2 Chronicles 6:12-42, Revelation 5

Read 2 Chronicles 6:12-42 and Revelation 5 today. This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 6:12-42.

Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple here in 2 Chronicles 6 gave great glory to God.

He began by praising God for his uniqueness and his faithfulness to his promises (vv. 14-15), then reminded God of his covenant with David by asking the Lord to complete it (vv. 16-17).

Verses 18-39 described different situations in which Israel could find itself in the future. Solomon described each problem God’s people could face, then asked the Lord to “hear” (vv. 20-21), forgive (v. 21b), act in justice (v. 23), forgive and return them to the land, (vv. 24-25).

When God dealt with sin through famine, Solomon asked God forgive but also to “teach them the right way to live” (v. 27b). When God disciplined his people using famine or plague, Solomon asked God to deal with them according to their hearts “so that they will fear you and walk in obedience to you…” (vv. 30-31).

We talk properly of God’s grace and mercy in forgiveness. As a sinner, I join you in thanking God for those things. But do we realize that God’s commands are also expressions of his grace? They do not restrict our freedom; they “teach us the right way to live.”

May we learn to love God’s word not only for how it reveals God, calls us to faith, and comforts and encourages us; may God also cause us to love it so that I changes our lives, leading us to walk in obedience instead of our natural habits of disobedience. Obedience to God’s word not only pleases God; it protects us from the damage of sin and its painful consequences. Give us grace, Lord, to receive your commands as a precious gift and to walk in obedience to them for your glory and our good.

1 Kings 19, Amos 5, 1 Peter 5

Read 1 Kings 19, Amos 5, and 1 Peter 5 today. This devotional is about Amos 5.

Many religions are built around rituals. Rituals may involve memorizing words and saying them at certain times. They may involve lighting candles or attending gatherings or giving money. Religious rituals can center on what someone eats, what kind of clothing (or underwear) they wear. Most religions have certain expectations that followers of that religion must do or should do or are supposed to do.

Judaism was no different; in fact, Old Testament worship had many, many rituals. It regulated how often and when people gathered, how much they gave, what they wore, what they ate, and on and on. 

Rituals can be meaningful but they can also just become habits. Like most habits, we can perform rituals without thinking or caring very much. This is especially true if someone equates their relationship to God 100% with the performance of the ritual. If someone thinks that God is pleased because he or she performed a religious act or consistently performed a bunch of religious acts, that person needs to look more closely at scripture. 

And, if we do rituals in God’s name while also practicing sinful habits the rest of the time, we are deceiving ourselves.

Here in Amos 5:21-24, God condemned the observance of Jewish religious rituals in the harshest of terms. “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me” he said in verse 21. Forget the sacrifices, too (v. 22) and your worship music, no matter how emotive it is or how skillfully you play it (v. 23). 

Instead, God wanted those who loved him to do what is right: “…let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (v. 24). Christ has fulfilled the sacrifices so that we can be declared righteous and God can be just. But if we name the name of Christ and diligently do what Christians are supposed to do yet we break God’s commands routinely in our daily lives, we are deceiving ourselves about the state of our relationship with God.

How about it? Are you living a life that is right with God in your home, your workplace, and in our community? If someone from one of those contexts found out that you are a Christian, would they be surprised? God wants living sacrifices; our daily choices, ethics, values, how we treat people, and the words that we say reveal far more about our faith than does our church attendance, giving, and Bible reading. Those things–church attendance, etc.–are designed to help us live a more righteous life. They are important for growing and strengthening our faith, not for measuring our compliance with Christian expectations.

God judged his people for many things including religious performance without righteous living. Let’s learn from their painful example and truly walk with God.

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?

1 Samuel 13, Ezekiel 24, Colossians 3

Read 1 Samuel 13, Ezekiel 24, and Colossians 3 today. This devotional is about 1 Samuel 13.

Although Samuel had retired as a judge, he continued his ministry as priest. In today’s passage Saul wanted Samuel to come to Gilgal and perform a priestly function, namely to offer sacrifices on behalf of Israel’s army as they went out to fight the Philistines (vv. 7b-8).

It is important, when reading this passage, to realize that Saul’s men—including his son Jonathan—were already engaged battle with the Philistines at Geba (v. 3). The battle was not going well (vv. 6-7b) and the Philistines had shown up in large numbers and with heavy equipment for the fight (v. 5). But instead of attacking and helping their Israelite brothers who were already battling, Saul was told by Samuel to wait for a full week (8a)! Yet even after the full week had passed, Samuel did not arrive.

Fearing an attack at any moment (v. 12a) and wanting the Lord’s favor on them (v. 12b), Saul decided to take matters into his own hands. He offered the sacrifices himself instead of waiting for Samuel any longer (v. 9).

