1 Chronicles 17, Jonah 1

Happy Thanksgiving! Today, read 1 Chronicles 17 and Jonah 1.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 17.

When God tore the kingdom from Saul, He declared that he would give it to a man after his own heart (1 Sam 13:14). That man, of course, was David. David demonstrated his heart for God in multiple ways throughout his life including here where he declared his intention to build a temple for God–a permanent place to “house” the Lord’s worship.

Instead of allowing David to build him a literal house, God responded to David’s desire with a declaration that He would establish David’s “house” (metaphorically) forever. Verse 10 says, “I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you.” This is called “The Davidic Covenant” and it has the following promises within it:

David’s name would be famous historically on earth (v. 8c).
God would establish Israel geographically and protect the nation (vv. 9-10). NOTE: this just restates what God had promised Abraham in the Abrahamic covenant.
David’s descendants would rule over God’s kingdom forever (v. 14).

Promise #1 was fulfilled but promises 2 and 3 have not yet been fulfilled. God did establish Israel in the land until he removed them in judgment. And, God did establish Solomon’s throne and left it in place, in a sense, even after Solomon sinned through the nation of Judah. But the ultimate fulfillment of these promises awaits and our faith teaches that they will be fulfilled literally, in the future, in the person of Jesus Christ. When he returns to set up his kingdom, it will be established in the land known as Israel and it will never be overthrown again. Jesus will rule and reign on earth, in person, and he will rule “my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.”

These promises were made to David and, by extension, to Israel. But God’s intention was always to bless the whole world through the Jewish race. This universal blessing was contained in God’s original covenant with Abraham. That covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, was described in Genesis 12:3: “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” The Bible says that we Gentiles were “grafted in” to these promises by the grace of God. So we, too, look forward to the fulfillment of these covenants. When they come we will rule and reign with Christ–all by his grace.

There is something to put your hope in and something to thank God for on this Thanksgiving day.

1 Chronicles 13-14, Amos 8

Today, 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?

1 Chronicles 11-12, Amos 7

Today our readings are 1 Chronicles 11-12 and Amos 7.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 11-12.

The first of the two chapters we read today opens by describing David’s appointment as king. It was the Lord who chose David to be king, of course (v. 2b) but God’s people recognized and affirmed that choice after witnessing David’s military leadership (v. 2a). Verses 4-9 described how David took Jerusalem and made it his home. Verse 9 concludes with this, “And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him.”

This is the part that we all know. What follows in verses 10-47 is the part that we don’t usually think about. It is a collection of stories about the chiefs of David’s “mighty warriors” (vv. 10-25) followed by a list of the mighty warriors (vv. 26-47). These men were skilled fighters and extremely loyal to David. Their loyalty to him and desire to please him led three of them to make a risky incursion into Bethlehem to get him a drink from the waters of home (vv. 16-19). Through these men “gave his kingship strong support to extend it over the whole land, as the Lord had promised” (v. 10b).

David was a great warrior and leader but he didn’t win battles by himself. He was successful because God was with him and God used these men to accomplish his will through David.

If you’re a leader, who are the other leaders on your team? Who shares the work of leading with you? If the answer is, “nobody,” then you need to ask God for help and look around for others who could be developed into that role.

If you’re someone who supports the leader, a leader under him or a “foot soldier” (so to speak), are you devoted to your leader? Assuming he or she is a leader God approves of, would you do whatever you could–even taking on some risk (v. 19)–to help your leader(s) accomplish the will of God?

1 Chronicles 9-10, Amos 6

Today, read 1 Chronicles 9-10, Amos 6.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 9, believe it or not.

• I did not go into the ministry so that I could decide what color to paint the walls in the hallway of the church building.
• I did not go to seminary to learn what a 501(c)3 corporation is and what the government requires of it.
• I did not accept the position of Senior Pastor to spend my life pouring over budgets and financial reports.
• I do not study the Bible to try to get people to give more money to the church, spend more time serving in the body, or just show up regularly and on time for the worship service on Sunday.
• I don’t get paid to order guitar strings or bulbs for the projector or copier paper.

