Leviticus 27, Isaiah 25, Acts 10

Read Leviticus 27, Isaiah 25, and Acts 10 today. This devotional is about Isaiah 25.

What will heaven be like? This is a question that most Christians have probably considered and plenty of non-Christians, too. When Hollywood believed in an afterlife, they created a picture of heaven that many people may still have: people become angels, float on clouds, and play the harp.

What an incredibly boring way to spend eternity!

God’s Word doesn’t reveal us a whole lot to us about what we call “heaven,” but there are a few things we can discern about it.

First, we don’t really spend eternity in heaven. The spirits of departed believers live in heaven with God now, but eternity will be spent on earth–first on this earth in what we call the Millennial kingdom, then on the new earth which God will create. So we really should be talking about “eternity” or “the eternal state” instead of talking about “heaven.”

Secondly, the eternal state happens in a city, the New Jerusalem, and this passage, Isaiah 25, gives us some detail about life there. Isaiah 25 is a song of praise to God (vv. 1-5), giving glory to God for what he has done for his people. Beginning with verse 6, however, Isaiah returned to describing the future, a topic he had begun discussing in chapter 24. How did he describe the future here in chapter 25?

First, he described a feast in verse 6. When God’s kingdom begins fully, it will start with a great celebration. Verse 6 described it as “a feast of rich food” which indicates an occasion of great pleasure and enjoyment for God’s people. And, the next phrase in verse 6 tells us that God’s people will be “all peoples” indicating that all kinds of people, not just Jewish people, will be welcomed guests at this feast.

Second, the eternal state is a place where death no longer exists and cannot trouble anyone. Verse 7 described death as a shroud, a sheet that covers everyone. But God “will destroy” that shroud and “will swallow up death forever” (v. 8a).

Third, eternity will be.a state in which there is no longer any unhappiness. Verse 8b says, “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.” The sadness and disappointments of this life will not be present nor will they affect us when we are with the Lord. This seems particularly tied to the sadness that sin creates; verse 8b says, “he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.” The things we do and have done that we are so ashamed of will be completely forgotten. Atoned for by the blood of Christ, they will no longer trouble us anymore.

Of course we bemoan the senseless tragedies, terrible injustices, and brevity of life that marks this world. The truths in this chapter, however, can encourage our hearts and give meaning and purpose to our lives. Our short time on this earth is not the end; it isn’t really even the beginning when we compare however many years we get in this life to an eternity with Jesus. So let your heart hope in God’s plans and let them focus your mind to help you serve him.

Leviticus 25, Isaiah 23, Psalms 48-50

Read Leviticus 25, Isaiah 23, Psalms 48-50. This devotional is about Psalm 49.

Psalm 49 is not usually on the list people have of favorite Psalms, but it one that offers great wisdom to those who meditate on its truths. The passage opens in verses 1-4 with a call for everyone, despite their station in life, to listen to the voice of wisdom. And what is this wisdom that the Psalmist offers? Don’t be afraid of though times and wicked people (v. 5) because everyone is going to die (v. 10a, 12). It doesn’t matter how much money you have, no one can buy more time. God does not traffic in human marketplaces, so no matter what you try to offer him, it won’t matter (v. 7).

Apple founder Steve Jobs was worth over $10 billion on the day he died. Although he lavishly funded cancer research seeking a cure for his illness, his vast wealth was not enough to save him. He could have offered everything he owned but nobody could give him even one extra moment on earth. “This,” the Psalmist wrote in verses 13-14 “is the fate of those who trust in themselves… their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions.” Jobs led the design of a spectacular headquarters for Apple—one that is was built after his death–but he is buried in the dust just like everyone else who dies.

So, don’t be so easily impressed by wealth, the Psalmist wrote in verse 16 because, according to verses 17-19, “They will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them. Though while they live they count themselves blessed—and people praise you when you prosper—they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life.”

What is the alternative to this depressing truth? Verse 15: “But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.” Although the details of the afterlife were fuzzy in the Old Testament, there are passages like this one that express confidence, certainty, in the salvation of those who hope in the Lord. You’ll never have enough money to live forever on this earth, but trusting in God gives us hope for today and tomorrow because those who trust in him by faith WILL live.

Exodus 33, Ecclesiastes 9, Luke 13

Read Exodus 33, Ecclesiastes 9, Luke 13 today. This devotional is about Luke 13.

