Numbers 3, Isaiah 28, Acts 13

Read Numbers 3, Isaiah 28, Acts 13 today. This devotional is about Acts 13.

Being part of the first church in Jerusalem must have been an amazing experience. People were being saved all the time and everyone who believed started meeting in one another’s homes for prayer, instruction, and fellowship. Here in Acts 13, the first Gentile church at Antioch, seems to have had a similar experience. Verse 1a told us that there were “prophets and teachers” there and they are named in the latter half of that verse. Although they enjoyed great worship and fellowship, God’s work needed to go forward so that more and more people would become part of the church and, when Jesus returns, experience eternity in the kingdom of God. So God spoke in the person of the Holy Spirit and called on the church to send Barnabas and Saul out to evangelize people and form new churches.

Thus began both the “first missionary journey” of Paul and Barnabas and the final stage of the Great Commission as described in Acts 1:8: “…to the ends of the earth.”

God worked through Barnabas and Saul (and, for some reason, Luke the author of Acts, switched to calling him “Paul” in verse 9). People came to believe in Jesus and they were organized into local churches. But I want to focus for this devotional on the importance God’s mission over our comfort. The church at Antioch sounds like an amazing experience and, human nature being what it is, Paul and Barnabas may have desired to stay there for many years doing the Lord’s work. It took the direct voice of the Holy Spirit to compel the church to send Barnabas and Paul out on their first missionary journey. They needed God’s prompting to do what Jesus had commanded us to do in Acts 1:8–just as the Jerusalem church needed the prompting of persecution to move to “Judea and Samaria” (Acts 1:8).

God acts sovereignly to make sure that his will is done so we never have to worry about the mission failing.

What we should remember, however, is that until Jesus returns, we have work to do. It is easy to get very comfortable with the familiar–even (especially?) when God is using us and ministry is going well. But God did not call us to be comfortable, he commissioned us to spread the gospel and start churches.

This means that our church will sometimes have to part with people we love who are obedient to the mission. It has already happened to us in recent years and it will happen again.

This is also why we send 8-10% of our giving as a church away into missions and church planting. If we spent 100% of what God provided to us on our own work–even good, spiritual work–we would be disobedient to what God commanded us to do.

Maybe you’ve been considering some kind of change–giving more to the church or to missions, starting a new ministry here at Calvary, or going into church planting yourself. If comfort with the present situation is stopping you from taking on a new challenge for God’s glory, will you reconsider that in light of this passage?

Genesis 22, Nehemiah 11, Matthew 15

Read Genesis 22, Nehemiah 11, Matthew 15 and this devotional which is about Matthew 15.

Not too many people have the guts to correct Jesus.

And, for good reasons! Being the God-man, he never makes mistakes and, therefore, never needs correcting.

But here in Matthew 15 Jesus was corrected by a very unlikely person in verses 21-28.

First of all, she was a woman (v. 22). Although Christ himself talked directly to women and treated them with the same dignity he gave to men, that was not customary in his society. Many in Jesus’ world would have ignored or even rebuked her for what she said.

Second, she was “a Canaanite” (v. 22). Since Jesus was in the Gentile land, “the region of Tyre and Sidon” (v. 21) it is not surprising that there were Gentiles around. But Jewish people did not ordinarily mix with Gentiles and they certainly didn’t have religious dialogue with them.

But the woman in this passage was on a mission! Despite her background, she came knowledgeably to Jesus calling him, “Lord, Son of David” (v. 22c). Clearly she had not only heard about Jesus, she had some insight into who he was.

I wrote earlier that she “corrected” Jesus and we’ll get to that in a minute. As you know, many times correction comes with a side order of superiority. People correct others often because they think they’re better informed or smarter or just better in some way than the one they are correcting.

This woman did not have that spirit at all when she corrected Jesus. Instead she came pleading, “have mercy on me!” (v. 22). She later kneeled before Jesus before correcting him (v. 25). As we’ll see, she had a deep, appropriate sense of humility in her approach to Jesus.

But she did correct him. Jesus did not respond to her request to deliver her daughter from demon possession (v. 23a). So, the disciples were quite annoyed with her (v. 23b) and wanted Jesus to get rid of her. Instead of rebuking her or continuing to ignore her or send her away, Jesus tenderly told her that his mission prevented him from helping her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (v. 24). 

