Exodus 13, Job 31, Proverbs 6:20-35

Read Exodus 13, Job 31, and Proverbs 6:20-35 today. This devotional is about Proverbs 6:20-35.

Proverbs 5 was devoted entirely to warning us against the sin of adultery. Here in 6:20-35, Solomon revisited that subject.

In Proverbs 5:16-22 Solomon advised you to protect against adultery by prioritizing and enjoying sex within your marriage. That instruction came at the end of the teaching on adultery.

Here in Proverbs 6:20-24 his recommendation for avoiding adultery comes at the beginning of the section, not the end as in chapter 5. Also unlike chapter 5, Solomon viewed his instructions as the antidote to adultery rather than an amorous marriage, as he wrote in chapter 5. This suggests that we should use multiple layers of defense against this sin. One layer is a mind that is devoted to truth and prepares for the temptation of adultery (6:20-24). The other layer is a strong relationship with your spouse (5:16-22).

Let’s focus on that first layer, the one described here in 6:20-24. Verse 24 says that it is the teaching of godly parents (v. 20) that will keep “you from your neighbor’s wife.” How does that work exactly? Verses 25-29 tell us.

All temptations to sin consist of lies. Just as Satan promised Eve that disobeying God’s commands would liberate them to become “like God, knowing good and evil,” all temptations promise some kind of benefit with no cost. Adultery, of course, promises thrills and pleasure. If you feel yourself being attracted to someone else who is not your wife, the promise of that attraction is that the beauty of that person will be yours to enjoy (v. 25) if you begin a relationship with her.

But sin always hides the cost and Solomon’s teaching to his son in this passage is to consider the high cost of adultery (vv. 26-33). Sex with a prostitute is sinful but sex with another man’s wife is a much costlier sin (v. 26). It will bring punishment into your life (v. 29) just as surely as coals will burn you (vv. 27-28). If you learn this well when you are young, you will be able to see through the lies that temptation to adultery tell you and understand the real cost of the sin.

Adultery is so costly because of the social shame after the sin is exposed that adulterer’s bear. Some sins make sense to us such as stealing to avoid starvation (v. 30). Yet even that sin exacts a cost when the shoplifter is caught (v. 31). Our hearts go out to a starving man who steals because he is just trying to stay alive (v. 30) so when his fine for stealing is paid, that is the end of the matter (v. 31). Adultery is not disposed of so easily. Verse 33b says, “…his shame will never be wiped away.” In other words, if you get caught committing adultery, that is going to stick with you and become a permanent part of your story. At the very least, the spouse of the person you commit adultery with will not forget (vv. 34-35). In his quest to get justice, he will not hide what you did but will spread the word so that the maximum number of people possible hear about it.

In the moments of temptation, these truths can help you find your way out of temptation without sinning. If you can remember that the promises adultery make to you will prove to be false, it will be easier to say no when the temptation comes your way.

So, determine now to live a pure life and to remind yourself that the high cost of sin far outweighs the temporary pleasures the sin will offer you. This is the wise way to live–the pure way. May God give us grace to trust him and obey his word if any of us face this temptation in our lives.

Genesis 41, Job 7, Hebrews 1

Read Genesis 41, Job 7, Hebrews 1 and today’s devotional which is about Genesis 41.

To me, the amazing thing about Joseph’s story is not how quickly he rose after having so many down years and experiences. Throughout the painful parts of his story we were told that God was with him and was blessing him, so it isn’t surprising that things turned around for him quickly.

What’s amazing is how grateful and God-honoring Joseph was during his vindication, which we read about today here in Genesis 41.

  • When he appeared before Pharaoh to hear Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph gave glory to God for the ability to interpret his dream: “‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires’” (v. 16).
  • Later, when he named his sons, Joseph chose the name Manasseh and explained, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (v. 51b). When he named his son Ephraim, he explained, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (v. 52b).

These statements ring with gratitude to God; they completely lack any sense of indignation about what had happened. I don’t know what the Hebrew would be, but I’d be tempted to name my kids, “It’s about time something good happened to me for a change” and “Take that everyone who tried to hurt me!”

What made Joseph so grateful and so quick to honor and thank God?

It was his faith in God. His faith in God is what carried him through all the problems he had faced in his life. So how could he be angry with God when it was his confidence in God that sustained him in the darkest days?

Although Joseph’s life went in unexpected directions and the pain of all that was real, it was ultimately God–not Joseph–who was vindicated here in Genesis 41. The confusing, unhappy moments in Joseph’s life were necessary to get him to this place where God would use him.

