoughts about all of this. First, don’t worry so much about having the perfect presentation when you give the gospel message or explain God’s truth to someone else. By all means do the best that you can, but understand that it is not your perfect presentation or your persuasive ability that will matter. If it is God’s message, God will use it to do his work. Just be faithful to what God has told us to say.

Second, repentance is always implied in any message of judgment God gives. The major and minor prophets (Isaiah-Malachi) exist is because God wanted to call his people to repentance. Though his words to them were direct, even harsh at times, they were designed to redeem people, not injure them emotionally.

Keep this in mind when the Holy Spirit brings painful conviction into your life or a friend (or even an enemy) brings an ugly confrontation to your door. If you receive truth and repent at the message, God’s forgiving and restoring grace is right there to meet you. 

1 Kings 22, Amos 8, Proverbs 24:19-34

Read 1 Kings 22, Amos 8, and Proverbs 24:19-34.

This devotional is about Amos 8.

What happened when God withdrew his blessing from people and brought the covenant curses he promised in Deuteronomy for their disobedience?

Lots of things happened–defeat in war, drought & famine, and ultimately, exile.

Our passage today highlights a lesser known but far worse consequence of God’s judgment: the loss of his word. Verses 11-12 say, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.’”

Although God was speaking to Daniel and Ezekiel during the exile, they were in Babylon, not in Israel or Judah. The temple in Judah was destroyed so there was no reading God’s written word there and no priests to teach it and discuss it.

The Bible indicates that this is how God typically responds when his word is neglected, disobeyed, and rejected. In Luke 8:18 Jesus said, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”

When we respond to God’s truth obediently, we get more truth. When we don’t respond well to God’s truth, we get less.

This is, perhaps, why it is easier than ever to find a church–maybe even a very large church–in America, but harder to find one that teaches God’s word. We have become familiar, complacent even, with God and his word but as a generation, it seems, there is less concern for personal holiness, less hunger for truth. The warnings of Amos and Jesus remind us to realize how precious God’s word is and to treat it preciously by desiring it, learning, growing and obeying it.

1 Kings 21, Amos 7, 2 Peter 2

Read 1 Kings 21, Amos 7, and 2 Peter 2.

This devotional is about Amos 7.

Amos was an unsophisticated man, a redneck from the Southern Kingdom who tended sheep and cared for sycamore trees (v. 14) but the Lord sent him to prophesy to both Israel and Judah about his coming judgment. Those yankees in the Northern Kingdom objected to the message of that hillbilly from the south.

One of Israel’s religious leaders, Amaziah, a priest of the false religion that Jeroboam I established in Judah misconstrued, his message in order to try to silence Amos. Amos had been prophesying exile to the Assyrians, but Amaziah told Jeroboam II that his message was “raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel” (v. 10b). Amaziah then ordered Amos to deport himself back to the south (v. 12). His reason? “…because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.” In other words, this is a safe space for king Jeroboam. He shouldn’t have to hear a troubling prophecy like this in his own backyard. 

Those who hate the Lord will eventually seek to silence his word. If they can threaten and intimidate us his messengers, as Amaziah tried to do, then we make it easy on them to avoid accountability and live the way they want.

Faithfulness to the Lord, however, requires us to speak truth–lovingly, yes, calling people to repentance, but also firmly, directly, consistently (vv. 15-16). In our country, those who seek to silence God’s word will use the strong arm of government, when they can. They will use executive power when they have it, lawmaking power when they have it, and judicial power when they can.

Failing all those things, God’s enemies have public pressure, threats, and intimidation. Amos was a brave man; what he may have lacked in urban sophistication was more than offset by his faith in God and determination to keep speaking God’s truth.

Let’s follow his example and be clear and consistent in speaking for the Lord until he comes.

1 Samuel 21-22, Ezekiel 32, Philippians 4

Read 1 Samuel 21-22, Ezekiel 32, and Philippians 4.

This devotional is about Philippians 4.

Paul experienced many difficulties and stressors during his ministry. So, it must have been incredibly encouraging to have the Philippians as his friends. While they had some interpersonal problems (cf. 2:3-4 with 4:2-3), they were loved deeply by the apostle and they returned that love, even sending Epaphroditus to help personally (2:25) as well as financial aid (4:10-18).

