pride

1 Chronicles 21, Jonah 4

Today’s readings are 1 Chronicles 21 and Jonah 4.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 21.

When Satan wanted to hurt Israel, he tempted Israel’s leader David (v. 1). The focus of his temptation this time was David’s pride. The census that David ordered was to count all the men in Israel who were young enough and healthy enough to fight in Israel’s army (v. 5). There was no good reason for David to collect this information as Joab tried to point out to him (v. 3). The only reason to do it was to take pride the size of his army.

This stands in quite a bit of contrast to young David who fought and defeated Goliath. That version of David knew that “the battle is the Lord’s” and that all it would take to defeat the Philistines was faith in God as he went out into battle. By counting the fighting men in his kingdom, David was moving the foundation of his faith from God’s promises to the sheer size of his army.

If David had trusted God and not counted his men, God would have worked through those men to deliver Israel from her enemies. So the problem wasn’t that David relied on the army instead of on God’s miraculous power to deliver Israel. God often uses common human methods to accomplish his purpose. The problem, then, was in David’s heart which migrated from trusting God fully in battle to trusting himself and his army. His problem was pride and self-sufficiency rather than faith.

Are you planning to provide for yourself when you encounter problems? There is nothing wrong with good preparation unless that’s what you look to for confidence in your life. Remember to trust the Lord and lean on his understanding rather than on your own resources and knowhow. Anything less than that is sin against God which may bring his correction.

2 Kings 14, Hosea 7

Today, read 2 Kings 14, Hosea 7.

This devotional is about 2 Kings 14.

2 Kings 13 focused on the kings of Israel but here in chapter 14 our attention is directed to Judah again. In 2 Kings 12 we read about Joash, a 7-year old kid king (2 Ki 11:21) who turned out to be one of Judah’s best, at least as long as he followed the instructions of Jehoiada the priest (2 Ki 12:2). His life was cut short prematurely, however, when he was assassinated by some of the officials in his government (2 Ki 12:17-21).

Here in 2 Kings 14, Joash’s son Amaziah became king. Like his father, he was king who ruled righteously (v. 3) but did not remove the idolatry from Judah (v. 4). In addition to worshipping the Lord, Amaziah saw to it that the men who conspired against his father received justice for their treason (v. 6). But Amaziah’s execution of this justice was in obedience to God’s word (v. 6). He also experienced some initial success with his military, defeating a large army of the Edomites (v. 7). When he challenged the king of Israel to battle, however, he received a proverb and a rebuke (vv. 9-10). The king of Israel compared him to the nerdy kid from high school who asks out the prom queen (v. 9). Actually, the image is much stronger than that. A weed in the woods tried to marry the daughter of one of the grand, majestic cedars of Lebanon but before he could be laughed out of the forest, an animal came and trampled him. That was the proverb; the application to Amaziah and Judah came in verse 10: “You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?”

The king of Israel’s reply was insulting, but it was also true. Judah had no business attacking Israel and was miserably defeated when they tried (vv. 11-14). It was pure hubris, not the Lord’s will or a desire to please him, that led Amaziah to attack. Although Jehoash king of Israel was an ungodly man, Amaziah would have been wise to take his advice. As Christians we should not allow our thoughts to be conformed to the pattern of this world or let the morals of unbelievers influence our perception of what is right or our tolerance for what is wrong. But there are many areas of life where we would do well to listen to wise counsel, even if it comes from an unbeliever. An unbeliever might be the best person to treat your medical condition or to repair the foundation of your house or to write a will or create a financial plan or give you legal advice or manufacture your breakfast cereal. At times, the rebuke of an unbeliever for a sinful act or attitude in your life might be just what you need to keep you from pursuing a sinful or foolish action. Amaziah’s defeat reminds us to watch our ego; godly people can overreach, so consider yourself whenever anyone offers you rebuke or correction or instruction that is wise.

2 Samuel 21, Ezekiel 28

Today’s scheduled readings are 2 Samuel 21 and Ezekiel 28.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 28.

The tirade against Tyre that began in Ezekiel 26 continued into this chapter. The focus this time was on the king of Tyre (v. 2). God’s issue with him was his pride: “‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god....”’” His pride was based on his wisdom (v. 2i) and wealth (v. 4). These are related issues.

Tyre became a wealthy place because of its location on the Mediterranean sea. The people of Tyre used that location wisely by learning to navigate that sea and creating trade relationships with other costal towns. All of this is to their credit and God acknowledged that in verse 4 when he said, “By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself.” And, as verse 5 said, “By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth....” The king of Tyre sat atop all of this prosperity and all of it went to his head. Verse 5c-d says, “...because of your wealth your heart has grown proud.”

People who are intelligent and wise may become wealthy, but not always. Some people who excelled academically in school choose jobs in academia or government because those jobs feel safe. You can make a good living working for someone else but most wealth is created by working for yourself. Working for yourself, though, feels insecure and requires taking some risks. Those who make it and become wealthy, therefore, may use their wealth as a scorecard to inflate their own egos. “I took a chance on myself and look how well it turned out,” they may think, “so I must be smarter and wiser than most people.” Apparently the king of Tyre thought so much of his success that he ascribed to himself godlike qualities (vv. 2, 6). God, therefore, decided to douse him with a cold bucket of reality. The Babylonians, then, defeated Tyre just as they defeated the other nations around them.

