Judges 1, Jeremiah 48, Romans 10

Read Judges 1, Jeremiah 48, and Romans 10 today. This devotional is about Judges 1.

A repeated theme of Joshua and Judges is Israel taking the land God promised to them, but not completely. Their territory was larger at times and smaller at other times but Israel never occupied all the land God promised them.

Why not?

Unbelief which leads to inaction.

Here in Judges 1, Joshua was dead (v. 1a) but Israel still procrastinated when it came to taking their land. Judah followed God’s word in verses 1-21 and won some significant territory. But notice that they took Jerusalem at one point (v. 8) but then apparently lost it again (v. 21) and did not have it again until David took it many years later.

Notice also the intriguing words of verse 19: “The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron.” The Lord was with them… but they couldn’t dislodge the guys with iron chariots. Why not? Because God is no match for iron chariots? No; because Judah did not believe God would give them victory over people with iron chariots.

In other words, they were willing to follow God to a point. But, when it came to confronting their fear and moving out of their comfort zones, they stopped obeying God’s word, claiming God’s promises, and decided to be happy with less than all the land God had promised them.

This is already starting to feel like a “name it and claim it” devotional. I definitely disagree with that theology and don’t want to bend the principles in this passage too far.

But, think about what’s going on in this passage.

Do you ever do that?

God has made many promises to us. You’ve believed and acted on one or more of those promises. And, God blessed your faith with results. But, then, the challenge started to look hard. So, you quit and settled for less than what God promised.

Hasn’t God promised to be with us to the end of the age as we go and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20)? Yes, he has.

But, how much effort do you put into making disciples?

Hasn’t God said that we are his “handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)? Yes he has.

But how much effort do you put into growing in grace, pushing out into new areas of ministry that might be uncomfortable for you?

What about in your work? Doesn’t God’s word say that, “All hard work brings a profit” (v. 23a)? Doesn’t it tell us to diversify what we do and try different things in order to find what will succeed (Ecc 11:6)? Why, yes, the Bible does say these things.

But are you stuck in a job that isn’t providing enough for your family because you feel comfortable and safe there?

How about when it comes to giving? Doesn’t the New Testament encourage generous giving to see God provide? Consider 2 Corinthians 9:6-8: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

But are you giving to his work sparingly or not at all?

Again, the New Testament doesn’t teach us that God wants us all to be rich or that we can have whatever we want in Jesus’s name if we just name it and claim it. But it does tell us that God will be with us and will bless things that we do for his glory. It may not be easy–iron chariots are nothing to sneeze at–but are we settling for less than God would give us if we stepped out of our comfort zone in faith and tried some things for his glory?

1 Kings 14, Ezekiel 44

Today’s OT18 readings are 1 Kings 14 and Ezekiel 44.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 44.

Despite the fact that Judah’s exile in Babylon had barely just begun, God continued speaking through Ezekiel about what the future temple and worship in Israel should be like. Remember that this exile would last for 70 years so none of the things Ezekiel talked about in this chapter could or would happen for several decades.

With that in mind, it seems a little absurd to be speaking in so much detail about God’s standards for Israel’s future. It would be like going to prison for 30 years for tax fraud and, while you are there, planning to start a new corporation when you’re released and writing the employee personnel manual for that corporation as if you had 100 employees. Who would do that? It seems like a complete waste of time and energy.

So why would God, of all people, do that? Because his plans for Israel were fixed and his word was certain. There should be no doubt in the mind of any Israelite that their society would be restored and that worshiping God would be at the center of it. Rather than wait for things to develop on their own or for people to make up regulations and laws on the fly, God planned it all out in advance and revealed it to Ezekiel long before any of it would happen.

The last 2/3rds of today’s chapter, Ezekiel 44, talks about how the Levites and priests would minister before the Lord. In verse 28 God said, “‘I am to be the only inheritance the priests have. You are to give them no possession in Israel; I will be their possession.” Levi’s tribe was the only one of Israel’s twelve tribes that did not have a geographic place assigned to it. The men of Levi were to fan out to all the tribes of Israel and live among the cities, towns, and villages of all the people. They could buy their own land and even farm it, but they were not given any land to possess as every other tribe and family was. When it was their turn to minister before the Lord in the Temple, they would come to Jerusalem and live in those rooms that were described in chapter 42 of Ezekiel and alluded to here in Ezekiel 44:19. Yes, the temple had something like a hotel in it where their priests would live temporarily during their duties in Jerusalem. But the rest of the year they lived among the rest of God’s people in cities, villages, and countrysides.

What did they do when they were not on temple duty? Well, many of them ran family farms or had other side businesses, but their main task was to serve God’s people in non-temple ways. Those were discussed in this chapter as well:

First, they were teachers. Verse 23 says, “They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.”
Second, they were judges. Verse 24 says, “In any dispute, the priests are to serve as judges and decide it according to my ordinances.”

