faithfulness

2 Samuel 10, Ezekiel 17

Today, read 2 Samuel 10 and Ezekiel 17.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 17.

God’s word through Ezekiel in this chapter came in the form of an allegorical parable about two eagles and one vine. The images in this parable are too intricate for me to explain in this devotional. But the main points are as follows:

The two eagles represent the kings of Babylon (v. 12) and Egypt (v. 15) respectively. The branch that became a vine represents Judah’s king (v. 12). He’s not named in this chapter but we know historically that it was Zedekiah. He was planted like a seedling (v. 5) in the sense that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon appointed him as a vassal king in Judah (v. 13). He had everything he needed to thrive under the rule of Babylon (v. 5: “fertile soil” and “abundant water”). Although Zedekiah was thriving under a deal he made with Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (v. 13) he reached out to Egypt (the second eagle in this story--v. 7) for help getting liberated from Babylon (v. 15). Because his thriving was dependent on the deal he made with Babylon (v. 14) and reaching out to Egypt was a violation of the deal (v. 18) Zedekiah king of Judah would be punished severely by the Babylonians, ultimately dying in Babylon (v. 20).

This was a prophecy to Zedekiah but it speaks volumes to anyone about making oaths and covenants before God with other people. Zedekiah made a deal with Nebuchadnezzar but he made that deal before God. When he decided to break it, he was being unfaithful to God. Note verses 19-20: “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: As surely as I live, I will repay him for despising my oath and breaking my covenant. I will spread my net for him, and he will be caught in my snare.”

So it is with us whenever we make a covenant. It could be the covenant you made with your spouse on the day you married. It could be a covenant you made in business or by becoming a member of this church. We make covenants with people but when we break them, we put ourselves under the judgment of God. The question, “Will it thrive?” (v. 9 and repeated in v. 10), is one that we should consider before we commit adultery, get divorced, change churches, or break business agreements unilaterally.

People break their agreements with others because they think they will thrive in a different arrangement. A “better” person comes along than the one they married, a cooler church entices them to visit and reconsider their decision to join Calvary, a more lucrative deal is presented to them than the one they’ve already made. People break their commitments because they think they can get a better deal but if God is displeased by your broken agreement, you should ask yourself, “Will [your new deal] thrive?”

Will your new relationship thrive if you’re cheating on your wife? Will your remarriage thrive if you broke faith with your first husband to get with this new guy? Will your family thrive in a new church if you left the last one for unbiblical reasons? Will your business thrive if you won’t honor your contracts and keep the promises you’ve made to vendors or employees or shareholders or business partners or customers?

There are biblical reasons for divorce and for leaving a church. There are also biblical ways to address problems in covenant relationships and even biblical ways for seeking to be released from a bad covenant you’ve made. In my experience, though, people don’t want to do the right thing in order to get out. They just want to get out and enjoy that greener grass over on the other side of the fence.

Are you considering breaking faith in some way? Let this passage cause you to reconsider.

Have you broken faith already in some way? Let this passage cause you to repent.

Jesus died to remove the wrath of God from us for our broken commitments so there is forgiveness and relief available in Him. That’s good because none of us is perfect at keeping our part of a bargain. If you’re tormented by broken covenants, look to Christ for forgiveness and look to his word for ways to get back on a righteous path. This is how you can thrive again.

But if you’re in Christ, you should do everything in your power to keep the covenants you’ve made with others. That is the righteous thing to do and Jesus died not only to become our righteousness before God but also to teach and empower us to live righteously (see Titus 2:11-12 “in this present age.” So let’s be careful about the commitments we make and be conscientious about keeping them once we’ve made them.

Judges 20, Jeremiah 34

Today, read Judges 20 and Jeremiah 34.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 34.

