Genesis 1, Ezra 1, Psalm 1

Welcome to the first installment of OT18. Read each chapter each day and you’ll read through the Old Testament this year.

Today the schedule calls for us to read Genesis 1, Ezra 1, and Psalm 1. This devotional is mostly about Psalm 1, so read that if you can’t read all three chapters.

God created us to be social creatures. It is natural for us to seek acceptance from others, to try to find a group where we fit in and belong. One way to belong is to do what others are doing. Find a group that seems like they might accept you, do what they do and sooner or later, they will accept you as “one of us.”

People have differing personalities so the desire for acceptance is stronger in some of us than others. But we all want to fit in somewhere. Our happiness is largely determined by the quality of our relationships, so we look for friends in order to be happy.

That desire to fit in can be a positive force for good in our lives, but it can also be destructive. I said above that, “our happiness is largely determined by the quality of our relationships,” but Psalm 1 says that a happy person (that’s what “blessed” means in this context) is one “who does not walk in step with the wicked.”

This statement runs counter to our instincts. If people accept us and offer us friendship, we naturally want to “walk in step” with them. Psalm 1:1 warns us, however, that the happiness we find in acceptance will not last if we find our acceptance with wicked people. Wickedness is always destructive. Ultimately, God will judge the wicked but even before that judgment, the Bible teaches us that wickedness leads us into destructive ways. The feeling of acceptance and safety we find among wicked friends will lead us to do wicked things to “keep in step” with them. Those wicked actions are like seeds buried in the ground; eventually, they will bear fruit in our lives and the fruit of wickedness will always be painful and destructive.

The contrast to those who seek acceptance from the wicked is found in verse 2. The happy person, the “blessed one” (Ps 1:1a) is the person “whose delight is in the law of the Lord.” Because God is eternal and perfect, his word points us to eternal principles that will always be right. They may bring short-term pain but, if we love God and his word, if you are one who “meditates on his law day and night,” you will find stability and fruitfulness in your life (v. 3). Meanwhile, the wicked seeds sown by the wicked will cause them to be blown away (v. 4), rejected in God’s judgment (v. 5). Ultimately, their ways will lead “to destruction.”

I’m glad you’ve subscribed to these devotionals and I hope they are a blessing in your life. My goals for them are (a) to help you be in the Word each day by making it as easy as possible and (b) to help you look at your life through the microscope of God’s word, think about what you see there, and make changes accordingly.

The first thing I want you to consider is, who do you spend your time with? Do you spend your time in God’s word and with his people? Or are you trying to keep in step with wicked people--ungodly friends as school, ungodly co-workers or family members, celebrities, actors, and journalists who care nothing about God? The beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to re-assess your life. Maybe it is time to look at where your time is spend and make some changes for God’s glory and for your own flourishing (v. 3).

I’d love it if we could discuss these readings everyday. If you have a thought or a question about one of the passages we’ve read--even one I didn’t write about--would you consider putting into the comments? Or, repost the day’s reading to your Facebook wall and ask your question or make your comment there. Others may join in and we could actually have a real discussion together about God’s word everyday.

I won’t nag you about this in these devotionals; it’s just a suggestion for you to think about. Thanks for reading and happy new year!

2 Timothy 1

Today’s reading is 2 Timothy 1.

This letter to Timothy was the last of Paul’s letters. It was penned during his second incarceration in Rome. Unlike the first one (the Acts 28 house arrest one), Paul was not released but executed.

We do not know how much time passed between Acts 28 and the events of this letter, but the evidence from the New Testament is that there were a few years at least in between. Unlike Paul’s other prison letters, he was not optimistic about being released. In this letter to Timothy, he was asking Timothy to leave Ephesus and come to see him (v. 4a). He knew it was possible, however, that the letter may not get to Timothy in time or that Timothy may not get to him in time. This letter left his parting thoughts to Timothy.

What would you write to a close friend in this situation?

You would certainly want to express your care for that person as Paul did here in v. 2 when he called him, “my dear son” and in verse 4 when he expressed his desire to “be filled with joy” when he saw Timothy.

But beyond expressing his care for Timothy personally, Paul was still most passionate about Christ and his work. He prayed for God’s grace, mercy, and peace (v. 2b) and thanked God for Timothy’s sincere faith (vv. 3-5).But he also expressed confidence in Christ despite his suffering and expected death (v. 12). And, he expected and charged Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” (v. 6) and “join me in suffering for the gospel.”

It was the faith they shared in Christ that gave Paul and Timothy a basis for their friendship. But it was their service for Christ together that made them such close friends. As much as he loved Timothy, Paul sent him away when necessary to do the Lord’s work but they also spent much time together traveling for the gospel and serving together in the gospel. Many Christians since then have also formed deep bonds with other believers while serving the Lord together. While serving the Lord has its own eternal rewards, making and strengthening good, godly friendships are an important side benefit in this life of serving the Lord with others.

With a friendship that revolved around Christ like theirs did, it is understandable that Paul would want Timothy to keep going for Christ and even be willing to suffer for Jesus. Paul did not want his persecution or even his death to cause Timothy to lose faith in Christ. That’s why he wrote, “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.” As Timothy continued to walk with God and work for Christ, he not only carried forward the legacy of his brother in Christ, Paul, he also demonstrated that his faith was in Christ and not in Paul.

Deuteronomy 30, Psalm 119:73–96, Isaiah 57, Matthew 5

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 30, Psalm 119:73–96, Isaiah 57, Matthew 5. 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 119:73-96.

It can feel pretty lonely out there at times. If you’re the only Christian in your workplace, your class, your neighborhood, or your family. You have a different way of looking at everything. You have different goals, different hopes, even different fears. It may feel at times like no one understands you. 

You may know other Christians, others who profess to worship and serve Jesus like we do; but maybe they too look at things differently and live for different things than you do. Imagine living in Israel. The stories of your culture are about God’s special blessing, special protection, and miraculous delivery from Egypt into the promised land. There are laws that regulate each week, what you can and cannot eat, what you wear, what holidays you observe and how you observe them. The Psalmist who wrote this song is immersed in a God-culture. Everyone he knew was Jewish and they all professed to be God’s worshippers. Yet he must have felt alone in his desire to know and obey God’s word because he wrote of “the arrogant” (v. 78, 85) and the wicked (v. 95). So how did he deal with this? Verse 74: “May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.” It is so discouraging to see children from good families walk away from the faith. It is disheartening to see people we thought were strong Christians succumb to temptation or to unbelief. Here the Psalmist longs not only to know and to obey God’s word but to have his life so transformed by it that his hope in God’s word encouraged others who “fear you.” Yes, it’s tough to see wickedness in the world, worldliness among professing believers, and apostasy among those we treasured as brothers and sisters in Christ. But it is also encouraging to see growth in others. You and I may not be aware of how much good God is working into our lives through his word. Even this year as you’ve been reading through the Bible, God has been slowly planting godly seeds, watering them daily, and they are growing. Did it ever occur to you that your growth might just be the bolus of joy that other strong believers need as they try by the grace of God to walk with Christ daily? May your life and mine be cause those who fear God to rejoice when they see us because of our hope in God’s word. 

And, if you need a does of encouragement today, may the Lord bring into your life someone who is growing stronger in their faith who will bring you joy as well.

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.