There is so much joy in this letter that it is easy to forget that Paul was in prison when he wrote it (cf. 1:12, 17). The Philippians’ friendship and Paul’s imprisonment form the background out of which he wrote the chapter we read today. His imprisonment, particularly, was the circumstance he lived in when he wrote verses 6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Undoubtedly Paul was a man who had practiced these commands in his own life repeatedly. His command to the Philippians to deal with their fears that way rose out of his own experience as well as from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In verses 8-9 he commanded them to discipline their thoughts toward good and godly things instead of focusing on their problems, complaints or fears.

Many of our negative emotions rise out of undisciplined thinking. We attach meaning to things that happen, then tell ourselves negative stories about the meaning we’ve made up.

It is easy to do and we’ve all done it, at least at certain times in our lives or with certain events of our lives. God’s word, however, gives us a different story–a truthful one–to tell ourselves about anything and everything that happens in life. A sovereign God has ordered the events of your life for his glory and your good. There will be problems, pains, stresses, heartbreak, sorrow, and grief in this life. That’s because this life and this world have been broken by sin, not because God doesn’t love you.

The solution to the problems of life is to trust God’s promise and put your hope in his future kingdom. When it comes, the pains of this life will be forgotten and the perfect life that you and I want will be real; it can never be real until then.

When life tempts you to think thoughts of despair, replace those thoughts with truth: God loves you and redeemed you from the guilt of your sin and the punishment you deserve for it. He is preparing a perfect, eternal kingdom for you and is re-making you into a perfect person by his grace.

While we have much less to fear than the martyrdom that ultimately took Paul’s life, his teaching reminds us that, no matter how little or much we fear, the Lord is waiting to hear our prayers and give us peace as we look to him.

Judges 10:1-11:11, Lamentations 4, Proverbs 18:1-12

Read Judges 10:1-11:11, Lamentations 4, Proverbs 18:1-12.

This devotional is about Proverbs 18:2.

Within in each of us there is a feeling that we “get” some things. Most of us will admit that there are areas where we know very little or not enough to have an informed opinion. On many topics, however, we are very confident that our opinion is right and that we know the truth.

But, has your mind ever changed about something you once thought you knew? Have you ever said something with great boldness, only to have to take it back later when more information came to light?

Here in Proverbs 18:2 we are warned about that kind of thing.

The first part of the verse says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding….” Remember that in Proverbs the “fool” is not a stupid person; rather, a fool is someone who has rejected God and, as a result, has embraced a wicked way of life. Because wickedness is deceptive, fools make bad choices and suffer painful consequences. The warnings Proverbs gives us about fools is designed to protect us from the self-confidence that thinks we can reason or intuit our way to truth. So when Proverbs 18:2a says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding….” we are to learn that those who have rejected God are not really on a quest for truth. They think they know what is good and bad, right and wrong, wise and unwise.

So if you see a fool doing something foolish or saying something foolish and try to instruct him, you will get nowhere. The reason is that fools “find no pleasure in understanding.” They don’t want to know the truth because that would require humility.

A humble person is a teachable person. He knows that he doesn’t know it all, is susceptible to error, and could learn a thing (or thirty) from someone who is wise, knowledgable, and skillful in areas where the teachable man is ignorant. Fools are too proud to admit that they need help, need knowledge, so they have no real interest in understanding.

Instead of trying to understand a thing, verse 2 tells us that fools “delight in airing their own opinions.” They speak self-confidently about areas where they are ignorant and know nothing. I’ve found that, the more confident a person sounds, the more suspicious I should be about trusting that person’s opinions. Plenty of people bloviate about things they no nothing about. The Bible says that is a characteristic of a fool. He doesn’t really want to understand something; he wants you to understand how great or smart or wise he is. That’s his objective, which is why he speaks the way that he does.

Do you have a teachable spirit? When you speak beyond what you really know (which many of us do, myself included), do you have the humility to be corrected by someone who knows better? Most importantly–are you willing to allow Scripture and godly counselors to help you understand things you think you know? In other words, are you humble enough to be corrected when the teaching of God’s word confronts what you believe, or want to believe?