Zedekiah, though he was an ungodly king, had led Israel to free their Hebrew slaves (vv. 8-9). It was never God’s plan to have Jews who were permanently held as slaves in Israel or Judah. Instead, God’s law created a form of indentured servitude. A Jewish person who was in a financial corner could sell himself to another Jewish man for up to six years. On the seventh years, he was to be set free. Jeremiah pointed this out in verse 14. In verse 15-16, he had positive words for how they had freed their Hebrew slaves and even made a covenant with God about it (vv. 8, 15c).

Unfortunately, God’s people broke their covenant with him and took back the very slaves they had freed (v. 16). God prophesied again that they would be taken into exile by the Babylonians (vv. 17-20) as this act of unfaithfulness to the covenant was added to many other sins of the nation.

Entering a covenant to free the slaves was not necessary. They could have simply freed the slaves and honored that verbal decision accordingly. But making that covenant was a good thing, even if it was unnecessary. It is pleasing to God when we resolve to do the things that we know from his word. What isn’t pleasing to God, however, is when we tell God we will do something and then we change our minds and refuse to do it.

Have you told God you would do something--read the Word, tithe, attend church more faithfully, find a way to serve the poor, or something else--and then took it back? I’m not talking about obeying imperfectly; I’m talking about deliberately changing your mind about a good decision you made for God? Jesus died to save us from the covenants we make and break but he also empowers us to keep the covenants we make with God and others. If this passage reminds you of something you promised to God but either changed your mind about or just became lax about, then resolve today to return to that thing and do it for the glory of God.

Numbers 32, Isaiah 24, Psalm 137

Today, read Numbers 32, Isaiah 24, and Psalm 137.

This devotional is about Numbers 32.

Have you ever made plans based on something someone else promised they would do? For instance, have you ever signed a purchase agreement to buy a home because you had a contract to sell your home to someone else? Every had that other person that you were counting on back out?

If so, then you know how painful it is to take someone at his word, make plans based on him keeping his word, then have to scramble when that person didn’t want to do what they said they would do.

That’s where Moses was here in Numbers 32 and why he was so mad at the Gadites and Reubenites in this chapter. For Israel to take the Promised Land, they needed their army at full strength. When the Reubenites and Gadites decided that they wanted to stay and occupy the land East of the Jordan (vv. 1-5), it seemed like a breach of trust, a refusal to do what all God’s people had believed God for and had agreed together to do. It looked to Moses like Kadesh Barnea, part 2 (vv. 6-13). Moses went so far as to call them “you brood of sinners” (v. 14) for not wanting to possess the land with the rest of the tribes of Israel.

People often make agreements and then break them without cause. Sometimes we cannot keep an agreement we’ve made because we have an illness or injury that makes it impossible or a financial setback that leaves us without the money we need to do what we said we’d do. In those cases, you haven’t broken your agreement; God allowed circumstances into your life that prevented you from keeping it. Other passages in scripture talk about what to do if you can’t keep an agreement you’ve made, but the basic principle of scripture is that God expects us to do what we’ve said we will do. When we decide to renege on an agreement we’ve made, we’ve acted contrary to the nature of our Father. He is faithful to his promises and always does what he said he would do. As we grow in Christlikeness, we should be more and more trustworthy and faithful to the promises and agreements we make to others.

Are you a man or woman of your word? When you say that you’ll do something, do you do it even if it is costly? Is there something you said you’d do that you’re thinking about backing out of today?

Ultimately Moses brokered a deal that allowed these tribes to have the land they wanted outside the Promised land while still helping the rest of God’s people to inherit the land (vv. 16-22). If Gad and Reuben refused to abide by the new agreement, they would “be sinning against the Lord” (v. 23). So are you and I if we do not keep our word to others.

Genesis 46, Job 12, Psalm 44

Today’s readings are Genesis 46, Job 12, and Psalm 44.

This devotional is about Psalm 44.

The “sons of Korah” who wrote this song were servants in the temple. That’s all we know about them. David was the beginning of music and lyrics in tabernacle/temple worship, so they followed him, but we don’t know how closely or how many years removed they were from David’s life and leadership of Israel.