These two duties could keep the priests busy throughout the year depending on how many other priests lived near them and what the population density was around them. Any side businesses they had were to take the backseat to God’s original call on their tribe to be priests.

That brings us to the compensation portion of this chapter. After stating that God would be the inheritance of the priests in verse 28, he spelled out specifically how that would work in verses 29-31: the priests would live off of the offerings God’s people made in worship to Him. Verse 29a says they will eat what the people bring that is edible. Verse 29b says that the priests will own anything that has been devoted to the Lord by his people. And verse 30 commanded the people to bring “the best” and “the first portion” of what they produced.

Pastors like me are not priests but we do many of the functions God gave to priests in verses 23-24. Furthermore, the New Testament drew from the principles in this chapter (and many others) and commanded God’s people to support their church leaders financially. We depend on the tithes, offerings, and gifts that you give to the church for our livelihood. If you and others don’t give, or just give the leftovers, not the first portion as commanded in verse 30, we have to figure out how to do without the things we need to live and do ministry. The point of this devotional, then, is to say that all of us should be giving faithfully to God’s work and that our giving should come first, not after we’ve paid the bank for a house or a car or a boat or whatever. If you give what you can after you’ve paid your obligations, God’s work will have very little because most people don’t save anything at all.

Again, verse 28 says, “I am to be the only inheritance the priests have. You are to give them no possession in Israel; I will be their possession.” It is a great privilege to have the Lord as your portion in life. I once heard John MacArthur say that being a pastor is like being paid to give your full attention to growing in Christ and living the Christian life. I fully agree with him and am so grateful for the opportunity I have to do this. But we pastors are dependent on the financial support of God’s people. Not all churches believe in or practice tithing but all of us depend on the generosity of God’s people. So, I encourage you to make giving to the Lord’s work a priority in your life. God’s work depends on it and this is the way God established to fund his work.

Deuteronomy 26, Isaiah 53

Today the schedule calls for us to read Deuteronomy 26 and Isaiah 53.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 26 but if you’d rather read about Isaiah 53, one of the greatest passages (poetically and prophetically) in the Old Testament, then you can read my 66in16 devotional about that passage here: https://calvary-bible.org/blog/2016/6/21/deuteronomy-26-psalms-117118-isaiah-53-matthew-1?rq=Isaiah%2053

But, about Deuteronomy 26, yesterday I wrote about Paul’s use of Deuteronomy 25:4 and how it teaches us that God’s word has ongoing relevance to every believer in any age, even if if doesn’t directly apply to you. In other words, you don’t have to own oxen to be obedient to Deuteronomy 25:4.

As I mentioned yesterday, Paul saw the command in Deuteronomy 25:4 not to muzzle the ox as a specific instance of a universal truth: people who work should benefit from their labor. Specifically, he argued in 1 Timothy 5:18 and 1 Corinthians 9:9 that people who benefit from the ministry of apostles, evangelists, pastors, etc. should provide financial support to those church leaders. Today, in Deuteronomy 26, Moses commanded the people entering the promised land to bring 10% (a tithe, v. 12) of what the land produced and dedicate it to the Lord. This initial tithe was a thank-offering; they were to rehearse Israel’s history from Abraham to the present day when they brought it (vv. 5-10). It was an offering to God because it was called “the sacred portion” in verses 13 and 14. But, although it was an offering to God, it was given for the benefit and blessing of specific people. Namely, it was giving to “the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow” (v. 13). The foreigner, the fatherless and the widow were people who unable to provide for themselves so they needed to be provided for by others. This tithe was God’s way of doing that.

The Levites, on the other hand, did not have an allotted portion of land like every other tribe. Instead, they were scattered among the towns and villages of all the tribes in order to teach the Law of God to the people. They were allowed to own and farm land, but their primary responsibility was to teach God’s people his word and to minister at the tabernacle (later, the temple) during assigned times. God’s command was that the tithe would provide financial support to these ministers of his word so that they could serve the spiritual lives and needs of his people.

There are no commands to tithe in the New Testament and some believers are convinced that tithing is not for the New Testament age. In principle, I agree. We are not under the law so Moses’s command to tithe does not have the same force as it did for the people of Israel.

However, as we saw yesterday, all of God’s word is written for us even though it was not written to us. God’s work still needs to be financially supported somehow and the New Testament (like the aforementioned 1 Timothy 5:18 & 1 Corinthians 9:9 but also Galatians 6 and other passages) commands believers to give financially for God’s work. The 10% rule is not commanded but God’s people are encouraged to give generously, to store up treasure in heaven. Think about this: do you think that Paul, who was raised in Judaism and taught to give 10% would think that a few hundred bucks, or 1% or 5% or anything less than 10% would qualify as giving “generously?”

So, God’s word does not require anyone in this age to tithe but it does command God’s people to give to provide for the poor and for the work of God’s ministry. Here at Calvary, our membership covenant requires tithing so, if you’re a member, you agreed to tithe to our church even if you don’t think tithing is for today. But beyond all of this, notice what Moses said would happen when God’s people brought a tithe to the Levites and the poor:

  • Verse 11: “Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.
  • Verse 12: “you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.”

