1 Samuel 14, Ezekiel 25, Colossians 4

Read 1 Samuel 14, Ezekiel 25, and Colossians 4. This devotional is about Ezekiel 25.

The German language has a word, schadenfreude, that I hear being used in English more ad more often. The word means “satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune” and it describes how Israel’s enemies felt about the defeat and exile of Israel and Judah.

In this chapter of Ezekiel, God spoke a word agains the schadenfreude that those other enemy nations felt. He spoke here against the Ammonites (vv. 1-7), the Moabites (vv. 8-11), the Edomites (vv. 12-14), and the Philistines (vv. 15-17). In each of these cases God promised judgment and punishment for the attitude of these nations. God’s faithfulness to his promises is demonstrated by the fact that Israel exists today [1] but not one of these other nations is still around.

But why would these people take such delight in the decimation of Israel and Judah?

On one level, their pleasure is the understandable reaction to the defeat of an enemy. As a Detroit Lions fan, I rejoice when the Packers, Vikings, and Bears lose games, so some amount of national pride factors into the reaction these nations had to the demise of God’s people.

But there is more to the schadenfreude of the nations than just national pride. Verse 3 told the Ammonites that they would be punished “because you said ‘Aha!’ over my sanctuary when it was desecrated…”

Likewise, the Moabites said, “Look, Judah has become like all the other nations” in verse 8.

The defeat of Israel and Judah, then, was interpreted as proof that Israel’s God either did not exist or, at least, was no more powerful than the gods of any other nation.

In other words, their happiness at the defeat of God’s people was due to their unbelief–their willful desire not to believe–in Israel’s God.

God’s punishment, then, was designed to prove to them how wrong they were: “I will destroy you, and you will know that I am the Lord” says verse 7 while verses 11 and 17 echo the same idea.

People who don’t want to believe in God today are looking for proof of his non-existence as well.

That is why people celebrate when a Christian leader has a public moral failing or the church is exposed for covering up crimes. Likewise–and more importantly, really–if you or I are known to be Christians but fail to live up to God’s commands, the unbelievers around us will quickly dismiss the genuineness of our faith and the importance of believing in our God. 

We need God’s grace to walk with him daily and He has promised it to us in his word. We need to walk with God because we love him. We should follow his word because we know that sin damages us. But we should also remember that our lives speak powerfully to non-believers and that, apart from God’s saving grace in their own lives, they will be judged by Him. Unbelievers who know you are looking for reasons to disregard your testimony. One reason for each of us to live for God, then, is to testify about him to the world around us.


[1] Note, for instance, that verse 10 said, “the Ammonites will not be remembered among the nations…” 

Joshua 16-17, Jeremiah 40, Romans 5

Read Joshua 16-17, Jeremiah 40, and Romans 5 today. This devotional is about Joshua 16-17.

These can be tough chapters to read, with names like “Ataroth” (16:2), “Mikmethath” (16:6), and others. So, the strange sounding names make the passage hard to read. Furthermore, these chapters describe places that are unfamiliar and hard to visualize unless you have an old map of Israel handy. The point of the passage is to make a permanent record of what are of the promised land was assigned to each tribe of Israel.

So, don’t worry about all that stuff and, instead, notice this:

“They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.”

Joshua 16:10

…and…

“Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.”

Joshua 17:12-13

At the end of chapter 17, the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (Joseph’s sons) began complaining to Joshua. “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly” (v. 14). They wanted to reapportion the land of Israel within the existing borders. In other words, they wanted to take land away from neighboring tribes.

Joshua was all for them having more land, but not at the expense of other Israelites. Instead, in verse 15, Joshua told them to enter the forests of the Perizzites and Rephaites, start clear-cutting, and defeat these people when they came out to defend their land. When I read the response of Joseph’s descendants in verse 16, it is difficult for me to hear anything but a whiny tone of voice: “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron…” But Joshua stood firm; there would be no changes to each tribe’s original allotment. If they wanted more land, they were to go and take it from these other Canaanites. Although Joshua conceded in verse 18 that “they have chariots fitted with iron” and “they are strong” he maintained that “you can drive them out.”

History repeated itself.

Their fathers–who died in the desert of Sinai–failed to take the promised land because they thought the Canaanites were too big, too strong, too entrenched to defeat. In other words, the people of Israel were cowed by what they saw instead of trusting in the faithfulness of God’s promises. Now, the next generation received the land but they, too, were intimidated by those around them. They got their land but not nearly as much as God wanted them to have.

Why?

Because they did not act as if they believed God’s promises. If they had trusted God, they could have had more land and could have utterly defeated the Canaanites. Instead, they chose through cowardice and unbelief to settle for less than what God wanted to give them.

