forgiveness

1 Chronicles 3-4, Amos 3

Today we’re reading 1 Chronicles 3-4 and Amos 3.

This devotional is about Amos 3.

Judgment is coming to Israel but in this chapter God tells his people that they shouldn’t be surprised when it arrives. The chapter begins by reminding Israel that God chose them to be blessed and rescued them from Egypt (vv. 1-2a). Then in verses 3-6, God’s prophet reminds the people that things happen for a reason. Specifically:

People don’t randomly walk side by side; the reason they walk side by side is that they have agreed to take a walk together (v. 3). Lions don’t roar when they are hunting; that would scare off their prey. The reason they roar is that they have caught something and want to keep others from trying to take it (v. 4). Birds don’t fly into traps; they get caught in traps because they are drawn there by bait (v. 5a-b). The trap doesn’t close on its own; rather, the reason it closes is that something has taken the bait (v. 5c-d). When someone sounds an alarm, people get scared because the alarm was triggered by incoming armies. When you have a live person blowing the trumpet’s alarm, you don’t get alarm malfunctions or need drills like we have. So people had a reason to be scared when they heard the sound of a trumpet.

So, things usually happen for a reason and the reason that Samaria would fall and Jerusalem would, too, later is that “the Lord caused it” (v. 6d).

The good news, though, is that God warns his people before he sends judgment on them. That’s the message of verse 7, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” The rest of the chapter goes on to tell the people, again, that God has warned them through his prophets. The implication, then, is that they should repent.

People don’t like messages of judgment. Who would? No fortune cookie will tell you that within a year you’ll be dead of cancer. Who would want to read that? Some people would complain to restaurant’s management if they got a fortune like that. But if you were dying from cancer and didn’t know it, that’s exactly the message you’d need to hear, like it or not. An accurate diagnosis gives one a chance to avoid the inevitable disaster.

God has left us in this world to make disciples but also to warn the world of God’s coming judgment. People complain and call us unloving when we talk about sin, judgment, and hell; they should understand that the message of warning is a gracious act of God. On the day of judgment no one will escape by saying, “I didn’t know I was guilty before God.” On the contrary; many will have as part of their condemnation the fact that they heard the warning of God’s word and ignored it.

If you are reading this and have not come to faith in Jesus, please listen to the warnings of God’s word and turn to him in faith and repentance now. If you’ve already become a Christian, please don’t avoid talking about God’s justice and the need that everyone has for forgiveness.

Judges 10:1-11:11, Jeremiah 23

Our OT18 readings for today are Judges 10:1-11:11 and Jeremiah 23.

This devotional is about Judges 10:16b: “And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.”

The book of Judges recorded God’s relationship with Israel in the Promised Land before the era of the kings began. Israel was settled in the promised land but they still struggled to trust God and live according to his word. The result of their struggle was a cycle that repeated continuously throughout the book of Judges including here in our reading for today:

  • Phase 1: Disobedience (10:6) to God’s word which led to:
  • Phase 2: Defeat & oppression by their enemies as an act of God’s judgment (10:7-9).
  • Phase 3: Repentance in which God’s people turned to him for relief from their enemies (10:10-16).
  • Phase 4: Deliverance in which God sent a judge to give them victory over their enemies (11:1ff).
  • Phase 5: Obedience (for a while) until they lapsed back into phase 1.

As the shampoo bottle says, “Rinse and repeat.”

Throughout all phases this cycle--and, in fact, at every stage in Israel’s history--God’s love for his people remained. He stayed committed to the covenant he had made with them even despite their disobedience and failure. Here in 10:11-14, God pushed back a bit on their repentance. He reminded them of all the times he had saved them after their repentance (v. 11) then told them to forget about it this time (v. 12) like a young girlfriend or boyfriend who says, “We’re never getting back together again.”

