2 Chronicles 8 and Psalms 136-139

Read 2 Chronicles 8 and Psalms 136-139. This devotional is about Psalm 139.

This song is a very personal meditation by David. It is personal in the sense that David considers how deeply personal God’s knowledge of him is. Plenty of people in the world believe in God but the “god” they believe in is impersonal, detached, abstract. They believe in a free-floating spirit, or a concept like karma, or a deistic deity who may have started the world but is more or less uninterested in humanity. And, to the extent that their god is interested in humanity, it is the powerful or the abundantly evil, they think, that he cares about.

There is also in our day a differing view of God, one that is hyper-personal. This view believes that God exists to serve me; he is the divine butler that brings about my every wish, my every intention, if I just reach out and ask him for stuff.

Both of these visions of God are completely distorted. Yes, God is transcendent, powerful, spiritual but he is also personal. David sang about God’s personal traits when he described in verses 1-6 that God has “searched… and known” him (v. 1). Verses 2-4 detailed this knowledge that God has of David. It includes David’s physical movements (v. 2a), his thoughts (v. 2b), his habits (v. 3), and his word (v. 4). Not only does God know all of this but his presence is always as close as a person who can touch you is (v. 5).

In verse 6, David was overwhelmed emotionally with how perfectly God knew him and kept tabs on him. In verses 7-12 David detailed how impossible it was to escape God, even if he wanted to do so. Not even the darkest night or the blackest cave could veil David’s being from being known perfectly and personally by God. That’s because, according to verses 13-16, God created him and thus knew him when he was invisible to everyone in his mother’s womb. Again David was submerged in wonder as he considered how carefully God watches and thinks about him.

Although David was a key figure in the history of God’s people, there is nothing that is sung in this Psalm that is unique to him. There are over 7 billion people on earth right now and billions more who lived and died before now, yet God knows them all as intimately as he knew David. God is close enough to all of us to be touched if it were possible for a human to touch the living God (Acts 17:27-28).

This song ends with David asking God to act on what he knows about all people. First, he wished that God would rid the earth of the wicked (vv. 19-20), affirming that he personally hated the Lord’s enemies (v. 21). And yet he understands that he himself is not perfect before God, so he asks God to search his heart, test his faith, purge the wickedness from within him, and continue to lead him in righteousness by faith (vv. 23-24).

This is a fitting prayer for everyone who understands the holiness of God, his personal knowledge of us, and our own depravity. We don’t even understand the depth of our desire for wickedness, so it takes tremendous courage and faith to ask God to root the evil ways out of us.

God’s methods for making us holy are not delicate and delightful. Becoming like God is painful; it requires being honest with God and ourselves, seeking and finding true repentance, and pleading for the grace of God in our lives. But, when God has completed his work, we will be satisfied with the transformation he has accomplished in us and he will be glorified.

Exodus 24, Job 42, Luke 6

Read Exodus 24, Job 42, and Luke 6. This devotional is about Exodus 24.

God commanded Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders to come to worship him (v. 1). They were to come nearer than the rest of Israel, but to worship “at a distance” (v.1b). According to verse 2, only Moses was chosen from among them to approach the Lord.

After Moses instructed the Israelites and made preparations (vv. 3-8), the 74 men God had chosen did approach the Lord’s presence according to verse 9.

In verse 10, what they saw was “The God of Israel….” but there is almost no description of what God looked like in this manifestation. Rather, the only description we are given is merely what he was standing on: “Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky.”

God is pure spirit and does not have a body; however, for this revelation, he made himself visible in some way. Whatever they saw had feet, according to verse 10, but that’s all we know.

Based on other appearances of God in the Bible and the fact that they saw feet, whatever they saw probably resembled a man in some form. However, what they saw was so wonderful and so terrifying that Moses did not even attempt to describe Him, only what he was standing on.

This is our God; his nature is beyond what words can describe or the human brain can even comprehend. Although we do not deserve to stand in his presence, his grace compelled him to reveal himself to us. More than that, he did everything in Christ that we could not do for ourselves to reconcile us to himself and even adopt us into his family. Someday we will know God “face to face.” We will fall before him and worship in awe but also in perfect love and acceptance in Christ.