We do know, however, that whoever wrote this song was longing for God to work in Israel. Verses 1-3 describe generally the work of God for Israel by bringing them military victory. This refers to conquest of Joshua, some of the victories of the Judges, and Saul and David’s victories. Because these men trusted God, God faithfully used them to win. But those “wins” came from God, as we read in verse 3: “It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.” God’s work in those victories was a display of his power and love on behalf of his people.

The Psalmist wants that to happen again. Verses 4-8 draw parallels to the men God used in the past. They trusted in God and so did the writer (vv. 4, 6). They glorified God for their wins (v. 1) and so did the author of this Psalm (v. 8). But the results were not the same. Although the Psalmist had experienced some victories from the Lord (vv. 5, 7), he had recently witnessed some severe defeats (vv.9-16).

The simplistic answer for these defeats would be that God is punishing Israel for her sins. (This is the same viewpoint that Job’s friends had, incidentally.) But in verses 17-18, the Psalmist denied straying from God. Yet the defeats came and continued (v. 19). God knew their hearts (vv. 20-22), so the author was confident that it was not a sin punishment that was causing these losses. In verses 23-26, then, he concluded his song in faith. He was not content to think, “Well, God provided for our ancestors but he’s not doing that any more for us.” Instead, he calls out the Lord. You made a promise to us, Lord (v. 26b: “unfailing love”), so show up and display your power for our blessing once again.

There is, sometimes, a tendency to think that God won’t do today the things he did in the past. God isn’t saving people in our land anymore or he isn’t building great, strong churches. We just have to be content, one might think with little candles of hope today, not the great roaring flame of God’s power.

Have you ever thought this way?

Well..., has Jesus’s promise, “I am with you to the very end of the age” been rescinded? Is it no longer true that “All power has been given, in heaven and on earth” to him? Of course not! So, when we read of God’s power, his provision, his salvation and his work in the past, our response shouldn’t be, “Too bad he’s not doing that anymore.” Instead, it should be, be faithful God and do it again!

Let’s pray that way today over anything that you are concerned or discouraged about. God’s power isn’t for the past; it is here for every age and every believer who calls to him in faith for it.

Genesis 12, Nehemiah 1, and Psalm 11

Today’s scheduled readings are Genesis 12, Nehemiah 1, and Psalm 11.

This devotional is about Genesis 12.

Every large nation, every big, extended family, every large church or institution or corporation once started out as something small. Even if it scaled up quickly, it began with the idea and ambition of one person or a small group of people.

God promised Abram that he would become “a great nation” (v. 2) when all he had was his wife and nephew. In faith, Abraham believed God’s promises and rearranged his life to be obedient.

That’s verses 1-9. In verse 10 and following, however, Abram acted in fear rather than faith. He instructed his wife to deceive, putting her in jeopardy so that he could protect himself. It was quite a departure from the venture of faith we read about in verses 1-9.

Although Abram was inconsistent in his faith, God was faithful. Because of his promises, God acted supernaturally to extricate Abram and Sarai from the problem that Abram’s unbelief created.

Isn’t it amazing how good God is? He calls us to trust him and is patient with us when our trust in him buckles a little in the knees. If you are the kind of Christian who is always wondering if God still accepts you, let this passage encourage you. None of us is always completely obedient to God at all times. Far from it, actually. It is not our faithfulness that matters; it is the object of our faith. If your faith is in yourself--your consistency, your obedience, your morality, your dependability, or whatever, that will do you know good because you can never be perfect.

If your faith is in God, however, he won’t abandon you when you fail. His character, his promise, and the righteousness of his son applied to us is all that we will ever need.

Revelation 10

Today, read Revelation 10.

Before that seventh trumpet sounded, John saw the vision described in this chapter. While the language in this chapter describes a visually stunning scene, very little of what John saw here is interpreted for us directly.