Fools are self-confident; they love to tell anyone who will listen what they think. As a result of their self-confidence, they will be led astray. Choose the wisdom of humility. Learn to crave understanding. Don’t be afraid of being exposed as ignorant–everyone is ignorant in many areas. Instead, let the realization of your ignorance become the gateway to understanding by humbling yourself to accept truth and knowledge. This is a wise way to live and will lead you to a life that glorifies God.

Deuteronomy 24, Jeremiah 16, 2 Corinthians 2

Read Deuteronomy 24, Jeremiah 16, and 2 Corinthians 2.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 16:19-21.

The forecast for Judah, according to Jeremiah, continued to be bleak. There was going to be so many deaths from disease, famine, and sword that God told Jeremiah not to get married or have any children (vv. 1-4). Don’t start a family, Jeremiah, because you will lose some or all of them in death. That was God’s word to Jeremiah. Bleak.

Furthermore Jeremiah was prohibited from paying his respects at anyone’s funeral (vv. 5-7) or enjoying a feast at someone’s home (vv. 6-13). When the Lord’s punishment for Judah came, people would be terrified and then many of them would die.

As usual, the Lord made no apology for bringing this punishment. God’s people had forsaken him and done much evil in his sight (vv. 11-12, 17-18). As hard as it is for us to accept, they deserved to be punished by a just and holy God, just as all of us do.

Compounding their sin was the fact that they had the truth. The true Lord, the one real God, had revealed himself to them but they exchanged that for false gods (v. 18).

As bleak as all of this was, Jeremiah held out hope in the Lord and his promises. Someday, he knew, God would restore his people (vv. 14-15) and the knowledge of God would spread throughout the world (v. 19). Those who worship false gods would realize that their gods were false and would come “from the ends of the earth” to know the true God. This is a prophecy of us Gentiles coming to know God through Christ and, when they come, they will not find an angry God who is looking for people to kill. Instead they will find a willing instructor: “I will teach them—this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the LORD” (v. 21).

This is what we’re doing in evangelism. We are exposing the false gods that people worship (v. 20) and calling them to find truth in the LORD. This is the only hope that anyone has for avoiding the justice of our holy God. Better than that, when God has gathered in everyone he will save, we will enter his kingdom together and spend eternity at the feet of a God who said, “I will teach them” (v. 21). Instead of looking at his word as a burden to bear, something to choke down like a vegetable because it is good for us, we will eagerly feed ourselves with God’s nourishing truth and rejoice and be satisfied in his presence as he teaches us.

Who can you share this saving message with in the coming week?

Deuteronomy 12, Jeremiah 5, Proverbs 14:19-35

Read Deuteronomy 12, Jeremiah 5, and Proverbs 14:19-35.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 5.

Jeremiah was called by God to proclaim judgment to Judah, the Southern Kingdom. He is called “the weeping prophet” because he saw the judgment he prophesied happen and wrote a lament about it in the book of the Bible known as “Lamentations.” God judged Judah because they worshipped idols instead of the true God. Jeremiah wrote about that in this chapter in verses 7-25, but the opening verses of this chapter look at the problem differently.

In verses 1-3 God told Jeremiah to search Jerusalem, capital of the Southern Kingdom, to find a truthful person. Verse 1b issued this challenge: “If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.” But, in verse 2, the Lord told Jeremiah that everyone in his city was dishonest. People might swear in God’s name to be telling the truth, but they were lying.

Jeremiah knew this to be true, but he believed the problem was confined to the poor who “do not know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God” (v. 4b). He was confident that the leaders of Judah would know better. “Surely they know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God” he said to himself in verse 5b. So, verse 5a tells us about his resolve to speak to the leaders to see if he could find that one honest man that would spare the whole kingdom from judgment.

But, no. According to verses 5c-6, even the leaders of Judah had traded truthfulness for dishonesty. 

Since the root problem was that Judah did “not know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God” (v. 4), that they had “sworn by gods that are not gods” (v. 7b) and “‘have been utterly unfaithful to me,’ declares the Lord” (v. 11), why is there such a focus on telling the truth in the early verses of this chapter?

The answer is that truth is an attribute of God. An untruthful person is showing the evidence of his unbelief. Lies are a measurable symbol of what someone worships. The further a person or a society strays from God, the more untruthful that person or society will become.