Part of living a godly life is to recognize that this holy God, who was too incredible to describe, is watching us day and night. Everything we do and even our thoughts and reasons for doing what we do are completely seen and known by God. As Christians, we do not fear God’s wrath any longer but the knowledge that he is watching us should change how we live. We are accepted in Christ in God’s sight and, because of that, we should live holy lives in his sight as well.

Are you trying to hide anything? You may be successful at concealing it from other people but our perfect and holy God sees all and he is terrifyingly powerful and perfect in holiness. Since we have perfect standing with him by grace in Christ, let’s strive to live holy lives in his sight each day.

Genesis 21, Nehemiah 10, Psalms 6-9

Read Genesis 21, Nehemiah 10, and Psalms 6-9. This devotional is about Psalm 8, specifically verses 3-9.

We look back at people who lived in Old Testament times and think they were primitive. They didn’t have electricity, indoor plumbing, or climate controls. The tools they had were crude and they spent an inordinate amount of time just trying to stay alive by providing for each day’s needs for themselves and their families.

Secular people think they were even more crude than this. They think these people didn’t understand mathematics or natural laws like gravity. They think that David and his contemporaries didn’t even know what the sun and moon were and some people in this time even worshipped those heavenly bodies as if they were gods.

Here in Psalm 8, we see that David had a much better understanding of the physical world than we might expect. He knew that the sky he looked at in the night was showing him the “heavens” (v. 3a) and that the lights he saw in those heavens were celestial bodies in the heavens just as the earth was. In other words, he saw that the earth was not like the set of a movie with everything above being an illusion or a prop. He knew that God had created a vast universe of which the earth was just one planet.

Now that we have telescopes and satellites, we see how vast the universe really is and how small we really are in comparison. But David had a sense of it which is why he marveled, “…what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” With so much stuff in the material universe, why would God care about humanity as a group, much less the individuals in it?

I just googled the earth’s population and it is estimated at 7.7 billion people. I can’t even begin to visualize that number, much less think about knowing each person’s name, story, thoughts, and so on. Yet God knows it all and cares about each of us individually. That’s why David concluded this Psalm with, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Nobody comes anywhere near his majesty.

1 Samuel 18, Lamentations 3

Today’s readings are 1 Samuel 18 and Lamentations 3.

God punished Judah for her sins, particularly the sin of idolatry; Jeremiah was one of the faithful ones who:

  • worshipped the Lord only
  • prophesied on God’s behalf and
  • suffered for speaking the truth to his fellow Jews

Yet throughout the book of Jeremiah and here in Lamentations, we saw how the prophet Jeremiah took God’s punishment personally. Here in Lamentations 3, Jeremiah continued the personalization of God’s wrath. In verse 2, for example, he wrote, “He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light….” Notice how many times in verses 1-21 how many times Jeremiah used the word “I,” “me,” or “my.” Just scanning these verses shows you how the invasion of the Babylonians felt to Jeremiah like a personal attack from the Lord God.

Starting in verse 22, the prophet changed his perspective. Despite all the traumatic judgment God had brought on his people, Jeremiah looked to the Lord for hope. He realized in verse 22 that his sins and the sins of the nation called for much greater judgement even than what they had received. He understood that being alive to greet any new day was an act of God’s mercy; as he wrote, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (vv. 22-23). This marked a major shift in his perceptions.

In verse 24-25, Jeremiah affirmed that the Lord was the only real answer to the problems and traumas he and his nations faced. He urged himself and anyone who would read these words to seek the Lord (v. 25b) and wait patiently (v. 24b, 26a) for him and his salvation. All of this hope was based on God’s goodness. “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love” (v. 32).

While waiting for God’s deliverance, Jeremiah also recommended personal introspection: “Why should the living complain when punished for their sins? Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: ‘We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven’” (vv. 39-42). This is what the people of Judah should have done before the Babylonians invaded. Repentance would have brought God’s mercy according to his promises in the Law. But, having felt his wrath for their sins now, repentance remained the only right response for his people.