I went into ministry to serve the Lord. I did it to study and teach God’s word. I serve the Lord to equip God’s people to reach out to others with the gospel.

But…

…all the stuff on that list above–and more–is necessary. It is mundane and, in the light of eternity, doesn’t seem to matter. But it does matter because it enables us to serve the Lord, to minister to people, and everything else that goes along with being the Lord’s church in this age.

Our last few days reading 1 Chronicles have taken us through this lengthy genealogy. Maybe you’ve skipped reading these chapters. I don’t blame you, but they are worth reading because they matter. Here in chapter 9, we read about the names of the first men who returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity ended (vv. 2ff). Many of these people were “priests, Levites and temple servants” according to verse 2. These people were listed by name in verses 10-21.

We understand from reading the Old Testament what priests do: They offer sacrifices and teach God’s people the Law (v. 13).

The Levites were an entire tribe of descendants of Levi. God had set apart for his ministry. Some of them were priests. All priests were Levites but not all Levites were priests. In fact, most Levites were not priests but served in more mundane ways. This chapter lists them by name (vv. 14-21) and gives us some insight into their duties:
• Verses 22-27 tell us that some of them were guards. God’s temple had its own private security. These men were there to keep the temple from being robbed (vv. 26-27).
• Verse 28 tells us that some of these men were accountants. Well, sort of; accountants count things and these men counted the equipment used in the Lord’s service. Their work made sure nothing got stolen. That is, in part, what modern accountants do, too.
• Verse 29 tells us that some of these men were a bit like janitors. They made sure the things needed for the Lord’s service were in good working condition and that the temple had all the supplies it needed for the ministry.
• Verse 30-32 tells us that some of them were like cooks. They “took acre of mixing the spices” in verse 30 while others baked the bread that was used in the temple according to verses 31-32.
• Verse 33 tells us that there were musicians. They got free apartments in the temple and were not required to do other things besides play and sing with great skills.

So here we have, recorded in the pages of holy writ, the names of men who serve the Lord in more “basic” ways than we usually think about. They didn’t write like Isaiah, preach like Elijah, or inquire of the Lord like Abiathar. But their work was important because it made the temple a safe place to come and worship as well as one that had everything the worshippers needed at all times.

In our church we have people who count the money that is collected in the offerings on Sunday. They work in teams and make sure that every penny is counted and accounted for with absolute integrity. We have others who account for the finances of the church and prepare financial statements. Some of you come in and clean the church on Saturday night. Some prepare the elements for communion on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month. Some clean the baptistry and changing rooms before we baptize. Some get up early to buy donuts and make coffee. Some come in the evening or on Saturday to repair chairs, replace burned out bulbs or broken light fixtures. All of this stuff needs to be done and you do it faithfully; so faithfully, in fact, that nobody thinks about it because it is always just ready.

At times these tasks may seem tedious. They might get old and you may wish you could spend that time doing something more fun. In those moments, remember 1 Chronicles 9. God knows the names of everyone who serves him. He sees your work that is done for his glory. He will reward you for loving him and his body in these often overlooked ways.

If you’re not serving the Lord in any capacity, why not? There is something that everyone can do. God sees and rewards even the most basic acts of service that are done in his name.

1 Chronicles 5-6, Amos 4

Today’s OT18 readings are 1 Chronicles 5-6 and Amos 4.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 5:1-2.

As you’ve already noticed, the book of 1 Chronicles begins with a massive genealogy that goes from Adam (1:1) through Saul, the first king of Israel (9:44). Here in chapter 5:1-2, the author of 1 Chronicles reminds us of Genesis 49 where we learned that Israel (Jacob)’s first born son, Reuben, lost his birthright because he had sex with Bilhah, one of his father’s wives (35:22). Israel used that incident to justify giving the right of firstborn to Joseph’s sons (v. 2b).

Reuben’s sin was costly to himself but that cost was carried forward and passed on to the generations that followed him. Did Reuben think he would get away it? Did he think at all or just follow his impulses? I don’t know the answer but I can’t help but wonder if he would have sinned with his stepmother if he knew what the price would be.