How often do we settle for low-level living? Do we believe that Jesus has all authority as he claimed in Matthew 28:19? If so, why don’t we go make disciples of all the nations as he commanded us to do?

Do we believe that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us (2 Pet 1:3)? Then why do we let sinful habits remain in us instead of driving them out?

The answer is that these things are not automatic. God’s promises are true but they are only activated by faith. And faith is not just an inner belief; it is an inner conviction that produces outward actions that demonstrate true trust in God.

Where in your life are you refusing to go for all that God has promised to us in Christ? Let’s take encouragement from Joshua’s confidence in these chapters and live by faith in that area today.

Numbers 8, Isaiah 33, Galatians 2

Read Numbers 8, Isaiah 33, and Galatians 2 today. This devotional is about Isaiah 33.

Our society has changed dramatically in the past few years. Actions that were once were considered immoral are now considered acceptable. In some cases things that were illegal are not only legal now but receive special legal protection.

Those who are advocating and legalizing these changes do so with much self-righteousness under the guise of civil rights, creating a lot of pressure on the rest of society to celebrate these changes, or conform to them or, at the very least, remain quiet about them.

If you have ever wondered why so many people have suddenly lost their minds, Isaiah 33:5-6 provides the answer. Verse 5 describes God’s exalted state and how his kingdom (“Zion”) will be filled “with his justice and righteousness.” But this world is not yet his kingdom; until Christ returns and establishes his kingdom, every human government will become unjust and every society will practice increasing unrighteousness. Why? Verse 6 says, “He will be the sure foundation for your times….” When people believe in God and bow to his definition of “righteousness,” they have this sure foundation on which to establish and right and wrong. Without faith in God, no sure foundation exists; instead, ideas of righteousness and justice will be (re)defined by the perverse and ever degrading notions of humanity.

But verse 6 of our passage continues by saying that the Lord will be “a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge.” As believers who fear the Lord, we can be certain of what we know because it has been revealed to us by someone who knows all things. That was stated in the final line of our passage for today, Isaiah 33:6: “…the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” “Fearing the Lord” means so much in the Old Testament. It means reverencing God in worship, of course, but it also means understanding his greatness and awesomeness and how undeserving we are of anything from him. Fearing God causes us to reverence what he has revealed in his word and that leads to repentance and faith.

But fearing God and receiving his word also means accepting what his word says about the origin of all things, the end of all things, why some things are wrong, why we need salvation, etc.

Yes, it is true that unbelievers know many things that we believers do not and that believers do not know anything. But if you dig a little bit beneath the surface of an unbeliever’s knowledge, you will find assumptions rather than certainty. This is why right and wrong, which should be obvious to anyone, eventually become questioned and then denied in godless societies. When someone cuts himself off from God he will have no foundation to know anything. That means that anything could be true which causes people to believe in foolishness (see Romans 1:21, 28).

There is much more to say about this than I can write in this devotional. For a taste of more, check out this brief video by Sye Ten Bruggencate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM1AWO92Crc

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.

Genesis 35-36, Job 2, Psalms 14-16

Read Genesis 36-36, Job 2, and Psalms 14-16 today. This devotional is about Psalm 14.

In our society, the sophisticated, the elite, the well-educated, the successful, the enviable person denies the existence of God. Some deny God’s existence directly and vigorously like Sam Harris. Others might say that they believe in God or the possibility that God exists, but they live as if he did not.

To those who deny God’s existence everything in life has a natural and naturalistic explanation. So, instead of learning Scripture, these atheists would tell you to improve your life or get what you want by studying science or psychology or some success formula.

In contrast to the wise of this world who deny the existence of God, the Bible says here in Psalm 14 that it is the fool who “says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Being a “fool” in Scripture is not about lacking intelligence. It is about thinking and living apart from God and his revelation.

If you think and act apart from God’s revelation, you will make decisions that appeal to you. These decisions seem like moves toward the things that you really want–success, pleasure, recognition, whatever. But these decisions, apart from God, will inevitably lead to problems–pain or sorrow or some other sort of problem. Why? Because your internal desires are like a broken compass. They do not point toward true joy or true righteousness; they point toward selfishness. In the words of Psalm 14:2, “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”

Verses 2-4 describe what the atheist is like from God’s perspective. God has already labeled him a fool in verse 1; the verses that follow verse 1 expand on what God sees when he watches the fool:

First, he doesn’t seem anyone who “gets it” on his own (v. 2b); instead, he sees people who increasingly give themselves to sin (v. 3). As the consequences for sin mount, they turn their attention to those who follow the Lord in faith. But, instead of noticing the positive results, the fruit of the Spirit, that God brings into our lives, they attack us (v. 4b). But verses 5-6 remind us that the success of God’s enemies is short-lived. In the end, God will care for us and ultimately, in his justice, vindicate us.

