Leviticus 16, Isaiah 11-12, Acts 4

Read Leviticus 16, Isaiah 11-12, and Acts 4 today. This devotional is about Leviticus 16.

The Most Holy Place is the inner most room of the tabernacle (later, the temple). You may have heard it called the “Holy of Holies.” It is the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Verse 2 described “the cloud over the atonement cover” which represented God’s holy presence, Therefore, when it came to entering the Most Holy Place:

  • only the high priest could enter there.
  • only once a year could he enter there (vv. 2, 34).
  • only after doing these things could he enter:
    • washed his body with water (v. 4b)
    • put on the sacred garments (v. 4a).
    • made atonement for himself (vv. 6, 11).

The one day a year that the high priest could enter was Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement (vv. 29-34)). What the high priest offered to the Lord on that day consisted of two goats. One goat was sacrificed for a sin offering (v. 9) and the other was “presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat” (v. 10).

The goat that was offered as a sin offering was a substitute for the people. God’s holy command was that the wages of sin is death, so goat number 1 died for the sins of the people. The high priest entered the Most Holy Place with an incense offering (v. 13) and some of the blood from goat number 1 to “sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been.” (vv. 15-16).

The imagery of the atonement offering is very familiar to us Christians. The Bible teaches that Jesus died as a sin offering (Rom 8:3). Like goat number 1 here in Leviticus 16, Jesus was our substitute (1 Pet 3:18), taking the penalty of death and God’s wrath for us.

But remember that there were two goats here in Leviticus 16. One died as a sacrifice for sinners; the other goat was sent into the wilderness alive (v. 22). But before the live goat was sent away, the high priest was commanded “to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head.” Then the scapegoat was led away into the wilderness which symbolized the removal of those sins that have been confessed and atoned for. Verse 22 says, “The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place….”

Jesus fulfilled this image, too. One goat could not both make atonement for sins and carry those sins away because the payment for those sins was the death of the goat as a sacrifice. Jesus, however, could both die as a substitute for sin (like goat #1) but also take those sins away like goat #2. How? By rising from the dead. Romans 4:25 says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” First Corinthians 15:17, 20 says, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead….”

Two goats were needed to symbolize the death of Christ for us and how he took away our sins through his resurrection. Actually, more than two were needed because this ceremony had to be performed every year. Now that Christ has died for our sins and has risen again for our justification, we have no need to fear God’s wrath. Our sins are paid for and they are gone by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the one true sin offering and scapegoat and he performed his work perfectly for our salvation.

 

Leviticus 15, Isaiah 10:5-34, Acts 3

Read Leviticus 15, Isaiah 10:5-34, Acts 3. This devotional is about Acts 3.

Peter and John were walking to the temple to pray. On their way, Peter healed a man who had never walked by the power of Jesus (vv. 1-11), then explained the good news to the audience around him (vv. 12-26). In the middle of Peter’s gospel message, he said these words, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this” (v. 15). I find the phrase, “you killed the author of life” fascinating. God is the creator of all things, including life. The Bible tells us repeatedly that Jesus, the Second Person of God, was the active agent of the Trinity who created. It was his voice that said, “Let there be light” and it was he who formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and and breathed into him the breath of life. It was he who took a rib from Adam’s side to create Eve. There is no life apart from Jesus.

Ironic, then, that men killed Jesus. Apart from Jesus, humanity would never have existed. Apart from his sustaining grace, humanity would cease to exist. He is the author of life, not only making us alive but writing for each of us a story–a personality, a background, a cast of other characters, and all the other elements of story. Yet when he entered into the world, he was not honored by the characters in the story he wrote as the author. Instead, he was killed even though all living depends on Jesus.

Fortunately, this was all part of his story and it did not end with his death; instead, “God raised him from the dead” (v. 15b). The point of the resurrection is “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus” (vv. 19-20).

I write these devotionals for Christians to strengthen us with God’s word. But it is possible that someone is reading this who is not a Christian–either you found this page on our website or you subscribed to my devotional. Do you understand that your story, your life, is one thread in a thick fabric of interwoven stories of all people? Do you see that all of us depend on Jesus for existence, need him to rescue us from the consequences of our rebellion against God, and are designed to bring glory and worship to Jesus when he returns to be our Lord? If so, turn to him! In the words of verse 19: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord….”

For those of us who are Christians, remember that your life really isn’t about you. You are a character in the life of Jesus–he’s the one on the hero’s journey. As the author of life, he devised the plot and set this story into motion. So let’s focus on him in our lives and point others to him so that he will come and conclude this story well.