The “mighty angel” is another revelation of Christ. This interpretation is based on the description of his appearance in 10:1, the stance he took of one foot on land and the other on the sea, and the description of his voice in verse 3 as “a loud shout like the roar of a lion.”

After seeing and hearing him, John was commanded to take the scroll he came with and eat it (v. 9). This is a strange thing to do with a scroll but God was making a point with visuals here. As John ate the scroll, it tasted great (vv. 9-10) but was nauseating when digested (v. 10). The scroll, then, was God’s word but particularly God’s word of judgment. Once John digested its message, he learned that he “...must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings” (v. 11). The taste of sweetness when John ate it visualized that it was God’s word; the sourness John felt as he digested it described how painful the message would be. Nevertheless, as a servant of the Lord, he must be obedient to what God commanded him to do.

None of us has the same level of responsibility for God’s truth as John did; each of us, however, is aware of the painful rebukes and promises of judgment God’s word has for unbelief and sin. Are you prepared to be faithful to what God’s word teaches, even if thinking about the consequences of disobedience make you sick?

1 Chronicles 11–12, Hebrews 13, Amos 7, Luke 2

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 11–12, Hebrews 13, Amos 7, Luke 2. 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 Amos 7.

Amos was an unsophisticated man, a redneck from the Southern Kingdom who tended sheep and cared for sycamore trees (v. 14) but the Lord sent him to prophesy to both Israel and Judah about his coming judgment. Those yankees in the Northern Kingdom objected to the message of that hillbilly from the south. One of Israel’s religious leaders, Amaziah a priest of the false religion that Jeroboam I established in Judah misconstrued his message in order to try to silence Amos. Amos had been prophesying exile to the Assyrians, but Amaziah told Jeroboam II that his message was “raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel” (v. 10b). Amaziah then ordered Amos to deport himself back to the south (v. 12). His reason? “...because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.” In other words, this is a safe space for king Jeroboam. He shouldn’t have to hear a troubling prophecy like this in his own backyard. 

Those who hate the Lord will eventually seek to silence his word. If they can threaten and intimidate us his messengers, as Amaziah tried to do, then we make it easy on them to avoid accountability and live the way they want. Faithfulness to the Lord, however, requires us to speak truth--lovingly, yes, calling people to repentance, but also firmly, directly, consistently (vv. 15-16). In our country, those who seek to silence God’s word may have lost access to the strong arm of government for the moment--we’ll see about that in the days ahead. But they still have unjust judges in the courts to try to punish us for speaking about our faith and, failing that, they have public pressure, threats, and intimidation. Amos was a brave man; what he may have lacked in urban sophistication was more than offset by his faith in God and determination to keep speaking his truth. Let’s follow his example and be clear and consistent in speaking for the Lord until he comes.

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.

2 Kings 9, 1 Timothy 6, Hosea 1, Psalm 119:73–96

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 9, 1 Timothy 6, Hosea 1, Psalm 119:73–96. 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 Hosea 1.

The Lord told some of his prophets to do difficult things. He allowed others to experience painful things as a result of their prophecies.  The ministry he called Hosea to do has to have been among the most difficult; his marriage was to serve as a metaphor for the Lord’s relationship to Israel. As we saw in today’s reading, God commanded him to marry a woman and told him in advance that she would be unfaithful to him. Then, when she bore children, each child was given a difficult name. His firstborn son, Jezreel, was named after a valley (v. 5) but it was a valley where Jehu killed and where Israel would suffer a great defeat. His daughter was named “Not Loved” and his final son was named “Not My People.” Imagine the jeering his children took from other kids because of their names; imagine how difficult everything about Hosea’s family life must have been.

Despite this difficult object lesson of judgment, however, chapter 1 ends with words of hope: “In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’” Although Israel was unfaithful to God through their idol worship and that unfaithfulness would cause separation in their relationship with God, the separation would be temporary. True to his word, God re-affirmed his commitment to Israel and promised again that he would complete the promises of his covenant.