God’s compassion remained, despite his frustration and their suffering under the Ammonites got under God’s skin, too. As verse 16b put it, “And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.” Sin brings misery and suffering and, although God loves justice, he does not enjoy the suffering that his people endure for their sins. This is why he forgives us again and again and again when we repent. It is the infinite merits of Christ who lived as our righteousness and died as our sacrifice that keeps us in God’s good graces but it is also the incredible compassion of God that keeps him faithful to us as well.

Our sin struggles--meaning, our repeated failures despite good intentions--may cause us to wonder at times if God will ever stop forgiving us. That, in turn, may cause us to wonder if we should even bother repenting. This verse and many others in scripture teach us that God’s compassion and mercy is much greater than we can imagine. If you are in Christ, keep striving for holiness and don’t ever quit because you fear God’s displeasure. In Jesus we are accepted; his blood allows the ocean of God’s compassion to keep restoring us when we look to him.

So keep looking to him....

Joshua 12, Jeremiah 6

Today we’re reading Joshua 12 and Jeremiah 6.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 6:15: “Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush....”

There are two kinds of shame--internal and external. That is, there are times you feel ashamed and there are times that others try to shame you. (They might even use the words “shame on you,” though it has been a long time since I’ve heard someone say that).

Anyway, external shame is about judging others. When someone tries to shame others, that person is using emotional and psychological pressure to get people to stay in line or get back in line. This kind of shame is rampant in our culture. Political correctness is external shame; so is “body shaming” someone who is considered unattractive because of weight or body shape or whatever. When it comes to morality, external shame can be appropriate. Shame on the person who takes another person’s life in murder or who kidnaps a child or who rapes or molests someone else. If these and other wicked behaviors are not considered shameful, human society is in big trouble. But there is a lot of inappropriate--even wicked--external shaming in our world; this devotional, however is not about external shame.

No, Jeremiah 6:15 is about internal shame. It is about the feelings of guilt that sinners should feel for disobedience to God’s holy commands. When Jeremiah prophesied, God’s people did not feel this sense of shame about their sins. Instead, they had “no shame at all.” Their idolatry, violence, dishonesty, greed, etc. did not make them feel bad.

Nor did they try to hide these sins from others; the praise, “they do not even know how to blush...” in verse 15 suggests that the sins God’s people were committing were known to others; those guilty of those sins were not embarrassed at all that others knew they had sinned in these ways.

Judging others and shaming them externally is often wrong; feeling shame internally, however, is a good thing. It is not valued in our world, but it is a good thing nonetheless. It is good because it shows that someone has a sensitive conscience. Someone who fears God and his word will feel shame when they sin. That shame can be the beginning of a better future because it can cause someone to repent and to cry out to God for mercy and grace. When someone is unashamed of his or her sin, however, that person can’t even see the need for God’s grace and mercy because they don’t feel the alarm bells going off to tell them that they are guilty before a holy God.

So who sins in these ways and does not feel internal shame? The answer is someone who has sinned that way so many times that they have dulled the voice of conscience. Like a callous on your hand that has become numb to friction or pain, we can weaken our conscience through repeated, unrepentant sin to the point that our sins no longer bother us.

Jesus is the only true solution to internal shame. We can numb ourselves to shame but only Jesus can take it away. He does so when we believe that he has died for our sins, standing in as our substitute to receive the wrath that we deserve from God for our wickedness.

What are you ashamed of? Will you keep burying it until you are desensitized completely to it or will you confess it and claim the forgiveness God will give you in Christ?

What aren’t you ashamed of that you should be? Will you ask God not only for forgiveness but to make your conscience sensitive to sin again?

Deuteronomy 16, Isaiah 43

Today read Deuteronomy 16 and Isaiah 43.

Today, read Isaiah 43.

In this chapter God calls his people to follow him. He promised his presence with them and urged them not to fear (v. 1). He said that he would preserve them through problems and trials (vv. 2-3). He told them he loved them (v. 4) and reminded them that they were witnesses to the world that he was the true God in opposition to other so-called gods (vv. 9-13).