Leviticus 11-12, Isaiah 7, Luke 24

Read Leviticus 11-12, Isaiah 7, and Luke 24 today. This devotional is about Luke 24.

Remember those women in Luke 8:2-3 that Luke said traveled with Jesus and the disciples? Luke named a few of them: “Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others” (v. 2b-3a). He had told us that they “were helping to support them out of their own means” (v. 3b).

That passage in Luke 8 is the only insight we are given in the Gospels–at least, that I can think of–about the financial support of Jesus ministry. Think about 13 men traveling to different villages, towns, and cities. Where did they sleep? Where did they get their meals in an age before restaurants? These women provided them the money they needed to buy food; they probably also prepared food when needed, found places for everyone to sleep at night, brought Jesus and the disciples water during the day. Maybe they helped mend clothes and wash them, too, but it seems clear that they volunteered to help Jesus and his disciples in whatever way was needed.

Here in Luke 24 these women emerge from the shadows again (v. 1, 10). The passage says they came “very early in the morning” (v. 1) to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been buried. My guess is that they figured this would be the last of their unheralded acts of service on behalf of Jesus. When Jesus’ burial was complete, they might have stayed for a few days to mourn his death and remember his life, then they would return to Galilee and re-enter daily life.

Instead of doing the sad, unpleasant, and difficult work of embalming Jesus’ body, the women were surprised to hear the message that Jesus was risen from the dead (vv. 3-7, 10)! The angels that reported this news to them said to them in verse 6, “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” That happened back in Luke 9:22. It was just after Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah. One of the benefits of being on Jesus’ support team was that they could listen to him teach as they served or during the moments when there was nothing immediate to do. Verse 8 here in Luke 24 says, “Then they remembered his words” which tells us that they were in the audience when Peter declared Jesus to be the Messiah so they heard Jesus predict his death and resurrection. Now God had chosen them to be the first people learn of Christ’s resurrection.

Although it isn’t the point of this passage, this story suggests a truth that may encourage you today which is that some of the greatest blessings of following Jesus occur when we are doing the difficult, unpleasant, unnoticed work of serving him. If you are discouraged because you feel like your life and or your ministry in the church is often overlooked, unnoticed, unappreciated think of these women. You may be tempted to think that your life doesn’t matter much, but God sees. He knows what your love for Christ leads you to do for him even if nobody else ever knows.

And, God may just surprise you one day with an unexpected blessing; it won’t be anything as big as an angel informing you that Jesus has risen from the dead, but it will be a blessing nonetheless. So don’t be discouraged or give up serving Jesus.

Exodus 39, Song of Songs 3, Luke 16

Read Exodus 39, Song of Songs 3, and Luke 16. Note that we were supposed to have read Luke 16 yesterday and Luke 17 today but I made a mistake. Sorry about that. Today’s reading puts us back on track.

This devotional is about Luke 16.

At the end of this chapter we learned about a rich man, unnamed, and a poor man named Lazarus (vv. 19-31). As rich people do, the rich man lived a comfortable life; conversely, Lazarus the poor man lived a painful, uncomfortable life. Despite his disadvantaged financial standing and the difficulties that poverty created for him, he trusted in God.

When death came to both men, their previous situations were reversed. The wealthy man was in torment in hell (vv. 23-24) while Lazarus was in eternal bliss (vv. 23b, 25b). Unable to be blessed in any way while in hell, the unnamed rich man pleaded for Lazarus to be sent back to warn his family (vv. 27-38). At this point, some interesting thoughts emerge:

  1. The rich man knew Lazarus by name. Verse 20 told us that Lazarus was laid “at his gate.” These two facts suggest that the rich man talked to Lazarus at some point or at the very least had his servants find out about Lazarus. Yet, according to verse 21, the rich man gave Lazarus nothing, not even his leftovers. So the rich man had interacted with Lazarus but day after day ignored his horrible poverty.
  2. The rich man’s family knew Lazarus, too. That’s not stated but it is implied by the phrase, “if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” If the rich man’s family was unaware of who Lazarus was, they would have been unaware of his death and, therefore, unmoved by his resurrection from the dead. So they, like their brother it seems, had personal contact with Lazarus and yet did nothing to help him.

This gives us some insight into the selfish nature of the wealthy family portrayed in this story. Not only did they receive “good things” (v. 25) in their lifetime, they were stingy with what they had. Once in hell, however, the rich man became aware of how foolish his comfortable life really was. Unable to be saved or to save himself, the rich man called for a miracle to save his family.