That’s how sin works, isn’t it? It never tells us the price up front and, because we all find our fallen nature so persuasive, we seldom think about what the cost of sin might be for us. Sin deludes us into thinking that we’ll never be discovered. It is only after the pleasure is gone and the consequences are revealed that we see how foolish our sinful decisions were.

I wonder how many other generations, besides Reuben’s, throughout human history have been altered by the sin of one man like Reuben. I wonder how many of us are leaving a legacy of damage to our children and their children for sins that we commit.

Thankfully, one of Judah’s descendants would come along and make peace with God for all our sins. That descendant, of course, is Jesus. Through his loving sacrifice we have forgiveness by faith which keeps us from the ultimate consequences of our sin–the wrath of God. But even though God has removed the ultimate penalty for sin, sin damages us in this life and, at times, can have ripple effects throughout generations that follow us.

God has graciously given us in his word examples of how people sinned throughout history and how much that sin cost them. Do we believe God’s word and prepare ourselves to say no to sin when temptation comes? Are you moving toward a course of sinful actions in your life that could affect generations after you? Learn from Reuben’s folly and repent before the damage is done.

1 Chronicles 29, 2 Peter 3, Micah 6, Luke 15

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 29, 2 Peter 3, Micah 6, Luke 15. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Chronicles 29.

The large number of commands and rules in Moses’ law can make us feel like serving God is merely a matter of “dos” and “don’ts.” If people do everything the Lord commanded them to do and didn’t do what he commanded them to avoid, they may have thought that God was pleased with them. And, when they sinned, if they merely “did” the offering God commanded, all would be well again. The Pharisees seemed to believe this to be true and possibly many Christians do as well. 

Both 1 Chronicles 29 and Micah 6 today argue against such an objective, works-based approach to God. David spoke to the assembly of God’s people in 1 Chronicles 29 and described for them the wealth that he had provided for the materials in the temple Solomon would build (vv. 1-5a). David then invited the leaders of Israel’s tribes to contribute to the Lord’s work in the temple as well (v. 5b). They responded well to his invitation and gave generously to the stockpile of materials such a magnificent temple required (vv. 6-8). All this was done with joy–“the people rejoiced”, “they had given freely and wholeheartedly” and “David the king also rejoiced greatly” (v. 9). Then David prayed a magnificent prayer of praise in verses 10-19 and led the people to praise the Lord with him (v. 20). David’s prayer took no credit for the abundance of the Lord’s provision but instead marveled at how God’s abundant provision for them enabled them to give so much wealth to him (v. 12a, 14-16). Then David focused on the heart: “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity” (v. 17a). It is not our performance of giving or righteous good works or religious ceremonies that God wants; it is a heart that desires him, is devoted to him, and obeys and gives and serves him out of awe and worship and thanks and love. All of these things would have come naturally to us if sin had not entered the world, but we did sin so selfishness and wicked desires invaded the space God created in us to be devoted to him. David recognized that it was only God’s gracious work in the heart that enabled true devotion to Him so he prayed that God would do this work in the people (“keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you”) and in Solomon (“give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees”). As believers in Jesus, we’ve received a new nature that desires to please the Lord and the Holy Spirit with us who leads us toward a holy life. But we need God’s continual work to “keep these desires and thoughts” (v. 18), just as David prayed, because of the constant battle we do with sin. 

Your obedience to the Lord may be spot on today in the sense that you’ve been consistently doing the Lord’s commands and have avoided sinful choices as far as you know. But what is the state of your heart? Habitual obedience is good but it only pleases the Lord when it comes from within. May God purge our hearts of our sinful desires, open our eyes to our spiritual blindspots, and give us a heart that is increasingly devoted to him.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Chronicles 24–25, 1 Peter 5, Micah 3, Luke 12

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 24–25, 1 Peter 5, Micah 3, Luke 12. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Chronicles 24-25.

Buried in these two chapters of Levite names are these three statements: “David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals” (v. 1). “The sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king’s supervision” (v. 2). And, “As for Jeduthun, from his sons: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah and Mattithiah, six in all, under the supervision of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the Lord” (v. 3).