Let this encourage you if you are feeling defeated by sin and wondering if God will forgive you. God’s nature is to be faithful and loving and that means he is forgiving to those who claim his promises by faith. So, claim his promises and turn to him for forgiveness.

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.

2 Kings 7, 1 Timothy 4, Daniel 11, Psalm 119:25–48

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 7, 1 Timothy 4, Daniel 11, Psalm 119:25–48. 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 Daniel 11.

Today’s reading in Daniel 11 continued the interpretation of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10. The speaker in this chapter is an angel who was sent to interpret Daniel’s vision. Daniel 10-12 is a remarkable passage that predicted in detail the future events that followed the Medo-Persian empire as well as some events that are still future to us. Sorting all this out and explaining it is beyond what I’m trying to accomplish with these devotionals. But there is something devotional for us to take away from this passage today. In verses 30b-31 we read, “He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant. His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation….” This all refers to a king from the Seleucid (Greek) Empire named Antiochus. The Jewish people were divided with some who worshipped the gods of the Greeks and others who worshipped the Lord. Verse 30 described him showing “favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.” These are the Jewish people who worshiped the false Greek gods. In verse 31, we were told that, “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice.” This refers to the time when Antiochus outlawed the worship of the Lord and ended the sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. He actually went further than just ending the sacrifices commanded in Moses’ law. Antiochus had an altar to Zeus constructed in the Jewish temple and sacrificed a pig (a ceremonially unclean animal, unfit for worship in the Lord’s temple) on that altar to Zeus. Verse 32 told us that he would flatter the Jewish people who had forsaken the Lord for the gods of the Greeks, and then verse 32 concluded with this, “…but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” This prophesied the rise of the Maccabees, a group led by Judas Maccabaeus, who were faithful to Moses’ law and successfully battled Antiochus into withdrawing from Judea. The Maccabees then cleansed the temple and restored it to the covenant worship of the Lord. Notice from verse 32 that they key to this resistance was that it was led by “the people who know their God.” This phrase means that they were students of God’s word and believed it. They believed God’s covenant with Israel was true and that God’s laws were to be kept. Their faith in God led to their unexpected victory. God’s word taught them who God was and that empowered them to claim God’s  promises by faith and valiantly—and successfully—fight when the odds were against them.

This passage, then, in addition to providing a prophecy that was historically fulfilled also gives us a template for successful resistance in a world dominated by unbelief and that wants to suppress and even extinguish our faith. The way we combat the hostility to God around us is to know him through his word, believe his promises and live accordingly. 

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.

2 Kings 2, 2 Thessalonians 2, Daniel 6, Psalms 112–113

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 2, 2 Thessalonians 2, Daniel 6, Psalms 112–113. 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 Daniel 6.

The Babylonians who conquered Judah have given way to the Medo-Persian empire, yet Daniel remains influential even in the new administration (vv. 1-2). In fact, Daniel was so good at his job that King Darius intended to elevate him over all everyone but Darius himself (v. 3b). When the other administrators heard about this, they were jealous of Daniel and sought to catch him in some kind of misconduct (v. 4a). Verse 4b says that “they were unable to do so.” Why? “…because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (v. 4d). Did you catch that? Not only was Daniel not corrupt, he was not “negligent” either. This means they could find no responsibility where he failed or refused to do his job. 

That’s quite a statement. We all have responsibilities we like and those we dislike. If you’re like me at all, doing the stuff you like to do is easy but it is also easy to neglect the stuff you dislike doing. A busy man like Daniel would have had an abundance of excuses, too, for why he couldn’t do what he disliked. He could blame his busy schedule, the people under him for being incompetent, or trying to prioritize his work. But the men who wanted Daniel indicted couldn’t find any area to accuse him. As followers of Jesus, this is something we should aspire to as well. Since we are working as to the Lord and not to men we should, of course, be honest and upstanding but we should also be so conscientious that even the things we dislike doing are done carefully and faithfully.