Before radio and TV and cable news channels, world news was scarce and was mostly confined to events that related to your own community or, at most, your own nation. So the terror attacks in New Zealand last week would never have been known about in Israel during the days Jesus lived on this earth.

Some bad news did get around and Jesus was informed of some here in Luke 13:1. The incident in question was brutal and tragic, but it was also political. It involved “Galileans,” so those were Jewish people who lived in the region where Jesus spent most of his life and ministry, the northern part of Israel called Galilee. These men were in Jerusalem offering sacrifices and Pilate–the Roman governor or that area–had them put to death as they offered their sacrifices in the temple. These men may have been plotting against the Romans and Pilate may have chosen to make them a public example. Since Jewish people wanted Messiah to lead an insurrection against Rome, Jesus may have been informed of this situation to see if he would take on this revolt as the Messianic leader. Later in the chapter, in verse 31, Jesus was informed that Herod was plotting to kill him So there was a lot of political pressure swirling around Jesus at that moment.

Pilate’s actions were brutal but Jesus did not express moral outrage when he was told of this news. Instead, Jesus warned the people that the men who died were no more sinful than the average citizen of Galilee (v. 2). Jesus then raised the tension in the audience by speaking of eighteen who died in an accident when a tower in Siloam fell on them (v. 4). What about them? Did they deserve an untimely death because they were especially sinful? No, according to verse 3a. Whether one died by abuse of government power as in verse 1 or in accidentally as in verse 4, Jesus did not condemn the victims as being more sinful than anyone else. Instead, he used these incidents in the news to raise an uncomfortable truth: “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (v. 5).

There was a common superstitious belief that only the worst sinners died prematurely. That belief exists somewhat today in our culture when people talk about “karma.” But Jesus wants us to know that the only reason we are alive today at all is the mercy of God. If God gave us what we deserve, none of us would live a rich, full, happy life. We are all sinners living on the wrong side of God’s laws so he is perfectly just anytime one of us dies, whether at a good old age or way too soon.

Christ has redeemed us who believe from the eternal curse of our sin. Some who believe in him will escape the curse of physical death by being alive when Jesus returns. But none of us is guaranteed anything; physical death is a curse that has been handed down to all of humanity because of the fall.

God’s plan for redemption from physical death is to let most of us die and to raise us from the dead physically at the end of the age. It is wise for us, then, to be thankful for today and to use it as best as we can for God’s glory. It is also wise for us to share with others what Christ has done for sinners so that they may repent and avoid perishing spiritually.

But the most important application of this passage is for any of you who have not turned to Christ for salvation. The only way to avoid the curse of sin is to turn to Jesus for salvation. Take the time you have today to do that; you do not know what God may allow into your life tomorrow.

Exodus 32, Ecclesiastes 8, Luke 12

Read Exodus 32, Ecclesiastes 8, Luke 12. This devotional is about Ecclesiastes 8.

Solomon’ musings on government and its control are the subject of this section of Ecclesiastes. Generally speaking, Solomon’s advice is to submit to the government (vv. 2-6). He admits, however, that some governments can be oppressive (v. 9), grossly inefficient and ineffective (v. 11) and even unjust (vv. 12, 14). God’s justice, in these cases, will overcome these human government’s failures (v. 13) but even God’s ways don’t always make sense to us (vv. 16-17).

Nestled in all this advice about human government is a reminder that there are some things in life that are unpredictable and uncontrollable (vv. 7-8). Solomon gave us three examples:

  • The future: It is unknown to us and, therefore, uncontrollable, and unpredictable (v. 7).
  • Death: It is unavoidable and unpredictable (v. 8a-b).
  • Wickedness: It is uncontrollable (v. 8c-d).

These three control every human life even more powerfully than the government does. They are so powerful, in fact, that even the government can’t control them.

But let’s focus on that last one–wickedness. Verse 8c-d says, “As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it.” 

Unlike our modern, American experience of the military, most countries draft every able-bodied man when they go to war. Solomon says that once you’ve been conscripted into such an army, you’re not getting out. The only legal way out of military service is (a) be a casualty or (b) survive until the end of the war.

Solomon says that wickedness works the same way. Once you “practice it” (v. 8d), it owns you. He might mean the addictive power of wickedness or this phrase might refer to the consequences unleashed when we practice wickedness. Because the context of Ecclesiastes 8 speaks of government, which punishes wickedness, this verse is probably referring to the consequences of wickedness, not its addictive power. The verse then means, “You can do the crime but you won’t be able to control the time or the fine.”