Did you notice that some variation of the word “prophecy” was used in a musical context in each of those verses? Verse 1: “…for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals,” verse 2: “The sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king’s supervision” and verse 3: “…who prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the Lord.” This is a curious use of the “prophecy” word group, especially if you think of prophecy as the act of foretelling the future. But, biblically speaking, foretelling the future is only a sliver of what prophets did. While some prophets did foretell the future, most of them reminded God’s people of his law and applied to their lives. This “reminding” often meant rebuke and applying it to their lives often meant repentance. So prophets were given to Israel to apply God’s law to the lives of God’s people. The foretelling the future aspect of prophecy, then, consisted of either (a) predicting that God’s judgment which was promised in the law for disobedience would come through the Assyrians or Babylonians or through drought or whatever or (b) prophesying a golden age for Israel through the Messiah which the Law also promised and the Davidic covenant further clarified. The predicting aspect of prophecy, then, was just one part of a larger category of applying God’s word to God’s people.

What does any of this have to do with music? The answer is that music makes learning things easier. If you sing the A, B, C song when you are putting something in alphabetical order or sing one of the books of the Bible songs when you’re trying to find a passage in the Bible, you know how powerfully music teaches. In a society where many people may not have been literate and where written books and documents were rare, songs were an effective way to teach God’s word to God’s people. These “prophets” among the Levites, then, were singers and musicians who created songs from God’s truth and taught them to the people.

Even in the New Testament we see allusions to this idea. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” You can see here how teaching and songs are correlated. 

While it is not clear, singing may have been what Paul had in mind when he said to the Corinthians, “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” in 1 Corinthians 11:5.

This is why the content of songs is just as important in church worship as the tune and singability of a song. Because a catchy song is easy to remember, it causes us to rehearse the truths in our minds over and over. I’ve found myself today singing a song we’ve been doing on Sundays—“Your Words” without thinking about it. I wish it were easier to find worship songs with rich, biblical lyrics than it is because of the teaching power that music has. May God continue to give us more and more skilled “prophets” like Asaph and his gang who dig deeply into His word and teach it to us with music.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Chronicles 16, James 3, Obadiah, Luke 5

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 16, James 3, Obadiah, Luke 5. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Chronicles 16.

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

Our passage for today, 1 Chronicles 16, seems to be the place where music was introduced formally to Israel’s worship. David (and probably many others before him) worshipped personally as he played the harp and sang to his sheep. But now, according to verse 4, the more musically-gifted Levites were organized and charged with the task of making music before the Lord. “He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel” (v. 4). That was their job! Instead of making show bread or offering burnt offerings, or teaching the law, these men (listed in verse 5a) were to spend all of their time in musical worship (vv. 37-38, 41-42). Performing this task involved preparation–writing worship songs and rehearsing personally and as a group. It also, of course, involved playing and singing publicly before the Lord: “They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner: ‘Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” 

What a gift the Lord gave to his people–both Israel and the church–through David. Our worship is greatly enhanced by music. Good worship songs teach God’s word by reminding us of what God has done and introducing our children to God’s mighty works: “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Israel, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth” (vv. 12-14). Good worship songs focus on God’s character (v. 29c, 34) and call us to trust in his promises (vv. 15-18). They call us to reflect on God’s works and to be thankful and give thanks to him for his grace (vv. 34-36). Paying people to make music to glorify God for the worship of his people may seem like a luxury, but David’s decision to do this and his leadership to organize it has blessed generations of believers ever since.

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

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Chronicles 15, James 2, Amos 9, Luke 4

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 15, James 2, Amos 9, Luke 4. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Chronicles 15.

Undoubtedly the day we read about here in 1 Chronicles 15 was one of the biggest, happiest days in David’s life. As he centered his kingdom in the capital of Jerusalem, his love for God would naturally lead him to want God’s tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant there as well. The earlier incident with Uzzah, which we read about yesterday in 1 Chronicles 13, made David despair that the ark would ever reside in his city (see 1 Chron 13:12-13). After he studied the law and understood how the ark was to be transported, David was able to instruct the people and ensure that the Ark was transported properly as we read in verses 2, 12-15. Everything about the latter half of this chapter exudes the emotion of joy (v. 16: “…make a joyful sound”, v. 25: “with rejoicing”). This event did not have the solemn grandeur of a coronation or a royal wedding; it had the loud, happy feel of a victory parade. 