Unbelievers do tell the truth at times. They may even be generally truthful in what they say. But people like us have an uncanny ability to lie to and deceive ourselves. We all speak sincerely at times about our beliefs, but if we’ve chosen to believe something to be true that is actually false, we are not objectively truthful. Eventually whole societies are swallowed up in nonsense because they—collectively—have agreed to believe and to affirm what is false. Unless you know God, you can’t live a life of truth. 

As Christians, we too struggle to be truthful. We sometimes deceive others purposefully and we often deceive ourselves. We do this when we make excuses for sin (our own or others) or give assent to what is popular even though it is unbiblical and often irrational.

This passage should remind us that the God of truth that we worship calls us to reflect his nature in our lives by being truthful people as we grow to become like him. Jeremiah could not find a truthful man because he couldn’t find a man who really worshiped the Lord. Let us who know the Lord, then, choose to show the glory of God, the God of truth, in the honest, truthful ways in which we speak.

Deuteronomy 4, Isaiah 63, 1 Corinthians 5

Read Deuteronomy 4, Isaiah 63, 1 Corinthians 5 today.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 4.

In this chapter Moses transitioned from surveying Israel’s recent history to expounding on God’s law. Verses 1-14 form the transitional paragraph. In verse 10, Moses called on the adults who were children at the time to “remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb.” He reminded those who were there how terrifying it was to see the glory of God revealed on that mountain (vv. 11-13) and how God graciously stopped speaking directly to the people and, instead, mediated his word through Moses (v. 14).

In verse 15 Moses used the fact that God did not have a physical form to remind Israel of the fact that the Ten Commandments forbade them from making “for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape…” (v. 16). The rest of that paragraph (vv. 15-31) spelled out what would happen if Israel turned to idolatry. Israel’s history showed the complete fulfillment of what Moses described here.

Then, in verses 32-34, Moses called God’s people to contemplate world history. What God did for Israel, redeeming them as an intact nation from Egypt, was unprecedented. God did this, according to verse 35, to demonstrate the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God…. You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:2-3). Everything God did for Israel was proof that he was the only true God; therefore, according to verse 39, Israel should “acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.”

With these words, Moses reframed the Ten Commandments, which he will repeat in tomorrow’s reading in Deuteronomy 5. But Moses’s point here is that God’s commands were not a burden to Israel; they were gifts from the only being in the universe who knows absolute truth.

If Israel would reverence the Lord for who he is and what he has done, then they could see his commands as a blessing that, when obeyed, produce even greater blessings.

You and I are not Jews. We live under a different covenant. God’s power was not demonstrated to us on a fire-filled mountain; it was demonstrated to us in the resurrection of Jesus. God’s commands to us have many similarities and many differences to Moses’s law and his commands to us come with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Still, like Israel, we are called to believe God and follow him in faith and obedience to receive his blessings.

Does the Christian life seem like a burden to you or a gift? Are God’s commands a crushing load that you don’t want to carry or are they a path of liberation from bondage to sin and its consequences? As believers in Jesus, we are called to obey everything Christ commanded us (Matt 28:20). Since we believe in Jesus, we must also believe that obedience to his word will bring good, not harm, into our lives. So is there anywhere in your life where you are resisting the commands of God? Will you, by faith, submit yourself to the Lordship of Christ and follow him in obedience by faith?

Numbers 31, Isaiah 54, 2 Thessalonians 2

Read Numbers 31, Isaiah 54, and 2 Thessalonians 2.

This devotional is about 2 Thessalonians 2.

Paul continued to discuss end time events in this chapter, telling the Thessalonians (and us) that “the day of the Lord” will not come until the “man of lawlessness” comes first, proclaiming himself to be God (v. 4), displaying great powers that will deceive many people into following him (vv. 9-12). Those who believe him will face God’s judgment because “they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (v. 10).

By contrast, those who trust in Christ do so because we have been set apart by the Holy Spirit and “through belief in the truth” (v. 13). These statements remind us again how important truth is to the Christian life. While faith in Christ is a supernatural gift of God’s grace given to us when we hear the gospel through the new birth, part of that conversion process is a desire to receive the truth. This means receiving the truth about ourselves–that we are sinners deserving God’s punishment and the truth about God–that he is just and will punish sinners but also loving so that he came in the person of Christ to take away our sins.