His response did not dissuade her one bit. Instead, she kneeled and asked for his help (v. 25). Jesus responded with a proverb, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (v. 26). This is where she corrected him: “‘Yes it is, Lord,’ she said. ‘Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’” (v. 27). What a quick, agile mind she had! In an instant, she grasped the significance of Jesus’ enigmatic proverb, embraced the implications of it, and responded in kind. Let me break that down for you:

  • She grasped the significance of his proverb. Jesus used an analogy that elevated Jewish people and denigrated Gentiles. The “children” in this analogy are the children of Israel. So Jesus’ proverb was an indirect way of saying that she had no right to ask for his help since he was sent to Jews not Gentiles. Her response in verse 27 showed that she understood his meaning.
  • She embraced the implications of his proverb. Dogs were not thought of a great pets in Jesus’ day; instead, they were considered vile, scavenging creatures. That’s who Jesus compared her to–filthy, disgusting (from their perspective) dogs. She understood that this was a put-down.
  • She responded in kind. What I mean is that she entered into the proverb and, in her response, she showed Jesus how his own analogy proved that he could help her if he wanted to help her. Sure, the dogs don’t sit at the table and eat off the good plates like the king’s kids do. But the kids are sloppy and drop stuff on the floor and dogs are quick to scarf up whatever they drop. So despite what Jesus said, the dogs do get to eat. They don’t eat in the same way that the king’s kids do, but those who are quick and crafty can benefit from the excess that the kids don’t eat.

When she “corrected” Jesus, she was not rebuking him or pointing out that Jesus had made some kind of error. Instead, she was showing her faith in the deep mercy of God. Throughout the Old Testament, some Gentiles experienced the overflow of God’s grace:

  • Naaman did when Elisha healed him of leprosy.
  • Nebuchadnezzar did when God restored his sanity.
  • The people of Nineveh did when they repented at the preaching of Jonah.

Whether she knew any of these examples or not, she had deep faith in Christ and it showed in every bit of her response to Jesus. Jesus acted the way that he did toward her so that her faith would be seen by all. Her example was a preview, a foretaste, of God’s saving grace to us Gentiles.

This passage, then, should lift our hearts to worship God for his amazing grace and mercy. Although there was no covenant reason (like the Jews had) for Christ to offer us salvation, he intended for you and me to sit at the table with Abraham and his descendants and receive God’s kindness in salvation. This passage should also remind us that there is nobody on earth who deserves salvation less than you do. None of us deserves salvation; since we have received it by God’s grace, we should eagerly offer it to everyone, whether we think of them as dogs or as children.

1 Chronicles 15, Amos 9

Today’s OT18 readings are 1 Chronicles 15 and Amos 9

This devotional is about Amos 9:11-12: “In that day ‘I will restore David’s fallen shelter—
I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins—and will rebuild it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,[e]’ declares the Lord, who will do these things.”

Things that were once considered great and powerful can, over time, become weak and useless, a shadow of its former self. Sears Roebuck and company was once, and for many decades, a retail giant. How many Craftsman tools, Kenmore appliances, and/or DieHard batteries have you owned? But now Sears is in bankruptcy and the inventory on the shelves is being sold, never to be restocked.

Great and powerful things can become weak and rickety.

This is what happened to David’s dynasty. David and his son Solomon were blessed immensely by the Lord. David’s “house,” that is, his kingdom passed from one generation to another, split after Solomon died and Judah, the part that was left, became weaker and weaker. Here in Amos 9:11 God refers to David’s house as a “fallen shelter.” This is a word that describes a shack, a temporary dwelling that is not much to look at and not very sturdy. David’s once powerful house was now like house of straw that the first of the three little pigs built in the nursery rhyme.

This verse, however, promises that it will not remain a shack. Instead, God promised to “restore” it repairing “its broken walls and its ruins” and “rebuilt it as it used to be”. God himself would do this restoration and the fulfillment of this promise began with the first coming of Christ.

