Joshua 8, Jeremiah 34, Proverbs 16:16-33

Today, read Joshua 8, Jeremiah 34, and Proverbs 16:16-33. This devotional is about Jeremiah 34.

Zedekiah, though he was an ungodly king, had led Israel to free their Hebrew slaves (vv. 8-9). It was never God’s plan to have Jews who were permanently held as slaves in Israel or Judah. Instead, God’s law created a form of indentured servitude. A Jewish person who was in a financial corner could sell himself to another Jewish man for up to six years. On the seventh year, he was to be set free. Jeremiah pointed this out in verse 14. In verse 15-16, he had positive words for how they had freed their Hebrew slaves and even made a covenant with God about it (vv. 8, 15c).

Unfortunately, God’s people broke their covenant with him and took back the very slaves they had freed (v. 16). God prophesied again that they would be taken into exile by the Babylonians (vv. 17-20) as this act of unfaithfulness to the covenant was added to many other sins of the nation.

Entering a covenant to free the slaves was not necessary. They could have simply freed the slaves and honored that verbal decision accordingly. But making that covenant was a good thing, even if it was unnecessary. It is pleasing to God when we resolve to do the things that we know from his word. What isn’t pleasing to God, however, is when we tell God we will do something and then we change our minds and refuse to do it.

Have you told God you would do something–read the Word, tithe, attend church more faithfully, find a way to serve the poor, or something else–and then took it back? I’m not talking about obeying imperfectly; I’m talking about deliberately changing your mind about a good decision you made for God? Jesus died to save us from the covenants we make and break but he also empowers us to keep the covenants we make with God and others. If this passage reminds you of something you promised to God but either changed your mind about or just became lax about, then resolve today to return to that thing and do it for the glory of God.

2 Samuel 10, Ezekiel 17

Today, read 2 Samuel 10 and Ezekiel 17.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 17.

God’s word through Ezekiel in this chapter came in the form of an allegorical parable about two eagles and one vine. The images in this parable are too intricate for me to explain in this devotional. But the main points are as follows:

The two eagles represent the kings of Babylon (v. 12) and Egypt (v. 15) respectively.
The branch that became a vine represents Judah’s king (v. 12). He’s not named in this chapter but we know historically that it was Zedekiah. He was planted like a seedling (v. 5) in the sense that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon appointed him as a vassal king in Judah (v. 13). He had everything he needed to thrive under the rule of Babylon (v. 5: “fertile soil” and “abundant water”).
Although Zedekiah was thriving under a deal he made with Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (v. 13) he reached out to Egypt (the second eagle in this story–v. 7) for help getting liberated from Babylon (v. 15).
Because his thriving was dependent on the deal he made with Babylon (v. 14) and reaching out to Egypt was a violation of the deal (v. 18) Zedekiah king of Judah would be punished severely by the Babylonians, ultimately dying in Babylon (v. 20).

This was a prophecy to Zedekiah but it speaks volumes to anyone about making oaths and covenants before God with other people. Zedekiah made a deal with Nebuchadnezzar but he made that deal before God. When he decided to break it, he was being unfaithful to God. Note verses 19-20: “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: As surely as I live, I will repay him for despising my oath and breaking my covenant. I will spread my net for him, and he will be caught in my snare.”

So it is with us whenever we make a covenant. It could be the covenant you made with your spouse on the day you married. It could be a covenant you made in business or by becoming a member of this church. We make covenants with people but when we break them, we put ourselves under the judgment of God. The question, “Will it thrive?” (v. 9 and repeated in v. 10), is one that we should consider before we commit adultery, get divorced, change churches, or break business agreements unilaterally.

People break their agreements with others because they think they will thrive in a different arrangement. A “better” person comes along than the one they married, a cooler church entices them to visit and reconsider their decision to join Calvary, a more lucrative deal is presented to them than the one they’ve already made. People break their commitments because they think they can get a better deal but if God is displeased by your broken agreement, you should ask yourself, “Will [your new deal] thrive?”

Will your new relationship thrive if you’re cheating on your wife?
Will your remarriage thrive if you broke faith with your first husband to get with this new guy?
Will your family thrive in a new church if you left the last one for unbiblical reasons?
Will your business thrive if you won’t honor your contracts and keep the promises you’ve made to vendors or employees or shareholders or business partners or customers?

There are biblical reasons for divorce and for leaving a church. There are also biblical ways to address problems in covenant relationships and even biblical ways for seeking to be released from a bad covenant you’ve made. In my experience, though, people don’t want to do the right thing in order to get out. They just want to get out and enjoy that greener grass over on the other side of the fence.