Despite all of this grace, God bemoaned the fact that his people did not worship him (vv. 22-24). Instead of “burdening” God with worship, God told his people that, “you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses” (v. 24). All of this demonstrates how deep our depravity is. God pours grace after grace, promise after promise on us; instead of smothering God with praise, thanks, and worship, we prefer idols and weigh the Lord down with our sins.

Thankfully, verse 25 reminds us, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” This is the most immediately important promise for us in this life. Despite the weight and enormity of our sins, God graciously forgives them all. And why does he do this? Because of his love? Yes, but in the immediate context he told us that forgiveness is granted “for my own sake.” It is part of the immutable nature of God to be compassionate and forgiving. When God forgives us, he doesn’t demonstrate weakness; he shows us the enormous strength of his character.

What is the worst sin you’ve ever forgiven someone for? What about the worst sin that God has ever forgiven for you? Does God’s forgiveness open your heart to him in thanks and worship?

Numbers 11, Isaiah 1, Psalm 119:121-144

Today’s passages to read are Numbers 11, Isaiah 1, Psalm 119:121-144.

This devotional is about Isaiah 1.

This book of prophecy was written to the “kings of Judah,” the Southern Kingdom after Israel divided during the days of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. The Southern Kingdom was the “good” one of the two kingdoms in the sense that it had 8 kings that “did right” in the sight of God during their reigns. Three of them, Uzziah, Jotham, and Hezekiah (v. 1) ruled during Isaiah’s prophetic ministry. So, three out of the four kings who reigned over Judah did so during Isaiah’s life and ministry. Or, to look at it another way, 3 of only 8 kings who did what was right before God ruled during Isaiah’s ministry.

Yet, despite three good kings, Israel was a mess spiritually. Isaiah had very strong language condemning the people for their rebellion (v. 2d), for forsaking the Lord (v. 4e). Within these words of condemnation are also strong words of promise. ““Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” As evil as the Judeans had become, God wanted nothing more than to forgive and restore them (v. 26). In fact, implicit in every judgement passage in the Bible is a call to repent. The terrible punishments that the Bible promises can be reversed because God is merciful. Nobody is too sinful to be outside the realm of God’s grace.

If you’re reading this but living in sin in someway, this is the promise for you. God will judge you for your sins and will punish you, but his mercy is there for the taking. Turn from your sin and ask God for his forgiveness.

If you’re walking with Christ today but fall into sin in the future, remember the lesson that God’s grace and mercy are there for you if you look to God in faith.

Genesis 50, Job 16-17, Psalm 48

Today’s readings are Genesis 50, Job 16-17, and Psalm 48.

This devotional is about Genesis 50.

Nothing ever prevented Joseph from exacting revenge on his brothers. From the time they first appeared in his presence to the day Jacob died, Joseph could have enslaved them or killed them if he had wanted to do that. Joseph was accountable to only one man, Pharaoh, and he was unlikely to care what Joseph did to a group of non-Egyptians.

According to verse 15, however, Joseph’s brothers had a hard time accepting Joseph’s forgiveness as genuine. They feared that Joseph was not merciful but merely long-suffering; that is, Joseph respected his father Jacob so much that he was willing to wait for Jacob’s death to pay back justice to his brothers. So they added a little something to Jacob’s last will and testament (vv. 16-17) as if Jacob himself had requested full and final forgiveness from Joseph for his other sons. They also volunteered to be Joseph’s slaves (v. 18) in hopes of staying alive.

Other than the grace of God in Joseph’s life, developing godly character in him, what led Joseph to be able to completely forgive his brothers with no hard feelings whatsoever, much less a desire for revenge? The answers are in verses 19-10 and there are two of them.

First, Joseph had a genuine sense of his accountability to God. “Am I in the place of God?” he asked rhetorically in verse 19. Humanly speaking, almost anyone could answer yes. Joseph had nearly absolute power so he was unlikely to be questioned, second-guessed, or condemned in this life no matter what he did to his brothers. Yet Joseph himself knew that God would judge him if he saw his brothers’s repentance and refused to forgive. Joseph knew that the power he had was delegated to him by God; therefore, he understood that he would be held accountable by God for how he treated his brothers.