But verse 12 says something more. In the NIV text it says, “so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name.” But, for reasons too long and complicated to explain here, that might not be the best translation. The alternative translation, which is hiding behind that [e] in the text in BibleGateway, is “so that the remnant of people / and all the nations that bear my name may seek me.” If that is what God originally said in Amos, then his promise is that he will rebuild David’s house so that both Jews “the remnant of people” and Gentiles “all the nations that bear my name” would seek and find God.

This is how the early church understood Amos 9:11-12, too. In Acts, God started saving Gentiles and churches full of Gentiles began to appear. The apostles and early followers of Jesus were uncertain about how to handle these Gentiles. Should the apostles require the men to be circumcised? Should all these new Gentile believers be required to keep the Law of Moses, including the diet of the Jews? The early church wrestled with these questions and, in Acts 15, we read that there was a meeting in Jerusalem to decide the answers. In that chapter–Acts 15–James quoted this passage, Amos 9:11-12 (see Acts 15:15-18). Based on
these verses in Amos, the apostles decided that we Gentiles are fully accepted by Christ and are to be treated as equal partners in God’s grace.

Your salvation and mine and the salvation of others all over the world from the time Jesus came the first time until he comes back and restores the kingdom of Israel completely are part of God’s fulfillment of Amos 9:11-12. When Israel was at its weakest point, and David’s house looked like it would be blown over, God promised to rebuild it so that we would hear his call of grace and come to follow him.

Let this fulfillment of prophecy encourage you! Not only are you saved eternally by the grace of God but your salvation was part of the plan of God all along. Now that you’re saved, you are part of the fulfillment of that plan.

Matthew 15

Today read Matthew 15.

Not too many people have the guts to correct Jesus for good reasons. Being the God-man, he never makes mistakes and, therefore, never needs correcting. But here in Matthew 15 Jesus was corrected by a very unlikely person in verses 21-28.

First of all, she was a woman (v. 22). Although Christ himself talked directly to women and treated them with the same dignity he gave to men, that was not customary in his culture. So, many in Jesus’ world would have ignored or even rebuked her for what she said.

Second, she was “a Canaanite” (v. 22). Since Jesus was in the Gentile land, “the region of Tyre and Sidon” it is not surprising that there were Gentiles around. Despite her background, she came knowledgeably to Jesus calling him, “Lord, Son of David.” Clearly she had not only heard about Jesus, she had some insight into his significance.

I wrote earlier that she “corrected” Jesus and we’ll get to that in a minute. As you know, many times correction comes with a side order of superiority. People correct people often because they think they’re better informed or smarter or just better in some way than the one they are correcting. This woman did not have that spirit at all when she corrected Jesus. Instead she came asking, “have mercy on me!” (v. 22). She later kneeled before Jesus before correcting him (v. 25). As we’ll see, she had a deep, appropriate sense of humility in her approach to Jesus.

But she did correct him. Jesus did not respond to her request to deliver her daughter from demon possession (v. 23a). So, the disciples were quite annoyed with her (v. 23b) and wanted Jesus to get rid of her. Instead of rebuking her or continuing to ignore her or send her away, Jesus tenderly told her that his mission prevented him from helping her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (v. 24). This response did not dissuade her one bit. Instead, she kneeled and asked for his help (v. 25). Jesus responded with a proverb, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (v. 26). This is where she corrected him: “‘Yes it is, Lord,’ she said. ‘Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’” (v. 27). What a quick, agile mind she had! In an instant, she grasped the significance of Jesus’ enigmatic proverb, embraced the implications of it, and responded in kind. Let me break that down for you:

  • She grasped the significance of his proverb. Jesus used an analogy that elevated Jewish people and denigrated Gentiles. The “children” in this analogy are the children of Israel. So Jesus’ proverb was an indirect way of saying that she had no right to ask for his help since he was sent to Jews not Gentiles. Her response in verse 27 showed that she understood his meaning.
  • She embraced the implications of his proverb. Dogs were not thought of a great pets in Jesus’ day; instead, they were considered vile, scavenging creatures. That’s who Jesus compared her too–filthy, disgusting (from their perspective) dogs. She understood that this was a put-down.
  • She responded in kind. What I mean is that she entered into the proverb and in her response showed Jesus how his own analogy proved that he could help her if he wanted to help her. Sure, the dogs don’t sit at the table and eat off the good plates like the king’s kids do. But the kids are sloppy and drop stuff on the floor and dogs are quick to scarf up whatever they drop. So despite what Jesus said, the dogs do get to eat. They don’t eat in the same way that the king’s kids do, but those who are quick and crafty can benefit from the excess that the kids don’t eat.

