John 16

Read John 16.

Jesus was preparing the disciples for life without him. He spoke the words of this chapter just shortly before he was betrayed. He made disturbing prophecies about what they would face in the days ahead (vv. 2-3, 20-21, 32). Yet he also promised that they would not be alone; instead “the Advocate” (the Holy Spirit) would come and empower their work (vv. 7-11).

One aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work would be to guide the disciples as they wrote the Scriptures. That’s what the promise at the end of verse 13 meant when Jesus said, “he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” The disciples would not lead the church from their own mistake-prone thinking and human judgment. Instead, the Holy Spirit would guide them.

This is one reason why we value the Bible and believe it to be without error and fully reliable. It is not the collected opinions of a few good men. It is the written word of God recorded by godly man as they were guided by the Holy Spirit of God.

I’m glad you’ve been reading these devotionals and hope they have been truly helpful to your life. But my words are only correct and helpful as they correctly describe and apply THE WORD, the spirit-inspired scripture. It is what we need to become who Jesus called us to be, so value the Word and learn it for your own growth in godliness.

Acts 13

Read Acts 13.

When Paul described the core of the gospel, he wrote: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4).

“The Scriptures” Paul talked about in those verses are, of course, what we call the Old Testament. It isn’t hard to show how the scriptures prophesied that Christ would die for our sins. But where exactly does the Old Testament predict the burial and resurrection of Jesus?

Verses 32-37 answer that question. In verse 32, Paul said that “God promised our ancestors” that Christ would rise from the dead. He quoted from several Psalms in the following verses. The most relevant to the promise of Christ’s resurrection was Psalm 16:10 which Paul quoted here in Acts 13:35: “So it is also stated elsewhere: ‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’”

David wrote those words and people naturally interpreted those words as referring to him, that is, to David. But, as Paul pointed out in verse 36, David died, “was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed.” So, Paul reasoned, David must not have been writing about himself (v. 36).

Instead, David was writing prophetically about Jesus. Verse 37 says, “But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.”

The death and resurrection of Jesus were not an unexpected detour or change in the plan of God. Old Testament prophesies show that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus were the plan of God all along. They are essential to everything we have through faith in Christ and to every promise God has made to us in eternity.

So, rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus and don’t ever look at it as optional to our faith or a secondary point of doctrine. Instead, hold fast to the resurrection of Jesus; it means everything to us as his followers and children.

Luke 20

Read Luke 20.

As we continue to read Luke’s account of the final week of Christ’s life, we read in today’s chapter how Jesus’ enemies tried various ways to discredit him. First they challenged his authority (vv. 1-8). Later they considered arresting him (v. 19) but instead spied on him and tried to trap him (vv. 20-26 and 27-40).

Jesus responded effectively to all of their attacks, then he told a damning parable explaining why these religious leaders would suffer God’s wrath for rejecting Jesus (vv. 9-16).

After he responded to their challenge about the resurrection, Jesus turned their minds to the scriptures, specifically Psalm 110:1 which he quoted in verses 42-43 of our passage. Jesus had two questions for them (“the teachers of the law,” v. 39) surrounding Psalm 110. The first question is, “Why do people say that Messiah would be the son of David?” The second question is, “Since David called the Messiah “Lord” in Psalm 110:1, how could the Messiah be his Son?

Until you know the answer, this seems like an unsolvable puzzle. On one hand, the Messiah must be the Son of David according to the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7:16: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” But why would David call one of his descendants Lord?

The answer is that Jesus was both human and divine. As a man, Jesus shared a legal tie to David through Joseph, his adoptive father, as we saw in Matthew 1 and a blood connection to David through Mary as we saw in Luke 3.

But since Jesus is God, he is Lord over everything as Creator. This is taught in Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Jesus would “come out” to “be ruler over Israel” from “Bethlehem” but his “origins are from of old, from ancient times” — in other words, eternity. So here we have a complete picture of Jesus. He is human and therefore David’s “son” (descendant) but he is also God and, therefore, David’s Lord.

Although the world did not receive Jesus for the Lord that he is in his first coming, he will return again to complete his work and establish his kingdom. This gives us something to be happy about today; whatever difficulties we suffer today are temporary because Jesus will return and be our king.

Matthew 2

Read Matthew 2.