Second, Joseph could see how the sins of his brothers and all the other painful experiences of his life had led him to this point. In verse 20 he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” What happened to Joseph happened by God’s sovereign will. Although it was painful and stressful for years of his life, it was ultimately for Joseph’s good and for the good of his family, God’s covenant people. Since it was God’s will for Joseph to suffer first and then be exalted, how could he remain bitter? The outcome was good and the course he took to that outcome was ordained by God.

May this give you hope in the hard struggles of your life. God is sovereign over all things, so whatever happened in your life was allowed by him. Ultimately, he will work it out for your good, which may mean simply helping you learn to trust him in all circumstances, but may mean much more than that. Believing that God is sovereign will help you accept the things that have happened to you and give you grace to forgive anyone who sinned against you but is repentant.

Romans 8

Today we come to the greatness of Romans 8.

And there is so much in this chapter that I could write more than a week’s worth of devotionals on it. I’ll stick, however, to the opening paragraph. In the previous chapters we were taught much about the Law and its relationship to humanity. On Friday, in chapter 7, we learned that God’s Law is great and holy; our problems with it are not with IT but with ourselves: “...the Law is spiritual but I am unspiritual” Paul wrote, “sold as a slave to sin” (7:14). As Christians, we are torn by our mental and spiritual desires to obey God’s law (7:21-22, 25b) and our sin nature which rebels against God’s holy commands and makes us subject to death (7:16-20, 25c). What is the remedy for this spiritual dilemma? Romans 8:1: “ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are “in Christ Jesus” therefore the condemnation of the law has been removed from us. That removal took place through the atonement of Christ for our sins (vv. 2-3). The result of his atonement is that you are not guilty before God because God has credited to you the righteous life Jesus lived (his “active obedience”) and the atoning death Christ died (his “passive obedience”). Verse 3b-4 says that in these words, “And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Did you notice that phrase, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us....” If you are in Christ, you’ve kept the law fully. The law has no beef with you because Christ has fulfilled it all on your behalf. He’s met every standard spelled out there and paid every penalty for your failures (and mine).

Many Christians live with a feeling of defeat. We beat ourselves up for our sin struggles and our failures. If that’s you, please take heart today. If you’re in Christ, it’s all good. Jesus has done all that you will ever need to cancel the law’s condemnation over your life and to declare you perfect in the sight of God. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” so stop condemning yourself and live in the freedom of complete forgiveness!

2 Corinthians 2

Read 2 Corinthians 2 today.

One of the issues we have in interpreting 1 and 2 Corinthians is that there were letters exchanged between the Corinthians and Paul that we do not have. Paul also referenced visiting them (v. 1: “another painful visit”) but that visit is not discussed in Acts--though scholars have made a good explanation of where it could have happened. Some have compared reading 1st and especially 2nd Corinthians to listening to one half of a phone conversation. If you’ve ever done that, for instance when your spouse is talking on the phone in your presence, you know how confusing it can get. You listen to what your spouse says and then try to imagine what might have been said on the other end of the conversation, the one you can’t hear. At least, that’s what I do when someone is talking on the phone near me....

Anyway, we have these two letters, but there were other communications between Paul and this church that we don’t have. That means we have to speculate somewhat. We can still understand what the Holy Spirit was teaching through Paul, we just don’t know--for certain, at least--all the details.

It is true that Paul commanded the church to discipline a man from the church in 1 Corinthians 5:13. It is also true that, here in 2 Corinthians 2, Paul commanded the church to restore a man to fellowship who had been under discipline. Some scholars think, though, that this is actually a different case of church discipline than the one Paul ordered in 1 Corinthians 5. Whether the man referenced in the passage today is the same guy as 2 Corinthians 2 or not, it seems clear that the church had removed him from its fellowship (v. 6) and that he repented and sought to be restored to fellowship (v. 7a). But the Corinthian church was having a hard time with the forgiveness part. In verse 7 Paul commanded them to “forgive and comfort him” and in verse 8 he encouraged them “to reaffirm your love for him” (v. 8b).