Maybe this is a message you need today, that the confusing, unhappy experiences you’re going through right now are preparing you for what God has next for you. In that case, don’t give up on God or become bitter toward him. Things might get worse before they get better, but it is all part of making you into who God wants you to be so that he can use you and bless you according to his will.

2 Chronicles 35, Malachi 3

Today’s OT18 readings are 2 Chronicles 35 and Malachi 3.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 35.

Josiah was the last great king of Judah and he ruled for a long time–over 30 years. During his reign the idolatry that plagued both Israel and Judah for generations gave way, officially at least, to the true worship of the true God. Even the Passover feast was celebrated which “had not been observed like this in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel” (v. 18).

So Josiah was a godly man, a good king, and someone the people in his kingdom actually loved–a rare thing, indeed. Verse 24 says that after he died, “all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him.” In every measurable way, Josiah lived a successful life.

But his life ended much sooner than it should have. Yes, he reigned for 31 years (34:1) but he started his reign at age 8 so he died when he was 39 years old. His life could have been much longer and so could the kingdom and spiritual renewal he led.

What ended things so prematurely? An unwise battle against Egypt (v. 20), that’s what. Egypt was not coming to attack Judah and Pharaoh Necho warned Josiah not to attack (v. 21), even stating that God himself was sending the message of non-aggression. The writer of 2 Chronicles agreed that Necho’s message was from God; verse 22b says, “He would not listen to what Necho had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.”

Josah’a attack was unwise and unnecessary because the Egyptians were not after him or his people. He died prematurely, then, because of his own foolishness. Though he was a godly man, he was still a man and hu-man and humans make bad decisions. Josiah’s bad decision was personally and nationally costly. God did not stop him from making it even though Josiah was a godly man.

Christians assume sometimes that being in Christ protects us from foolish decisions. I had a man tell me once, “When you’re a Christians, things just go better.” That’s a nice statement but not always or necessarily true. The Bible does promise benefits for meditating on (Psalm 1:3, Joshua 1:8) and obeying (James 1:25) God’s word but loving and serving God does not give you full immunity from making bad decisions or feeling the consequences of those decisions (vv. 20-24). Foolish is the person who assumes he has immunity or (worse) blames God when foolish decisions turn our poorly.

Are you making any decisions in your life where you are acting unwisely, even against good advice because you expect God to insure you from bad decisions? Change your mind and learn from Josiah’s tragic example to become godly and wise in how your live your life.

2 Chronicles 34, Malachi 2

Read 2 Chronicles 34 and Malachi 2.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 34.

According to verse 1, Josiah was eight years old when he became king, When he was sixteen years old (v. 3: “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young”), he turned his heart to loving, learning about, and living for God. Those three “Ls”–loving, learning about, and living for God–are my summary of the phrase “he began to seek the God of his father David.”

When Josiah was twenty years old (v. 3: “in the twelfth year of his reign”) he began removing the known places of idolatry from Jerusalem and all of Judah (vv. 3b-7).

Then, when he was twenty-six years old (v. 8: “in the eighteenth year”), he began the renovation of Solomon’s temple (vv. 8-15). During that renovation, the “Book of the Law” (v. 14) was discovered. That refers, of course, Moses’ law; whether it meant all five books of Moses or just one book (such as Exodus or Deuteronomy) is unclear. What is clear is that God’s law had been neglected. Whatever Josiah and any other observant person in Judah knew about God was known by oral tradition, not by direct instruction, although perhaps they had some of the historical books (Joshua-2 Samuel) and the wisdom books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.

Having re-discovered God’s Law, however, the secretary and the king (v. 18) read it. The king immediately accepted the words he heard as God’s word and realized that God had promised judgment for disobedience to this covenant—disobedience that was common throughout his kingdom. His response to the message was, “Go and inquire of the Lord for me…” (v. 21). The goal of 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 judgment to them or would he accept the king’s repentance?

They consulted the prophet Huldah (v. 22) and learned from her that God had indeed willed judgment for Judah (vv. 24-25). However, verses 26-28 tell us that Josiah’s responsiveness to God’s word would mean mercy for him and the people during his life. Verse 27 put it this way, “Because your heart was responsive…” That phrase summarized Josiah’s response to God’s word. He (1) accepted it as God’s word, (2) believed that God meant what he said in his word and (3) sought to bring his life and his kingdom into obedience with what he learned in God’s word. Josiah, therefore, modeled for Judah and for anyone who follows God what walking with God looks like–including you and me. We must read God’s word—not someone else’s description of God’s word 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. This is an ongoing thing, the everyday, day after day, reaction and response that should characterize our lives as people who, like Josiah, seek God (v. 3). As we come to the end of this year, my hope is that reading these devotionals have helped establish a new pattern in your life. Keep that going in the next year! Keep seeking the Lord and responding to his word in faith and obedience. These are the results of genuine faith in God.