The word of Abraham to this rich man in hell explains so much about our faith. Verse 31 said simply, “‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Why did so many people see the miracles of Jesus yet reject him as Messiah? Because unbelief is not about evidence; it is the outgrowth of our darkened sinful hearts.

Why do so many people today believe that Jesus did miracles and rise from the dead? Because God’s word has supernatural power. It is not solid logic, or great evidence, or even supernatural displays of power that create faith. It is God who creates faith and he does so with his word. As Romans 10:17 says, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

What do you need to be effective in evangelism? God’s word. That’s it. Be faithful in sharing God’s word when you can and ask God to use it to make faith in others.

Exodus 33, Ecclesiastes 9, Luke 13

Read Exodus 33, Ecclesiastes 9, Luke 13 today. This devotional is about Luke 13.

Before radio and TV and cable news channels, world news was scarce and was mostly confined to events that related to your own community or, at most, your own nation. So the terror attacks in New Zealand last week would never have been known about in Israel during the days Jesus lived on this earth.

Some bad news did get around and Jesus was informed of some here in Luke 13:1. The incident in question was brutal and tragic, but it was also political. It involved “Galileans,” so those were Jewish people who lived in the region where Jesus spent most of his life and ministry, the northern part of Israel called Galilee. These men were in Jerusalem offering sacrifices and Pilate–the Roman governor or that area–had them put to death as they offered their sacrifices in the temple. These men may have been plotting against the Romans and Pilate may have chosen to make them a public example. Since Jewish people wanted Messiah to lead an insurrection against Rome, Jesus may have been informed of this situation to see if he would take on this revolt as the Messianic leader. Later in the chapter, in verse 31, Jesus was informed that Herod was plotting to kill him So there was a lot of political pressure swirling around Jesus at that moment.

Pilate’s actions were brutal but Jesus did not express moral outrage when he was told of this news. Instead, Jesus warned the people that the men who died were no more sinful than the average citizen of Galilee (v. 2). Jesus then raised the tension in the audience by speaking of eighteen who died in an accident when a tower in Siloam fell on them (v. 4). What about them? Did they deserve an untimely death because they were especially sinful? No, according to verse 3a. Whether one died by abuse of government power as in verse 1 or in accidentally as in verse 4, Jesus did not condemn the victims as being more sinful than anyone else. Instead, he used these incidents in the news to raise an uncomfortable truth: “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (v. 5).

There was a common superstitious belief that only the worst sinners died prematurely. That belief exists somewhat today in our culture when people talk about “karma.” But Jesus wants us to know that the only reason we are alive today at all is the mercy of God. If God gave us what we deserve, none of us would live a rich, full, happy life. We are all sinners living on the wrong side of God’s laws so he is perfectly just anytime one of us dies, whether at a good old age or way too soon.

Christ has redeemed us who believe from the eternal curse of our sin. Some who believe in him will escape the curse of physical death by being alive when Jesus returns. But none of us is guaranteed anything; physical death is a curse that has been handed down to all of humanity because of the fall.

God’s plan for redemption from physical death is to let most of us die and to raise us from the dead physically at the end of the age. It is wise for us, then, to be thankful for today and to use it as best as we can for God’s glory. It is also wise for us to share with others what Christ has done for sinners so that they may repent and avoid perishing spiritually.

But the most important application of this passage is for any of you who have not turned to Christ for salvation. The only way to avoid the curse of sin is to turn to Jesus for salvation. Take the time you have today to do that; you do not know what God may allow into your life tomorrow.

Exodus 2, Job 19, Hebrews 8

Read Exodus 2, Job 19, and Hebrews 8. This devotional is about Job 19.

Today we read one of the most powerful statements in the book of Job here in Job 19:25-27: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” These short poetic stanzas refer to two core doctrines of our faith:

  • They foreshadow the incarnation of Christ in verse 25 when Job says, “in the end he will stand on the earth.”
  • They affirm the resurrection of the dead: “after my skin has been destroyed [in other words, “after I’m dead”], yet in my flesh I will see God;” Note that Job says he will see God “in my flesh,” not “in my spirit.” He thus affirmed the bodily resurrection of the dead.

Though these truths did not remove Job’s suffering or his questions, they do offer great encouragement if we consider them. No matter how difficult your suffering, how senseless and unfair it all seems in this life, or how you meet the end of your life, God is waiting there on the other side of eternity for you if you are in Christ. And, God’s plan is not just for you to know him spiritually but to include you in his earthly kingdom in eternity.