The government may get you and punish you for your wickedness, but not all wickedness is against the laws of human government. This verse reminds us that if you break God’s laws, you won’t get away with it. Human government may punish you but, even if it doesn’t, God will make sure that you are punished.

This should be a sobering reminder to us when we are tempted to sin or think we might be able to sin and get away with it. Like the army, wickedness won’t let you out until you’ve completed your tour of duty. There’s no going AWOL, either.

If you are in Jesus, every sin you have committed or will commit has been punished through the death of Christ. His blood reconciles you with God as an act of mercy. However, God usually allows the human consequences of our sins to continue. The murder who trusts in Jesus will have eternal life; however, his faith and repentance does not bring his victim back to life, assuage the anguish or anger of the victim’s relatives, or commute his life or death sentence.

This is one of many reasons why we should not sin even though God forgives all our sins in Christ. We all like a feeling of control (or the illusion of control) over our lives but none of us can control the future, death, or the fallout from our sins.

By the grace of God, then, let’s choose not to sin but, instead, to choose what is righteous in God’s sight.

Genesis 48, Job 14, Hebrews 6

Read Genesis 48, Job 14, and Hebrews 6 today. This devotional is about Job 14.

When I was a kid a girl whose family my parents knew was crossing a major road near Rochester, where I grew up. She was jaywalking but there was no crosswalk anywhere nearby. A driver hit her and she was killed instantly. I didn’t really know her and she was a few years older than me but my parents knew her parents pretty well so we went to her funeral.

That was the first time that death felt real to me. My grandmother had died and I had gone to her funeral when I was much younger but she was old–probably not as old as she seemed to me–so her death, while sad, didn’t make me think about death or feel it as a reality in my life.

The death of the girl who was hit by a car was a different experience. I was older than when my grandmother died, so I’m sure I had a much greater comprehension of death. But because the girl who was hit by the car was closer to my age, her death was much more sobering to me. I began to realize that I could die anytime and that I would die someday.

This chapter of Job is almost a lament about the reality of death. It was spoken directly to God as we see in verse 3, “Do you fix your eye on them? Will you bring them before you for judgment?” Job complains directly to God here in this chapter about the reality of death. He told God in essence, “You know how long each of us will live. No one can’t change his lifespan, so “look away from him and let him alone, till he has put in his time like a hired laborer.”

That’s how life seemed to Job at this moment. We humans are all on the clock before God, waiting for the whistle to blow and indicate the end of our shift on this earth.

In verses 7-17, Job turned his thoughts to the afterlife. He wonders aloud, “If someone dies, will they live again?” (v. 14a) but he knows the answer: “I will wait for my renewal to come. You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made” (vv. 14c-15). These words demonstrate Job’s belief in the resurrection. 

He was also convinced that his resurrection would give him a perfect life: “Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover over my sin.” 

But before he was raised and given a perfect new life, his life on this earth would erode “as water wears away stones” (v. 19a). He knew that he would die (v. 20) and miss out on lots of things he would like to see (v. 21).

Death is, for sure, the worst thing about life. Even with the hope of eternal life, we still mourn the passing of people we love and dread the day of our own demise.

That is because death is the penalty for sin. God didn’t create us to die so death feels foreign and wrong to us. I’ve noticed that people who are elderly still seem surprised and unprepared when people their age and older die. That’s because death is never easy to accept because we weren’t created to die.

As somber as this passage is, it still glimmers with the hope of eternal life. Knowing Jesus doesn’t make death any more pleasant but it does remove the hopelessness and fear that people outside of salvation face.

Are you ready to die? Have you put your faith in Christ alone? Are you living today for the glory of God so that, if death comes unexpectedly, you will have used the time you had on this earth well?

Genesis 25, Esther 1, Matthew 18

The schedule, which you can download anytime right here, invites us to read Genesis 25, Esther 1, Matthew 18 today. The devotional below is about Genesis 25.

Death comes a shock to most people.

Trust me; as a pastor, I’m often one of the first people to find out about someone’s death. Even though the person who died might have been very old and in very poor health, the people who loved him or her are often surprised when that person dies.

The first four verses here in Genesis 25 tell us that Abraham had another life after Sarah died. He remarried (v. 1) and had a bunch of new kids (v. 2). But then Abraham died. He lived a long time (vv. 7-8), but not forever.

Such is life for all of us unless Jesus returns before our turn to die arrives.

So we shouldn’t be too surprised as we get older when other people ahead of us chronologically and even those around our age start dying.