These passages show the human benefit, the personal blessing that giving to God’s work and to the poor will bring. You will rejoice (v. 11) and so will the recipients (v. 11) because they will “eat in your towns and be satisfied.”

Do you tithe to our church? If not, do you think the Lord is pleased by your decision?

Exodus 27, Proverbs 3, Psalm 74-75

(I misread the schedule and had you read Psalm 72 twice. Today’s readings catch you up with the schedule).

Today we’re reading Exodus 27, Proverbs 3, Psalm 74-75.

This devotional is about Proverbs 3:9-10.

In this chapter, Solomon gives some general encouragements to be wise (vv. 1-4, 13-26) and some specific ways in which he should be wise (vv. 5-12, 27-31). Remember that wisdom is simply skillful living but, because God is Creator of life and its rules, one cannot be truly wise unless he knows and submits to God. The specific ways in which Solomon wants his son to be wise are stated first followed by the benefits of that wisdom. For instance, in verse 9 he told his son to “Honor the Lord with your wealth” and in verse 10 he wrote that the benefit would be financial abundance.

Solomon’s command to, “Honor the Lord with your wealth” is explained by the second phrase, “with the firstfruits of all your crops.” This refers to the command to bring the first things harvested to the priests to support their work for the Lord (Deut 18:4-5). Israel was to support the Lord’s work first, then sell or trade the rest of the food they harvested to provide for their families. Living in a farming economy could be a scary thing. A bad harvest or total crop failure could leave people starving. It would take an act of faith, then, to give to God’s work first and then live on what was left over. Solomon taught that the wise way to live was to do what God commanded and give to his work first, then live on the rest. His promise was that “the rest” would be an abundance for the faithful believer: “then [after you honor the Lord] your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”

This advice runs counter to most advice that is given on how to build wealth. Financial advisors will tell you to “pay yourself first” and “give to charity” last if at all. If you learn to save, they will tell you, you will prosper. That’s true–and Solomon will teach that in Proverbs, too–but a more important principle is that if you honor God he will bless your work.

Have you tried this? I know that we live in the age of grace and that tithing is not commanded in the New Testament. But does that mean that God no longer provides for and blesses those who honor him with their wealth? I don’t think so and there are New Testament passages that teach the opposite (see 2 Cor 9:6-12). While we don’t give to the Lord in this age because the Law demands it, we should want to honor the Lord with everything we have, including our money. If you don’t give to God’s work faithfully and regularly, take a one month challenge. Give 10% of your income to the Lord for one month; then see if you are as well or better off than you would have been. I think you’ll find that God still blesses those who honor him with their earnings.

2 Chronicles 35, Revelation 21, Malachi 3, John 20

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 35, Revelation 21, Malachi 3, John 20. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Malachi 3.

Malachi 3 began with the promise of the coming of Messiah (v. 1), then described the day of his coming in terms of cleansing (vv. 2-4) and judgment (v. 5). Many Old Testament prophecies predict in the same paragraph events that are fulfilled many years apart. Scholars compare this to looking at mountains through a telescope. From a distance, through a telescope, the mountain peaks appear to be very close together, but in reality there are miles between them. Here’s a YouTube video that explains it pretty well. So Malachi here in verse 1 predicted the coming of Messiah which was fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming, then in verses 2-5 he prophesied about what Messiah would do which will be fulfilled in Christ’s second coming.

Verse 6 reminded Israel of God’s covenant with her and that it remains valid because of God’s unchanging nature. Then, in verse 7, God called his people to repent and return to him in obedience. Specifically, he wanted them to return by tithing (v. 8). To paraphrase Jesus, “Your heart is where your money goes,” so by depriving the Lord’s work of the tithe, God’s people were showing their distance from him through financial disobedience. Verse 9 informed the people that the whole nation was under a curse for their refusal to tithe. Verse 10 commands them to bring “the whole tithe” to the temple so that his work would be provided for: “that there may be food in my house.” Then, amazingly, God commanded his people to test him (v. 10b), promising to bless them financially (v. 10c) and protect them financially, too, if they do what he has commanded.

New Testament believers question whether or not tithing is for today or whether it is part of the Old Testament civil & ceremonial law that was fulfilled in Christ. It is true that there are no New Testament commands to tithe. But the New Testament calls us to generous giving (2 Cor 9:6-15), promises eternal abundant rewards to those who give generously (Lu 6:38), and some degree of prosperity in this life so that we can continue to give (see 2 Cor 9:10-11). I believe that tithing is an excellent financial discipline for a Christian and I have seen God bless in my life and others who give generously to his work. So while there is no legalistic demand to tithe in the New Testament, the Christian who does not tithe should consider where his heart is (see Matt 6:19-21) and review the blessings God promises in the Old and New Testaments to those who worship him through financial support. It is truly a blessing to support God’s work financially. Don’t miss out on it!

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.