The passage ended on a lower note, however, when verse 29 told us, “As the ark of the covenant of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart.” This passage told us quite a bit less about this incident than the parallel passage in 2 Samuel 6:20-23 did; but it told us enough. Michal, David’s first wife, did not like David’s actions in this worship parade one bit. From the first mention of Michal in verse 29 we know that something is off. Instead of worshipping and singing with her husband and so many others from Israel, Michal “watched from a window.” She was not involved the celebration; she was detached, withdrawn, and passive. Instead of being happy with David or, at least, for David as he accomplished one of his major goals, she “despised him in her heart.” In other words, she judged him–his motives and his actions–and decided that he was not worthy of her respect or anyone else’s. Kings should not be so excited and overjoyed; in her mind, David should have been more regal and dignified as the leader in this situation.

Michal misunderstood David’s motives (see 2 Sam 6:20b: “going around half naked in full view of the slave girls…”) and it permanently, negatively affected her marriage (see 2 Sam 6:23). But her rift with David was really not about her relationship with David; it was about her relationship with God. She was detached and despising because she was not tuned into the worship that was happening in this passage. She cared too much about David’s image and not nearly enough about God and what he was doing. Unfortunately, anything you do for God can (and maybe will) be misunderstood by someone. There will always be someone–not necessarily your spouse–who will judge you in your service of the Lord. If someone like that speaks their disapproval, it can deflate the joy of your worship faster than a pin can burst a balloon. Don’t let those who misunderstand you steal your joy in serving the Lord. Don’t let critics take your attention off the blessings of serving God. Keep your focus on the Lord, ask him to purify your motives and use you for his glory as you serve him. Then let him, the just judge, deal with your critics the way that only he can.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Chronicles 3–4, Hebrews 9, Amos 3, Psalms 146–147

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 3–4, Hebrews 9, Amos 3, Psalms 146–147. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Chronicles 3-4.

In 2000 Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book titled The Prayer of Jabez based on our passage for today, specifically 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. This book was a monster best seller with over 9 million copies sold. Many people—Christians and non-Christians—following the teaching in Wilkinson’s book have prayed the prayer of Jabez, asking God’s blessing on their lives. They treat this passage, again because of Wilkinson’s book, like it is a secret formula, almost a magic incantation for bringing God’s blessing on your life anywhere you want it. But 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 is not an incantation or a secret formula to unleash God’s blessings in your life.

To understand Jabez’s prayer, we need to understand that God had promised material prosperity to the Jewish people if they walked in obedience to his laws. This goes all the way back to God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12. There, and in later passages, God promised land to Abram’s descendants. What made Jabez “more honorable than his brothers” was that he believed God’s promise and asked God to fulfill it in his life. Jabez’s prayer was consistent with the covenant God made with Israel. The other descendants of Judah after David turned to idols as the source of their prosperity. They worshipped other gods in disobedience to God’s law and hoped to obtain more land and more prosperity from these gods. They also abused others, as we read yesterday, to get what they wanted. Jabez was different and “more honorable” because he had faith in God and prayed consistently with God’s promises for his people.

What Jabez’s prayer teaches us is that God is honored when we pray according to his revealed will—that is, according to what the Bible says. When we pray in faith asking God to honor his promises to us in the word, God is pleased and will answer us according to his will. No Christian is promised the kind of material prosperity that Jabez prayed for. What God promises to us is to provide for our needs, to give us spiritual power to overcome sin and to become like Jesus, and to be with us as we go spreading the gospel to all the nations. What if we prayed for those things instead of asking God to heal our chronic problems? How would that transform our prayer life? How would it change our church? What might God do in this world if we prayed like Jabez—not aping his requests but applying the spirit of them to pray according to God’s promises?

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.