1 Samuel 26, Ezekiel 36, Mark 2

Read 1 Samuel 26, Ezekiel 36, and Mark 2. This devotional is about Ezekiel 36.

In this chapter, God gave more insight about why he sent his people away into exile for their sins. Every sin is an offense to God. Every sinner is guilty in his sight. But there are additional consequences to sin then just to the sinner.

God said that the sins of Israel “defiled” their land “by their conduct and their actions” (v. 17). But, according to verse 20, their sins also “…profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people….’”

Israel was supposed to flourish as a nation because of its covenant with God. When Israel didn’t flourish as a nation, it gave other nations reasons to reject God. They did not know (or ignored) the fact that Israel was unfaithful to God and that God had promised punishment to them if they were unfaithful. The struggles and defeat of Israel and Judah caused idol-worshipping nations to reject and even mock the true God.

I wonder how often we consider how our words and our actions reflect on God. We call ourselves Christians. If we are lazy, dishonest, profane, difficult to reason with, racist, or guilty of a host of other sins, what does that say about our faith?

What might an unbeliever conclude about our God?

These words of judgment were not the final story, however. In verses 24-31 God promised to redeem Israel from their exile to other nations.

He promised to install them back in the land (v. 28a) but also to change their hearts. Verses 26-27 say, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” This is the promise of regeneration, God’s gift of new spiritual life to the spiritually dead.

And why would God do this? Verse 32 says, “I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord.” And verse 36 says, “…the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.” Just as Israel’s sins gave God’s enemies an excuse to reject him, Israel’s spiritual life and prosperity would demonstrate the truth about God powerfully to those nations.

Earlier I wrote that our sinful words and acts reflect on God to unbelievers. But just as Israel’s redemption would testify to God’s power, so his transforming grace in your life speaks volumes about him to unbelievers who know you. As God deletes sins from your life and causes you to grow strong in faith and obedience, the people who know you will see a silent but potent witness that God is real. 

Proverbs 10:1-16

Today read Proverbs 10:1-16.

The word “righteous” means “that which is right” or “one who is right.” Being “right” requires some kind of standard for measuring the “rightness” of something. In the Old Testament, the thing that is “right” is God’s law because it came from God himself who is always righteous. So, when the book Proverbs talks about “righteousness” or a “righteous” person, it is describing someone who acts as God would act, or as God expects us to act as defined by his laws.

Today’s reading from Proverbs 10 refers to righteousness directly in some way or other in verse 3, 6, 7, 11, and 16. Each of these verses praises the benefits of righteousness–the righteous won’t go hungry (v. 3), wear a crown of blessings (v. 7), have their names used as blessings (v. 7), speak words that are “a fountain of life” (v. 11), and earn life as their wages (v. 16a). Wisdom, then, calls a person to a righteous life. It points people to God’s character as revealed in his word and says, “Live this way and you will be blessed in so many ways in your life.”

Let’s drill down on verse 7, though, and think about what it is saying. The verse says, “The name of the righteous is used in blessings, but the name of the wicked will rot.” What comes to mind when I mention the names:

  • Bernie Madoff
  • O. J. Simpson

These are two high profile examples of people who made a name for themselves–Madoff in finance and Simpson in professional sports. Both of them were heroes to many for a long time in their lives. Before his “investment firm” was exposed as a Ponzi scheme, many people thought Madoff had made them wealthy or increased their wealth. Some of these people may have raised a toast to him or named their children after him in years past. But while they were praising his investment prowess, he was spending their money, not investing it. His wicked ways eventually caught up with him and his name is now synonymous with fraud, fulfilling this proverb, “the name of the wicked will rot.” Something similar could be said about O. J. Simpson, among guys who became interested in football or rooted for him or bought his jersey or made money in Buffalo because of his popularity.

In addition to these high profile people, there are millions of smaller examples of people who exploited others for their own selfish reasons. Though they may have once had a good reputation, their name is now rotting because of their wicked ways.

Those who lived a righteous life, however, are remembered fondly by spouses, by their children and grandchildren, by their business partners or co-workers, by civic leaders and neighbors. I see this whenever I attend a funeral for someone who lived a righteous life; people line up to say good things about that person because “the name of the righteous is used in blessings.”

In addition to the fact that we will answer to God for how we live on this earth, there is something to be said for considering your reputation when you make moral choices. Is this decision something you want to be said about you or is it something you would never want to be known? These questions can guide us toward wiser decisions in our lives.

Let me add, of course, that nobody is completely righteous–that’s a fundamental truth of scripture. God’s grace covers our sins and even those who have harmed their reputation can rebuild it with repentance and through sustained obedience. Don’t let this proverb cause you to feel guilty; let it warn you and motivate you to wise–righteous–in the decisions you make with your life going forward.