Nor should we be surprised that death is coming for each of us. We might not want to think about it, but we should prepare for it whether we want to prepare or not.

That’s what Abraham did here in Genesis 25:1-10. He prepared for his death. Notice that:

  • His heirs were all provided for. Isaac was the covenant child, the one whom God had chosen to receive the blessing and promise of becoming a great nation (vv. 5, 11). But Abraham made sure that each of his other children was provided for before he died (v. 6).
  • His children knew his burial wishes (vv. 9-10). There was no family drama about where he would be buried or who was in charge of the arrangements. Isaac and Ishmael were in charge and he was to be buried with Sarah, his original wife and the wife of promise for him.

There is no reason to deny yourself the joys of life just because you are old and don’t know when you might die (vv. 1-4). Go ahead and get remarried if your spouse dies before you do. 

But you shouldn’t act like you’re going to live forever, either (vv. 5-6), and Abraham’s actions at the end of his life provide an excellent example for us. So: 

  1. Do you you have a will or trust that provides for your children if you die before they are adults?
  2. Does your will or trust indicate how the assets you own upon your death should be distributed?
  3. Do your children or someone else you trust know where your will is and can they get it when you die?
  4. Do you have life insurance to pay your funeral expenses at least? How about enough insurance to give them a financial blessing after you’re gone?
  5. Do your children know where you want to be buried?
  6. Have you left instructions about who should prepare your body for the grave, what your funeral should be like, and where you should be buried?

As important as it was to prepare on earth for his death, it was more important that Abraham was prepared spiritually for his death. Abraham’s death on earth did not mean the end of his existence. Note that v. 8b say that Abraham “was gathered to his people.” This can’t mean that he died because we were already told that he died in verse 8a. It also can’t mean that he was buried because we were told about his burial in verse 9.

Therefore, the phrase, “gathered to his people” describes Abraham’s life after death. Because he believed God, he was welcomed into eternity with other believers. The most important act of preparation for death is to know that you will be saved on the day of judgment. That comes only through faith in God by Jesus Christ.

But the second most important aspect of preparing for your death has to do with the spiritual instruction of your children (v. 5, 11, 21-23). While Abraham was alive, he taught his son spiritually (vv. 21-23). He taught him what it meant to trust in God (v. 21). He taught him how to lead his family in trusting God (vv. 22-23).

Are you prepared if death comes soon or suddenly? You can apply this passage to your life by taking some or all of the action steps that Abraham took in this chapter.

Leviticus 24, Ecclesiastes 7, Psalm 110

Today’s readings are Leviticus 24, Ecclesiastes 7, and Psalm 110.

This devotional is about Ecclesiastes 7:2: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” This is a verse that I usually quote when I am doing a funeral message. It tells us that it is “better” to go to a funeral than to a party.

That advice is the opposite of our instincts or our desires. Nobody would rather go to a funeral than to a party. Funerals are sad occasions; parties are fun! So why would Solomon tell us to attend a funeral rather than a party if we had a choice to make between the two of them?

The answer is in the last two lines of verse 2: “…for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” Why choose funerals over parties? Because someday you’ll be the one who is remembered at a funeral. In addition to the sadness at a funeral, I think that most people don’t like going to funerals BECAUSE it reminds us that we’ll be dead someday. Funerals foreshadow your own death. Most people don’t want to think about that but Solomon said that we should think about it.

Why? Because thinking about your death changes the way you live. After you die, your legacy is set in stone. You can’t make up for your mistakes, seek forgiveness, try to reconcile broken relationships, or receive God’s forgiveness for your sins. After you die, your eternal destiny is sealed and whatever memories people have of you are permanent.

When you think of your life in that light, it should give you some perspective to make better decisions today. If a person is usually kind and loving, they’ll likely be remembered that way. If a person is often selfish and difficult and only occasionally kind, those who know them will carry those memories.

More important than the people who remember you at your death, after death you will face God. If you’re found in Christ, God will welcome you into his presence. If you’re outside of Christ, you will pay the just penalty for your sins for eternity. And, for those of us who are in Christ, we will answer to God for what we produced with our lives. Did we strive to glorify him, to grow in faith, to spread his message of good news, to be generous to those with needs and for the advancement of his kingdom?

This life is a gift of extraordinary value. You can invest it for eternal rewards or spend it for temporary and fleeting satisfaction. Someday, sooner than we realize, probably, it will be over. How does that reality make you think about what you will do today and how you will do it?