Verse 3 told us that King Herod was “disturbed” when he heard that the king of the Jews had been born (v. 2). He was so disturbed that he made sure the Magi knew where to look for Jesus (vv. 4-8), told them to return to him and give him the baby’s precise location (v. 8) so that he could kill Jesus before Jesus could grow up and become king (v. 13).

The star the Magi saw and the fact that the Magi came looking for Jesus were important clues that caused Herod to take the idea of an other king of the Jews seriously. But this Herod died (v. 19a) long before Jesus was old enough to be any kind of threat. So it was irrational for Herod to be so consumed with jealousy that he killed all the young boys under age 2 in Jerusalem (v. 16).

Yet, that’s what Herod did despite how irrational it was.

Why?

His personal insecurity was one factor, I’m sure.

But I also believe that Satan was working in his heart as well. The greatest threat to Satan’s will is the Lord Jesus Christ. If Satan could lead Herod to kill Jesus in infancy, then God’s plans and promises could be nullified because the prophecies about the coming Christ would not be fulfilled.

Our Father God protected his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ so that he could complete his mission to save us and bring us into his kingdom. And, God accomplished this salvation while fulfilling other prophesies of Christ (vv. 17-18, 23) in the process.

So think about the extent to which God was faithful to his promises to us in Christ. Since your salvation and sanctification are also promised by him, he will not fail to protect those just as he did not fail to protect Christ.

Remember this when your faith is weak, when doubts are numerous and strong. God will not let his enemies defeat his plans and promises.

1 Chronicles 19-20, Zechariah 12:1-13:1, Psalms 130-132

Read 1 Chronicles 19-20, Zechariah 12:1-13:1, and Psalms 130-132. This devotional is about Zechariah 12:1-13:1.

Today’s passage from Zechariah is not nearly as well-known as other prophecies of Christ but it is an important one because it foretold the sufferings of Christ on the cross.

After promising destruction to Israel’s enemies (12:1-9), God promised “a spirit of grace and supplication” for “the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (v. 10). Surprisingly, however, after prophesying grace and supplication, Zechariah immediately said, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (v. 10). You may recognize the first part of this verse from John 19:37 where John quoted it as fulfilled at the crucifixion of Christ. While not everyone in Jerusalem mourned the death of Christ, the faithful disciples who followed Jesus did, just as this passage said.

But what brings together the two seemingly disjoined ideas in verse 10–the idea that there would be “grace and supplication” while “they look on me, the one they have pierced and they will mourn for him…?”

The answer is provided in Zechariah 13:1: “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.” That was why Christ was pierced and how his piercing could provide “grace and supplication.” His death on the cross for us became a fountain that cleanses sinners from sin and impurity. Let’s give thanks, then, for the fountain of grace and forgiveness that Jesus is for us.

1 Chronicles 1-2, Zechariah 1, John 16

Read 1 Chronicles 1-2, Zechariah 1, and John 16 today. This devotional is about Zechariah 1.

When Zechariah wrote these words (v. 1) there were still 18 years or so to go in Judah’s 70 year exile. The end was not yet in sight but it was much closer than it was at 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 predictions of 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” (v. 6d). 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.

2 Samuel 21, Daniel 11, 1 Timothy 3

Read 2 Samuel 21, Daniel 11, and 1 Timothy 3 today. This devotional is about 2 Samuel 21.

Today’s reading in Daniel 11 continued the interpretation of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10.

The speaker in this chapter was an angel who was sent to interpret Daniel’s vision. Daniel 10-12 is a remarkable passage that predicted in detail the future events that followed the Medo-Persian empire as well as some events that are still future to us.

Sorting all this out and explaining it is beyond what I’m trying to accomplish with these devotionals. But there is something devotional for us to take away from this passage today. In verses 30b-31 we read, “He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant. His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation….” This all refers to a king from the Seleucid (Greek) Empire named Antiochus.

The Jewish people were divided; some worshipped the gods of the Greeks and others worshipped the Lord. Verse 30 described him showing “favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.” These are the Jewish people who worshiped the false Greek gods. In verse 31, we were told that, “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice.” This refers to the time when Antiochus outlawed the worship of the Lord and ended the sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. He actually went further than just ending the sacrifices commanded in Moses’ law. Antiochus had an altar to Zeus constructed in the Jewish temple and sacrificed a pig (a ceremonially unclean animal, unfit for worship in the Lord’s temple) on that altar to Zeus.

