1 Samuel 15, Ezekiel 26, Philemon

Read 1 Samuel 15, Ezekiel 26, and Philemon. This devotional is about 1 Samuel 15.

First Samuel 15 describes for us what might be the most famous incident in Saul’s life. God gave Saul direct, explicit commands in verse 3 to (1) attack the Amalakites and (2) kill every living thing.

Saul did attack the Amalakites and he won a great victory for Israel (vv. 4-7) but he saved Agag, the king, and “everything that was good” among the Amalakites’ livestock (vv. 8-9). God was quite unimpressed with Saul’s partial obedience and he let Samuel know (vv. 10-11).

In verses 12-23, Samuel and Saul argued about Saul’s actions. Saul asserted that he had been obedient to the Lord with a few exceptions made for spiritual reasons (vv. 12-15). Samuel responded by delivering the Lord’s word, announcing that Saul’s “exceptions” were acts of disobedience to God’s commands (vv. 16-19). In verses 20-21, Saul attempted to defend himself from the charge of disobedience. He emphasized the ways in which he had obeyed (v. 20) and shifted the blame for the livestock to “the soldiers” (v. 21a), describing their motive for disobedience as a desire to sacrifice to the Lord (v. 21b). Samuel responded by telling Saul that God wants obedience more than religious observance (v. 22). While the animal sacrifices commanded in God’s law were acts of worship and delightful to God’s heart when offered in faith, they were inferior to unreserved obedience to God’s commands.

Remember that the issue here is not offering a sacrifice for sin from a repentant heart; the sacrifices Saul was describing were thank offerings. Maybe it is true that Saul wanted to sacrifice to the Lord; maybe that was an excuse to justify their disobedience; the text does not tell us. But as someone who has made up some excuses for my own sins more than a few times in my life, I’m inclined to think that Saul is making up a good story to cover for his disobedience.

It really doesn’t matter, though, whether Saul’s motives were genuine or not.

The worship God wants is obedience; the way we show our faith in God and our love for him is to be careful to do what he commands (1 Sam. 15:22-23).

In verses 24-25, Saul appeared to repent, but he still had an excuse for his disobedience. Since God is loving and forgiving—even David’s sins, which were worse than Saul’s, were forgiven—we must conclude that God, who knows the heart, saw that Saul’s “repentance” was insincere. The consequence of Saul’s disobedience was a decree that his kingdom would be lost (vv. 27-28).

What a sad declaration about how a once-promising man’s kingdom would end. But I want to focus for a moment on Samuel’s words in verse 23a: “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.”

How can “rebellion” be like “divination”?

Someone who practices divination is seeking supernatural guidance but they are doing so apart from the Lord. Similarly, a rebellious person against God’s commands is giving more weight to their own human perspective and wisdom than to God’s word.

We may not consider our own thoughts and plans to be the same as “supernatural guidance,” but our willingness to follow our instincts instead of God’s commands shows that we consider ourselves better guides for the future than the word of God.

The next phrase in verse 23 says, “… and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” This phrase is easier to understand. An arrogant person believes himself to be more knowledgeable and capable and powerful than others. When we disobey God’s word, we are showing that we think we know better than God. We may not think of ourselves as arrogant in the moment of disobedience, but our actions suggest otherwise because we are worshipping ourselves, our own desires, and our own knowledge above the Creator.

Are there areas of disobedience in your life? Do you recognize the rebellion that causes you to follow your own guidance instead of God’s? Do you understand that in the moment of temptation, your heart is telling you that you know better than God does and that your own satisfaction is more important that honoring him as Lord?

Judges 17, Ezekiel 6, Proverbs 18:13-24

Read Judges 17, Ezekiel 6, and Proverbs 18:13-24 today. This devotional is about Ezekiel 6.

One of God’s goals for Israel was to proclaim his glory through their greatness. If Israel had obeyed God’s laws and worshipped him wholeheartedly, God promised abundance to them—long lives, plenty of healthy children, bumper crops, and material prosperity. These promises had multiple purposes such as (a) to bless and benefit his people (b) to give them tangible incentives for doing what was right and (c) to demonstrate to the idolatrous nations around them that there is only one true God—YHWH, the God of Israel.

God knew well that humanity was infected with depravity and were incapable of keeping his laws without an infusion of new spiritual life that we call regeneration. So, in every generation God regenerated some Israelites. They loved him, obeyed his laws, worshipped him from the heart, and enjoyed some of the benefits of his promises.

But most of the people of Israel lived in sinful rebellion against him. Although God sent judges and prophets and even some godly kings to provide them with spiritual leadership, most of Israel’s history was dominated by spiritual and moral failure generation after generation.

Where did that leave God, then? If his goal was to make himself famous through the obedience of Israel and his consequent blessings to them, what did Israel’s failures teach about God?

Ezekiel 6 contains the answer. Remember that not only did God’s law (through Moses) spell out the blessings of obedience; it also spelled out the consequences of disobedience. Just as God promised blessing and prosperity to his people if they served him and obeyed him, he also promised judgment and exile to them if they rejected him and disobeyed him. In Ezekiel 6, the Lord’s word through the prophet explained to the people in exile all of the destruction and death that would happen in their beloved homeland (vv. 2-7a). The reason: “…you will know that I am the Lord” (v. 7b).

Yet God would never fully abandon his promises. In God’s grace, some would be saved from the destruction that their sins deserved. Verses 8-9 described what would happen to them; namely, that they would be taken captive and suffer but in their suffering they “will remember me” (v. 9a), “…will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices. And they will know that I am the Lord” (vv. 9c-10).

Have you ever thought that the painful events in your life actually prove both the existence of God and of his love for you?