2 Chronicles 33, Malachi 1

Today, read 2 Chronicles 33 and Malachi 1.

This devotional is about Malachi 1.

The final book of the Old Testament has a pattern of writing that is distinct from any other book in the Bible. Malachi’s pattern of prophecy is:
• God makes a statement (v. 2a, 6a-d)
• God’s people question the statement (v. 2b, 6e)
• God gives more explanation or support for the statement (vv. 3-5, 7-14).

Two topics are addressed here in Malachi 1 using that pattern. They are;
• God’s love for Israel (vv. 2-5).
• Israel’s dishonoring of God through blemished sacrifices (vv. 6-14).

The first topic, God’s love for Israel, is one that Israel may have questioned throughout the Old Testament era. God’s people experienced many setbacks and even captivity, so they may have questioned God’s love literally, not just through the literary conventions of verse 2b. How could God love a nation that faced so much military defeat for so long?

God’s answer is not to point many specific instances of his love but to contrast the outcome of Esau’s descendants , the Edomites, with the Israelites (vv. 3-5). Israel suffered defeats; no doubt about it. But Edom was about to be destroyed completely in God’s wrath while Israel had returned to their land after the exile. God’s love, then, was demonstrated by being faithful to his covenant with Israel even when they were faithless at hime).

LIfe’s problems and negative circumstances can make us struggle to believe that God loves us. Malachi’s answer to that struggle is not to minimize the problems Israel had but to point them back to their own existence. God saved them and preserved them in ways he has not done for any other nation. This is the most powerful proof of God’s love that could exist.

When you and I wonder if God loves us, we need to take our eyes off our circumstances and remember how Christ saved us from our sins. He not only died for our sins but, before that, he chose you to receive that forgiveness through election. Then, on the day of his choosing, you heard the gospel message and the light of spiritual life turned on in your heart. It caused you to turn to Christ and gratefully receive salvation. All of this happened because God loves you.

In this life you will have problems, setbacks, struggles, and heartaches. God’s love does not spare us from these things. God’s love saves us from eternal destruction which is much more loving than making sure your car always starts or that you always have more money in your bank account than you will ever need.

So, when you question God’s love for you, return again to the doctrines of salvation. Your salvation is the greatest evidence you’ll ever get of God’s love for you. Don’t forget it; remember it and thank God for it.

2 Chronicles 32, Zechariah 14

Today we’re reading 2 Chronicles 32 and Zechariah 14.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 32.

Hezekiah honored the Lord from his heart, led Judah to honor and seek the Lord, and God blessed the nation with spiritual renewal. That did not mean, however, that Hezekiah had it easy. Here in chapter 32 he had to deal with a significant military threat from Sennacherib king of Assyria. The Assyrians had built a powerful army and were intent on subjugating as many other nations as possible to their control. In verse 1, Sennacherib picked off some of the smaller fortified cities in Judah, then set his sights on defeating Jerusalem. Remember that David chose Jerusalem to be his capital because it was built on a high hill and surrounded by other mountains which made it difficult to attack successfully. Hezekiah did what he could to prepare Jerusalem for Sennacherib’s attack. He blocked off the springs of water outside the city so it wouldn’t be easy for the Assyrian army to camp there indefinitely (vv. 2-4). He also fixed the broken sections of Jerusalem’s wall and built some towers to improve surveillance around the city (v. 5a-b). He manufactured “large numbers of weapons and shields” (v. 5d) and built an outer wall and “reinforced the terraces of the City of David” (v. 5c).

Hezekiah also prepared his army for the attack (vv. 7-8) and held fast against the propaganda war that Sennacherib waged (vv. 9-19). Most importantly, he prayed. He and Isaiah the great prophet waged war on their knees in this moment of crisis (v. 20) and God honored them by miraculously delivering Judah from Sennacherib (vv. 21-23). Later, when he contracted a fatal illness, God honored his faith and his prayers by healing him (v. 24).