Verse 32 told us that he would flatter the Jewish people who had forsaken the Lord for the gods of the Greeks, and then verse 32 concluded with this, “…but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” That statement prophesied the rise of the Maccabees, a group led by Judas Maccabaeus, who were faithful to Moses’ law and successfully battled Antiochus into withdrawing from Judea. The Maccabees then cleansed the temple and restored it to the covenant worship of the Lord.

Notice from verse 32 that they key to this resistance was that it was led by “the people who know their God.” This phrase means that they were students of God’s word and believed it. They believed God’s covenant with Israel was true and that God’s laws were to be kept. Their faith in God led to their unexpected victory. God’s word taught them who God was and that empowered them to claim God’s  promises by faith and valiantly—and successfully—fight when the odds were against them.

This passage, then, in addition to providing a prophecy that was historically fulfilled also gives us a template for successful resistance in a world dominated by unbelief and that wants to suppress and even extinguish our faith. The way we combat the hostility to God around us is to know him through his word, believe his promises and live accordingly.

2 Samuel 2, Ezekiel 42, Psalms 108-110

Read 2 Samuel 2, Ezekiel 42, and Psalms 108-110. This devotional is about Psalm 110.

This is a brief Psalm with mighty implications. It began with a superscript that says, “Of David. A psalm.” That could mean, “about David,” “by David,” or “for David” but it must mean “by David” for two reasons:

  1. The same wording, of David, in Hebrew is used before other Psalms, like Psalm 3: “A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.” The clear meaning is that David wrote Psalm 3 and, therefore, he wrote Psalm 110 as well.
  2. Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1 in Matthew 22:43-45 and clearly specified David as the author: “He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him “Lord”? For he says, ‘”The LORD said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.'” If then David calls him “Lord,” how can he be his son?'”

This is important because of what Psalm 110:1 says which is, “YHWH (translated “the LORD”) said unto my lord.” If someone else, not David, wrote Psalm 110, then the meaning is, “YHWY said unto my Lord, David….”

But, since David wrote Psalm 110, who is his “lord”? Who was David writing about when he wrote, “YHWH said to my lord”?

Jesus explained that the Psalm should be read this way: “YHWH said unto David’s lord….” But who is lord over King David except for God himself?

That question suggests the important answer. Although the doctrine that we call the Trinity had not been revealed yet, David recognized that there was a coming king–Messiah–who would be distinct from YHWH in some sense but yet would still be Lord over David.

This Psalm describes Jesus in his current state: sitting at God the Father’s right hand until YHWH makes his “enemies a footstool for” his “feet” (v. 1).

At that point, YHWH will “extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of your enemies!'” (v. 2). Christ will “crush kings on the day of his wrath” (v. 5b), and “will judge nations” (v. 6a).

These are God’s promises to David’s greatest son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is already serving as “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (v. 4, Hebrews 5:6, 10, 6:20, etc.). At the time of God the Father’s choosing, Christ will become the human king on earth over all the earth. This is when the kingdom age–what we call the Millennium and beyond–will be fully established.

Until then, Christ has called us to be citizens of his kingdom by grace. When we proclaim the gospel, we are calling people out of their sins, yes, but also out from under serving the kings of this world to pledge allegiance to Jesus, the coming king.

As we worship together this morning, think about these things. Over 1000 years before Christ, David was writing about him and about events that are still future to us. He did this “by the Spirit” (Matt 22:43).

God’s word has revealed what God is doing in the world (v. 1) and what he will do when the time comes (vv. 2-7). This is what we are waiting for. Are we living like were waiting for it?

Judges 13, Ezekiel 2, Acts 21

Read Judges 13, Ezekiel 2, and Acts 21 today. This devotional is about Ezekiel 2.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel lived and prophesied during much of the same era of time. It was the time when the Northern Kingdom (Israel) had been displaced by the Assyrians and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) was in decline and would eventually be taken captive by the Babylonians.

Jeremiah prophesied both before and after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. But Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry began only after Jerusalem fell.

Jeremiah was left in Jerusalem where he continued to speak for God. Ezekiel was taken to Babylon along with the other exiles (1:1). 

The Babylonian invasion changed the course of everyone’s life in Judah and Ezekiel was no exception. Instead of serving God as a priest, which he would have by birth (1:2), Ezekiel was called by God to see visions (chapter 1) and to prophesy to God’s people in exile.

