1 Kings 16, Amos 2, Psalm 119:41-88

Read 1 Kings 16, Amos 2, and Psalm 119:41-88 today. This devotional is about Amos 2.

What made idols so attractive to God’s people?

What benefit did they get out of worshipping pieces of wood and stone?

What was so powerfully compelling about their theology that all the prophets, judges, and many kings could not root idolatry out of Israel?

There are several answers to that question but a powerful one is alluded to in Amos 2:7d-8b: “Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name. They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge.” Those verses suggest that idols were attractive because “worshipping” them involved sex. It was immoral and against God’s law to commit adultery but, according to these false religions, you could have sex with someone else beside your spouse as part of your offering to a false god. That activity was wicked in God’s sight, as we see here Amos 2 but it was acceptable in the culture at large when it was done as an act of worship.

No wonder God’s people were so devoted to this type of false worship. “Sex sells,” as the advertising proverb goes. There are no false religions in our setting, that I know of, which offer sex as part of the liturgy. But, as you know, sex is used to sell products, to sell movie tickets, and to get plays on music videos.

Sex is also packaged and sold as a product in itself through pornography, prostitution, and strip clubs. Our world is as interested in and as obsessed with sex as any generation in human history has been; sex is now the idol instead of being a feature of worshipping an idol.

The Bible commands us not to commit adultery or fornication but it also commands us not to lust after other people sexually. Loving and serving God requires us to guard our hearts and our eyes and to remind ourselves continually that our bodies belong to God and to our spouse. 

Have you drifted into sexual sin or flirted with it in your mind?

Are you careful about what you see and where your mind goes when it wanders?

Are you thinking inappropriate thoughts about someone in your life who is not your spouse?

Have you acted on those thoughts at all?

Let this fragment of two verses this morning turn your mind in repentance toward God. Ask him to purify your heart and be obedient to that desire in how you act toward others, think, and look. Don’t join the idolatry of adultery; ask God to help you glorify him with your mind and body.

2 Samuel 13, Daniel 3, Mark 13

Read 2 Samuel 13, Daniel 3, and Mark 13 today. This devotional is about 2 Samuel 13.

I wonder what family life looked like for David?

Whatever it looked like, it certainly did not resemble the lives of most other families in his kingdom. He was married to multiple women who bore him multiple children. By contrast, most Israelite marriages were monogamous. The few men who had more than one wife probably only had two wives and all of them lived in small homes. There was very little privacy and very little free time as everyone in the household had multiple jobs to do in order to provide for the entire family. David’s family, by contrast, lived in a sprawling palace and had everything provided for them.

The boys in David’s household almost certainly had a distorted view of women and the relationship that men had to women. For all his virtues, the fact that David had so many wives and still committed adultery indicates that his view of women was very narrow.

Maybe this is why his son Amnon treated Tamar the way he did in this chapter. Verse 1 says that he “fell in love” with her. Does this indicate that he was merely obsessed with her as a sex object? Possibly, but it also might mean that he had a narrow, deficient view of what love is and what a male-female relationship was about.

Regardless, his intentions toward Tamar were entirely sexual. Verse 2 tells us that her virginity made it “impossible for him to do anything to her.” He was not troubled that they could not marry because they were siblings. Since she was his sister, he could have talked with her and spent time with her without anyone thinking it was inappropriate. When he finally did get her alone in his room, thanks to the devious engineering of Jonadab, he did not pour out his heart to her, pledging his undying love to her.

No, he told her that he wanted to have sex with her (v. 11). When she did not cooperate, he raped her, but then “he hated her” (v. 15). I’ve always wondered why his attraction turned to antipathy so quickly. Maybe his fantasies all assumed she be just as hot for him as he was for her. Since she resisted instead of reciprocating, the whole illusion of a passionate relationship with her was now ruined for him.

As sad as this story is, David’s responses made it all so much worse. Verse 21 says that David “was furious.”

That’s it.

There is no mention of David rebuking Amnon, much less executing judgment on him for his act. There is no suggestion that David tried to console his daughter and by not bringing her attacker to justice, he diminished her value as a person.

No wonder she was so devastated: Her innocence was forcibly taken from her. Her ability to marry was taken from her, for men wanted only virgins as their wives. And, to make it all worse, her father got mad but did nothing.

