1 Chronicles 13-14, Amos 8

Read 1 Chronicles 13-14 and Amos 8.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 14.

David was chosen by God to be king Israel. But, he lived in obscurity after God had him anointed until he defeated Goliath the Philistine. After that victory, David’s life became one battlefield after another. He was either fighting valiantly to defend God’s people and advance Israel’s territory or he was fighting for his life, trying to stay way from Saul.

After he was crowned king and began to put his government together, we read in verse 8 that, “When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, they went up in full force to search for him….” I don’t know about you, but I think I’d be battle-weary by this point. I would be ready to rule as king and not spend so much time fighting.

Not David. David heard about the Philistines plans and “…went out to meet them.” But before he met them in battle, he “…inquired of God: ‘Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?’” (v. 10). God assured him that He would give David victory (v. 10) and he did, even giving David the Philistines’ idols to burn (vv. 11-12).

Those Philistines were persistent, however, and attacked again (v. 13). Perhaps they hoped to kill David before he get any stronger as king but their pre-emptive strikes did not work. Once again David defeated the Philistines (v. 16) but only after he “inquired of God again, and God answered him” (v. 14). This time God even gave him the strategy to use in his attack (vv. 14-15).

The result of these battles was greater than subduing the Philistines. Verse 17 says that as a result of these wins, “David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him.” From the beginning of his reign, then, God cemented David’s leadership and strengthened his power internationally by allowing the Philistines to attack him and giving him those victories.

There are times in our lives when we feel like we go from one problem to the next. Fortunately for us, our problems don’t involve killing other people in war but none of us gets to be king, either. Our problems are smaller than David but we have a more modest calling to fulfill in our lives than he did. My point is that David could have complained to the Lord that he was tired of fighting. He could have tried to ignore the Philistines or buy them off. Their attacks against him were immediate tests of his will; they were designed by the Philistines to prevent David from becoming too powerful.

David did not shrink from the battles even though he’d had a long, difficult road to the throne. Instead, he used these attacks as an opportunity to honor God by seeking God’s will and acting according to whatever God revealed. The end result of these battles was less fighting for David because through these battles, “…the Lord made all the nations fear him” (v. 17b).

People, in my experience at least, usually don’t expect problems. So we are surprised when problems come and sometimes complain to the Lord as if we don’t deserve them.

If you think that you shouldn’t have any problems in life or that you’ve had enough problems and deserve something else, you’re going to be very disappointed with this life. Problems are a symptom of a sin-cursed world. If we don’t think we should have any problems, we don’t understand how the world works.

We also don’t understand God. God knows that problems are part of living in a fallen world. He, therefore, uses problems for our good. They give us the opportunity either to seek his help and follow his word or to lean on our own understanding. They strengthen our faith when we look to him for help and he delivers. They also increase our stature with other people (v. 17) when we handle them well with the Lord’s help. Problems, then, are opportunities. We should embrace them, believing that God will both help us and strengthen us through them.

What problems are you facing today? Can you look at them as opportunities for God to use you and to grow you?

2 Kings 25, Amos 1

Read 2 Kings 25, Amos 1.

This devotional is about 2 Kings 25.

Judah’s final defeat to the Babylonians was recorded in this chapter. Although the Babylonians were ruthless to the people of Judah, their ruthlessness was militarily shrewd. Consider:

  • Before invading Jerusalem, the Babylonians used a siege to starve the city, weakening both the bodies of Judah’s army and the spirit of everyone in Jerusalem (vv. 1-3).
  • After Zedekiah, king of Judah failed to escape Jerusalem (v. 4), the Babylonians killed Zedekiah’s sons (v. 7a). So, there would be neither heirs to his throne nor retaliation from his family. Then the Babylonians blinded the king and made him a prisoner (v. 7b).
  • The Babylonians then invaded Jerusalem and burned down “every important building” (v. 9c)–the Lord’s temple and the king’s palace included (v. 9). This signaled both complete spiritual and military domination.
  • But before burning the temple, the Babylonians destroyed all of the furniture used in the worship of God (v. 13).
  • They also carried away all the valuable things they found in the temple (vv. 14-17).
  • But, that’s not all; the Babylonians rounded up key leaders in the temple worship (v. 18) and in the government (vv. 19-20). They forced these men to march to Nebuchadnezzar who ordered them executed (v. 21).

All of this was designed not only to defeat Judah but to grind their faces in the dust and emphasize to them that they had been decimated in every way–militarily, spiritually, and administratively.