Here in Ezekiel 2 he received a direct message from God himself, a message that commissioned him to call the rebellious people of Israel to repent. Jeremiah had faithfully proclaimed the word of the Lord, even when he was imprisoned for his message and when the Lord’s enemies plotted to take his life. Ezekiel, too, was told to be faithful with the message the Lord gave him (vv. 4-8) regardless of whether people responded in repentance and obedience or not. The reason God sent Ezekiel and told him to keep prophesying even when there were no results was that “they will know that a prophet has been among them” (v. 5c). God’s people may have rejected his message, but God would not withhold that message from them.

What purpose was served by sending prophets to people who would not listen and repent? God’s purpose was to remove their excuses and render them guilty before him (see Rom 3:19). While it is hard to keep speaking truth in a hard-hearted world, God has a purpose for his word going out even when there is no response to it.

Messengers like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and us are not held accountable for how people respond to the message. Only God can cause someone to respond to his word by transforming a heart that his hard to his message through the power of the Spirit.

What we are responsible for is to be faithful—faithful in speaking what God said without subtractions, additions, or apologies and faithful in living the truth in our own lives.

Maybe you’ve been praying for someone and witnessing to them when you can or maybe you’ve been praying about witnessing to someone but feel like it will be useless to do because you’re sure they won’t respond in faith. Let God’s word to Ezekiel in this chapter speak to you, too. God put us where he put us for a purpose and he commanded us to be faithful in speaking his word for his purposes.

Success in evangelism is always encouraging, but lack of success isn’t an indictment of you as a messenger.

The only time we ever fail to serve God in evangelism is when we have failed to speak for God when we have the chance. Let’s learn to trust the Lord’s word and his purposes and just be faithful in giving the message—as clearly, compassionately, and convincingly as we can, yes. But none of those is as important as speaking faithfully.

Judges 8, Lamentations 2, Romans 14

Read Judges 8, Lamentations 2, and Romans 14. This devotional is about Lamentations 2.

The book of Lamentations records the poetic but mournful outburst of the prophet Jeremiah to the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. All the devastation that God had warned about through Jeremiah happened in his lifetime, before his own eyes.

Jeremiah’s lament described the toll that the Babylonians exacted from Judah. Their pride as God’s people (vv. 1-4), their city and its magnificent temple (vv. 5-9), and the death of many people (vv. 10-22) were all causes for weeping by Jeremiah and the survivors of this battle. But why would God allow such devastation to fall on the people to whom he had promised so much? Of course the answer is their sin and rebellion against him, but Jeremiah speaks of that in a particular way in verse 14: “The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The prophecies they gave you were false and misleading.” It was a lack of truth by those who claimed to be prophets that lead to this judgment of God. The key phrase in verse 14 is, “…they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.” If the people had only repented of their sin, they could have received a great deliverance like David’s deliverance over Goliath. But many people did not know how angry the Lord was with them for their sin and those who did (because they heard Jeremiah and other true prophets like him) chose to believe the lies of the false prophets.

So we see in this passage how much damage false teaching can do. It gives false assurance to people who need to repent. It tells people that God loves them and is pleased with them instead of calling them to look to God in faith to find their acceptance in the merits of Christ. We live in an era where enormous masses of people have been assembled into churches, yet there is little hunger for truth there. The message they hear may talk of salvation in Christ, but it is salvation from guilt, from financial hardship, from divorce, from childhood wounds, from addictions, from a meaningless life or whatever. Yes, Christ has the truth for all of these things, but that was not the core message he gave us to proclaim. Our message is not primarily about how to feel better and perform better; it is to bow in reverence and repentance before a holy God, loving him for his perfections, thanking him for his grace and mercy, desiring to become like him in our moral choices and in our attitudes toward others, and hoping for his kingdom over anything this life can deliver.

When people say that God’s judgment will come to America, I wonder what they think that means. Do they think that we will be conquered by some foreign government? If the USA were the “new Israel” then maybe a passage like this one would lend itself to that. But God is not working with nations these days; he’s calling out of the nations a people for himself (Titus 2:14) whom he will bring into his kingdom at his appointed time.

What we should be telling people to fear is not a political or military conquest but the final judgment, where God will punish each person—individually—who did not know him. Our message, then, is geared to do what Jeremiah condemned the false prophets for not doing: “they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.” While preaching against sin is unwelcome and considered unloving in our world, it is what God uses to turn people in faith and repentance to himself.