April 30 “Sin’s invisible hooks”

Sin is not something to be played with. In our pride we think we can handle it; it won’t get a hold on us, but sin has invisible hooks that can drag us down and take us places we never intended to go.

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. – unknown

sin's invisible hook

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 1-3
Psalm 53.1-6
Proverbs 15.8-11
Luke 20.27-47

1 Samuel 1-3:

Multiple wives—provoked and miserable

There’s so much good stuff in these 3 chapters! First once again, there’s the multiple wives issue. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, God never presents it as a good thing. He always shows the conflict and problems that resulted.

Notice verse 1.6a, “And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable …” Notice the words “rival,” “provoked” and “miserable.” Peninnah may have been provoked to jealousy (not an excuse, by the way) because Elkanah favored Hannah (1.5). She provoked Hannah because of her barrenness. Elhanah may have been a little provoked and frustrated himself, “Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1.8).

This was never the way God intended marriage to be.

But even in the midst of bad choices, God heard the prayer of His humble servant, Hannah. Notice how this faithful woman kept her vow to the Lord, “Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her … and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh.. And the child was young … For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there” (vv.24-28).

God’s judgment on willful, unrepentant sin

Next there’s the sad story of Eli and his two ungodly sons in chapters 2 & 3. This man knew what his sons were doing, stealing the part of the sacrifices that belonged to God and sleeping with women who came to the tabernacle, yet he failed to deal decisively with them. The boys themselves had so hardened their hearts through their sin and disobedience that “the Lord desired to kill them” (2.25). God added His judicial hardening to their willful hardening.

Romans 1 explains it this way: Continue reading

April 29 “Authority: I know what the Bible says, but …”

We’re tempted to scoff at the Pharisees and their refusal to acknowledge Jesus’ authority. We would never do that … or would we?

images[2]

Today’s Readings:
Ruth 3 & 4
Psalm 52.6-9
Proverbs 15.6-7
Luke 20.1-26

Ruth 3 & 4:

A kinsman-redeemer

Chapter 3 opens with these verses:

1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.”

5 And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.”

Even though the custom seems very strange to us, Ruth was obeying her mother-in-law and doing the morally right thing to appeal to Boaz to marry her under the levirate law. Boaz commended her for her request. After their marriage, the first child born to Boaz and Ruth was Obed, the grandfather of King David and ancestor of Jesus Christ.

Boaz as Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer was a type of Jesus Christ Himself who would later redeem us because we had been sold into sin and had no means to redeem ourselves.

Psalm 52.6-9:

The end of the wicked

The psalmist compares the ultimate destruction of evil doers and God’s care for the righteous. He acknowledges that the wicked may boastfully appear to succeed for a time, but will ultimately be judged and become a laughing stock. Continue reading

April 28 “Just call me “Bitter” … or “Fearful” or “Critical” or “Angry”!”

If someone was to describe you using one word, what would it be? Would it be kind, compassionate, joyful, thankful … or would it be ungrateful, fearful, critical, angry, or bitter?

bitter

Bitterness can make us self-focused rather than focused on the spiritual good of others. A lack of thankfulness can blind us to God’s blessings. Anger and criticism can destroy a relationship, a life, and a testimony.

Today’s Readings:
Ruth 1 & 2
Psalm 52.1-5
Proverbs 15.4-5
Luke 19.28-48

Ruth 1 & 2:

Famine and loss

We’re beginning the book of Ruth, a beautiful little story of God’s mercy and His redemptive work even in the midst of great sin and evil. This story takes place during the time of the judges when, as you remember, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

The story starts out talking about a famine in Bethlehem where Naomi and her husband Elimelech live. God often uses famine to discipline His people, but He also uses it to prune and grow and test them.

Because of the famine Elimelech takes his family, Naomi and his two sons, and moves to Moab where he dies. The boys marry and then die prematurely, too. Naomi hears that there is bread—prosperity—once again back home so she decides to return.

Packing up

Dr. Amy Baker, a teacher and counselor at Faith Baptist Church in LaFayette, Indiana, paints an interesting picture of this story. She pictures Naomi and her daughters-in-law packing and cleaning and getting the house ready to sell and finally loading the wagon and getting on the road headed for Jerusalem when Naomi says to the girls, in effect, “Why don’t you just go back home to your families? I’m not going to be any good to you.”

They obviously love Naomi. Both of them weep and tell her they want to go with her, but Orpah eventually heads back to her family. Ruth does not, instead, she insists on going with Naomi.

