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.

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 34, Ecclesiastes 10, Proverbs 8:22-36

Read Exodus 34, Ecclesiastes 10, and Proverbs 8:22-36. This devotional is about Proverbs 8:22-36.

In our culture, calling someone “old” is usually intended to insult or dismiss them. “Who cares if he tells you to get off his lawn? He’s just a cranky old man,” is one example of what I mean. Youth and beauty are prized in our times so old men and old women are coldly disregarded as being unimportant.

Sadly, this is especially true for women. Because a woman is judged by her appearance more than her character, intellect, personality, accomplishments, or the total of these and other traits, the older a woman gets, the more invisible she becomes to some people.

Here in Proverbs 8:22-36, wisdom speaks as if she is a woman. Instead of hiding her age, the key fact that she stresses about herself is that she’s really old. Verse 23as says, “I was formed long ages ago….” She was the first thing God created (v. 22) so she is older than any material thing that exists. With great eloquence, reverence, and no negative judgment at all, Solomon painted a picture of how old wisdom is. Like gravity or the laws of physics or matter, wisdom is a foundational idea, an ancient principle that makes everything else possible. It is true that we humans have only recently discovered things like the laws of physics, but though the ideas are new to us, the principles are ancient because they are foundational.

So it is with wisdom except that wisdom isn’t prized as a great discovery, it is despised as being old and out of date. That’s how our culture treats true wisdom–God’s wisdom–because people in our culture want to lead an immoral life and wisdom directs you to fear God and lead a moral life according to his commands. At the end of our passage today, however, verses 35-36 promise great benefits for wisdom and penalties for folly–wisdom’s opposite.

Wisdom is old but it is not obsolete; it is foundational to a successful life. Remember that wisdom begins with fearing God, so building your life on a foundation of wisdom starts with welcoming God’s revelation and living obediently to what it says. As sinners we can’t do this naturally but the saving grace of Christ enables us to learn how to obey.

Are you resisting some command of God? Are you questioning some principle of his word or some tenet of the Christian faith? Do you wonder if the Bible isn’t obsolete because it is so old? Wisdom brags about being old because it is a foundational principle to all of life. So seek wisdom in  your life by learning God’s word and–most importantly–obeying what you learn in God’s word. Wisdom won’t let you down, so build your life on it. It is a dependable foundation, the only one worth founding your life on.

Exodus 26, Ecclesiastes 2, Luke 8

Today read Exodus 26, Ecclesiastes 2, and Luke 8.

Luke 8 presents us with one of Jesus’ best known parables (vv. 4-15), some lesser known teachings of Jesus (vv. 16-21) and several miracles (vv. 22-56).

The chapter began, though, by listing Jesus’ key financial contributors, some women who traveled with Jesus and the disciples who “were helping to support them out of their own means.” That sentence gives us insight into how Jesus and the disciples were able to stay alive while devoting themselves full-time to the ministry and it sets a precedent for how ministry is funded that the rest of the New Testament developed for us.

Luke doesn’t say much about what these women did. Verse 2 indicates that they were with him and the Twelve as they traveled “from one town and village to another” and verse 3 says that they “were helping to support them out of their own means.” That last phrase obviously means that they were spending their own money to pay for food and lodging and anything else Jesus and the Twelve needed money for. But why would these women need to travel with Jesus and the disciples? Couldn’t they just send the money by messenger whenever it was needed?

I think they could have sent the money, but I also think they traveled with Jesus and the Twelve to hear Jesus teach just like everyone else who followed him around. I wonder, though, if they also didn’t handle some of the logistics–going ahead of the men to find enough places for them to sleep, buying food and preparing meals as needed. Again the text does not say this, but it makes sense that they would do at least some of this planning and preparation work so as to give Jesus the maximum amount of time to do ministry and to do so without distractions.

If you’ve served somewhere behind the scenes–doing sound or lighting or projection or as a Calvary Class helper or preparing meals for families that just had a baby or helping with the Sunday coffee and donuts or giving rides to people to church on Sunday or making copies of material or helping out with office work or cleaning the floors on Saturday night or serving in the chair ministry or making and serving funeral meals or serving in the food pantry or in the prison ministry or doing any other number of tasks, your ministry is important! It may seem unnoticed or feel unimportant but the truth is that it is very important. Servants like you make every ministry possible so if you’ve served in one of these places, thank you!