What an amazing life this man led, yet because he was a man he was not immune from sin. He had many victories and much success (vv. 27-29) but he also struggled with pride (vv. 25-26). This temptation follows many people who achieve everything, or most things, they want in life. We forget how much God and others contribute to our success and we start thinking that we have all the answers and deserve everything we’ve gotten. God hates pride and those who succumb to its temptation usually find themselves humbled in some way before him. The ultimate test of pride is whether one is repentant or not when God deals a blow to their pride. Hezekiah did repent (v. 26) and God was merciful to him to a degree (v. 26b). His story reminds us to be careful about our thoughts when things go well for us. If you’ve had a great year in 2016, I am happy for you and wish you even better things in 2017 but remember to thank and praise God rather than taking too much credit in your heart. God loves humility and rewards the humble but the proud he usually brings to humility.

2 Chronicles 31, Zechariah 13:2-9

Read 2 Chronicles 31 and Zechariah 13:2-9 today.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 31.

Hezekiah restored the temple and the priesthood (chapter 29) led Judah to observe the Passover again after generations of ignoring it (chapter 30), and called his people to return to serving and worshipping the Lord from the heart (also chapter 30). God worked through his leadership and the people responded favorably to the Lord. The word “revival” is used whenever a large number of people turn or return to the Lord. Here in 2 Chronicles 31, we see the results of genuine revival from the heart.

The first result is the removal of idols. Idolatry was a constant struggle within Israel and Judah and even when godly kings ruled, it was still practiced in secret. After God revived the hearts of his people under Hezekiah, they voluntarily destroyed their own idols as a result (v. 1). This demonstrates a true repentance–a true turning from sin to serve the Lord alone. It is what happens in our lives, too, when God works to revive and strengthen our commitment to him.

Another result of revival is giving to the Lord’s work from the heart (vv. 2-19). The Levites and priests had abandoned their ministries, as we saw in chapter 29. This was partially due to their own disobedience and partially due to the lack of funding they were receiving from God’s people. After God worked through Hezekiah to revive the hearts of people, the people gave so generously to the Lord’s work that the priests and Levites had more than enough for themselves (vv. 9-10). How did this happen? People started tithing faithfully (vv. 5-6). When people were faithful in tithing, there was more than enough to provide for God’s work and God’s servants. In fact, there was so much more than what was needed that the priests just starting piling it up (vv. 7-8) and built storerooms to warehouse it all (vv. 11-13). In addition to providing for the priests, were two additional results to this faithful tithing. First, there was heartfelt praise and thanks to the Lord for his provision (v. 8). Second, there was adequate provision for more men to dedicate themselves to serve the Lord (vv. 16-19).

This is what happens when God works in a group of people. People stop loving and start hating and repudiating their idols and they start giving faithfully to God’s work. As God’s work is better funded, his servants are able to do more for him and a virtuous cycle begins.

What is the state of your heart before the Lord? Are you praying for God to revive the hearts of people in our church and our community?

2 Chronicles 30, Zechariah 12:1-13:1

Today, read 2 Chronicles 30 and Zechariah 12:1-13:1.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 30.

The revival and reformation in Judah that we read about yesterday continued in this chapter. The new aspect of this revival was a desire to celebrate the Passover which we read about today. God commanded Israel to observe the Passover every year so that the nation and each succeeding generation would remember God’s miraculous extraction of his people from slavery in Egypt.

But, beginning with Solomon, God’s people wandered away from obedience to God’s laws. That disobedience included not observing the feast days, like the Passover, which God commanded in his law. We saw this in verse 26 which said, “There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” The span of time between Solomon and Hezekiah was something like 200 years so God’s people had no personal history to guide them. They didn’t have memories of celebrating the Passover with their families yearly so they were unprepared to celebrate this festival to the Lord properly. We saw their unpreparedness in verse 2-3 as well as 17-19,

In their excitement to celebrate the Passover, these unprepared people actually broke God’s laws concerning the Passover. It was Hezekiah’s prayers for them that saved them from God’s wrath (v. 20). God was merciful to them because Hezekiah prayed for them and because their hearts were right even though their actions were not. Good motives are not an excuse for habitual disobedience to God’s word but God is often merciful when his people are acting in love for him.

What strikes me in this passage is how much better it is to build godly habits and maintain them. Regular church attendance is very important, in my view, for maintaining your walk with God. It is one of several habits of godliness that a Christian needs to grow; however, there are many Christians who attend church sporadically and haphazardly. They attend now and then, maybe once a month. Then they may come for a few weeks in a row before dropping back to old, inconsistent patterns. It is much harder to start a godly habit–like Passover observance or church attendance–than it is to keep doing a habit that your parents and their parents established a long time ago.

BUT, if you’ve fallen out of practicing a godly habit, the best time to change that is now. It might not have been the correct time to observe the Passover (see verse 3) but it was better to re-start the observance as soon as possible than to continue to live in disobedience to the Lord.

