Luke 12

Today’s passage for Bible reading is Luke 12.

This chapter is really about the future from beginning to end. It starts with a command against hypocrisy (v. 1) but Jesus commanded against hypocrisy because secrets will be known at the judgment (vv. 2-3) so people should live in light of God’s judgment not the judgment rendered by people (vv. 4-12).

In the middle of this teaching, some guy in the crowd interrupted Jesus and asked Jesus to step in and help him settle his estate with his brother (v. 13). Jesus turned even this interruption back to his topic about the future when he rebuked the man for his greed (vv. 14-20) because he was thinking only about his life on this earth and not on eternity (v. 21). Then, returning to his subject, Jesus told the disciples not to worry about how their daily needs will be met but to trust God to meet those needs (vv. 22-30) while they work for his kingdom (vv. 31-34) and prepare for its arrival (vv. 35-59).

Passages like this one call us to reconsider where we put our time and money. If you knew that Jesus would return tomorrow or before the end of this year or that your death was immanent, would you worry about making every last dollar? Would you care about buying a fancy new car or house if you had your basic needs for shelter and transportation cared for? Most of these disciples of Jesus lived many decades beyond this time and, unless the Lord does come soon, most of you reading this devotional have many decades left in your life as well.

But compared to infinite time--what we call “eternity” how much does six or seven or even ten decades matter? On one hand, it matters a great deal because your eternity is settled during the time you spend on this earth. But that’s in God’s hands; he’s the one who redeems and calls. If he’s called and redeemed you, does it matter if you die with a million dollars in the bank or if you have only the one dollar in your pocket to show for your life?

I believe in living wisely and planning for the future but are we doing that to control our materialistic impulses and to be wise managers of what God has provided to us or are we doing it out of fear that there may not be enough for us in the future.

And what about God’s work--are we using retirement planning as an excuse to avoid funding God’s work through the local church, church planting and missions? If so, we are living by short-sighted standards because God tells us that investments made in this life pay dividends in eternity: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (vv. 33-34).

Matthew 6

Today let’s read Matthew 6

We all care what other people think of us. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It keeps us from all kinds of obnoxious, antisocial behavior, like ignoring appointments we made or showing up egregiously, unapologetically late for them.

Our concern about others’ opinion becomes a problem when it becomes the primary driver for what we do. When our lives become too focused on appearing a certain way to others, then we start doing things for appearance sake only rather than from the heart. Do this too much and your life will resemble a studio lot--on camera things look real and amazing but in reality, it is a facade.

Here in Matthew 6, Jesus spoke to us about religious life that is done only to impress others (v. 1). Jesus warned that those who lived this way “will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (v. 1). Then Christ applied this teaching to:

  • giving to the needy (vv. 2-4)
  • prayer (vv. 5-15)
  • fasting (vv. 16-18)

These were markers of spirituality in Jesus’ culture and they are still areas that can be impressive when we consider someone’s spiritual life. I wonder, though, what kind of spiritual or religious acts impress us? Perfect attendance on Sunday morning? A long history of having devotions without ever missing a day? Bible memorization or detailed Bible knowledge? Service in some work for Christ?

Jesus was not telling us never to give to the poor or to pray. In fact he spent a good amount of time in verses 5-15 teaching us to pray so that we would know how to do it in a way that glorifies him instead of ourselves. Similarly, we should not stop doing something for God or to grow in our faith just because someone is (or might be) impressed by it. Nor should we stop serving the Lord just because we may struggle with inconsistent motivation. Instead, we need to examine our hearts and ask God to help us worship and serve him from the heart and not to impress or please others.

1 Chronicles 7–8, Hebrews 11, Amos 5, Luke 1:1–38

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 7–8, Hebrews 11, Amos 5, Luke 1:1–38. 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 Amos 5.

Idol worship in Israel was a constant problem after the kingdom was divided. Not all of God’s people neglected the Lord, however. There were some who maintained their worship of the Lord. These people, apparently, were longing for God’s judgment which is often called “the day of the Lord.” That phrase is used about prophetic, end time events in the Bible that are still future to us, but it was also used for days of judgment in the Old Testament that have already happened. Verses 18-20 warns those who wanted to see their countrymen punished: “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light…” (v. 18). Those who wanted God’s judgment to fall on Israel must have believed that they would be safe. They reasoned, apparently, that performing the rituals of worship that the Lord commanded would protect them for his judgment. They must have been surprised, then, when the Lord said through Amos, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” 

It is quite surprising to see God rejecting the worship of his people, especially since the prophets were constantly calling them to repentance (v. 6). What was the problem with the worship of those Amos is describing in this chapter?

There are two problems. First, they joined with the rest of their idol worshipping countrymen in exploiting others in court (compare verses 7, 10, and 15a with 24). Although these Israelites may have been obedient to the Lord’s commands about worship, they were disobedient to his commands in their ethics and morals. They lived a dual, hypocritical life so that they appeared devout on Saturday but lived like pagans on Sunday through Friday. 

The second problem with this group is that their worship of the Lord was not exclusive and wholehearted. Verse 26 says, “You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god—which you made for yourselves.” The God who had redeemed them from Egypt long before (v. 25) was now just like every other false god they worshipped. They may have kept the ceremonial law of God but they broke the very first law of his commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me.” 

We face the same kind of temptation—to worship the gods of materialism, worldliness, self-centeredness, or whatever—while showing up faithfully to church on Sunday and performing the outward acts common to Christians. We also can be tempted to worship the Lord with our lips while abusing his children in our everyday life. Let’s look within today and consider whether our devotion to the Lord is complete and whether or not it is reflected in our daily ethics and morals. That’s the kind of worship that God wants because it is the kind of worship that comes from a changed heart.