If you could serve in one of these ways but haven’t volunteered yet, would you volunteer this week? Everything we do as a church takes dedicated volunteers so the more volunteers we have, the more ministry we can do. Jesus said that a cup of water given in his name would be rewarded so there are eternal dividends to be reaped if you sow into His work now, even in ways that seem insignificant and small. So, if you’re not serving somewhere yet, one way to put the truth in this chapter into practice is to find your place to serve. It is the Lord’s work so he’s the one you’re serving, just as these women served him in their unseen but important role.

Genesis 34, Job 1, Psalm 33

Today’s readings are Genesis 34, Job 1, and Psalm 33.

This devotional is about Genesis 34.

Larry Nassar was sentenced earlier this month for molesting over 150 girls and young women while he was supposed to be treating them in his role as a sports medicine doctor. He is just one of many men in the news recently who treated women sinfully and shamefully for his own satisfaction. Here in Genesis 34, we read about Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, and how she was taken and raped by Shechem (v. 2). I doubt she was the first woman in human history to be mistreated this way and she certainly wasn’t the last. Her story contains several marks that are common:

  • She was doing nothing wrong and felt unafraid despite being vulnerable (v. 1).
  • She was taken advantage of by a powerful man who did not fear accountability (vv. 2-3).
  • There was no outrage on her behalf or response from the man who should have protected her (v. 5).
  • In fact, Jacob was willing to cover up the crime committed against her (vv. 6-12). Note from verse 26 that her brothers later “took Dinah from Shechem’s house.” This phrase shows that Shechem kept her and did not bring her home after he assaulted her and went to talk with her father.
    At least her brothers recognized the evil that was committed against her and had an appropriate emotional response to it (v. 7b). Their remedy for what happened to Dinah was extreme and unjust, killing all the men in a city when only one man had sinned against their family (v. 25). Their extreme violence was not justified, but their outrage and desire for justice certainly was.

Why did Jacob respond so passively after his daughter was mistreated this way? One answer is fear. Jacob feared retaliation from the other nations around, so he was unwilling to seek justice for his daughter. His fear prevented him from doing the right thing. Those who covered up Nassar’s crime may have reacted that way for the same reason.

Women bear the image of God. He loves them and sent Christ to die for them just as much as he did for men. It is shameful when any man mistreats a woman–raping her, or groping her, or speaking inappropriately to her or demeaning her. It is also unrighteous when men do nothing after a woman has been treated in any of these ways.

Guys… God created us to glorify him in how we treat women and how we partner with them to create families for his glory. Treat your wife with dignity and love. Protect her and your daughter(s) from predatory men. Never use your physical power or your position to take advantage of a girl or a woman. Keep your hands to yourself around other women and speak to them only in ways that are pure and appropriate in the sight of God. If a woman comes to you for help, take her word seriously and see that she gets justice.

Proverbs 31

Today’s reading is Proverbs 31.

Proverbs 31 is known for “The Proverbs 31 Woman,” aka the “wife of noble character,” who is described in verses 10-31. It is, of course, fair that this chapter is known for the woman described here. After all, 2/3rds of the verses in this chapter are given to describing her.

I would point out that many of the qualities described in this section are applicable to men and women. Both men and women should be:

  • beneficial to family (v. 12: “brings… good not harm”)
  • kind to the poor (v. 20)
  • hardworking (vv. 13, 15, 17, 19, 27)
  • productive (vv. 14, 16, 18)
  • prepared (vv. 21-22, 25)
  • wise (v. 26)
  • God-fearing (v. 30b)

So, when I read this passage, I see more than the description of a great woman. I see the description of what a godly life looks like when lived by a woman. You might call it a feminine portrayal of godliness or, better, a godly life applied specifically to women in daily Old Testament life.

Some of what is described here would have been considered “typical” for women in the time and situation when this was written. For instance, providing “food for her family” (v. 15b), making sure her family has warm clothing (v. 21), and watching “over the affairs of her household” (v. 27) were all considered women’s responsibilities. In many ways, they still are “typical” for women in our times.