What is going on here? We don’t know all the details, but we can glean a great many truths—some of them sad and some beautiful. Continue reading

April 27 “Sin & its bizarre results” & LINK-UP

The consequences of rejecting God are not pretty. As one sin leads to another, the results are sad, costly, and sometimes downright bizarre.

sin

Today’s Readings:
Judges 20 & 21
Psalm 51.12-19
Proverbs 15.1-3
Luke 19.1-27

Judges 20 & 21:

Sin’s bizarre end

Today we wind up one of the saddest periods is Israel’s history—to quote MacArthur, “Judges 17-21 vividly demonstrates how bizarre and deep sin can become when people throw off the authority of God …”

Grab your partner … do-si-do

Can you imagine telling some cousins, we’re sorry you don’t have any women to marry you, but some of our other cousins are having a party and some of the girls will be out back dancing. So just grab some of them and we’ll look the other way!? Or how about offering your virgin daughter to a bunch of rapists or shaking up your complacent relatives by sending a part of your murdered wife’s body to each family. It makes you wonder why the human race has even survived this long … only because of the grace of God!

Our own bizarre consequences

But before we criticize our spiritual ancestors too harshly, we need to look at our nation today. Where has sin and the rejection of God led us?

… to men who bomb, kill, and maim innocent people to further some cause.
… to increasing numbers of people who commit murder-suicide, even of their own children, because of some grievance.
… to aborting our babies when pregnancy is inconvenient.
… to acceptance of homosexuality as just another lifestyle choice.
… to parents who defend their rebellious children instead of allowing them to suffer the consequences of their rebellion.
… to rampant divorce, adultery, abuse, fornication, self-harm, and the list could go on and on.

While laws and vigilance may help, the only real hope is for revival, starting in our own hearts. Then we must prepare ourselves to “be witnesses to [Him] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1.8b).

And when we’re tempted to feel like it’s hopeless, we need to remember that a handful of men and women going out in the power of the Holy Spirit to share the love and truth of God, without TV, radio, computers, planes, or any modern conveniences … turned the known world upside down (Acts 17.6)! Continue reading

April 26 “Broken bones & the Good Shepherd”

The Good Shepherd sometimes allows the “broken bones” of trials and hardships to keep us from running away from Him.

Good Shepherd

Today’s Readings:
Judges 17-19
Psalm 51.7-11
Proverbs 14.33-35
Luke 18.24-43

Judges 17-19:

“Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”

Verse 17.6, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This is the theme of the book of Judges and the stories it contains gives a graphic illustration of the moral condition of the nation as a result.

First we meet Micah, a man who steals from his own mother, and his mother, who doesn’t appear to take her son’s behavior very seriously. Instead, she takes the money he returns and makes idols for him to set up his own personal shrine, ignoring the fact that the people were to worship in Shiloh at this time.

Next we meet a corrupt priest, a man looking out for what was good for him, not what God had called him to or what was right. He allowed himself to be hired out as Micah’s personal priest, and then left when he was offered a better deal.

Then there is the sad story of another priest and his concubine. First we see the horrible moral condition of the people in the city where he lodges on his way home. Just like the men of Sodom, these men attempt to rape this male visitor to their city. And like in Sodom, the victims attempt to pacify them by offering them a young virgin girl and the priest’s concubine. As John MacArthur says in his notes, “This is unthinkable weakness and cowardice …” But when a society heads down that moral spiral, it’s often the women who suffer the most. Continue reading

April 25 “Persistent prayer” & LINK-UP

Are you persistent in prayer? Do you trust God and wait on His timing? Or do you quickly give up? Are you tempted to doubt God’s faithfulness?

prayer

Today’s Readings:
Judges 15 & 16
Psalm 51.1-6
Proverbs 14.31-32
Luke 18.1-23

Judges 15 & 16:

Sampson & God’s ability to use imperfect people

Talk about using imperfect people! Remember God’s purpose in all of this was that Sampson would “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (13.5). And even in Sampson’s death, God accomplished that purpose.

In the process, God blessed Manoah and his wife with the child they desired and other children, as well (v. 16.31). Although, it must have been a great grief to them to see this son with so much potential, to say nothing of the call of God on his life, waste his gifts and talents as he did. But it may have been a consequence of coddling and catering to him in his youth.

Even so, Sampson, like all of us, was responsible for his own personal choices. It seems to me that he was the one who found the least satisfaction in all of this. In the area of his personal relationships, he continually ran after whatever appealed to him. His motives were selfish and he sought to fulfill them in ungodly ways. Consequently, they never brought him any lasting joy, peace or satisfaction.

He even used the strength with which God had blessed him for his own selfish purposes. That, in combination with a sinful sexual relationship, eventually cost him his eyes and his freedom and turned him into a cheap carnival act. Such is the deceitfulness of sin. It never delivers what it promises! Continue reading

April 24 “Spoiled children become selfish adults”

How does your parenting help or hinder your children’s understanding of God? Can it set them up for failure in their relationships with a future spouse or others? Children who grow to expect whatever makes them happy, often approach the throne room of God like spoiled children and grow to be selfish adults.

spoiled children

Today’s Readings:
Judges 13 & 14
Psalm 50.16-23
Proverbs 14.29-30
Luke 17.20-37

Judges 13 & 14:!