These truths were the means God used to save us; in addition to these truths, however, God gave us a love for all of his truth. That “love” breaks down our hostility toward believing in the supernatural or in doctrines that we find difficult to accept. Since God has removed our hostility to the truth, then, Paul commands believers to “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (v. 15).

Doctrine is important and those who love Jesus love doctrine, too. While there are some disagreements among believers about how to interpret the scriptures in some areas, we should keep looking together at the scriptures and seeking to find the correct interpretation because we are people who love truth.

Numbers 27, Isaiah 50, Proverbs 13:1-14

Read Numbers 27, Isaiah 50, Proverbs 13:1-14.

This devotional is about Isaiah 50.

Picture a man who went hiking in the woods and, somewhere along the way, lost his keys when they fell out of his pocket. The sun was going down and he was left out in the woods groping around in the darkness to find his keys so he could go home. Poor guy, right?

But what if he had a flashlight with fresh batteries in the backpack on his back? How …um… bright could he be if he had the light—and knew it—but was too lazy or stubborn to take it out and use it?

So is everyone who knows God’s word but makes decisions without considering or consulting it. Anyone who lives by what is acceptable and promoted in society, or by their own human ingenuity, or by the tenets of some false religion is groping around in the dark. Here in Isaiah 50:10, Isaiah called to the people of God and asked for those who trusted Him to reveal themselves. “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant?” he asked in verse 10a. Then he said, “Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.” The implication of that verse is that darkness is the result of living by our own human reason.

In contrast, for those who believe the Lord, who take him at his word, the light of God’s revelation is available to them. Trusting “in the name of the Lord” and relying “on their God” means living as if you believe God’s word is true. That’s what faith is! It is accepting what God says and living accordingly, believing that you will be better off because God’s word is true. Verse 11 contrasts the one who lives in the light of faith with those who try to manufacture their own light through human wisdom: “But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.”

These are trying times we live in. Things that were accepted as universally-held facts in the past are now questioned, attacked, even ridiculed. Every choice, every “lifestyle decision” is considered valid in our culture (except for living by faith in God’s word, of course). But God warns all of us that they will “receive from my hand” pain and judgment (v. 11). At the end of today’s chapter the Lord promised, “You will lie down in torment.”

I’m glad you show up here everyday to read God’s word and consider its teachings with me. But do you live by the things you are learning here? Do you take the light that God’s word offers us and walk by it in your own life or do you put it away in your mental backpack and grope around looking for the keys to life on your own, by the light of a makeshift torch?

The difference between God’s blessings and his punishment is faith in his word which is evidenced by obedience. What area of disobedience has God brought to light in your life recently? Will you accept the light that God’s word offers and live by faith in that area?

Leviticus 13, Isaiah 8:1-9:7, Acts 1

Read Leviticus 13, Isaiah 8:1-9:7, and Acts 1.

This devotional is about Isaiah 8:1-9:7.

Although they had the great prophet Isaiah living among them and speaking constantly on behalf of God, Judah was in deep rebellion to God’s word and cared nothing for Isaiah’s prophecies. As people tend to do, they looked to more mystical sources for revelation instead of the written Law of God and the spoken teachings and prophecies of Isaiah.

God rebuked his people for this in Isaiah 8:19. Instead of fooling around with false sources of spirituality, God through Isaiah called them back to his word: “Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (v. 20).

When people look outside God’s word, they are dissatisfied (v. 21a) and end up cursing God (v. 21b). Instead of finding light in these sources, they find “distress and darkness and fearful gloom” (v. 22).

Chapter 9 opened against this bleak backdrop by promising “no more gloom” (v. 1). Instead, the prophet stated that “people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (v. 2). Isaiah was prophesying a day of victory for God’s people (vv. 3-5) but it started with the birth of Christ, foretold in Isaiah 9:6-7.

Whether people look to God for truth or not, God would (and did!) send his Son to bring light into the world and he will come again to finish the work and establish his kingdom on earth. That is our hope, so let’s look to his word only for guidance and revelation and truth about how to live until his kingdom comes.