Are you considering breaking faith in some way? Let this passage cause you to reconsider.

Have you broken faith already in some way? Let this passage cause you to repent.

Jesus died to remove the wrath of God from us for our broken commitments so there is forgiveness and relief available in Him. That’s good because none of us is perfect at keeping our part of a bargain. If you’re tormented by broken covenants, look to Christ for forgiveness and look to his word for ways to get back on a righteous path. This is how you can thrive again.

But if you’re in Christ, you should do everything in your power to keep the covenants you’ve made with others. That is the righteous thing to do and Jesus died not only to become our righteousness before God but also to teach and empower us to live righteously (see Titus 2:11-12 “in this present age.” So let’s be careful about the commitments we make and be conscientious about keeping them once we’ve made them.

Judges 20, Jeremiah 34

Today, read Judges 20 and Jeremiah 34.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 34.

Zedekiah, though he was an ungodly king, had led Israel to free their Hebrew slaves (vv. 8-9). It was never God’s plan to have Jews who were permanently held as slaves in Israel or Judah. Instead, God’s law created a form of indentured servitude. A Jewish person who was in a financial corner could sell himself to another Jewish man for up to six years. On the seventh years, he was to be set free. Jeremiah pointed this out in verse 14. In verse 15-16, he had positive words for how they had freed their Hebrew slaves and even made a covenant with God about it (vv. 8, 15c).

Unfortunately, God’s people broke their covenant with him and took back the very slaves they had freed (v. 16). God prophesied again that they would be taken into exile by the Babylonians (vv. 17-20) as this act of unfaithfulness to the covenant was added to many other sins of the nation.

Entering a covenant to free the slaves was not necessary. They could have simply freed the slaves and honored that verbal decision accordingly. But making that covenant was a good thing, even if it was unnecessary. It is pleasing to God when we resolve to do the things that we know from his word. What isn’t pleasing to God, however, is when we tell God we will do something and then we change our minds and refuse to do it.

Have you told God you would do something–read the Word, tithe, attend church more faithfully, find a way to serve the poor, or something else–and then took it back? I’m not talking about obeying imperfectly; I’m talking about deliberately changing your mind about a good decision you made for God? Jesus died to save us from the covenants we make and break but he also empowers us to keep the covenants we make with God and others. If this passage reminds you of something you promised to God but either changed your mind about or just became lax about, then resolve today to return to that thing and do it for the glory of God.

2 Samuel 7, 2 Corinthians 1, Ezekiel 15, Psalms 56–57

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Samuel 7, 2 Corinthians 1, Ezekiel 15, Psalms 56–57. 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 2 Samuel 7.

Once he was crowned king over all Israel, David moved systematically to centralize Israel as a real kingdom. He took over Jerusalem from the Jebusites whom his tribe, Judah, had failed to dislodge. This was an act of obedience to the conquest command given to Joshua. It was also strategic; Jerusalem was a difficult city to defeat because it was built on a hill and surrounded by mountains. It was, therefore, an excellent capital city which is what David made it.

After securing a capital city for the kingdom, David consolidated worship in the capital by moving the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Now here in 2  Samuel 7, David is settled for the first time in his adult life (v. 1). Given how much time he spent “roughing it” as a shepherd, then as a soldier, the palatial life must have taken some getting used to. Also, given his heart for God, David must have visited the tabernacle often; some of his Psalms suggest as much. There must have been a big visual disconnect between the beauty of his newly completed palace and tent that served as the Lord’s dwelling place on earth. In verse 2, David explained to Nathan the prophet how he was feeling about this and, in verse 3, Nathan gave him the go-ahead to build a temple for the Lord.

Nathan’s instincts were correct; David wanted to do something unselfish for God as an act of worship, so there was no moral reason to forbid him from building a temple. But God had other plans, so although David’s plans did not violate God’s moral will, they were not part of God’s sovereign will for his life. Nathan learned this in a dream as the Lord spoke to him (vv. 8-17). 

Notice how tenderly the Lord spoke to Nathan about his will. First he told Nathan to remind David that God had never commanded Israel to build him a permanent temple (vv. 5-7). Second, God reminded David that he chose him from a lowly position as a shepherd to become the king of Israel (v. 8). He also reminded David that he had prospered David in everything he did (v. 9a). 