So what’s the status of your habits as a Christian? By all means, continue to maintain the godly habits you have but, if you need to start a good, godly habit, DO IT NOW. So what will you begin cultivating ASAP?

Merry Christmas!

2 Chronicles 29, Zechariah 11

Today’s OT18 readings are 2 Chronicles 29 and Zechariah 11.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 29.

Unlike the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Judah had some kings who served God–eight of them (out of 20) to be exact. The degree to which they served God, however, varied widely from one king to another as we have seen. Here in 2 Chronicles 29 we read again about Hezekiah, one of Judah’s best kings. After introducing him in verses 1 and 2, the author of 2 Chronicles began telling us how bad things had gotten in Judah when Hezekiah became king. Hezekiah “opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them” (v. 3b) because the previous generations had “turned their faces away from the Lord’s dwelling place and turned their backs on him. They also shut the doors of the portico and put out the lamps. They did not burn incense or present any burnt offerings at the sanctuary to the God of Israel” (vv. 6b-7). The magnificent temple Solomon built and dedicated was neglected and in disrepair, a fitting symbol for Judah’s spiritual condition as well. It needed to be fixed up and cleansed both physically and spiritually (v. 5). When Judah turned away from the Lord in previous generations, many of the priests also abandoned their work of serving the Lord (v. 34). So there was much to do if Hezekiah wanted to restore Israel’s ability to worship the Lord biblically.

Despite all that needed to be done, Hezekiah wasted no time before starting Judah on a path of worship reformation. In verse 3 we are told that he started this reformation, “In the first month of the first year of his reign.” Of all the things he sought to change and improve as king of his nation, obedience to the Lord in national worship was A1 on his priority list. As you look at your life here at the end of 2018, what do you want to change? Do you want to eat healthier? Exercise more? Spend more time with your children? Strengthen your marriage? Paint your house? Get trained in some area of your work so that your career can move to the next level? All of these are good things but far less important than your walk with God.

When I was growing up, preachers used to encourage us to “get dedicated” or “rededicated” to the Lord’s work. Many of them meant something theologically that is unbiblical so I have resisted using that language in my preaching. Instead, I try to encourage people to be obedient to the Lord today and do the same thing tomorrow. But this passage indicates that maybe there is something to be said for making a renewed covenant to serve the Lord, as Hezekiah did in verse 10, after a time of disobedience or half-hearted obedience. Maybe that’s something to consider in your life this Christmas eve.

2 Chronicles 27-28, Zechariah 10

Today we’re reading 2 Chronicles 27-28 and Zechariah 10.

This devotional is about Zechariah 10.

One of the metaphors that repeats throughout scripture is that people are like sheep. Like sheep, people are given to wandering off on their own. They will follow the voice of a leader–a shepherd–they trust but without a shepherd, they tend to wander into trouble. A good leader of people, then, both provides a clear voice for the people to follow and watches out for them to keep them from straying too far from the group. When sheep stray too far from the herd, they are vulnerable to predators and to accidents. A good shepherd leads his sheep and watches out for them.

Here in Zechariah 10:3 God expressed anger toward the leaders of his people. The reason for his anger is that these shepherds give voice to lies. Verse 2 says, “The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain.” The result of these false, destructive, deceitful instructions was that “the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.”

God promised to provide the leadership that the kings and priests and prophets were not providing. Verse 3c-d says, “the Lord Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah….” But notice the result of that leadership in the next phrase of verse 3, “and make them like a proud horse in battle.” The metaphor changes, then, from the pool being like wandering sheep to becoming strong, able horses in battle. This suggests that God’s leadership takes us when we are weak, foolish, and vulnerable but develops us into strong, capable creatures.

Jesus was the shepherd God had in mind for this as we see in verse 4a, “From Judah will come the cornerstone” which is one of the images used to describe Christ. Christ has become the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). He is the cornerstone on which God’s people and our lives are built (1 Peter 2:6-7). Part of the leadership he provides is to give undershepherds (1 Peter 5:2-3) to his people to serve the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4). The elders of our church, then, are here to provide you with the spiritual leadership and nourishment you need to make you strong and able to serve the Lord like a warhorse in the spiritual battles we face in this life.

Thank you for spending the time to read the Old Testament with me this year and to mediate with me on the meaning of these texts each day. I trust this is helpful to your life and that you’re using the word to grow in your faith.

But be sure to put what we’ve been learning into practice in your life. This is the goal of spiritual growth–to make us useful to God and his cause. What have you learned as a believer this year? How have you grown in your faith? Where are you serving the Lord more capably than before?