Forgiveness is sometimes easy. When someone has sinned against us in ways that we also have done toward others, we might find it easier to forgive. When we don’t really feel like we’ve been harmed, it may be easy to forgive. When we empathize with why someone sinned, it is not nearly as hard to receive that person’s repentance. But those situations--the easy to forgive ones--are rare. Much of the time we wallow in the pain caused by the sin of others and we are tempted to return equal pain and then some more to the one who sinned against us. Imagine an entire church filled with people who felt that way. Imagine what it must be like for the repentant sinner not to be received. Forgiveness is rarely easy, but it is always right when there is repentance. If you are struggling to forgive someone, even though you know they have changed their minds about their sin, ask God to give you the grace that he showed to us when he forgave us in Christ.

Hebrews 9

According to the schedule, we should read Hebrews 9 today.

This chapter in Hebrews continued the argument that Christ was better than the Old Testament sacrificial system. The author of Hebrews presented a tight argument comparing the sacrificial system under the old covenant (vv. 1-10) and the new covenant Christ has set up and mediated (vv. 11-28). 

The key point of this chapter is that Christ’s death on the cross accomplished the new covenant. The blood of his sacrifice was offered in heaven not on earth (vv. 11-14) and it purified everything, including us (vv. 15-28). This is why the sacrificial system revealed by Moses is no longer necessary. Christ’s redemption was better and brought that old system to an end.

One of the key takeaways from this chapter for us is that Christ’s death accomplished something for us spiritually that the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament law never could. In verse 13 the author of Hebrews mentioned that the blood from those animal sacrifices had to be sprinkled on the people to make them ceremonially clean. That process was described in Numbers 19 and was used on someone who touched a dead body. But in verse 14 (here in Hebrews 9), the author of Hebrews argues that the blood of Christ removes the works of death from our consciences. In other words, it gives us true relief from the guilt of our sins. Yes, it is true that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23) but Hebrews 9:14 says that Christ’s death cleanses our conscience from those works that lead to death (in other words, sin). 

Are you tormented by guilt for the sins you’ve committed in your life? Don’t be! Not because they were not wicked but because, if you are in Christ, they are fully forgiven. Your past has been redeemed in him so now you have the freedom of conscience to live and serve the Lord. 

Matthew 18

Today we’re reading Matthew 18.

The longer you live, the more you witness broken relationships. Some relationships are broken due to misunderstandings and some due to unmet expectations. Many relationships are broken by sin. People seldom consider the affect their sins may have on others. The power of temptation lures us to act based on the instinctive desires of our sinful nature. Like a fish biting a lure without ever considering the hook, most of our sins are committed with little thought about the consequences--to ourselves or others.

But often there are consequences for other people--financial damage, hurt feelings, and distrust are just a few of these. We are tempted to ignore the damage our sin has on others; if we can’t ignore it, we may try to downplay the impact it has on others or make excuses for ourselves. Sometimes we simply deny committing the sin, taking no responsibility, then, for the consequences.

Jesus knew that this is how we treat our own sins and he knew that unresolved situations would destroy the church. So here in Matthew 18 he gave us the prescription for dealing with sin in the lives of others. The first step is to confront the sin yourself (v. 15), but note the intention behind the confrontation: “If they listen to you, you have won them over” (v. 15c). Confrontation among believers is never designed to hurt someone’s feelings or to give the injured party a chance for vengeance or to vent. Jesus’ will was for loving confrontation to cause genuine repentance. Genuine repentance can clear the air and bring reconciliation to the situation. If the person who has sinned refuses to repent, Jesus told us to escalate the pressure--not by physical force or psychological manipulation but by widening the circle of people who are calling for repentance. First, this is one or two others then the entire church if necessary. Since Jesus assumed that a believer would eventually repent, if someone refused to repent after the entire church is involved, he commanded us to “treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (v. 17c).

