1 Samuel 28, Ezekiel 38, Mark 4

Read 1 Samuel 28, Ezekiel 38, and Mark 4 today. This devotional is about Mark 4.

This chapter contains some of Jesus parables about the kingdom (vv. 1-34) followed by the incident where Jesus miraculously calmed the storm (vv. 35-41).

The parable of the soils here in Mark 4:1-25 describes how failure to receive the gospel is due to the hearts of people, not the seed or the sowers.

The parable in verses 26-29 also teaches about the kingdom of God using a farm metaphor. A farmer scatters the seed into the ground and…. that’s it. He just leaves it there. It doesn’t matter how else the farmer spends his time for verse 27 says, “whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed spouts and grows.”

Once he has done the work of sowing, the land and the seed take over the work and work together. Verse 27c says that the farmer’s planting works even “though he does not know how.” The farmer knows that process of sowing and reaping works, but he didn’t know why it works. He has no idea how the process of germination happens. Neither did I until I read this hideously ugly webpage about it. Once the seed is planted, the process works “all by itself” (v. 28a). If the farmer waits patiently, he will reap the results.

Although the farmer didn’t know how the seed germinates, he knew that it would germinate if he planted it. He did not have to understand the process to benefit from the process.

A lot of effective processes work this way. You do not have to understand the process to benefit from the process.

So what was Christ teaching us about his kingdom here? He was teaching that God will sow the gospel into the world and then it will bear fruit. You and I, the sowers, don’t need to understand how it works nor do need to do anything else but plant the seed. We don’t need to “know… how” (v. 27c); God uses the gospel to his work “all by itself” (v. 28a).

Many of us never witness for Christ or we stop witnessing for Christ because we fear failure.

But the only way to fail is not to plant or not to reap. If we stay in the farmhouse, we will fail. If we plant the seed of the word, Jesus said it would work “all by itself” (v. 28).

When was the last time you tried to invite someone to church? When did you last open a spiritual conversation with someone and tell them about Christ? The kingdom is growing and when Christ returns, the harvest will come.

Are you planting anything?

Genesis 41, Job 8, Proverbs 4

Today read Genesis 41, Job  8, and Proverbs 4. This devotional is about Proverbs 4.

This chapter in Proverbs contains a lot of encouragement and general recommendations for wisdom rather than actual, specific, actionable instructions. In other words it says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (v. 7) rather than, “Pray and ask God for wisdom and look for a wise mentor who will give you advice.” But one thing that stands out in this passage is the repeated analogy of wisdom as a pathway:

  • Verse 11: “I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.” 
  • Verse 12: “When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
  • Verses 14-15: “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.”
  • Verses 18-19: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked….”
  • Verses 26-27: “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your waysDo not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” 

This imagery of waking in a pathway emphasizes that wisdom is a process not a product. It is a direction you go in with your life not a destination you reach.

To use another analogy: You build up a savings account financially by wisely using your money, spending less and less and saving more and more daily rather than by spending money on the lottery and hoping you win. Follow the steps of spending less than you earn and putting the difference away and you will steadily accumulate money.

But notice the contrast that Solomon drew in verses 18-19 again: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” 

Have you ever met someone who had a catastrophic moral failure–he or she broke the law in some big way and got caught or had an affair or something like that?

When that happens, and it is a person you know and were surprised that it happened to them, the person will tell you, “I don’t know why I did this or how I got here!” That statement is pretty close to verse 19b’s, “they do not know what makes them stumble.” The idea is that the wicked person follows a foolish pathway but they are so in the dark, so self-deceived about the risks that they don’t even see the pit they ultimately fell into.

Are you playing around with something risky right now? Are you repeatedly going to sinful behavior, dabbling just a little in it, but doing so more and more often and going just a little further each time?

If so, let these words bring some much needed light into the dark ways of your life. Wickedness is a process that leads you into darkness. It is exciting but extremely dangerous and it will get you.

But if wandering into darkness is a process then so is becoming enlightened through righteousness and wisdom. Repent–change your mind and turn around; go toward the light. Wisdom will dawn on you; it will accumulate if you follow it daily.