Although Absalom cared for his sister and took up her cause in ways her father should have but didn’t, his approach was sinful. The right thing for Absalom to do was to become David’s conscience on behalf of Tamar. He should have vigorously lobbied David to do what was righteous and just for Tamar. Instead, Absalom sought and got revenge.

In response to this, David sinned again. Although he mourned the death of Amnon (vv. 36-37), he got over it and wanted to normalize his relationship with Absalom quickly (v. 39).

The problem David demonstrated in this passage was passivity in his family. Instead of showing leadership and doing what was right when one family member sinned against another, David emoted then did not act for justice and reconciliation.

I think family life, for some reason, is susceptible to this. It seems easy to just assume (hope?) that family members will get over it when they are abused or taken advantage of by their siblings. I feel this in my own life as a husband and father. It is easier for me to act, to know and do the right thing as an elder in our church than it is to know and do the right thing as a father.

But that’s no excuse to allow sin to go unaddressed, to allow problems to be left alone, hoping they go away. Godly leadership calls us to run toward issues, not away from them.

May God give us wisdom and courage to show this godly leadership; maybe that will rub off on our kids rather than a poor view of the opposite sex.

Numbers 15, Isaiah 39, Galatians 6

Read Numbers 15, Isaiah 39, and Galatians 6 today. This devotional is about Numbers 15:37-41.

In these final verses of Numbers 15, God commanded the people of Israel to sew tassels to the corners of their garments. HIs command was for the people do this, “Throughout the generations to come.” This part of the command reminds the people of God that this is not a temporary, situational command but a lasting marker for the people of God.

But these tassels were not ornamental like the little rivets on your jeans are. Numbers 15:39-40 describes the purpose of these tassels: “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.”

These tassels, in other words, were there to remind Israel not to sin particularly in the realm of sexual sins. At the very point of removing their garments, the tassels should have reminded them of God’s commands and that their covenants in marriage were made before God. It was one last emergency break before two of God’s people committed immorality. I wonder how many sins were stopped and marriages were saved by this simple reminder?

Of course, if someone doesn’t care about God, or really wants to sin, or has never read in God’s law what the purpose of those tassels was, the tassels will do no good. Rules and regulations can be safeguards to those who desire holiness and obedience but tassels are mere hassles to us when we decide to sin.

And we all sin in some way. Maybe we’ve never taken off our clothes to commit adultery, but there isn’t one of us who hasn’t ignored the voice of our conscience, a clear command of scripture, or some other safeguard that could have kept us from sinning.

Thankfully, God is merciful to those who call on him in faith seeking forgiveness. If this devotional reminds you of a specific sin you’ve committed, now is the time to change your mind. Seek God’s forgiveness and then seek to return to obedience to the Lord. It may require some painful conversations to make amends but God promises his mercy to those who confess and forsake their sins.

Leviticus 8, Isaiah 3-4, Luke 23

Read Leviticus 8, Isaiah 3-4, and Luke 23. This devotional is about Isaiah 3-4.

Like all of God’s prophets, Isaiah’s job was to speak out about the sins among his people, call them to repentance, and warn about God’s coming judgment if they do not repent. This is exactly what we read about today in Isaiah 3-4.

In other prophesies of judgment, idolatry is the main issue God addressed followed by the exploitation of others. There is plenty about the exploitation of others in this chapter (vv. 5, 12, 15) but nothing about idolatry.

Instead, the most specific sin addressed in this chapter is the seductive actions of women in those days (3:16-4:1). Verse 16 described their “outstretched necks,” which may refer to how they looked around to see if they had been noticed. If they did get a man’s attention they looked at him flirtatiously (v. 16d), and walked in ways that drew attention to the lower half of their bodies (v. 16e-f).

God’s judgment would remove all the things that accentuated their beauty (3:18-23). He would replace these items with things that humiliated, rather than accentuated (3:24). The men whose attention they worked so hard to get would become scarce because they would die in battle (3:25-26). It would get so bad that women would drastically outnumber men and would promise to provide for themselves if only one of the few men left would marry them (4:1).

The situation described in these verses is very different from the times we live in but there are some parallels. Young women today seem to prefer athletic wear to “fine clothing” so the apparel is different. Though they may prefer yoga pants and tank tops, those outfits can be tight and revealing. That makes it hard to look away from if you are a man.

