glorifying-god

Joshua 24, Jeremiah 13

Today we’re scheduled to read Joshua 24, Jeremiah 13.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 13:1-11.

Last summer I was assembling something in our backyard for my kids. Somehow I left my tools out in the yard. All fall, winter, and spring. They were discovered late in the spring when I went to put something else together out there. Most of the tools I left are still useable; they’re rusty, but still useable and I think the rust can be cleaned off. But some of them are now useless.

In the opening verses of Jeremiah 13, the prophet is told by the Lord to go buy himself a snappy new belt and wear it around (v. 1). Wouldn’t it be cool if the Lord told you to go buy some new shoes or a new shirt or even a new belt?

Except that he only got to wear it for a little while. Then the Lord told him to go geocache it in a rock crevice. (“He hideth my belt in the crevice of the rock.....”)

Anyway, when he retrieved the belt “many days later” (v. 6) it was “ruined and completely useless” like some of my tools are. Goodbye snappy new belt; I hope the Lord let him replace it from his ministry funds....

Anyway, if you’ve ever lost something and then found it ruined, you can relate to what Jeremiah experienced in this passage. This is how God felt about his people. He proudly put them around his waist so to speak but they ruined their utility by “the stubbornness of their hearts” through idolatry. Now, they were useless for what God wanted them for, namely, “to be my people for my renown and praise and honor” (v. 11).

It’s OK to say someone is “useful” these days, but it is not acceptable to say that someone “used” someone else. Being “useful” is voluntary while being “used” usually indicates someone is being manipulated without realizing it or that they are appreciated not as a person but only for what they can do for someone else. In other words, being “useful” is a compliment while being “used” is degrading. When God says that his people are useless, however, like a rotten belt, it is not degrading his people. It is not degrading for something to do what it was created to do. I am “using” this keyboard and computer to write this devotional. If the keyboard and computer had feelings, they would not feel degraded but grateful that they had been useful.

So it is with us. God created us to glorify himself. Israel--and all of us in the human race, actually--degraded ourselves by giving ourselves to sin instead of being useful to the purpose of glorifying God. When, by faith, we love and serve God we are useful to him. When his people “Give glory to the Lord your God” (v. 16) we are doing what he created us to do and that is the greatest form of satisfaction. God graciously brings “light” (v. 16e) and joy to us when we give him glory through obedience. When life is dissatisfying, it may be because we are serving idols rather than giving glory to God.

Is your life useful for God’s purpose? Are you living in a way that might be degrading your usefulness for the Lord?

Deuteronomy 33-34, Isaiah 60

Today we’re reading Deuteronomy 33-34, Isaiah 60.

This devotional is about Isaiah 60:21-22.

Why is it that only a few people will be saved compared to the billions of people who have or will ever live? One answer is given here in Isaiah 60:21-22. This chapter continued to hold forth for Israel the promise of God’s kingdom in the future under Messiah. Verse 21a promised in that kingdom that “all your people will be righteous,” indicating that only those redeemed and regenerated by the Lord will be there. Two phrases later in verse 21c Isaiah wrote, “They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands....” Picture this image: God’s kingdom is not like a great oak tree transplanted from somewhere else into the land of Israel. Instead, it is a weak little “shoot,” the tiny sprout of a plant that God himself planted but which grew into something great any mighty and, for the first time in human history, holy like God is. So God’s plan was to make something mighty out of something weak and insignificant. Verse 22a-b tells us that his kingdom will become mighty when it says, “The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation.”

But, again, why? Why choose insignificance and only save a few? Verse 21e says, “for the display of my splendor....” It glorifies God to take the weak, the humble, the insignificant and weak and make something great out of it. This is what God will do for Israel when his kingdom is established (again verse 22); and everyone who sees it happen will be amazed at the awesome power of God.

Although this chapter describes what God will do for and with Israel, it echoes a constant theme in Scripture: that God chooses the weak and lowly and insignificant and chooses that to bring glory to himself. This is why only a few are saved. If most people were saved, it would be a common, unextraordiany thing. When God chooses and uses insignificant things and turns it into something great, everyone knows that God is great.

It is troubling at times to be in the kind of minority we find ourselves in as believers in this world. If only more people were believers, we wouldn’t feel so awkward and out of step with the rest of our society. Someday only the righteous will inhabit the world and we’ll fit in just fine then because we too have been justified and sanctified by the grace of God. Until then, we wait for him to glorify himself though us when his kingdom comes.

1 Corinthians 10

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 10.

This chapter concluded Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians on the matter of eating meat offered to idols. The chapter began by pointing to Israel’s history (vv. 1-5), showing that God did so much for the entire nation (vv. 1-4) yet many in that nation fell under the judgment of God due to their unbelief (v. 5). This survey of Israel’s exodus was addressed to the Corinthian believers who believed they were strong in Christ and could exercise much Christian liberty. Yes, God has done much in your life and in your church but his powerful acts in Israel did not prevent people from worshipping idols (vv. 6-7), committing sexual sins (v. 8), testing Christ (v. 9), and being complainers (v. 10). We too have received much from Christ but that should never lead us to believe that we are immune from sin (vv. 11-12).

Although idols aren’t real and there is no spiritual or moral damage done by eating meat offered to idols, there is temptation associated with idol meat. That temptation is idolatry (v. 14). True, the idols are not real gods or representatives of real gods, nevertheless idolatry is demonic (v. 20). If the Corinthian Christians participate in Christ through communion (vv. 16-17) then go to the idol’s temple and are involved there (vv. 18-22), they are participating in the demonic and will face the Lord’s discipline (vv. 21-22).

It is important, then, whenever a Christian exercises Christian liberty not to focus on themselves but on others around them (vv. 23-30). The guiding questions for a Christian’s life are (a) am I playing with temptation to sin but calling it Christian liberty (vv. 12-13) and (b) is God glorified by this (v. 31)--meaning does it help or create obstacles to the spread of the gospel in the lives of others (vv. 32-33)?

Christians may answer these questions differently on the same subject. Here’s an example: One issue that Christians debate is whether it is acceptable to drink alcohol. The Bible condemns and warns against drunkenness but not against all consumption of alcohol. Christ himself drank wine and most Christians have throughout the century until very recently. But alcoholism is a serious problem in our world and many Christians were saved from a sinful life where alcohol was part of their sinful lifestyle. Many of these stopped drinking completely in order to live an orderly, obedient life to Christ. Personally, I don’t drink at all for several reasons, but if I did, I would be exposing myself to temptation--the temptation to drink too much and the possible reckless things I might do while drunk. So, if I were to choose to exercise my Christian liberty by having a beer, my faith in Christ and desire to please him should lead me to be careful about having more than one or two, lest I give into temptation (vv. 12-13).

Also, it may not be wrong for me to drink a glass of wine, but if I knowingly drink when I’m with another believer who doesn’t drink because he has less self-control, then I am sinning by putting him into a position where he may be tempted. So the limits of Christian liberty are about avoiding temptation myself and not leading another believer or unbeliever to sin (v. 32).

Is there an area of your life where you’re living in Christian liberty but you’re tempted to go further into something that is sinful? Are you considerate of the affect of your life on others--either leading them closer to Christ or misleading them from following Christ? Let these chapters from 1 Corinthians help you to guide your thinking as you make choices in everyday life.