Then the Babylonians sent in an administrator who promised they would be safe as long as they submitted to Babylon (vv. 22-24).

So here we have God’s chosen people and their Davidic king utterly defeated and humiliated by a pagan foreign nation. We understand that all of this happened because of Judah’s idolatry and disobedience to God. But why did God allow it to happen in such a brutal, thoroughgoing way?

The answer is that God wanted to show his people something that Jesus told his disciples hundreds of years later: “Without me you can do nothing.” Jesus said that in John 15:5 but God’s people proved it to be true over and over again.

God’s promise to his people was that in His will they would be unbeatable but outside of his will they would live in constant defeat. God still had plans for redemption for his people, but first he wanted them to experience absolute destruction without him.

As Christians, we don’t operate in a political and military context but the principle underneath this passage is as true for us as it was for Zedekiah and the rest of the people of Judah. We must trust God and be obedient to his commands if we will have any power in this life, any success spiritually. Are you living your Christian life in obedience to God’s word? Have you suffered some defeats and setbacks that might indicate your need to depend on God?

2 Kings 22, Joel 1

Read 2 Kings 22 and Joel 1.

This devotional is about Joel 1.

The prophet Joel tells us little about himself and it is difficult to know from his prophecy when exactly he lived and spoke the Lord’s word. It seems likely that Joel ministered after God’s people returned to the land under Cyrus, king of Persia. All of the prophecies about the Northern Kingdom’s defeat to Assyria and the Southern Kingdom’s exile by the Babylonians had been fulfilled. So, too, had God’s promise to return his people to the promised land.

Even though the exiles were over, God’s people were not immune from problems and suffering. Joel 1 describes a different kind of disaster than the military defeats the other prophets foretold. In verses 2-4 we are told that locusts had invaded the land and devastated the crops. Wave after wave (v. 4) of locusts came until there was no harvest left. This left God’s people in dire economic circumstances. They had no grain, vegetables or fruit to eat and none to sell (v. 11). They still had animals, but what would they eat (v. 13)? In a farming-based economy, this would mean starvation and economic ruin for the whole nation.

Joel calls to the leaders of the land–the elders (v. 2) and priests (v. 13) to turn to God at this time (v. 19). This is one human resopnse to a problem like this; the other is to reject God, to curse him and die as Job’s wife counseled him to do in another time and place.

What is the most devastating thing that has ever happened to you? Losing a war against a world power like Israel did to Assyria and Judah did to Babylon would be devastating. None of us reading this have experienced anything like that, thankfully.

But have you faced an economic wipeout–bankruptcy, unempoloyment, or something else? Did it bring you before the face of God in prayer, pleading for his help or did it make you bitter against him, turning away from him in anger?

God allows many kinds of trials into our lives (James 1:2-12). They are all designed to reveal whether we really love and trust him or if we say and act as if we love and trust him while things are good. In other words, trials reveal who the true believers are and who thinks they are a believer when they are not.

But trials also refine the faith of true believers. They show us where our faith in God is weak and teach us to fully depend on him and not on ourselves so much. If you’re experiencing any kind of trial right now, how is your response to it? Does Joel’s call to come before the Lord speak to you about your need to lean on the Lord more than ever at this time?

2 Kings 7, Daniel 11

Read 2 Kings 7 and Daniel 11.

This devotional is about 2 Kings 7.

At the end of 2 Kings 6, Samaria[1] was in big trouble. The kingdom was facing two powerful threats.

The first was a siege laid by the Aramaeans (6:24) which prevented anything–food, other products, people–from entering the city.

The second threat was “a great famine in the city” (6:25).

Either of these problems would have caused economic stress to the city of Samaria. Dealing with both problems at the same time was a disaster. The cost for even the most meager amount of food was an outrageous sum of money (6:25). It was worse than buying food at an airport or in the stadium of a professional sports league. As a result, people were starving and desperate for the most basic essentials of survival. They even turned to cannibalizing their own children just to survive (6:26-29).

Instead of pleading with God for help and appealing to his servant Elisha, the king of Israel blamed the Lord and determined to kill Elisha (6:30-33). Here in 2 Kings 7, that story resumed.

Elisha prophesied that there would be overnight (literally) relief from the famine (v. 1). The prices quoted here in 2 Kings 7:1 are higher than usual, but the products Elisha mentioned weren’t available at ANY price when he said these words. Remember this was a man that God used to multiply oil (2 Kings 4:1-7) and bread (2 Kings 4:42-44) among many other miracles.