But notice that this woman does many things which were not considered “typical” for women, especially in the Old Testament. The women described in this chapter is a first-rate businessperson according to verses 16, 18, 24. Many people who talk about the biblical role of women today don’t seem to notice this particular detail. Also, verse 26 says, “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” In a world where women were confined to an outer place in the temple and, later, to the back of the synagogue, one might not expect a woman to be wise and insightful, but she was.

Also notice that this exceptional woman is not forced to be exceptional because she is married to loser. Instead, “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (v. 23) and he “has full confidence in her” (v. 11a). The point is that this couple makes quite a team! The husband is himself faithful, hardworking, and successful but he is even more successful and resourceful because his wife takes care of business at home and even outside the home as well.

Already I have written more about this passage than I intended, but I never read it without (a) giving thanks for my wife Suzanne who fits the description in these verses and (b) thinking about what a slacker I am compared to this remarkable woman. Guys: this passage gives us a lot to think about for ourselves. Look to your own life before you start judging your wife by these words.

But please indulge me as I come to the real point I wanted to make in this devotional. It is Saturday, after all, so you probably have some extra time to read and think today. So, consider this:

The description of this woman was given in a particular context. The author of this chapter, King Lemuel (v. 1) was trying to give good life-advice to his son, presumably the future king. Lemuel prayed (v. 2b) for his son. Having received him, he urged him to be wise about how he lived his life. Lemuel’s concern was that his son would become a lazy, self-indulgent man. Because he was “born with a silver spoon in his mouth” (as they say), he might live for himself. Because he was a child of wealth, power, and privilege, it would be easy for him to make bad decisions that were pleasurable in the moment. Specifically, he could get involved with women who had loose morals and low character (v. 3) and he could spend his days getting drunk (vv. 4-7).

A prince of a guy like Lemuel’s son would probably find it easy to meet beautiful girls who would do and say anything to get with him. Win the future king’s heart and she would be set for life. Likewise, guys who wanted an easy route in life would show up with booze to share with the future king in hopes that they, his drinking buddies from way back, would get high paying, low stress jobs in his administration.

So the description of the wife of noble character in this chapter, while giving us all much to aspire to, was really designed to sober up (pun kind of intended) a young man destined for leadership. It was designed to get him to be wise about his choice of spouse. Don’t look for a beautiful girl who is easy, Lemuel was saying. Look hard for one of those precious ones (v. 10) who loves the Lord (v. 30), cares about people (v. 20), will nurture her family (vv. 14-15, 21) and will be a supportive, hardworking partner with you to build a successful life (vv. 28-31).

Beauty and godliness are not mutually exclusive. But there are great looking people–both men and women–who have low moral character. If we choose a partner in life based on looks alone or based on looks and personality, we are making a serious decision based on very weak grounds (v. 30a). A well-lived life depends on forming a strong partnership with someone you’re attracted to physically who also walks with God and works with you to make the most of whatever God allows into your life (v. 30b). I think my wife is gorgeous; I always have. I was attracted to her the first time I saw her and that has not changed. But I knew plenty of attractive girls before I met Suzanne who seemed to like me but didn’t care so much for the Lord. I kept looking for a godly, wise, and gifted young woman who was also attractive to me. When I found her, I kept pursuing her until she decided she wanted to be with me. Some of the girls I knew when I was single have made good choices and built admirable lives; Lemuel acknowledged in verse 29 that there are plenty of good women out there. But this entire chapter beckons to us all—men and women–to aspire to much more than a pretty good life. It calls us to be men (vv. 1-9, 23) and women (vv. 10-31) who take life seriously as believers in God and work together as a couple to build a praise-worthy union (vv. 28-29, 31).

Are you working with your spouse on that? Or are your wasting your time in self-indulgent behavior such as mindlessly watching TV for hours, undisciplined consumption of food and/or alcohol, dabbling in sinful pleasures, and making shallow, short-term decisions? The beginning of a new year, which arrives on Monday, gives us a chance to look at our lives and change them based on the wisdom we find in this chapter.

And, don’t forget to give your children a vision of what a well-lived life looks like. Encourage them to think about the long-term consequences of their choices in life and to make wise and godly choices.

May God use this convicting chapter as a means of grace to us, calling us to a higher way of living for his glory.