Verses 18-19 are fairly well-known among Christians, but often referred to out of context. Both of these verses affirm the spiritual power of the church in the life of an unrepentant person. Telling the church is not a mechanism for embarrassing someone. If that were the case, people would get over the embarrassment. Jesus said that those who are “bound” on earth are “bound” in heaven. This means that church’s judgment on a sinning person to remove them from the fellowship of the church is more than a human act. It is a spiritual act that God himself honors. Verses 19-20 emphasize that fact. When a group of people who belong to Christ agree that a person should repent, they do so under God’s divine guidance.

Just as there are sinners who name Christ but refuse to repent, there are also Christians who refuse to forgive others who have repented. Verses 21-35 gave us a parable about the unforgiving. As Christians, Jesus has forgiven us “bigly” as The Donald is erroneously accused of saying (vv. 24--“ten thousand bags of gold”!). Any debts that others incur against us maybe costly and painful to us, but they are far below what our sin cost God (“a hundred silver coins”). Given that, note what Jesus said in verses 34-35: “In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Wow! God will “torture” the unforgiving? What does this mean? Simply that those who claim to know Christ but refuse to forgive are not Christians at all. They are still under the wrath of God. When Christ truly comes into a person’s life, that person receives the new nature which is like God’s nature. A Christian also has the Holy Spirit who convicts us of what is right and empowers us to act like God. So, if God found it in his heart to forgive us, his forgiveness also empowers us and calls us to forgive others. An unforgiving Christian is not a Christian at all.

These are serious words but they remind us of how seriously God views our sin and how seriously he wants us to deal with it. If you have sinned, repent and seek the restoration of your relationship. If you have been sinned against, do everything you can to call the one who sinned against you to repentance in order to have the relationship restored. If someone asks for your forgiveness, deploy God’s grace to “forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (v. 35).

Deuteronomy 27:1–28:19, Psalm 119:1–24, Isaiah 54, Matthew 2

After we began this journey through the Bible in 2016, it was pointed out to me that the M’Cheyne reading plan we’ve been following actually has us read through the New Testament and Psalms twice. Somehow I missed that detail until after I had published the reading list, but at least I’m telling you about it now. And, as of Sunday, we have finished the New Testament. So, if you’ve kept up with the daily readings, you have the option of skipping all the New Testament readings and you can skip the Psalms, too, once we finish all of them on July 13. I will continue to publish all 4 readings here, in case you want to read through the NT and Psalms again or if you missed some and want to make sure you complete the whole Bible this year. But my devotionals will only be on the Old Testament passages that we have not yet read this year. So, if you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 27:1–28:19, Psalm 119:1–24, Isaiah 54. 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 Isaiah 54.

Yesterday we read Isaiah’s important and beautiful prophecy about Christ. At the end of that chapter, God declared that Christ would receive “a portion with the great… because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa 53:12). In today’s chapter from Isaiah 54, the results of Christ’s death are described. Verse 1 tells us that the emotional response from Israel will be joy. That joy is described further in verses 2-3 because the nation will grow and expand her territory. Verse 4 offers comfort to Israel, telling her not to be afraid of shame or disgrace; both “the same of your youth” and “the reproach of your widowhood” will be forgotten. Verses 5-8 explain why. First, God promises to be Israel’s “husband” and “redeemer.” Although God separated from Israel, in a sense, during their time in captivity (v. 7a), he “will call you back   as if you were a wife deserted…” (v. 6a). Verse 8b explains, “‘In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord your Redeemer.” Although this prophecy is for Israel and is still future to us in the Millennium, God is the devoted, compassionate God to all his people that he told Israel he was in this passage. While we sin and fail God constantly, he is compassionate and forgiving toward us in Christ. So don’t let sin keep you from the love and fellowship God wants to give you; when you sin, turn to him in repentance and claim the promises he made in this passage and others like it to find forgiveness in him.

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.