Yet, despite his track record, the king’s officer mocked Elisha. His statement in verse 2, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” was a scoffing response. Elisha’s answer was a prophecy of judgment for him: “You will see it with your own eyes… but you will not eat any it!” (v. 2c).

God kept his promises both to provide for the people (vv. 3-18) and to judge the king’s commander for his unbelief (vv. 19-20). In a situation that looked impossible, God provided in an extraordinary way.

God is able and willing to provide for us but we often blame him for our problems rather than coming to him for his assistance. It is sometimes God’s will for us to suffer but there are other times when we suffer just because we don’t believe God will provide and so we don’t bother asking him.

What is the greatest need in your life right now? Have you sought God’s help and favor in that area, asking him to provide? He is able to provide faster than you can even imagine.


[1] Remember that Israel was divided into Israel, the Northern Kingdom and Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Samaria was the capital city of the Northern Kingdom also known as “Israel.”

2 Samuel 22, Ezekiel 29

Read 2 Samuel 22 and Ezekiel 29.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 22, which is nearly identical to Psalm 18.

In this Psalm, David praised God for the protection God gave him during his many years as a man of warfare. One of the things he praised God for was described in verse 35: “He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”

Undoubtedly David practiced wielding weapons of warfare. The boring hours and days he spent watching the sheep as a boy gave him plenty of time to practice his aim with a sling, not to mention the amount of harp-playing he did during those same days. After he defeated Goliath, he learned to handle a sword and a bow and arrow with lethal accuracy. All that practice gave him the skills that made people sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands (1 Sam 18:7).

Yet in verse 35 he praised God for training him for battle. Unlike the pride of the king of Tyre, whom we read about yesterday in Ezekiel 28, David was humble enough to realize that every skill and ability he had came from God. He cultivated that skill, yes, but God was the one who gave him the time and physical ability to practice and perfect that skill. As he sang God’s praises for protection, he also credited him publicly and worshipfully for the fighting skills he developed which enabled him to be victorious and avoid being killed in battle.

What is the one skill you’re good at–the one that friends of your wish they had and maybe even the one that provides you with a good living? Do you realize that skill is a gift from God and so were the time, the teachers, and the opportunities you’ve had to develop it? Do you take time periodically to thank God for that provision? Do you deflect praise from yourself to the Lord when others praise you for that skill?

2 Samuel 3, Ezekiel 12

Read 2 Samuel 3 and Ezekiel 12.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 3.

David was a killer; a “man of blood” as some translations call him in 1 Chronicles 28:3. But look how horrified he was when Joab killled Abner here in 2 Samuel 3. He called on God to bring a perpetual curse on Joab’s family as a consequence of Joab’s sin (v. 29). He mourned the death of Abner, attending his funeral, crying for him, singing a lament for him (vv. 31-34), and fasting to demonstrate his mourning over Abner’s death (v. 35). Why would David, who killed so many people himself, be so horrified by the death of Abner?

The answer is that David’s killing was done in defense of his nation Israel. The Philistines, David’s most frequent opponent, were attacking Israel. Israel was not the aggressor in these situations; it was the victim of the aggression of its neighbors. While it is true that Israel attacked the nations living in Canaan, God made it clear that the command to attack them was not only to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant but also to punish these nations for their own sins (see Deut 9:5, 18:12). Just as God later used the Assyrians and Babylonians to judge Israel for her sins, he used the Israelites in the days of Joshua to punish the Canaanites for their sins. Having taken the land that God promised to them, Israel focused on settling and developing the promised land, not building an empire through never-ending attacks on other nations. War, and the killing that it requires, the killing that David did, was done in defense, not because David was a bloodthirsty man.

Our nation’s leaders should consider the ethics of war. American foreign policy in the past few decades has involved attacking other nations that have not attacked us. While this might seem like a smart idea tactically, it is not morally justified. It is, in fact, murder on a large scale. There is a time for “just war” but the just ones in any war are those who are seeking to defend their people and property. Human life is sacred, as David’s response to Abner’s death demonstrates. Since it is sacred, one should never attack another nation or person. Neither you nor I should ever take another person’s life unless that person has attacked us first with potentially deadly force. David’s response to Joab’s murderous attack on Abner shows that he understood the difference between defeating an enemy who has attacked you and getting revenge on someone through murder.