Now God promised David greatness (v. 9b) and peace (vv. 10-11a) during his lifetime. Then, in verses 11b-16, God spoke about what would happen after David’s death. First of all, God would establish his son as king (v. 12) and would use his heir to build the temple that David desired to build (v. 13). Then God promised to love David’s son with permanence (vv. 12-15). Unlike Saul (verse 15), God would not remove David’s son as king, though he would discipline him when he sinned. Finally, in verse 16, God promised David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”

These promises are called “the Davidic Covenant” and it is one of the key covenants for understanding the Old Testament. Let’s look quickly at God’s covenants to Israel:

The Abrahamic covenant started off God’s promises to Israel as a nation. In the Abrahamic covenant, God promised to make Abraham into a great nation, give him all the land he walked on, and to bless the whole earth through him. 

The Mosaic covenant is the covenant God gave to Israel through Moses. It is the covenant that said God would bless Israel if they obeyed his laws and he would punish them if they disobeyed his laws.

Now we come to the Davidic covenant. In the Davidic covenant, God promised David that his kingdom would last “forever” (v. 13, 16, 24-25, 29). This promised foreshadowed the coming of Christ, the final Davidic king who would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6) and rule over it forever. This covenant with David is why both Matthew and Luke were careful demonstrate that David was an ancestor of Christ. 

When the book of Revelation describes Christ establishing his earthly kingdom in the future (Rev 20-22), it is this promise to David that Christ is fulfilling. The great thing about God’s grace is that Gentiles like us can be included in this promise by faith in Christ. This was always God’s plan as demonstrated way back in the Abrahamic covenant: “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:3b). Christ began the fulfillment of these promises; when everyone he means to saved has come to know him by faith, the process of ending the kingdoms of this world and replacing them with the eternal kingdom of Christ will begin (2 Pet 3:1-15, Rev 11:15). This is the message that we deliver in the gospel: Trust Christ by faith and God will include you in the kingdom that Christ will establish. This is the hope that we wait for (Titus 2:13). The Bible constantly reminds us not to forget that Christ is coming to establish his kingdom; it holds forth this hope to us not only to encourage us (1 Thess 4:17-18) but also to stimulate us to live for eternity instead of living for the sinful pleasures or the temporary comforts of today (2 Pet 3:13-14). So let the promises to David that read about today guide you and help you to live for Christ, our Davidic king, this week.

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.

Leviticus 11–12, Psalms 13–14, Proverbs 26, 1 Thessalonians 5

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 11–12, Psalms 13–14, Proverbs 26, 1 Thessalonians 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 Psalm 13.

Is it possible that we are too polite in our prayers? While we should never blaspheme God, maybe we are too cautious in our words and our tone when we approach God in prayer. When we were reading Job together earlier this year, we saw how foolish and somewhat reckless he became in his demands for God’s justice. Although God did not bend to Job’s demands and didn’t even explain himself to Job, he also did not condemn Job for the raw emotions he had and the words that they produced. We see this same kind of bold, pleading prayer from David today in Psalm 13: “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (vv. 1-2). It is impossible to read those words and not feel some of the distress that David must have felt. Then his questions turned to demands: “Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes…” This evidences a kind of boldness in prayer that is pretty rare, at least in my prayers and in the prayer meetings I’ve participated in during my lifetime. It is important, however, to recognize the bases of this boldness, which are two:

First, David’s boldness in prayer was based on God’s covenant according to verse 3b-4: “or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” If God did not answer David’s prayer for deliverance, then David would die. We’re all going to die someday; however, God had made certain promises to David. If he were to die before those promises were fulfilled, then David’s enemies—God’s enemies—would triumph over God’s covenant promises. David’s boldness in prayer came from his conviction that God would do what he promised to do. Our bold praying should come from the same place; while God has not made individual promises to any of us like the ones he made to David, he has made promises to us in Christ. We can claim his power to overcome temptation or to stand strong under persecution or to keep the faith when doubts enter our minds. This is a kind of bold praying that is not disrespectful to God; it honors him, in fact, because in these prayers we hold fast to his word and look to him in faith to do what he promised.
 
The second basis for David’s bold prayer was God’s relationship with him. This is, of course, based on the first. God’s covenant with David was not an arm’s length business deal between two self-interested parties. It was a vow God made to David based on his “unfailing love” (v. 5). David proclaims his “trust” (v. 5a) in God and his love and holds on to that as he prays. While the risks to his life were real and the fear was raw, David could pray confidently in faith because his relationship with God was personal and genuine. So it is with us; through Christ we have been adopted into God’s family and invited to speak to God as “Abba,” the most tender expression of a helpless child toward his father. When we feel helpless and desperate before God, we can pour out our heart to him with raw, genuine emotion because we are accepted into a perfect, permanent relationship with God through faith in the merits of Christ. Let this little Psalm give your faith and your prayer life a big boost today, no matter what you need from God.

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.