Get her for me

Here we begin the story of Sampson. We’ll talk more about Samson’s calling and how God used him tomorrow, but today I’d like to comment on a few things about his relationship with his parents.

Obviously, these were loving people who desired a child very much. They believed in God and reverenced Him as we see from their responses when they realized they had been visited by the Lord.

But I have to wonder how they parented Samson. The first interaction we see between them and their son is in 14.1-2, “Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, ‘I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.'”

His parents wanted him to do what was right, “Then his father and mother said to him, ‘Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?'” (v. 3).

Sampson’s response, ““Get her for me, for she pleases me well” (v. 3). “Get her for me!” And, of course, they did. Sometimes in our love and desire to see our children “happy,” we can easily become indulgent with them, giving them the idea that the world revolves around them. Continue reading

April 23 “3 Promises of forgiveness & rash vows”

How can you forgive when you doubt the other person’s sincerity? How can you forgive when you don’t feel like it?

forgiveness

Today’s Readings:
Judges 11 & 12
Psalm 50.7-15
Proverbs 14.28
Luke 17.1-19

Judges 11 & 12:

A rash vow

Surely the story of Jephthah and his daughter is one of the hardest to understand. Jephthah makes a vow to the Lord, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” (vvs. 30-31). Verses 34-35:

34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.”

His daughter’s response is quite amazing. Verses 36-37:

36 So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.” 37 Then she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.”

We can’t be sure what this “sacrifice” actually was. One possibility is that her father actually sacrificed her. The other is that she became a perpetual virgin. Whatever it was, as John MacArthur said, “Jephthah made a rash vow to the Lord for which his daughter had to pay the primary consequence.”

A daughter’s faith & trust

How could God use Jephthah after he made such a rash and foolish vow? How could He use Sampson with his weakness for women or Gideon who repeatedly tested Him before he would obey?

If we look honestly at our own lives we would have to wonder the same. It’s not a testimony to the “goodness or wickedness” of those He uses, but a testimony to the mercy of God.

And I believe God reserved a special place in heaven for Jephthah’s daughter. What a great reward she must have received for her submissive heart and respect for her father in spite of his shortcomings.

It reminds me of the men and women who were martyred for their faith during the Reformation where women handed over their children to family members and willingly walked to the stake to be burned rather than forsake their faith. However, misguided Jephthah’s vow, his daughter showed great faith and trust in God. Continue reading

Is Jesus weeping with you or for you?

Jesus weeping

I’ve been reading a weekly devotional book called The Joshua Code by O.S. Hawkins. It’s a little gem of a book. There are 52 short chapters. Each one focuses on one of 52 verses every Christian should know.

Jesus weeping

This weeks verse is John 11.35, “Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the Bible and certainly an easy one to memorize.

Hawkins points out that there are two references to Jesus weeping. Here in John 11 Jesus is approaching Lazarus’s tomb. When he sees Mary and Martha’s grief, He weeps with them. He didn’t weep because of His friend’s death. He knew Lazurus would soon be restored to life. He wept because of the sisters’ sorrow.

In Luke 19 we find the other reference to Jesus weeping. It was Palm Sunday and Jesus was nearing Jerusalem. Verses 41-44:

41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

He wept because they had rejected truth.

He wept because they didn’t recognize their Messiah.

Jesus weeps over our sorrow and suffering. He also weeps over our sin, blindness, hardness of heart, and rejection of the Gospel.

When He weeps for you, is He crying with you or for you?

Donna

Click the link for more information about The Joshua Code and other resources.

April 22 “Polygamy & acceptable sins”

“Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament?” I’ve heard that question many times. The truth is, it has always been sin, but at that time it was an acceptable sin by most people’s standards. What sin have you allowed to become acceptable?

acceptable sins

Today’s Readings:
Judges 9 & 10
Psalm 50.1-6
Proverbs 14.25-27
Luke 16.1-31

Judges 9 & 10:

Acceptable sins

In Judges 8.30-31 we saw that Gideon fell into the sin of polygamy. Though it was tolerated in that society, it never was God’s intent. It always led to trouble and often outright evil as it did here in chapter 9. Sin always spirals downward unless repented of and forsaken. We meet Abimelech his son by another relationship (Gideon didn’t even marry this woman). Abimelech, not only conspired to become king of Shechem, but then went and killed all his brothers—70 of them—all except one who hid from him.

What is God saying to us through this story? What principles can we learn? Possibly about the dangers of compromise? If we trace this story back to 8.27, we see Gideon went from his great victory to making an ephod and setting it up in his hometown. An ephod generally referred to a sacred garment worn by a priest. Matthew Henry suggests this may have also included some kind of oracle to try to divine God’s will. Remember that the place of worship at this time was at Shiloh not here in Ophrah. The end of verse 27 says, “But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.” Continue reading