For much more on this, listen to a radio interview here that describes biblically what makes a just war: https://huffduffer.com/jonesay/345975

1 Samuel 11, Jeremiah 48

Read 1 Samuel 11 and Jeremiah 48.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 48.

In this chapter, Jeremiah prophesied judgment for the people of Moab. Moab was established and had lived a peaceful existence for many years (v. 11) but now God prophesied military defeat and exile for her (v. 12). The same Babylonians that took Judah would take Moab as well. This would be a military defeat (vv. 8, 15) but God would be the one causing this destruction. Verse 10 goes so far as to say that the invading, killing soldiers would be “doing the Lord’s work!” So the military loss would actually be an act of God’s judgment (v. 15).

One what basis would God judge Moab? Three verses in this chapter spell it out.

  • Verse 7 says, “Since you trust in your deeds and riches, you too will be taken captive….”
  • Verse 42 says, “Moab will be destroyed as a nation because she defied the Lord.”
    And in what way specifically did Moab defy the Lord? The third verse answers:
  • Verse 35: “‘In Moab I will put an end to those who make offerings on the high places and burn incense to their gods,’ declares the Lord.”

Idolatry was the reason for Moab’s judgment. At the heart of idolatry is self-trust. Again, verse 7 says, “Since you trust in your deeds and riches….” Worshipping other gods is not a sincere attempt to find truth, to meet the real God; it is trust in self instead. Instead of believing God’s word, idolator thinks, “This religion has a better idea” or “I believe this god is true because he is more to my liking.”

As Christians, we are tempted still to trust ourselves instead of submitting to the word of God. We trust our “deeds and riches” (v. 7) when we don’t like what God commands or when we think we see a better way than what the Bible teaches.

Are there any areas of your life where you are trusting yourself instead of trusting God and obeying his commands?

Judges 21, Jeremiah 35

Read Judges 21 and Jeremiah 35.

This devotional is about Judges 21.

This chapter continues a brutal story that began in Judges 19. In that chapter, a Levite and his concubine were traveling home late at night. Although it would have been easier to reach one of the Gentile cities on their journey, they went to a city called Gibeah, which was inhabited by families from the tribe of Benjamin. The text does not say so exactly, but the expectation is that they would be safer in Gibeah because their brothers from another tribe would welcome and care for them.

That is not what happened, to put it mildly.

Although one old man took the family into his home, the Benjaminites in Gibeah decided to impersonate the men of Sodom and demanded that the Levite be turned over to them to be abused sexually. The Levite handed over his concubine instead and they raped and killed her. The Levite took her dead body, cut it into twelve pieces, and sent one body part to each tribe in Israel. That was Judges 19.

In Judges 20 the leaders of Israel’s tribe responded to the Levite and demanded that the rest of the Benjamites hand over the men of Gibeah for some rough justice. The Benjamites refused and civil war began–11 tribes against Benjamin. After some initial success, the Benjamites were soundly defeated by the rest of Israel who killed many of them and burned every town they came across. The author of Judges was coy when he wrote that they “put all the towns to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found.” The “everything else they found” was the women and children in these towns–a brutal overreaction that was similar in immorality to the way the concubine was killed in Judges 19 which stared this whole mess, but this brutality was done at a much larger scale.

Now, here in Judges 21, we read that those who turned out to fight had taken an oath not to give their daughters in marriage to any Benjamites (v. 1). Then they realized what a stupid move that was. Since they killed all the women and children of Benjamin, the Benjamites who survived the war would not be able to reproduce. Consequently, the whole tribe of Benjamin might be extinguished (v. 2, 6-7).

Eventually they came up with a solution: Nobody from Jabesh Gilead showed up to fight, so they killed all the men and women of that town and handed over their virgin daughters to the Benjamites (vv. 7-14). That worked, somewhat, but didn’t provide enough women for all the Benjamites. So they told the men of Benjamin kidnap the girls of Shiloh and forcibly marry them (vv. 18-23). They reasoned that, since the girls were kidnaped, their fathers weren’t technically guilty of breaking their oath.

Verse 25 ends the book of Judges with these words: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” What we are to conclude, then, from this awful story is that people need wise, godly leadership. When people do what seems right in their eyes, they do wretched things to each other, overreact in their attempts for justice, make wicked, rash vows, then rationalize immoral ways to solve the problems they have created.

A wise leader, however, can save people from these wicked abuses.