Likewise, men today have not been exterminated in battle as the men of Israel and Judah were, but many men today are absent from life for other reasons. Too busy playing video games and living in mom’s basement, many young men never learn a trade or skill or earn a college degree. Young women go to college and get good jobs but have a hard time finding a good man to marry. I’ve met some who willingly pay the rent and provide for the food (similar to 4:1) so that a guy can move in with her to keep her company while he continues to be jobless and unproductive.

While some of the specific manifestations of sin have changed, we live in a culture where many women choose immodesty and make moral compromises in order get the attention of men. As God looks at our sinful culture, he could say to men and women in our world, “It is you who have ruined my vineyard” (3:14c). In our world, “the elders and leaders of the people” would be entertainers and educators. Entertainers change what is acceptable for women and men to wear and do through the stories they tell and the looks they cultivate. Educators change what is acceptable in culture by shaming men for being masculine and encouraging women to be forward, aggressive, and sexual.

Not one of us can change an entire culture and this passage does not suggest that we seize the levers of government to make women and men act differently. Instead, the lesson for us is that “The LORD,,, rises to judge the people” (v. 13). The way you live, the look you cultivate, and the way you interact with the opposite sex may be acceptable in our world but that does not mean that it is pleasing in the eyes of God.

The lesson here, then, is to change yourself. Be modest in the way you dress and look, women, and raise your daughters to be modest and to trust God’s provision rather than seeking a man’s attention any way you can get it.

Men, take responsibility for your life. Find your place in society instead of letting “women rule” (3:12). Watch where your eyes go when you’re around other women and be faithful to the woman God gives you.

God will judge our society for the ungodly way people live. Christ offers the only way of escape–both from the judgment to come and from the sinful lifestyles that are accepted. As his followers, let’s live the way he calls and commands us to live even in a world that is ungodly.

Exodus 20, Job 38, Proverbs 7

Read Exodus 20, Job 38, and Proverbs 7. This devotional is about Proverbs 7.

Proverbs 5 was entirely about sexual sin; Proverbs 6:20-35 discussed that subject again, and here we are in Proverbs 7 with another whole chapter dealing with adultery.

This time the focus is on the person who is unprepared for temptation to adultery. Verse 7 said that he was “among the simple… a youth who had no sense.” Verse 8 told us that he was “going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house.” Those phrases suggest, maybe, that he was curious; so does verse 25: “Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths.” He’d seen this woman before and found her attractive so he went near her place to see if he might by chance walk by her and get a better look. The tone of this chapter implies that he did not expect anything to happen.

But she expected something to happen. Verses 10-20 described her approach to this sin. She “seduced him” with “persuasive words” (v. 21).

Although Solomon described the price he paid for his adultery (vv. 22-23, 26-27), the focus of this chapter is on preparing yourself to be tempted without sinning. This is done through preparation, fortifying your mind and heart against temptation (vv. 1-5, 24) and being ready to say no when the temptation comes.

Are you flirting with sexual sin? Are you drawn to someone at work, in your neighborhood, or somewhere else? Like the young man in our story, you may be unprepared for a temptation that is this clear. A wise person will understand just how much temptation is available out there and how deceitful our hearts are, so listen to the warnings in this chapter. Learn how to spot the signs of someone who wants to sin with you, then put that person at arm’s length at all times. This will help you resist temptation when it arrives in your life.

Exodus 13, Job 31, Proverbs 6:20-35

Read Exodus 13, Job 31, and Proverbs 6:20-35 today. This devotional is about Proverbs 6:20-35.

Proverbs 5 was devoted entirely to warning us against the sin of adultery. Here in 6:20-35, Solomon revisited that subject.

In Proverbs 5:16-22 Solomon advised you to protect against adultery by prioritizing and enjoying sex within your marriage. That instruction came at the end of the teaching on adultery.

Here in Proverbs 6:20-24 his recommendation for avoiding adultery comes at the beginning of the section, not the end as in chapter 5. Also unlike chapter 5, Solomon viewed his instructions as the antidote to adultery rather than an amorous marriage, as he wrote in chapter 5. This suggests that we should use multiple layers of defense against this sin. One layer is a mind that is devoted to truth and prepares for the temptation of adultery (6:20-24). The other layer is a strong relationship with your spouse (5:16-22).