The result of living in faith is joy: “When the Lord restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” (v. 7b). So, if you’ve had a tough week, feeling attacked and harassed by a world that does not know God, our weekly worship service is just what you need! It will remind you of God’s ultimate, sovereign control and that God is working for our good in this world and our joy as we glory and delight in him. So let’s come together and worship him this morning in joy! I’ll see you at 10 a.m.

2 Kings 16, Hosea 9

Today’s readings are [2 Kings 16 and Hosea 9] (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2kings16%2C+hosea8&version=NIV).

This devotional is about Hosea 9:7d-g: “Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired person a maniac.”

Our society pretends that it has rejected God and our faith because it has advanced beyond belief in anything beyond the natural world. Scientific study has yielded so much truth about things that used to mystify people in the past. So many people to equate our faith with superstitions from the past that should be rejected in this modern age.

This passage confronts that thinking. People reject God’s word because they want to live an immoral, godless life. The verse says that the greatness of humanity’s sins is what causes people to think God’s servants are stupid. People today may have a more secular mindset in general. But they deny historical facts that are biblical, despise the moral commands of the Bible, or laugh at the miracles in scripture because of their sons. The greater the sin and unbelief, the stronger the negative reaction one will have to the commands of God’s word.

The cure for this is not to emphasize the points where some unbeliever might agree with the Bible or show how wise advice from the Bible makes for better living. The cure is more of God’s word; that’s what God gave Hosea despite the fact that prophets were considered “fools” and “maniacs” in Hosea’s day. Although sinners try hard to suppress the truth of God’s word, God’s word is like a hammer that breaks hard hearts and fire that melts them down (Jer 23:29).

The same is true for us believers. Although our faith in Christ inclines us to receive and believe God’s word, our sin nature at times may cause us to react to some of God’s commands as crazy. In those moments we need to immerse ourselves deeper in scripture, not sit in skepticism toward it. May God give us the grace to receive his word obediently ourselves, hold it out unflinchingly to the world around us, and find some who will believe it and obey it for eternal life just as we have.

2 Kings 1, Daniel 5

Today we’re reading 2 Kings 1 and Daniel 5.

This devotional is about 2 Kings 1.

Sometimes greatness is recognized in people while they are alive. At other times, however, great people are not recognized until much later. Elijah is one of the great men of God in the entire Bible. He spoke God’s word with great authority and he called on God’s power to authenticate his message (such as here in 2 Kings 1:9-15). Even though he did not write like Isaiah and Jeremiah, yet his ministry as a prophet of God was the pattern that John the Baptist followed (Malachi 4:5, Luke 1:17). Also, his prayer life is a model for us to follow according to James 5:17. So Elijah was a great man, a powerful servant of the Lord.

Yet Elijah was unappreciated in times. His odd appearance (v. 8) might have had something to do with it, but it was really more a matter of the deep unbelief among the people he served. He was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel (v. 2: “Samaria”) which had not one godly king among the twenty it had in its history.

In this chapter one of Israel’s forgettable kings Ahaziah had an accident and wanted to know if he would recover. So, he sought an answer not from Elijah or Elijah’s God YHWH, the God of Israel; instead, he sent a messenger to ask “Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron” (v. 2).

Although he did not consult YHWH, he got an answer from YHWH. God messaged Elijah (v. 3) and dispatched him to confront the unbelief of Ahaziah (v. 3). Elijah found the messengers that Ahaziah had sent and knew what information they were seeking from Baal-Zebub. Those two facts should have offered strong proof that Elijah spoke for God and that God had the power and answers that Ahaziah sought. But, perhaps because the answer was a negative answer of judgment (v. 4), Ahaziah did not respond in faith toward God and appreciation for God’s messenger. Instead, he sought to do harm to Elijah (vv. 7-15).

You can tell a lot about someone’s beliefs by looking at (1) where they turn for answers and (2) how they respond when they get an answer from God’s word, especially if that answer was negative and unsolicited. We have access to God’s word and many capable–even excellent–teachers of it unlike most people in history have had. Sure, none of us is Elijah, but we have a much greater amount of God’s revelation than Elijah had because we have Christ revealed and the scriptures completed.

Yet how often do we turn to secular sources–books, radio shows, podcasts, Oprah, whatever–for answers instead of to God’s word and his servants?

Are you looking outside God’s word for answers to your problems?