Saul, David, Solomon, and the other kings of Israel and Judah did some wicked, unwise things themselves. However, they showed much better leadership than what we read about in here in Judges.

But the only king who can truly lead perfectly and judge wisely is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. While we should seek wise solutions to our problems with each other and we should seek good, righteous leaders, we should never fall too much in love with any one leader, because they will fail.

The failure of leadership and government in this world should not surprise us, but it should cause us to long for the kingdom of God where Jesus will judge in righteousness. Let the bad decisions of leaders in this world and the foolish outcomes that men come up with lead you to pray, “Your kingdom come!” When God’s kingdom comes in the person of King Jesus, then human society will finally function and flourish like we want it to and God created it to function.

Judges 15, Jeremiah 28

Read Judges 15 and Jeremiah 28.

This devotional is about Judges 15.

In a book of the Bible filled with unusual characters doing strange things, Samson stands out as one of the most unusual. To review, Samson:

  • Was born to previously barren parents who were told that he would be a deliverer for Israel (Judges 13).
  • Was set apart as birth to be a spiritual leader (13:4-5, 7)
  • Married outside of God’s will (14:1-3) to a Philistine woman who…
  • Lied to him and manipulated him out of fear instead of trusting him and his God (14:15-17)
  • Was used by God despite his sin (14:4) and through of his fierce temper to start a battle between himself and the Philistines (14:19).

Here in Judges 15, Samson had calmed down and missed his wife, so he went to …um.. spend some quality time with her (v. 1). Her father explained that he gave her to another guy because he “was so sure you hated her” (v. 2). Understand something right here: the word “hate” in the Old Testament in a marriage context means “to divorce.” To love a woman means to enter into a lifelong covenant with her in Hebrew; when a man “hates” his wife, then, he breaks the covenant and divorces* her. The emotions of “love” and “hate” are secondary in the Old Testament to the legal meaning of “marry” and “divorce.”

But her father made an assumption he should not have made. Divorce was instantaneous in their world but the husband had to initiate it and, in Israel at least, had to put it in writing according to Deuteronomy 24:1. Samson’s father-in-law had no right to give Samson’s bride away.

Her father seemed to realize that he was in the wrong and he knew from chapter 14:19 how much damage Samson was capable of, so he did his best to appease Samson, offering a younger daughter instead (v. 2). Samson, however, had a legitimate right to be angry. He didn’t have the right in Judges 14 but he did here in Judges 15 and he knew it, too: “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them” (15:3). And he certainly did what he intended to do, ingeniously ruining the Philistines’s crops (vv. 4-5).

The Philistines were clearly scared of Samson so they took out their anger at him on his wife and her father (v. 6). Remember that in Judges 14:15 this is exactly what they threatened her with. This made Samson even angrier causing him to “slaughter many of them” (v. 8). With no inlaws left to passive-aggressively punish, the Philistines finally came after Samson himself (v. 9). Instead of unifying behind Samson as their leader, however, the people of Judah handed him over (v. 10). They used diplomacy to solve the situation, not war.

Now, what do we make of all this to this point? Here are some key points to understand:

  • Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman was one example of a pervasive problem. Another example of the same problem was how the people of Judah handed him over to the Philistines. The problem that both of these incidents illustrate is that the people of Israel had way too cozy a relationship with the Philistines. Samson was acting outside the will of God by marrying her but he was not acting outside the informal customs of his society–and that was the problem. God’s people were supposed to defeat the Philistines and take their land, not intermarry with them and negotiate their way to peace.
  • Samson was, at the beginning, a terrorist. That’s right; he fought the Philistines by hitting them where it hurt, using guerrilla tactics instead of the formal approach of war. Terrorists don’t send an army. They attack civilians and their property as Samson did Judges 14-15.
  • Samson was set apart by God to be Israel’s leader and deliverer and he was empowered by God incredibly when fighting Israel’s enemies. But, he never really led Israel at all. Although he did the Lord’s will by fighting the Philistines, he did it for personal, selfish reasons, not because he believed in and wanted to obey the commands of God. He also…
  • acted alone rather than rallying God’s people as a true leader would. For these reasons, he never accomplished what he could have.

So three lessons emerge here for us to apply:

  1. God may empower and use people who do the right thing even if they do it for selfish reasons.
  2. But there is no reward for the person or glory to God when we do the right thing in selfishness and anger rather than out of principle and in obedience to biblical commands.
  3. Effective leaders engage others for the purpose of mission; talented people do it all themselves and are never as effective as they could or should be.