Let’s focus on that first layer, the one described here in 6:20-24. Verse 24 says that it is the teaching of godly parents (v. 20) that will keep “you from your neighbor’s wife.” How does that work exactly? Verses 25-29 tell us.

All temptations to sin consist of lies. Just as Satan promised Eve that disobeying God’s commands would liberate them to become “like God, knowing good and evil,” all temptations promise some kind of benefit with no cost. Adultery, of course, promises thrills and pleasure. If you feel yourself being attracted to someone else who is not your wife, the promise of that attraction is that the beauty of that person will be yours to enjoy (v. 25) if you begin a relationship with her.

But sin always hides the cost and Solomon’s teaching to his son in this passage is to consider the high cost of adultery (vv. 26-33). Sex with a prostitute is sinful but sex with another man’s wife is a much costlier sin (v. 26). It will bring punishment into your life (v. 29) just as surely as coals will burn you (vv. 27-28). If you learn this well when you are young, you will be able to see through the lies that temptation to adultery tell you and understand the real cost of the sin.

Adultery is so costly because of the social shame after the sin is exposed that adulterer’s bear. Some sins make sense to us such as stealing to avoid starvation (v. 30). Yet even that sin exacts a cost when the shoplifter is caught (v. 31). Our hearts go out to a starving man who steals because he is just trying to stay alive (v. 30) so when his fine for stealing is paid, that is the end of the matter (v. 31). Adultery is not disposed of so easily. Verse 33b says, “…his shame will never be wiped away.” In other words, if you get caught committing adultery, that is going to stick with you and become a permanent part of your story. At the very least, the spouse of the person you commit adultery with will not forget (vv. 34-35). In his quest to get justice, he will not hide what you did but will spread the word so that the maximum number of people possible hear about it.

In the moments of temptation, these truths can help you find your way out of temptation without sinning. If you can remember that the promises adultery make to you will prove to be false, it will be easier to say no when the temptation comes your way.

So, determine now to live a pure life and to remind yourself that the high cost of sin far outweighs the temporary pleasures the sin will offer you. This is the wise way to live–the pure way. May God give us grace to trust him and obey his word if any of us face this temptation in our lives.

1 Chronicles 1-2, Amos 2

Read 1 Chronicles 1-2 and Amos 2 today.

This devotional is about Amos 2

What made idols so attractive to God’s people? What benefit did they get out of worshipping pieces of wood and stone? What was so powerfully compelling about their theology that all the prophets, judges, and many kings could not root idolatry out of Israel?

There are several answers to that question but a powerful one is alluded to in Amos 2:7d-8b: “Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name. They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge.” Those verses suggest that idols were attractive because “worshipping” them involved sex. It was immoral and against God’s law to commit adultery but, according to these false religions, you could have sex with someone else beside your spouse as part of your offering to a false god. This activity was wicked in God’s sight, as we see here Amos 2 but it was acceptable in the culture at large when it was done as an act of worship.

No wonder God’s people were so devoted to this type of false worship. “Sex sells,” as the advertising proverb goes. There are no false religions in our setting, that I know of, which offer sex as part of the liturgy. But, as you know, sex is used to sell products, to sell movie tickets, and to get plays on music videos. Sex is also packaged and sold as a product in itself through pornography, prostitution, and strip clubs. Our world is as interested in and as obsessed with sex as any generation in human history has been; sex is now the idol instead of being a feature of worshipping an idol.

The Bible commands us not to commit adultery or fornication but it also commands us not to lust after other people sexually. Loving and serving God requires us to guard our hearts and our eyes and to remind ourselves continually that our bodies belong to God and to our spouse.

Have you drifted into sexual sin or flirted with it in your mind? Are you careful about what you see and where your mind goes when it wanders? Are you thinking inappropriate thoughts about someone in your life who is not your spouse? Have you acted on those thoughts at all? Let this fragment of two verses this morning turn your mind in repentance toward God. Ask him to purify your heart and be obedient to that desire in how you act toward others, think, and look. Don’t join the idolatry of adultery; ask God to help you glorify him with your mind and body.