Numbers 15, Psalm 51, Isaiah 5, Hebrews 12

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 15, Psalm 51, Isaiah 5, Hebrews 12. 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 Psalm 51.

As I was working through today’s passages, I was struck by a thread that runs through three of them. First, in Numbers 15:37-41 God commanded the people of Israel to sew tassels to the corners of their garments. Why? Numbers 15:39-40: “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.” In other words, the tassels were there to remind Israel not to sin particularly in the realm of sexual sins. At the very point of removing their garments, the tassels should have reminded them of God’s commands and that their covenants in marriage were made before God. It was one last emergency break before two of them committed immorality. I wonder how many sins were stopped and marriages were saved by this simple reminder?

Of course, if someone doesn’t care about God, or really wants to sin, or has never read in God’s law what the purpose of those tassels was, they will do no good. Rules and regulations can be safeguards to those who desire holiness and obedience but they are mere hassles to those who want to sin. Fortunately, as David exemplified in Psalm 51, God is merciful to those who call on him in faith seeking forgiveness. While we need God’s mercy and forgiveness, it is no substitute for a hunger for holiness. After pleading with God for his mercy and forgiveness, David turned in verse 10 to cry out for a holy heart: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” This is a sign of true repentance. We are so easily deceived by sin and find it so easy to rationalize in our own lives what we condemn in others, but when our sin is exposed, the harsh light cast on what it truly is, a truly repentant person wants God to change him or her. 

And why can God show mercy and forgiveness to us? Hebrews 12: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The joy that led Christ through the experience of the cross was the joy of showing mercy and grace to sinners and reuniting us to God through his sacrifice on the cross. 

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.

Leviticus 25, Psalm 32, Ecclesiastes 8, 2 Timothy 4

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 25, Psalm 32, Ecclesiastes 8, 2 Timothy 4. 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 Psalm 32.

I really want to write about Leviticus 25 today but I’ve written on Leviticus a lot recently. I just think it is so gracious of the Lord to MAKE people take time off. In a time when people worked just to survive and starvation was a real threat, God said—trust me! Take a day off to rest each week, take a year off after six years of work and again after 49 years of this cycle. What a promise from God to provide for his people. If only they would have trusted him, they could have rested and enjoyed themselves and he would have provided everything for them. 

But, it is hard to ignore Psalm 32. Although sin calls to us and offers us happiness, the result of sin is short term pleasure followed by long-term pain and eventually death. In this Psalm David stopped to praise the Lord for forgiveness and said that one who gets forgiveness from God is the one who is truly happy (“blessed” — verses 1-2). Verses 3-4 described the consequences of his sin. These consequences were not external to David, though sin usually has plenty of those. No, the consequence of David’s sin was the inner turmoil of a guilty heart. We don’t know if this Psalm followed the forgiveness he received after he sinned with Bathsheba and killed Uriah but that might be the background. Whatever sin and forgiveness prompted this song weighed down David’s heart deeply. Even if no one ever found out what he had done, he knew and so did God. The result of that knowledge was a complete robbery of his joy. Finally in verse 5 David stopped suppressing his sin and decided to make a full confession to God. Since God is rich in mercy, he freely forgave David based on the coming merits of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. David then urges those who love the Lord but slip into sin to come forward and confess (v. 6a). The result of this confession is protection (vv. 6b-7); whatever consequences he might face for his sin, he did so with God’s favor in his life again. This is the only way to live for those who know God, so come to the Lord and find the relief of forgiveness that he so generously offers to the repentant.

After receiving forgiveness, the voice of this Psalm seems to change from David’s voice to God’s (vv. 8-10). God promises to to instruct and guide the life that is truly repentant for sin (vv. 8-9), protecting his people through obedience from the pain and problems that come with a morally crooked life. The result of confession is true joy (v. 11).
This passage reminds us of the genuine relief that comes from openly confessing your guilt. You’ve experienced this in your life as a Christian already; if you’re hiding sin in your life, come out of shadows and enjoy the lift that comes from God’s gracious 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.