  • If you’ve sinned and suffered the consequences for it (and who among us hasn’t?), then your own experience proves the teaching of God’s word that a person reaps what he sows.
  • If you’ve ever experienced the Lord’s discipline in your life that corrected you from a sinful path and brought you back to obedience, then you know that the Lord loves you because “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Prov 3:11-12, Heb 12:6).

God’s people needed a painful lesson in God’s faithfulness to prepare them to deliver Christ into the world. Though most of them were in unbelief when Christ came to the world, and most live in that unbelief even today, God will still make good on his promises for Israel in the kingdom of Christ.

Until then, see how the struggles that Israel had historically were unprecedented and difficult, yet God did not allow his people to be permanently extinguished from the earth.

All of this is a testimony to the existence and power of God. Because we know him by faith and have the regeneration that most of Israel lacked, let’s take his word seriously and live obedient lives to it.

Joshua 22, Jeremiah 43, Romans 6

Today read Joshua 22, Jeremiah 43, and Romans 6. This devotional is about Jeremiah 43.

A carpet remnant is what is left over from carpet installed in a room or hallway. The people who remained in Judah are called a “remnant” (v. 5) but, honestly, carpet remnants might be worth more to us than these people were to Judah or Babylon, Jeremiah excepted. I don’t say that to demean them; I say it because back in chapter 39, when the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem, the Babylonians forced the vast majority of people who survived the battle to march to Babylon as exiles. Verse 10 of Jeremiah 39 says, “…the commander of the guard left behind in the land of Judah some of the poor people, who owned nothing; and at that time he gave them vineyards and fields.” So the people left in Judah, the remnant, were not considered high value people. That’s why they were left behind.

Yesterday, we read in Jeremiah 42 that the remnant of people left in Judah were scared and didn’t know what to do. They vacillated about going to Egypt or staying in Jerusalem. Finally, they asked Jeremiah to pray and ask God to reveal his will. But before Jeremiah prayed, they assured him that they would take whatever God said and do it. Their words were, in Jeremiah 42:5, “‘May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.’”

And God responsed! He promised blessings to them if they remained in the land. What was the reaction? How did the people who pledged so eloquently to “obey the Lord our God” “whether it is favorable or unfavorable?” Their answer was recorded for us in our reading today, Jeremiah 43 verse 2: “Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, ‘You are lying! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, “You must not go to Egypt to settle there.”’”

So what did they do? “…all the people disobeyed the Lord’s command to stay in the land of Judah…. So they entered Egypt in disobedience to the Lord” (v. 4). Having promised to obey God’s word–whatever it was–they rejected God’s word when they didn’t like it and disobeyed it despite God’s promise of blessing.

This is typical of us, too, as human beings. Our sinful hearts look for ways to sidestep God’s word, reinterpret what it says, claim that it doesn’t apply to us, and find some way to do what we want to do in disobedience to his will. Ultimately, though, we harm ourselves, because breaking God’s laws will bring consequences.

Do you have a heart to accept God’s word, even if “it is favorable or unfavorable?” Can you remember a time when you did what was right even though you wanted to do what was wrong? How did that turn out for you?

2 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 1

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2019 Devotionals

Next year’s daily devotional will be called 66 in 365. This will lead you to read the entire Bible through in one year using a modified form of the Bible reading plan developed by Robert Murray M’Cheyne. If you are already an email subscriber, you don’t have to do anything. You are already subscribed for next year. If you want to stop receiving the emails (at any time), click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of any of the daily emails.

NOTE: I may write some new devotionals for next year, but my plan is to edit, modify, and reuse the devotionals I’ve written over the past three years for 66in16, NT17, and OT18. I think these will still be profitable for you, even if you’ve read them all before but if you want to unsubscribe in January, I totally understand; no hard feelings.

Today’s Readings and Devotional

Today’s readings are 2 Chronicles 16 and Zechariah 1.

This devotional is about Zechariah 1.

When Zechariah wrote these words (v. 1) were still 18 years or so to go in Judah’s 70 year exile. The end was not yet in sight but it was closer than the beginning. God’s message to the people in the first 6 verses of this chapter can be described as follows:
• Your parents and grandparents refused to repent when the prophets preached to them that the exile that we’re in was coming. Don’t be like them (v. 4).
• What happened to those ancestors off yours, anyway? Oh, yeah, they died in exile just like the prophets said. The prophets themselves died too, by the way (v. 5).
• What survives from those days? God’s word; that’s what (v. 6). Everything God said would happen, did happen.

The point of these first 6 verses is that God’s word through the prophets had proved to be true. His word was so clearly true that even the rebellious ancestors were forced to admit, “The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.” God’s punishment for their sins was clear proof of the truthfulness of his word.

So, “‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Don’t wait for the punishment of sin to prove the truth of God’s word. Believe that God’s word is true now and turn to him accordingly.

People in every generation have rejected and tried to discredit God’s word. They argue that there is no proof that the Bible is God’s word; it is just a human book, they think.

Leaving aside the prophecies that have already been fulfilled, God’s word is fulfilled day after day in the consequences that people experience for their sins. “The wages of sin is death” according to Romans 6:23; the fact that every sinner dies proves this word of the Lord to be true. The Bible also promises blessings for faith in and obedience to his word as well as judgment for unbelief and disobedience to his word.

You and I have the benefit of history. We can see how others who lived before us have disregarded God’s commands and sinned because the wanted to sin. What became of their lives? In every case I can think of, they proved that faithlessness and disobedience bring heartbreak and sorrow.

Receive the grace of God in the warning of these words and choose to believe that obeying God’s commands will be far better for you than disobeying them. That’s the lesson God wanted the people of Zechariah’s generation to learn from the exile. Likewise, it is the same lesson he wants us to learn, too.