In Christ our sins are forgiven and our eternity is secure. When we are in Him, God views us and treats as perfect because he has credited us with the perfect righteousness of Christ. Still, we are not fully redeemed in the sense that we continue to have a sin nature and we follow that sin nature with disobedience to God’s word. Although God does not punish us for our sins–those were punished on the cross–he usually allows the consequences of sin to play out in our lives and he will bring his hand of loving discipline into our lives to make us holy. That can feel like a personal attack unless we remind ourselves of God’s loving, gracious character as Jeremiah did in verses 22-26. If you’re experiencing some painful problems in life, have you looked to God’s character for encouragement and strength? Have you examined your life and expressed repentance for sins that may have brought these problems into your life?

Numbers 23, Isaiah 13, Psalm 128

Read Numbers 23, Isaiah 13, and Psalm 128.

This devotional is about Numbers 23.

When we left Israel yesterday, Balak the king of Moab had enlisted the help of Balaam to bring a divine curse on the people of God. Balaam was eager to earn the money that Balak was offering so he went with Balak’s delegation so that he could curse Israel. God, however, met with Balaam and told him only to say what the Lord told him.

I think it is pretty clear that Balaam was a heathen prophet who did not know the Lord but knew of the Lord and enquired of God on that basis. God, for his own reasons, chose to communicate with Balaam even though he was not a genuine worshipper.

Here in Numbers 23, Balak is ready for Balaam to earn his money and start cursing Israel. But, just as he said, Balaam was only able to say what God told him to say (v. 26) so blessings were what came out of his mouth. In one of those blessings Balaam said this, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind” (v. 19). We’re all thankful for the fact that God does not, even cannot, lie; but what about Balaam’s statement that God is “not a human being, that he should change his mind”? In 1 Samuel 15:11 we will read, “I regret that I have made Saul king….” This sounds like God changed his mind about something quite important–which man should lead and serve Israel as king. God seems to have changed his mind about sending judgment on the Ninevites in Jonah 3:10, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” He also seemed to change his mind about Hezekiah’s death (2 Kings 20:1, 4-5). So why did God tell Balaam to say that God is not a human being that he should change his mind?

The answer is that God does not change his mind, but that changes are part of his plan. In the case of Saul, God’s regret was over his unbelief and disobedience. God, of course, knew that Saul would be disobedient but he wanted Israel to see the contrast between a guy who looked like a king “should” look (Saul) and David, a king who would follow God genuinely, from the heart. In the case of Jonah, the whole purpose in sending him there was to warn them about judgement so that they would repent. Their repentance was part of God’s plan so that he would withhold judgment until a later time and so that Jonah and Israel would learn an important lesson about hatred. Finally, in the case of Hezekiah, God’s “mind change” was done to demonstrate his power to Hezekiah when Hezekiah cried out to him in faith.

So, it is true that God does not change his mind. His plans and decrees were established in eternity and do not change in real time. As Psalm 119:89 says, “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” We don’t need to worry, for instance, about whether God will change his mind about the return of Christ or about our salvation. God has promised these and other blessings to us and he will fulfill those promises just as he fulfilled his promise to Israel that they would enter the land under Joshua (which is what happened fairly soon after the events recorded here in Numbers 23). Trust God, then, your life takes unexpected turns that make you question his purpose or his control. God is not a man that he should lie or change his mind.

Exodus 34, Proverbs 10, Psalm 82

Today we’re reading Exodus 34, Proverbs 10, and Psalm 82.

This devotional is about Exodus 34.

In Exodus 33 we read, yesterday, that Moses wanted to see the glory of God (33:18). God promised that Moses would hear an announcement of God’s goodness (33:19) and see a glimpse His glory (vv. 20-23).