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 Kings 13, Philippians 4, Ezekiel 43, Psalms 95–96

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 13, Philippians 4, Ezekiel 43, Psalms 95–96. 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 1 Kings 13.

Jeroboam led the northern tribes’ rebellion from Judah and the Davidic king Rehoboam, but the northern tribes were still Israelites, still descendants of Abraham, still under the covenants God made with them. Therefore they should have continued to worship the Lord. The idols Jeroboam set up in 1 Kings 12 were designed to keep these northern tribes from re-unification with Judah. If the northern kingdom (which retained the name “Israel”) had its own king, its own capital city and its own religious centers, there would be no need to go to Judah and both areas would develop their own national identity over time. Although the Lord allowed Israel and Judah to separate in judgment for Solomon’s sins, he still required his people to live by his laws. He therefore sent a prophet “from Judah to Bethel” (v. 1) to confront Jeroboam and prophesy judgment on his altar of idolatry (vv. 1-3). Part of his prophecy was immediately fulfilled (v. 5); in addition Jeroboam had a personal demonstration that the Lord was in this word from the prophet when his hand suffered from some kind of paralysis and immediate atrophy (v. 4). Having lost the use of his hand, Jeroboam did ask the Lord for healing which he immediately received (v. 6). This kind of immediate demonstration of God’s power should have turned Jeroboam’s heart in repentance and faith; however, Jeroboam continued in unbelief and disobedience to the Lord’s laws (vv. 33-34). Unbelief does not come from lack of evidence for God; it is the default expression of our human hearts due to the fall. God can do many gracious things for us, but apart from God’s transforming, saving grace, we will persist in unbelief.

Speaking of people who were disobedient to the Lord’s word, the passage continues by focusing on the unnamed man of God who delivered these prophecies to Jeroboam and was the agent of these miracles (vv. 7ff). King Jeroboam, happy to have use of his hand again, wanted to fellowship with and reward this prophet (v. 7), but the prophet explained that God had given him clear instructions not to eat or drink in Israel or take the same route back to Judah (vv. 8-9). He refused Jeroboam’s dinner invitation and found a new route home, just as God had commanded (vv. 9-10). But when another man came along, an older man claiming to be a prophet himself (vv. 11-14), the younger prophet disobeyed God’s word to him and accepted the lie of the older prophet (vv. 16-19). Although the older man lied and deceived the younger man, God spoke through the older man and prophesied judgment for the younger prophet (vv. 21-22). The judgment the older prophet foretold was vague: “Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors” (v. 22c). This was probably not welcome news, but it certainly did not sound like an immanent threat or a high price to pay for his disobedience. God did not delay, however, in executing this sentence as the younger prophet died before he even reached home (vv. 24-25). The older prophet completed the Lord’s word and buried his new friend (vv. 26-30). He even changed his estate plan and insisted that his children bury him with this younger prophet (v. 31) and affirming that his original prophecy to Jeroboam would be fulfilled (v. 32).

It is strange, isn’t it, that this older prophet would deliberately lie to the younger prophet, then be used by God to deliver the news of judgment against the younger man. Why would he tell such a lie? Was he so lonely in his service for the Lord that he would deceive God’s man for his own selfish reasons? And why was the older prophet not judged by the Lord for his lie? The scriptures do not answer these questions, nor do they tell us why the Lord bound the younger prophet by the seemingly arbitrary commands to not eat or drink or use the same route in Israel. What the passage seems to be telling us, however, is to be careful about our own obedience. It was hypocritical for the younger prophet to condemn Jeroboam’s disobedience then disobey the Lord himself. Yes, Jeroboam’s disobedience was much more serious than the younger prophet’s was. And, yes, it is true that the younger prophet was deceived by someone he thought he could trust and should have been able to trust. But the younger prophet had God’s clear word to him. He had already seen God confirm his word to Jeroboam so he should have taken God’s personal commands to him just as seriously. Furthermore, he should have known that God does not arbitrarily change his mind or his commands; the right thing to do, the wise thing to do, was to remain obedient to what God had told him despite a convincing word from a trusted older prophet. It didn’t matter if Jeroboam was the one issuing the dinner invitation (vv. 7-10) or if a trusted older prophet invited him (vv. 16-19), it was sin either way to disobey the Lord’s word. This is what we should cling to when someone we trust departs from God’s clear commands. It is always awkward and confusing to see someone we respect and admire sin or contradict God’s word, but if you walk with God long enough it will happen to you. The challenge in that moment is to cling to God’s word yourself instead of being disenchanted or falling into disobedience yourself.

One final thought: the younger prophet could have repented when he was confronted with his own disobedience. Why he didn’t repent is unknown to us; however, my understanding is that when God prophesies judgment he is giving his people the opportunity to repent. This is how we ought to receive confrontation, if it is biblical. Don’t ignore it, minimize it, make excuses for yourself, or try to refute it; embrace it as the Lord’s grace to keep you from greater sin and the consequences that come from sin. When verse 33 says, “Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways…” I think we are to understand that Jeroboam heard of the demise of this young prophet and the circumstances behind it. In other words, the younger prophet’s life and death were another illustration to Jeroboam of the danger of disregarding God’s word. Yet, despite all this, he did not repent. May God give us the grace to respond properly to his word in ways the men in this passage refused to do.

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.