Archives for category: Devotional

Thus the men of Israel were subdued at that time, and the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the Lord, the God of their fathers.” (2 Chronicles 13:18, ESV)

The Emphasized Bible translates the words “they relied on” as “they leaned on” and that is a pretty good translation of the Hebrew word that is used here.  Here is one good definition of the word translated “they leaned on”:  “rely on, rest in, depend, i.e., have trust and belief in an object to the point of being in jeopardy if the object of trust fails.” [Dictionary of Biblical Languages Hebrew]

We can understand the word if we think of it this way.  Imagine that you visit the Grand Canyon and go to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This is a glass walkway that extends out over the rim of the Grand Canyon, so if it breaks while you are on it, you will plummet to your death.  When you walk out on that glass, you are relying on the fact that the engineers who designed the thing knew what they were doing, and that the glass won’t fail.  If the glass fails, your life is in danger.

When the men of Judah (sadly) battled their own brothers, they were at risk of losing that battle and the men of Israel prevailing over them.  However, the writer of Chronicles is careful (as he usually is) of assigning the first cause of the victory of Judah.  They relied on, they leaned on, the Lord the God of their fathers.

And they prevailed.

We do not battle in a literal army on behalf of the Lord in our day.  We are, however, called to rest upon him, to rely upon him, to trust in him for all matters great and small.  Indeed, this seems to be the whole essence of living the Christian life, learning to trust God even when we do not see or understand what he is up to.

Plumb puts the issue this way in her song God Help Me:

What will you ask of me?

Will I listen to your voice, when you speak?

Help me to move

Help me to see

Help me to do whatever you would ask of me

Or you can just listen to her yourself:

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For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, ESV)

John, near the end of the great prologue to his gospel, points out that there is something different between Moses and Jesus Christ, and this is a crucial truth.

The law was given through Moses, John writes. Jesus, however, did not come to give us the law, he came to give us something different, something that the law itself could not provide, he came to bring us grace and truth.

We might explain this by saying that Jesus Christ personified grace and truth.  What I mean by that is, if we want to understand grace and truth, if we want to see it in action, if we want to know what grace and truth are like, then we look to Jesus because he is the absolute, pure, perfect embodiment of grace and truth.

The law served its purpose, but Jesus came to live out the law perfectly, so that we who could not live the law perfectly might be declared perfect through Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the law and therefore made it obsolete.  We live under a New Covenant now, one that is sealed by Jesus’ shed blood at the cross and obtained by faith in him.

Jesus explains it this way, when he takes Passover with his disciples on the night that he was betrayed:

“In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.” (Luke 22:20 HCSB)

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, and going inside they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” (Luke 24:2–3 MOUNCE-NT)

I love Luke’s spare use of words here to describe the indescribable: they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

The women who first went to the tomb expected to find Jesus’ body and to minister to him in death by anointing his body. They were going to serve him, even though he could no longer serve them.  They were surprised, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

What these faithful ladies had not figured out yet, but would figure out very quickly, was that rather than serving Jesus themselves, he was serving them; he rose from the dead so that they would no longer be subject to death.  Their anointing oil was not necessary, and would never again be necessary.  They came to anoint a dead body, they were the first to discover, even though they didn’t realize it yet, that they were dealing with a risen body.

Can words even plumb the depths of events here?  This incident, recorded in such a short scene, is the pivotal event of history.  The world would not be the same because of it; all those who follow Jesus by faith have hope because of it; and without it, we are all hopeless.

They did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  Thank the Lord that they did not.

“He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he handed over Jesus to their will.” (Luke 23:25, Mounce NT)

Luke writes accurately here, Pilate really did hand over Jesus to the will of the mob that wanted to crucify an innocent man; however, that of course is not the end of the story.  Luke tells us the immediate cause of Jesus being crucified, Peter tells us the real cause:

“this Jesus, delivered up according to the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you, at the hands of those outside the law, executed by nailing him to a cross;” (Acts 2:23, Mounce NT)

and the gathered church prays:

“For truly there were gathered together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predetermined to be.” (Acts 4:27–28 MOUNCE-NT)

The crowd thought, and Pilate thought, that he was handing Jesus over to their will.  In reality God was working out his predetermined plan to save, not only the very people who were insistent on killing Jesus, but to save all those who give their sins to Jesus to be nailed to the cross. The crowd’s will, turned out to be God’s will; how this works I cannot explain, I can only bear witness.

 

“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, in which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  (Luke 22:7, Mounce NT)

For the past 1500(ish) years, God’s people had been celebrating the seven day Feast of Unleavened bread by sacrificing a lamb on the first day, a continual remainder of God’s deliverance of his people out of Egypt.  Unbeknownst to virtually everyone, as they sat down this evening after the sun had set and celebrated the great deliverance out of Egypt at the Passover, this would be the last lamb that they would need to sacrifice.  After this night, there would no longer be a need to sacrifice a lamb, because the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1.29) would be offered up the next night.  All of the lambs who had been sacrificed through the years were pointing forward to this moment in time.

Peter explains why Jesus is the Last Lamb:

knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18–19, ESV)

The Passover lamb had to be sacrificed and on Friday, he was sacrificed:  Once.  For all.

 

Who is it that conquers the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5.5, Mounce NT)

The word “conquer” is usually associated with words like “battle,” or “armies,” or “enemies,” or perhaps even “addiction,” rarely if ever is it associated with the word “believe.” It seems a fairly radical notion to say that belief in something results in conquering anything, and yet that is what we have from John here.

The word “believes” is the verb form of the noun “faith,” in Greek.  Believing that Jesus is the Son of God, results in conquering the world.  Now, John isn’t talking about physical conquering here, as if he were calling us to take over the world and form a one world government.  “The world” is the forces of sin and evil which are opposed to God and everything that he stands for.  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” John has already told his readers (1 John 2.15).

Faith overcomes the forces of sin—the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2.16) —and allows us to obey God’s commandments.  Faith has power, writes John, power to overcome all forces that oppose God and the children of God.

 

“The lips of the righteous feed many,
but fools die for lack of sense. ” (Prov 10.21, ESV)

To understand what Solomon is getting at (I think 😋) in this proverb, we have to remind ourselves what Solomon means by the righteous and fools.  To Solomon, the righteous are those who love God, who love and follow God’s law (see Ps. 119) and who encourage others to do likewise.  The fool, on the other hand, is the opposite of the righteous.  This person does not love God, does not love, nor follow God’s law, and encourages others not to love and follow God also.  The fool is diametrically opposed to God.

In this proverb, Solomon is speaking about words as a metaphor for spiritual food.  When those who love God and love his law speak, then those words will be spiritual food for everyone who listens and heeds their words. However, the words of the righteous will not be spiritual food for the fool.  Why not?  It’s because they do not listen to such words.  They don’t want to hear what God says, they have no interest in Him or in His laws, so they neglect it all.  This person will die for “lack of sense” (literally “lack of heart” in the Hebrew).  The fool will experience spiritual death rather than listen to the life-giving words of the righteous!

I like how the Passion Translation captures this verse:

The lovers of God feed many with their teachings,
But the foolish ones starve themselves
For lack of an understanding heart.

We would be wise, dear reader, you and I, to listen to the words of the righteous.