I hope you find these words encouraging, no matter what you’re facing today. Maybe it would be a good idea to memorize this passage and remind yourself of it when you need encouragement.

Genesis 48, Job 14, Hebrews 6

Read Genesis 48, Job 14, and Hebrews 6 today. This devotional is about Job 14.

When I was a kid a girl whose family my parents knew was crossing a major road near Rochester, where I grew up. She was jaywalking but there was no crosswalk anywhere nearby. A driver hit her and she was killed instantly. I didn’t really know her and she was a few years older than me but my parents knew her parents pretty well so we went to her funeral.

That was the first time that death felt real to me. My grandmother had died and I had gone to her funeral when I was much younger but she was old–probably not as old as she seemed to me–so her death, while sad, didn’t make me think about death or feel it as a reality in my life.

The death of the girl who was hit by a car was a different experience. I was older than when my grandmother died, so I’m sure I had a much greater comprehension of death. But because the girl who was hit by the car was closer to my age, her death was much more sobering to me. I began to realize that I could die anytime and that I would die someday.

This chapter of Job is almost a lament about the reality of death. It was spoken directly to God as we see in verse 3, “Do you fix your eye on them? Will you bring them before you for judgment?” Job complains directly to God here in this chapter about the reality of death. He told God in essence, “You know how long each of us will live. No one can’t change his lifespan, so “look away from him and let him alone, till he has put in his time like a hired laborer.”

That’s how life seemed to Job at this moment. We humans are all on the clock before God, waiting for the whistle to blow and indicate the end of our shift on this earth.

In verses 7-17, Job turned his thoughts to the afterlife. He wonders aloud, “If someone dies, will they live again?” (v. 14a) but he knows the answer: “I will wait for my renewal to come. You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made” (vv. 14c-15). These words demonstrate Job’s belief in the resurrection. 

He was also convinced that his resurrection would give him a perfect life: “Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover over my sin.” 

But before he was raised and given a perfect new life, his life on this earth would erode “as water wears away stones” (v. 19a). He knew that he would die (v. 20) and miss out on lots of things he would like to see (v. 21).

Death is, for sure, the worst thing about life. Even with the hope of eternal life, we still mourn the passing of people we love and dread the day of our own demise.

That is because death is the penalty for sin. God didn’t create us to die so death feels foreign and wrong to us. I’ve noticed that people who are elderly still seem surprised and unprepared when people their age and older die. That’s because death is never easy to accept because we weren’t created to die.

As somber as this passage is, it still glimmers with the hope of eternal life. Knowing Jesus doesn’t make death any more pleasant but it does remove the hopelessness and fear that people outside of salvation face.

Are you ready to die? Have you put your faith in Christ alone? Are you living today for the glory of God so that, if death comes unexpectedly, you will have used the time you had on this earth well?

Exodus 2, Job 19, Psalm 50

Today’s readings are Exodus 2, Job 19, and Psalm 50.

This devotional is about Job 19.

It is sometimes argued that the Old Testament does not teach an after-life. Job 19:25-27 is a clear text that contradicts that argument. This chapter continued the documentation of Job’s arguments with his friends. Although they came to him expressing a desire to comfort him in his sufferings, they made assumptions about Job and his morality and condemned him as a sinner by applying their incorrect assumptions to their simplistic theology.

Job, in this chapter, complained painfully about the words of his friends. He found their words to be “torment” (v. 2a) and begged them for “pity” (v. 21). Although Job was perplexed that God would bring this kind of suffering in his life, his faith in God’s existence and in life after death did not waver. In verse 25a, he affirmed his faith in God’s existence: “I know that my redeemer lives.” He went on in the latter half of that verse to state his confidence that, someday, God would walk this earth.

But notice verse 26: “And after my skin has been destroyed….” What destroys a person’s skin? Death. After a person’s body dies, it is buried to decompose. God created us from the dust of the ground and the earth reclaims its dust after we die. So Job here is acknowledging that his physical body will decompose. But notice that he said, “AFTER my skin has been destroyed, yet…. I will see God” (v. 26b). Job believed that there was life after this life is over and that in that life after death he would experience God personally and directly.

Notice the phrase I omitted, however, from verse 26b: “…yet IN MY FLESH I will see God.” This phrase shows that Job understood not only that he would meet God after death but that there would be a bodily resurrection that he, Job, would experience personally.

