2 Samuel 16, Ezekiel 23

Today, read 2 Samuel 16 and Ezekiel 23.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 23.

Societies do not look kindly on prostitutes. Some women are forced into prostitution against their will due to economic hardship or threats of violence or through slavery. If we knew their stories, we might look on them more kindly on these women and put more shame on the men who hire them. The reasons, however, do not justify prostitution and it is wicked in God’s sight.

In this chapter God compared Israel, represented by Samaria (v. 4d), and Judah, represented by Jerusalem (v. 4d) as prostitutes. Their idolatry is compared to prostitution in the sense that they desired and gave themselves to other gods instead of to the God of their covenant (v. 49). God explained and defended the judgment that Israel received from the Assyrians and the judgment that would come to the Judeans as the consequences of their unfaithfulness to him. The logic of this passage goes like this: “You want to give yourself to the gods of the Assyrians? I’ll marry you to the Assyrians in every way.”

The purpose of this passage is to teach us to empathize with God. God loves his people and married himself to them by a covenant. Instead of wanting God as much as god wanted them, Israel and Judah pined for others. If your spouse did that to you, you would be hurt; it would also arouse in you deep feelings of anger and betrayal. You’d feel this way both toward your spouse who wanted someone else and the person that he or she wanted instead of you.

This is how God feels when we love material things more than we love him. It’s how he feels when entertainment is more appealing to us than worship. It describes the pain he experiences when being accepted in society matters more to us than ordering our lives by his commands. James 4:4 uses this very language to warn us: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

In Christ, there is hope for our adulterous hearts. James 4:6-10 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

This is what we need when our hearts are captivated by other things more than God. We need to humble ourselves and ask for his forgiveness and deliverance. If you find yourself valuing other things above your walk with God, let this passage help you understand why God responds the way he does. He is jealous for you (v. 25) and wants you back.

John 3

Today read John 3.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Actually, it is a big ugly secret but I don’t think most Christians know about it. The secret is: envy and jealousy are not sins that church members struggle with only. Pastors and ministry leaders struggle with it, too. I have--more often and more recently than I would like to admit.

On the outside, we are glad for the ministry success of others. And, when we’re thinking biblically, we are genuinely glad for God’s blessing on other churches. I really don’t think that we are in competition with other churches. Our competition is entertainment, relaxation, sleeping in, working extra weekend hours, materialism, secularism, and all kinds of other noise that distracts people from church attendance and, ultimately, from the gospel message.

I want all my friends to succeed and I want other gospel preaching churches in our area and elsewhere to be reaching people in salvation, baptizing them, discipling them and, therefore, growing in numbers and in spiritual life.

But I want our church to prosper as well. I want us reaching people and baptizing them. I want to see the people who attend and are members of our church to be showing up enthusiastically ready to worship and grow on Sunday. I want to see you bringing friends, too, and to see others coming for the first time.

So, when our church attendance is up and down but others I know are adding additional services to accommodate all the growth, it is hard not to want what they’ve got. So the latter half of John 3 is just for me today. John the Baptist’s disciples are concerned about Jesus’s success. They were alarmed that Jesus was preaching and baptizing and that “everyone is going to him” (v. 26d).

John the Baptist, the greatest man who ever lived--apart from Jesus, of course--had a godly response: “ To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven’” (v. 27). Jesus’s success--anyone’s success--results from God’s blessing. John was happy to see Jesus doing well because he understood who Jesus was (vv. 28-30). John served faithfully in the role that God called him to fill. Now that role was nearing completion (v. 30) and John couldn’t have been happier about the attention Jesus was receiving.

Are you jealous of anyone, envious of anyone else’s life? There is a lot that could be said about that. On one hand, appearances are not always reality and, when that’s true, reality always emerges eventually. Also, there is the whole matter of “sowing and reaping” and sometimes our struggles result from what we’ve been sowing.

But we all need to remember the sovereignty of God over this life. He has different purposes and plans for each of us. If we are faithful to what God commands us to do and calls us to become, if we are sowing good seed and doing it consistently, then we need to trust God with the results.

1 Kings 4–5, Ephesians 2, Ezekiel 35, Psalm 85

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 4–5, Ephesians 2, Ezekiel 35, Psalm 85. 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 35.

Much of Ezekiel’s prophecy concerns the sins of Judah, but in the section we’ve been reading lately his focus is on other nations. In today’s chapter Ezekiel prophesied against Edom. This nation was located to the East and South of Israel; it is part of the modern nation known as Jordan. This land was populated with the people who came from Jacob’s (aka “Israel”) twin brother Esau. At times the Edomites and the Israelites had a good relationship; other times, however, they fought like brothers… I mean, like enemies.

This prophecy promises desolation to Edom (v. 3b, 4). The reason is found in verse 5 where God said, “you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity….” The “ancient hostility” is probably a reference to the tension that existed between Esau and Jacob but the phrase you “delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity” refers to a more timely issue. When Nebuchadnezzar was attacking Jerusalem, the Edomites were cheering and even assisting the Babylonians (see Psalm 137:7, Obadiah 1:10-14). So God promised here in Ezekiel 35 (and other passages) that he would repay the Edomites with justice.

And what was the motivation for Edom’s alliance against Judah? Jealousy: “Because you have said, ‘These two nations and countries will be ours and we will take possession of them,” even though I the Lord was there, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will treat you in accordance with the anger and jealousy you showed in your hatred of them’” (vv. 10-11) Though Esau and Isaac personally lived out their old age at peace with one another, the resentment of the Lord’s favor for the Israelites simmered in the hearts of Esau’s descendants. When God’s judgment came on the people of Judah, Edom did not intercede with him for mercy or mourn the loss of so many lives. Instead they cheered the demise of their brother-nation.

What an ugly sin jealousy is! It causes us to hope for the worst for others, wishing maximum pain on those we dislike. There is a time, of course, to ask God for justice when someone has sinned against us. But if we take perverse pleasure in his justice, can God be pleased with the state of our hearts? And, if we hope for, long for, and even strive for the demise of someone else—not because they mistreated us but because they did better than we did in some way—do we not deserve the Lord’s discipline too?

As we prepare to come together for worship today, search your own heart. Any jealousy there? Any resentment, any hostility, hatred, anger? Do you long for pain in someone’s life so that you can feel better about yourself or take the thing they have that you think you deserve? These are common human attitudes but they are wicked in the sight of God. Repent of them and ask God to give you a true love for your enemies, just as he loved us when we were at war with 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.