  • This was supposed to be done in writing (Deut 24:3) and, in fact, what he wrote on the paper was, “I hate you” meaning, “I divorce you.” Hebrew is a primitive language. BTW, while we’re talking about this, Malachi 2:16 was translated by some older translations such as the New American Standard Bible as, “‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord” when it should read, “‘The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the Lord (NIV).

Judges 12, Jeremiah 25

Today, read Judges 12 and Jeremiah 25.

This devotional is about Judges 12:8-15.

This little paragraph of scripture described three insignificant regional judges in Israel: Ibzan (vv. 8-10), Elon (vv. 11-12), and Abdon (vv. 13-15). I just called these men “insignificant” but their names are recorded in Scripture; that’s more than anyone can say about me. But they were insignificant in the sense that nothing remarkable happened during their tenure as Israel’s leaders. Other than his tribe and burial place, all we learned about Elon was that he was a judge for 10 years (vv. 11-12).

This chapter gives us a bit more information about the other two men. Ibzan had a large family–thirty sons AND thirty daughters. Only a wealthy man could provide for such a large family, so these verses indicate a time of peace and prosperity in Judah. If the other nations around Judah were attacking her and oppressing her people, it would be hard to keep such a large family alive and thriving. So this shows us that the period of the Judges was not all about war, oppression, and turmoil.

Ibzan had some political savvy, too. By making sure that all sixty of his children married outside their clan, Ibzan created a network of positive relationships with other Israelite clans and (possibly) tribes. That would have been good for trade and commerce, too. Ibzan may have left a boring historical legacy but that’s only because there were no major problems during his leadership. We find him forgettable but I’m sure the people he led were grateful. Dull political situations mean stable communities where people can thrive.

Abdon, in verses 13-15 was likewise a pretty boring guy. His strength was delegation; he led using other people, namely, his forty sons and thirty grandsons. An effective leader is not someone who burns himself trying to hyper-serve those he leads, doing all the work himself. An effective leader is one who can enlist and train others who can bear the responsibilities of leadership with him. The fact that these men rode around on seventy donkeys also indicates a time of prosperity. Donkeys were useful farm animals, the pickup trucks of the ancient world. They could carry heavy loads as well as pull a plow through the field. If God’s people were having a hard time providing for themselves, these 70 men would have had a hard time justifying using 70 donkeys to ride around town on. So God was good to his people during the days of Abdon. The lack of crises recorded in Judges during Abdon’s days can be traced to prosperous times and good leadership.

We do not read in these verses that these men were godly, righteous men but they must have been. Judges 2:12-15 told us that the squabbles God’s people had with other nations were actions of God’s divine justice for the idolatry and sins of the people. When we read about times like these where there were no raids or conflicts, it stands to reason that people were faithful to the Lord, including their leaders. Proverbs 29:2 says, “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” We tend to think that great leaders are kings and presidents and prime ministers are people who fight and win political and military battles. God’s word indicates that the best leaders are those who stay out of the news. They lead righteous lives, judge with justice, manage with diplomacy, and generally are pretty boring. These are the kinds of conditions we should seek. First Timothy 2:1-4 commands us to pray for rulers who will leave people alone and cultivate a peaceful, predictable world: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” When men in authority leave us alone to “live peaceful and quiet lives” God is pleased because the gospel can spread.

Let me just get really specific here: politics in our world has become sport and entertainment. The party in power in Washington will change laws, pick fights with political enemies, and go to war against nations that have not attacked us. And, people who vote for that party love it. They love winning these skirmishes and mocking the other side. Both major political parties do it and news channels on TV and online love it because it gives them something to talk about, something to generate controversy with which drives up their ratings or page views. I guess this provides people with entertainment but I think it makes society less productive, less happy, less prosperous and, most importantly, makes Christians less focused on the mission Christ gave us.

Personally, I’d like to see Washington become a lot less relevant to everything and a lot more boring. I’d prefer any of these guys–Ibzan, Elon, or Abdon to any president in our lifetime, including the current resident of the Oval Office.

I think God would, too.

Let’s pray for our leaders to get out of the way and let us live our lives. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:3).

Judges 6, Jeremiah 19

Read Judges 6 and Jeremiah 19.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 19.