Samuel arrived almost instantly after the offering was given (v. 10) and he confronted Saul about his disobedience (v. 11a). Saul explained his justification for acting as he did. The situation was dire, he had already waited a week, and the timeframe Samuel gave him had expired (vv. 11b-12).

But Samuel had no time for Saul’s explanation. Saul’s act was an act of disobedience. Twice Samuel told him, “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you” (v. 9, 13b, 14c). Saul’s act was motivated by fear, not faith. Like all disobedience, it was the result of unbelief. Whenever we knowingly do what is wrong, we believe in that moment that we will be better off doing what seems right to us than what God said.

Also, like Saul, we usually have good reasons for what we did. At least, we have reasons that seem good to us in the moment. If Samuel had only shown up on time for the appointment, none of this ever would have happened. If Samuel had decreed a more reasonable timeframe, one that did not leave God’s people so exposed to attack, Saul would not have disobeyed.

If you recall a major sin in your life, I’ll bet you remember thinking that your sin was justified in this one instance.

Adam and Eve had their excuses, too, and so has every one of us who has ever sinned against God.

Saul may have had his reasons, but God had his own response. Samuel told Saul that, as a result of his choice to sin, his kingdom would not endure (vv. 13-14). He reigned in Israel for forty-two years (v. 1)—a nice long tenure, to be sure. But his son Jonathan would never be anointed king after him, nor would any of Jonathan’s children or any of their generations after.

Remember this:

Our justifications for disobedience may help us dampen our guilty conscience or defend ourselves against the questions and allegations of others, but we are only fooling ourselves, not God.

God is gracious to forgive our sins when we turn to him in repentance, but rarely does God choose to stop the chain-reaction of consequences that our disobedience triggers.

When we feel the pull of temptation in our lives, passages like this one encourage us to trust God and obey instead of following our fear, our desire, our rationalizations. God was more than able to deliver Israel if Saul looked to him in faith and obeyed his commands. He is more than able to take care of you and me if we trust and obey his word, too.

Judges 18, Ezekiel 7, Psalms 93-95

Read Judges 18, Ezekiel 7, and Psalms 93-95 today. This devotional is about Psalm 93.

Why should God’s word be trusted? Why do we build our faith and our lives on ancient documents, especially since we have a much better understanding of the world and of human psychology than the ancient men who wrote these books?

The answer, simply, is that it is God’s word. Because it is God’s word, then we DON’T have a better understanding of anything than the ultimate writer of scripture, God himself, did or does.

In this brief song, the Psalmist began by describing God’s glory (v. 1), his eternality (v. 2), and the fact that his power is greater than the seas (vv. 3-4). All of these were mentioned to lead up to verse 5a: “Your statutes, Lord, stand firm….” The point, then, is if God is more majestic than anything we’ve ever seen, existing from all eternity, and mightier than anything we’ll ever experience in his creation, shouldn’t we depend on his word? Doesn’t everything we experience in creation call us to trust the word of our Creator? Haven’t we seen enough to know that obedience to his word will bring stability to our lives?

Let this song fill you with hope and strength and courage for whatever you’re facing today. If you live according to God’s word, your life is grounded on a firm foundation.

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 23, Jeremiah 44, Romans 7

Today read Joshua 23, Jeremiah 44, and Romans 7. This devotional is about Joshua 23.

People are social creatures and that means we are drawn to conform to whatever the people around us are doing. Part of our desire to conform is social acceptance. This gives us comfort because we feel like we belong; we blend in to feel accepted. The other part of our desire to conform is called “social proof.” This means that, if enough people are doing something, we feel confident that it is the right thing to do.

As Joshua neared the end of his life, he was concerned about the social affect of other nations on Israel’s worship of God. In verse 6, he urged the people to be obedient and dedicated to God’s law. In verse 7, he warned them not to “associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them.” Joshua knew that associating with these nations would cause them to reject the Lord and turn to idols. Verses 12-13 spelled out the consequences that would follow if they “intermarry with them and associate with them… they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.”

Israel’s history played out exactly as Joshua warned that it would. Their example reminds us to be careful about our associations. While we should not isolate ourselves from unbelievers, we also should not be too comfortable among them. Their beliefs, their lifestyles, and their outlook will create social pressure for us to turn away from obedience to the Lord. Our natural, human desire to be accepted will wage war against the desire to become holy like God is. And the “social proof” aspect will tempt us to minimize the differences between God’s will for us and the lifestyles of those around us.

Isolation is not the will of God for us because the Lord wants us to love unbelievers and use our social influence to gain a hearing for the gospel. But the Bible reminds us not to love the world, either, because it is corrosive to spiritual growth. This passage warns and reminds us to be careful about how we are being influenced by those around us who do not know the Lord.