Not only is it remarkable that these men could not accuse Daniel of corruption or negligent, it is remarkable that they KNEW they could get him if they could make his faith illegal in some way. Daniel was faithful not only in his work but he was faithful in his walk with God. The men who were out to destroy Daniel knew that they could get him in trouble if they could make prayer against the law (vv. 5-13). If someone were looking to accuse us, would they go to our devotional life as the sure-fire way to trip us up?

You know the rest of the story as it is one of the most famous stories in the Bible. Daniel was supernaturally protected from the lions (vv. 14-23) and eventually his accusers were brought to justice (v. 24). The result of all this was a decree from Darius commanding the people to fear Daniel’s God (vv. 25-28). He trusted in the Lord completely, consistently, devotedly and the Lord delivered him even in a hostile culture to his faith. May God give us the same desire to be faithful and careful in our work and to be devoted to reading his word and praying daily, filling our minds with his truth and living obediently to 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.

1 Samuel 23, 1 Corinthians 4, Ezekiel 2, Psalm 38

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Samuel 23, 1 Corinthians 4, Ezekiel 2, Psalm 38. 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 Ezekiel 2.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel lived and prophesied during much of the same era of time. This was the time when the Northern Kingdom (Israel) had been displaced by the Assyrians and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) was in decline and would eventually be taken captive by the Babylonians. The difference between them is that Jeremiah prophesied before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and after it fell where as Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry began only after Jerusalem fell while he was with the other exiles in Babylon (1:1).  Instead of serving God as a priest, which he would have by birth (1:2), Ezekiel was called by God to see visions (chapter 1) and to prophesy to God’s people in exile. Here in Ezekiel 2 he received a direct message from God himself, a message that commissioned him to call the rebellious people of Israel to repent. Jeremiah had faithfully proclaimed the word of the Lord, even when he was imprisoned for his message and when the Lord’s enemies plotted to take his life. Ezekiel, too, was told to be faithful with the message the Lord gave him (vv. 4-8) regardless of whether people responded in repentance and obedience or not. The reason God sent Ezekiel and told him to keep prophesying even when there were no results was that “they will know that a prophet has been among them” (v. 5c). God’s people may have rejected his message, but God would not withhold that message from them. 

What purpose was served by sending prophets to people who would not listen and repent? The answer is that it removes their excuse and renders them guilty before God (see Rom 3:19). While it is hard to keep speaking truth in a hard-hearted world, God has a purpose for his word going out even when there is no response to it. Messengers like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and us are not held accountable for how people respond to the message. Only God can transform a heart that his hard to his message through the power of the Spirit. What we are responsible for is to be faithful—faithful in speaking what God said without subtractions, additions, or apologies and faithful in living the truth in our own lives.

Maybe you’ve been praying for someone and witnessing to them when you can or maybe you’ve been praying about witnessing to someone but feel like it will be useless to do because you’re sure they won’t respond in faith. Let God’s word to Ezekiel in this chapter speak to you, too. God put us where he put us for a purpose and he commanded us to be faithful in speaking his word for his purposes. Success in evangelism is always encouraging, but lack of success isn’t an indictment of you as a messenger. The only time we have failed to serve God in evangelism is when we have failed to speak for God when we have the chance. Let’s learn to trust the Lord’s word and his purposes and just be faithful in giving the message—as clearly, compassionately, and convincingly as we can, yes. But none of those is as important as speaking faithfully.

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.

Joshua 24, Acts 4, Jeremiah 13, Matthew 27

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 24, Acts 4, Jeremiah 13, Matthew 27. 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 Joshua 24.