God complained, through the prophets, about many sins committed by Israel and Judah. But, of all those sins, idolatry was mentioned most frequently. God’s judgment against his people was closely tied to breaking the commandments about having any other gods and making idols for worship. From God’s perspective, we can understand this. God is real and other gods are not so it is offensive to give his glory to false gods and deeply unjust to worship something that people created instead of the true Creator.

For those who don’t know God, however, it may seem strange that the Old Testament spends so much time and ink addressing idolatry. The list of human problems is long. It contains moral issues like murder, assault, theft, rape, adultery, as well as societal problems like starvation, poverty, war, infant mortality, etc. These are more pressing issues, when it comes to human life and the quality of it, than idolatry. At least, that’s what people might think.

Here in Jeremiah 19, however, we see another reason why idolatry was so offensive to God: Human problems sprout from bad theology like branches sprout from the trunk of a tree. In verse 3 God prophesied “a disaster” on Judah and Jerusalem and, in verse 4, the reason he gave for doing so was “they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned incense in it to gods that neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah ever knew.” But notice what followed his complaint about their false worship: “they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.” Israel’s idolatry wasn’t just a waste of time caused by praying to something that wasn’t real. Israel’s idolatry led them into unimaginable human wickedness. Thank about how depraved someone would have to be to take their beautiful newborn baby and burn it alive as an “offering” to Baal. It is incredibly cruel and unspeakably evil.

This is what happens with bad theology. Bad theology is a symptom of a wicked, unredeemed heart but it also leads to greater wickedness such as cruelty and inhumanity toward other people. We Americans don’t worship Baal but we do worship unrestrained sexuality which leads to pornography, premarital sex, unrighteous divorce, adultery, abortion, homosexuality and other sexual sins. We worship money and wealth which leads to exploiting workers, dishonest advertising, and unfair contracts. There is only one true God and only he can say what is truly right and wrong. Worship any other god–even one called YHWH or Jesus but detached from God’s revelation–and you will get all kinds of human wickedness, too.

Numbers 22, Isaiah 11-12, Psalm 127

Read Numbers 22, Isaiah 11-12, Psalm 127.

This devotional is about Numbers 22.

Israel was tantalizingly close to the Promised Land. The forty years of wandering was almost over and verse 1 says, “the Israelites… camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.” You know already that Jericho was the first city they defeated when they entered the land. So the events of this chapter and the ones that follow happen just before they received the land God had promised them.

God had blessed his people, enabling them to defeat the Amorites (v. 2) and to become a large nation (v. 3: “so many people”). Out of fear, the Moabites looked for a way to defeat Israel, but given that God was with them, what kind of “defeat” could they engineer? A military defeat was out of the question.

So they decided to try to win a spiritual war and found Balaam (v. 5). They asked him to curse Israel (v. 6) and Balaam asked them to wait overnight while he sought revelation from God. In verse 8 he said, “I will report back to you with the answer the LORD gives me.” The word “LORD” is YHWH, the covenant name of God for Israel; but why was Balaam using this name for God?

One reason is possibly that he himself was a worshipper of YHWH. Another answer is that he knew many “gods” and that YHWH was Israel’s God so he waited for revelation from that God. It is hard to know from these chapters, but I think the answer is the latter. Balaam didn’t worship YHWH but he knew who YHWH was so he sought revelation from Israel’s God.

God did speak with Balaam and ordered him not to curse his people (v. 12). Balak sent a second delegation and asked Balaam to reconsider (v. 15). This time God gave permission for Balaam to go with them on the condition that he only speak the Lord’s word (v. 20).

What happened next was strange; God had allowed Balaam to go (v. 20) but in verse 22 we learn, “God was very angry when he went.” Although Moses did not explain further, God’s anger at Balaam may have been anger at his eagerness to find a way to get paid for his prophecies against God’s people. In verse 22b Balaam encountered “the angel of the Lord” which refers to Jesus before he became a man. After the very unusual interaction with his donkey (vv. 23-34) Christ spoke to Balaam himself, directly and charged him again to “speak only what I tell you” (v. 35).

There’s more to this story that we’ll come to tomorrow but here in this chapter we see God’s divine protection of his people. He would not allow his people to be cursed by an unscrupulous prophet.

Have you ever considered that maybe God’s enemies want to bring a curse into your life that only God knows about and that only he can prevent? That may happen more than we can imagine, but unless our Sovereign God allows the curse into your life, God’s enemies are powerless to touch you. Ask God, then, for protection from his enemies and thank God for the protection and peace he gives us.