Her correction of Jesus was not a rebuke nor was she pointing out that Jesus had made some kind of error. Instead, she was showing her faith in the deep mercy of God. Throughout the Old Testament, some Gentiles experienced the overflow of God’s grace. Naaman did when Elisha healed him of leprosy. Nebuchadnezzar did when God restored his sanity. The people of Nineveh did when they repented at the preaching of Jonah. Whether she knew any of these examples or not, she had deep faith in Christ and it showed in her response to Jesus. Jesus acted the way that he did toward her so that her faith would be seen by all. Her example was a preview, a foretaste, of God’s saving grace to us Gentiles.

This passage, then, should lift our hearts to worship God for his amazing grace and mercy. Although there was no covenant reason (like the Jews had) for Christ to offer us salvation, he intended for you and me to sit at the table with Abraham and his descendants and receive God’s kindness in salvation. This passage should also remind us that there is nobody on earth who deserves salvation less than you do. None of us deserves salvation; since we have received it by God’s grace, we should eagerly offer it to everyone, whether we think of them as dogs or as children.

2 Chronicles 17, Revelation 6, Zechariah 2, John 5

Thanks for reading along with me this year. If you’d like to continue this practice in 2017, click here for details about NT17, my devotional plan for next year. You can sign up on that page; the mailing list you’re on now will be discontinued on December 31 after the last 66 in 16 devotional goes out.

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 17, Revelation 6, Zechariah 2, John 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 Zechariah 2.

In this chapter Zechariah learned what life would be like in the future city of Jerusalem. In verse 1 he met a man who was on his way to measure Jerusalem but by verse 3 the man had been stopped by an angel because the city would be beyond measure. According to verse 4 it would be “a city without walls,” full of people and animals, guarded and illuminated by the Lord himself (v. 5). This describes Jerusalem as it will be during Christ’s earthly kingdom–the Millennium (v. 10). Although Israel, God’s covenant people, are gathered into this city (vv. 6-9), they are not the only ones who will enjoy this amazing life. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you” (v. 11). This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abram that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:3b). This is why the gospel was for the Gentiles just as much as it was for the Jews. Our presence there in Jesus’ kingdom was part of God’s plan all along and it shows God’s love and grace to us regardless of who we are or where we came from. There is a bright future ahead for the human race but it will arrive through the fulfillment of Christ’s promises, not through technological breakthroughs, political planning, or military conquest. When the cares and problems of this life drag us down, a passage like this can return our gaze to God and his plan. Great things await those who trust in Jesus!

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.

Deuteronomy 15, Psalm 102, Isaiah 42, Revelation 12:1–13:1

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 15, Psalm 102, Isaiah 42, Revelation 12:1–13:1. 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 Isaiah 42.

Parts of this chapter in Isaiah are quoted and said to be fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament. It describes Christ one who brings justice to the earth (v. 1, 3b-4) yet is gentle toward the weak (v. 3a: “a bruised reed… a smoldering wick”). In the middle of the description of Christ’s work on earth is the passage that says, “I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison  and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” This was a signal to Israel that they were not chosen by God to be the exclusive recipients of his saving grace; rather, through his chosen people Israel, God would bring the light of salvation to millions of people all over the world, people like us who have not a drop of Jewish blood in our bodies. Simeon may have alluded to this passage in Luke 2:32 as he held baby Jesus in his hands and gave thanks to God for him. Though thousands of years have passed since Christ walked this earth, God’s purpose for him continues to unfold as people all over the world see the light of Christ and come to him for salvation. Take a moment today to pray for people we support in Ireland, England, and areas where security is sensitive. They are bringing the light of Christ’s salvation to these areas in fulfillment of this passage. When that work is completed and the time has come, Christ will come to establish his kingdom for us.

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.