After seeing all the disobedience and devastation that happened in Israel during the wilderness wandering, I think having success in Canaan would have been very satisfying for Joshua. Yes, there was the painful defeat at Ai and the bad decision regarding the Gibeonites, but for the most part there was victory and prosperity after. God kept his promises to Israel and Joshua saw those promises kept and, in fact, was used by the Lord to lead Israel to those promises. Here is a man who served God with his life and lived a long time (v. 29), seeing God work throughout his lifetime (vv. 5-10) but watching the best of times in the last part of his life (vv. 11-13) . Before his death, he used his status to exhort Israel once again to serve the Lord and remain faithful to him (vv. 14-15, 19-20). God’s people affirmed their desire to serve the Lord and re-committed to following him (vv. 16-18, 21-28). Verse 31 summarized what the results of Joshua’s leadership was like: “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.” The past was amazing and the future seemed bright. What a way to go out of this world and into eternity.

God’s will for Jeremiah was not so happy and satisfying. Those idols that Joshua warned about (v. 23) were a perennial threat to Israel. In Jeremiah 13, which we read today, God was running out of patience with Israel’s idolatry (v. 10). He therefore spoke through Jeremiah to warn Judah of coming captivity (vv. 24-25). It was the message God’s people needed, but doing God’s will seems like a lot more fun if you were Joshua than if you were Jeremiah.

The lives of these two men and the glimpse we had today into their ministries reminds us that spiritual success is not really measured by visible results. Given the outcome of their lives, we would be tempted to consider Joshua an incredible leader, a grand slam success. We would also tend to think Jeremiah was a strikeout, an abject failure. Yet both men were successful spiritually because they did the will of God during their lives. Let the stories of these two men encourage you today; if your service to God is fruitful, give thanks and glory to God for his blessing on your faithful work. If your service to God is not as fruitful but you’ve been faithful to what he’s called us to do, commit your work and its outcome to him and keep serving faithfully. Rewards await the faithful servant, not the one who wins the biggest victories in this life.

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.

Joshua 20–21, Acts 1, Jeremiah 10, Matthew 24

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 20–21, Acts 1, Jeremiah 10, Matthew 24. 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 Joshua 21-22.

How patient are you on a scale of 1-100? Even if you gave yourself a 100 (meaning: incredibly patient), none of us can compare in patience to God. God is so patient that he cannot be rated on a scale of any kind. One of the deep lessons we learn reading scripture is that God’s patience, while not infinite, is on a level that none of us can even understand. He promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the promised land called Canaan. Today’s passage records the fulfillment of that promise: 

Joshua 21:43-43: “So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” 

In between Genesis 12 and Joshua 21, hundreds of years have passed. Abraham’s family grew large, as God had promised that they would, but they spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt then wandered in the desert for 40 years more. Millions of Jewish people were born, lived, and died before God kept his promise in Joshua 21. Clearly, God was in no hurry to make good on his promise, but he was not lazy about keeping it either. A look at the long timeline of scripture reveals that God usually takes much longer—generations, even—than we would expect to keep his promises. Yet, he did keep them in his time. 

Why does God wait so long? Faith. Each generation that heard of God’s promises and put their hope in the fulfillment of those promises had to exercise faith. They had the choice to reject God’s word and his promises or to believe that God would keep his promise….eventually. Even the people who saw the fulfillment of these promises here in Joshua 21 had to exercise faith; they had to obey what God said, whether that involved marching around Jericho or attacking other cities through more conventional means of warfare. Though the fulfillment was in their grasp, only the obedience that comes from faith could bring God’s word from promise to fulfillment.

God remains as patient as ever when it comes to keeping his promises. Jesus promised to return “soon” (Rev 22:12), yet thousands of years have passed since he made that promise. 2 Peter 3:8-9 told us that this might be the case: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The challenge for us is faith; to continue trusting in God, clinging to his promises, even though the fulfillment might not come in our lifetime. God has a different conception of time than we do and his fulfillments take generations, sometimes, to become true. But today’s passage shows us that God never forgets his commitments; he keeps every one but in his time and in his way.

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 o