Here in Exodus 34, we read Moses’s description of how God kept that promise. Whatever Moses saw, he did not describe it for us in this passage. He did, however, describe what he heard. When God wanted to show Moses his glory, God proclaimed his name: “The LORD, the LORD” (YHWH, v. 6b) followed by a description of God’s character: “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (vv. 6c-7).

When God wanted to reveal his glory, he described himself in words, in theological propositions. He did show Moses something at various times (see Ex 24:10, 33:11, 23) but whatever Moses saw was a physical representation of God (probably, the person of Christ) not the essence of God. That’s because God is spirit (Jn 4:24, 1 Tim 6:15b-16) so a visible, physical presence is not part of his essence. The only aspect of God that we can understand is his Word–his description of himself in human languages.

If you want to know God, learn theology. That’s how God has revealed himself. The better you learn your theology, the better you will know God. But truly knowing God goes beyond memorizing statements about his character. Truly knowing God requires experiencing his character; that is, we see his compassion, his grace, his slowness to anger, his abounding love and faithfulness, and his forgiveness. We see these truths he has revealed about himself–first in his Word as we read about his work in the lives of others, then in our own lives as we walk with him. Again, if you want to know God, learn theology; then notice how theology impacts and changes everyday life.

What Moses learned about God in this passage is paradoxical. On one hand, God is “compassionate” “gracious” “slow to anger” “abounding in love” and “forgiving [of] wickedness, rebellion, and sin” (vv. 6b-7). Verse 7b, however, says that God “…does not leave the guilty unpunished….” How can God forgive wickedness without leaving the guilty unpunished? The answer is Jesus. We know God’s love and forgiveness in him because he received the punishment that we guilty sinners deserved. This is the glory and greatness of our God. When we consider these things, they should cause us to act like Moses who “…bowed to the ground at once and worshiped” (v. 8).

Exodus 35, John 14, Proverbs 11, Ephesians 4

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Exodus 35, John 14, Proverbs 11, Ephesians 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 John 14.

John 14:1-6 is one of the most comforting passages in the Bible to me. Christ’s soothing command, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” his promise that “I will come back and take you to be with me,” and, most importantly, his assurance “I am the way and the truth  and the life” may have been lost on his disciples, but they give me great hope in a world that is troubling and hard to understand. Because the first 6 verses are so well-known and so filled with hope, I wonder how often people miss the great truth in verses 8-9: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9b). This is one of many clear statements of the deity of Christ. No man could say these words and intend them to mean something less than an overt claim to deity. 

Still, they are not easy to interpret. The church has never struggled with tri-theism (the idea that there are three Gods), but it struggles to this day with modalism—the idea that there is one God and that the three persons of God are merely “modes” of presentation. Modalism might be explained that, just as I am one man who is also a husband, father, and pastor, so God is one person who has three distinct roles. Or, some modalists say, “God sometimes puts on his Father suit, or his Son suit, or his Holy Spirit suit but he’s just one person appearing in different ways. Christ’s claim that “anyone who has seen me as seen the Father” looks like a good supporting text for modalism; it suggests that Christ is the same person as the Father. But this cannot be reconciled with other clear texts where the Father, Son, and Spirit all appear in the same scene. We saw this in Luke 3:21-22 where Jesus was baptized and the Spirit descended on him like a dove while a voice from heaven, the Father’s voice, said, “This is my beloved Son.” Taken together, we understand God to be a trinity—a being unlike anyone or anything else. He is one in nature: the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Since they have the exact nature, anything that is true of God can be seen in Christ. In the life of Christ we see God’s holiness, wisdom, power, righteousness, justice, and so on. Yet, although all three members of the Trinity are fully God, sharing the same nature, they are also distinct person. The Father is God but the Son is not the Father. The Son is God but the Spirit is not the Son. It is correct to say that God the Son died on the cross for our sins but it is incorrect to say that the Father died on the cross. Because of God’s uniqueness, and our creatureliness, it is impossible for us to fully understand the Trinitarian God we worship and serve. But we should understand that Christ is the clearest, most concrete revelation of God that humanity has ever experienced. In Christ we learn all that we need to know about God and because of Christ, we can know God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. 

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.