Today we’re reading 1 Kings 6 and Ezekiel 36.
This devotional is about Ezekiel 36:16-38.
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 (vv. 17, 18). But 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 the exile in 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.
I wrote in an earlier graph today about how our sins 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.
Today we’re scheduled to read Exodus 18, Job 36, and Psalm 66.
This devotional is about Exodus 18.
Exodus 18 always leaves me with a few unanswered (and unanswerable) questions. They are:
- Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, is called “the priest of Midian” in verse 1. Was he a priest of some false god before this chapter? Or did he become a priest of the true God as a result of the events described in this chapter? So, is verse 1 describing him as he was before or after?
- Why did Moses send his family back to Midian (v. 2)?
As I said, these questions are unanswerable but I wonder about them.
Whatever his background and beliefs, Jethro heard of God’s deliverance for Israel from others (v. 1b) but Moses described what happened personally (v. 8). Moses did not just describe the miracles and the plagues God had used to Jethro; according to verse 8b Moses also told his father-in-law “about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them.” This would include the food and water miracles as well as God’s deliverance from the Amalekites which we’ve read about over the past few days. All of this was more than enough evidence that the God of Israel is true. Jethro’s confession of faith in verse 11, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods…” may sound like the words of a man who believes in many gods with YHWH being the best, but it is actually a common OT way of expressing truth faith. Couple that statement with the fact that Jethro “was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel” (v. 9) and that he “brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God” (v. 11) and it seems clear that Jethro was truly converted at the time described in this chapter.
Moses’s testimony of God’s work was a powerful instrument in the conversion of Jethro. Have you considered how God might use your testimony to save others? Not just your testimony about how God saved you, but also of the other things he has done in your life? Think about how your salvation and walk with God has impacted your life, then be ready to share that whenever the door opens.
Today we’re scheduled to read Acts 22.
On Friday we read about Paul’s return to Jerusalem, his attempt to mollify the Jewish people by submitting to a Jewish purification rite, and his arrest which had been foretold repeatedly by the Holy Spirit. At the end of Acts 21, Paul asked his arrestors for a chance to speak to the crowd that had rioted. Today’s chapter, Acts 22, recorded that speech.
Given this opportunity to speak to such a large number of his fellow Jews, what did Paul say? He gave his personal testimony. He began with his background as a carefully observant Jew from the Pharisaic tradition (vv. 1-3). He moved to his persecution of Christians for their divergent beliefs (vv. 4-5). He described his conversion experience on the road to Damascus (vv. 6-13) and his commission to reach the Gentiles with the good news about Jesus (vv. 14-21).
People can reject arguments and counter them with other arguments but it is extremely difficult to argue with someone’s personal experience. The personal experience of another person is also very persuasive, one of the most persuasive forms of communication. Paul’s testimony here did not get him released, but it did give him an opportunity to witness for Christ. A straight up sermon about Jesus would have been interrupted a lot sooner, probably, than Paul’s testimony was here so this was a wise way to use the opportunity.
Do you realize how powerful your personal testimony can be when you speak to others about Christ? You don’t have to have a dramatic Damascus road-type conversion story. In fact, if you were saved as a child, your testimony might focus more on what being a Christian has meant to your life than about how much you changed from when you were an 8 year old contract killer or whatever. Let Paul’s example here encourage you to think about your testimony and write it out even to help you be prepared to share Christ when the door to speak for Jesus opens.