This is our hope as well. In Christ’s resurrection, we have been raised spiritually to walk a new life. But the curse of physical death is still upon us until the final resurrection. While we may fear the process of death, the pain and sadness that it causes, there is no reason to fear death itself. Because of Christ, we may have confidence that we will see God personally, in the flesh, at the final resurrection. That meeting will be a loving reunion between our Father and his children or a moment of final judgment for those who have rejected God and his word and his Son in this life. Put your hope in God, therefore, if you haven’t already. He will bring you through the process of death and safely into his kingdom for eternity.

No doubt about it.

John 20

Today’s reading is John 20.

This chapter recounts the fact of Christ’s resurrection (vv. 1-9) and the proof of that resurrection through Jesus’s appearances to many disciples (vv. 10-29). Despite the unprecedented display of power that was Christ’s resurrection, the disciples were very much afraid of the persecution that could come from being Jesus’s disciples. Verse 19 says that they met “with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders….” Jesus found them, however, and miraculously entered their meeting behind those locked doors (v. 19b). Then he “… breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” This refers not to receiving the Holy Spirit in the sense of salvation; it refers to the spiritual authority they would have as Jesus’ disciples once he went away. We see that in the next verse: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (v. 23). What power did the disciples have to do this? They had the power of the Holy Spirit and the delegated responsibility of the Lord.

There really was no reason to fear “the Jewish leaders” because Jesus had triumphed over them in his resurrection. As his followers, the power that raised him from the dead was now working in them to prepare them to be the leaders of his church.

When we live in fear of others on this earth, we are showing ourselves to be incomplete disciples. We are incomplete in the sense that we do not trust the Lord enough to rescue or preserve us from the hands of sinful men. But we have the Holy Spirit and the promises of God when we serve him, so we need to stop considering the bad things that might happen as we worship and witness for the Lord. Instead we need to remember that Christ has overcome all spiritual powers and sinful powers. We have the ability, though his power then, to serve God, worship God, and witness for God. Let’s believe the promises of spiritual power and go to work harvesting the Lord’s people for his church.

John 11

Today’s reading is John 11.

We consider people heroes who risk or give their lives to save the lives of others. On the other hand, we don’t think much of someone who could save the life of another–without risking his own–but just wouldn’t do it. If you could donate a kidney to save a friend’s life or donate bone marrow for the same purpose, your love for that friend and strong social pressure would urge you to make that gift and save that life.

Knowing all of this makes Jesus’s actions in this passage perplexing. Verse 5 told us, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Verse 3 told us that Lazarus’s sisters informed Jesus of Lazarus’s need for healing. Verse 21 conveyed Martha’s faith that Jesus could have healed Lazarus if he wanted to and verse 37 shows that even people in the crowd thought so.

Why did Jesus delay, then? Why did he allow Lazarus to die when he could have easily saved his life, without even coming to Judea? Did he not love Lazarus? Of course he did (v. 5). Did he not hear the sincere request of his sisters and see their faith in him? Yes, he heard them and knew that they believed (vv. 21, 32).

So, why? Verse 4b told us: “for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” And how was God glorified? Most importantly, God was glorified by how the resurrection of Lazarus authenticated the claim of Jesus to be Messiah (v. 42). Second, God was glorified when “many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.” Third, God was glorified in that Mary and Martha learned to trust Jesus even when they didn’t get what they wanted (v. 27). Finally, God was glorified as their faith in Christ grew.

Let’s focus on that last one a bit more: “God was glorified as their faith in Christ grew.” Although Martha affirmed that Jesus could raise the dead (vv. 22, 24-27) she tried to talk him out of opening Lazarus’s tomb (v. 38). Her understanding of the resurrection and her faith in Christ’s ability to raise the dead was all focused on the future, not in the present. Without discounting her faith in Christ for the end times, it is a lot easier to believe that something will happen in the future than it is to believe that it will happen today. By allowing Lazarus to die and be buried, Jesus exposed some areas of unbelief in his dear friends Mary and Martha. When Jesus did not answer their request in the way that they wanted, it revealed to them how much doubt still remained in their hearts about Christ. Allowing Lazarus to die then raising him from the dead allowed Jesus to take their faith in him to an even deeper place.

Are you asking God for something that is precious to you today? What if he chooses not to answer in the way that you want but, in order to bring greater glory to God, allows the thing that you fear to happen in order to teach you to trust him more? Will you trust Christ no matter what and believe that whatever happens will ultimately bring more glory to God? Is it enough for you that God is glorified even if you don’t ever get the answer to prayer that you wanted? That’s what real faith in God is all about–absolute surrender to the will of God.