Over and over again the Bible tells us that God hates pride and loves humility. A humble person can enjoy success and even wealth while realizing that (a) others contributed to one’s ability to generate wealth and (b) God ultimately decides who prospers and who does not. Someone once said that, “The world turns over every 24 hours on someone who thought they were on top of it.” The king of Tyre was about to find that out for himself. A humble, godly man like Job found that out, too.

Don’t follow his example. If you’re doing well, thank God for it and be a good steward of what you get.

Joshua 17-19, Jeremiah 9

As a result of my mistakes earlier in the week, we need to read Joshua 17-19 today as well as Jeremiah 9. And, just like that, we’ll be back on schedule tomorrow.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 9:23-24.

Remember a few days ago when God commanded the people not to say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” (7:4)? That chapter was about the spiritual pride of the people. Because they believed that God was in their city, they believed they were invincible.

This chapter is much sadder; tears recur throughout its verses. The pride of Judah would quickly flatten like air being let out of an inflated balloon as the Babylonians conquered the city of Jerusalem, despite “The temple of the Lord!” within its walls. This chapter prophesies of a judgment that was still future to Judah when it was given. God calls them to stop lying to themselves about their exceptionalism and get serious about their true spiritual condition. Sin ran through Judah like blood runs through your veins; yet God’s people were proud. Therefore, God promised them, “I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; and I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there” (v. 11).

The only thing God allows us to be proud about is him. Verses 23-24 say, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me....” But this is not pride in their intellect or insight; only God can give “understanding to know” him and he gives it according to his will, to those who are humble and repentant, by his grace.

Also, note that just slapping God’s name on your beliefs is nothing to be proud about. Instead, the proper boast of the believer is in the knowledge of God as he truly is. Verse 24c-f says, “‘that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.” Kindness is foreign to sinful hearts filled with hate. Justice and righteousness are foreign concepts to guilty sinners before a holy God. Only the grace of God can cause us to love and be proud of God as he really is. Once we know him, though, we have what we need to weather the problems of life, even if the strongholds we trust (“the temple of the Lord!”) are thrown down in front of us.

Deuteronomy 20, Isaiah 47

Today’s readings are Deuteronomy 20 and Isaiah 47.

This devotional is about Isaiah 47.

There have been many empires in human history. During their days of dominance, most people considered those empires impossible to defeat. In this chapter, Isaiah was inspired to speak against the Babylonian Empire, warning them that they were not as invincible as they believed. Verses 1-3 predicted Babylon’s humiliating defeat. Staring in verse 4, God explained that Babylon’s dominance was part of his plan to discipline Israel for her sins (v. 6). Their God-given domination seemed to them to be an eternal entitlement to rule (vv. 7-8) but God said that they will suddenly fall in defeat without knowing how it happened (vv. 9-11). The chapter ended with God mocking the religious practices of the Babylonians (vv. 12-15) and predicting that these prophets would not even be able to save themselves (v. 14c) much less the whole nation.

This chapter reminds us again that nations are under God’s sovereign authority and control, too. They may desire strength and domination but they cannot achieve either apart from God willing or allowing it to happen. In Babylon’s case, God had decreed that, for his own purposes, God would allow the Babylonians to defeat and exile his people in Judah. They served God’s purpose and, when that purpose had been served, God moved on to other nations to exercise his will, leaving the Babylonians weak and exposed and ultimately defeated by the Persian Empire.

Here in the USA in 2018, we too feel dominant and that our power will continue for as long as American’s can imagine. But what if God has other plans? What will happen to your faith if God moves on from America and allows another country to dominate us? Would you lose your faith in God if Canada, our mighty neighbors to the North, ascended in power and brought us nationally into subjection? What about if Russia or Brazil subjugated us to their rule; would your faith be disturbed then?

God has blessed our nation and I’m thankful for the freedom and benefits we have. Nevertheless, this is not God’s kingdom and someday Christ’s kingdom will defeat and supplant every human nation and power on earth, including ours. That is, unless he allows some other powerful nation to take us down first. If that seems impossible to you read verses 7-11 again. The Babylonians thought they were incapable of defeat and they were... right up until God was finished with them. It is foolish for anyone to trust in human rulers or nations but this especially goes for believers. We belong to King Jesus; any other allegiance we have is far less powerful, important, or meaningful to us. If it isn’t, we are idol worshippers. Check your heart; is it with the Lord and his will or is it set on Americanism?

Genesis 30, Esther 6, and Psalm 29

Today read Genesis 30, Esther 6, and Psalm 29.

This devotional is about Esther 6.

Haman was a man on the rise in Xerxes’s kingdom of Persia. Back in chapter 3 we read that Xerxes honored Haman “elevating him and giving a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles” (3:1). Haman was so influential that everyone else in Xerxes’s regime “knelt down and paid honor” to him because the king had commanded that (3:2). The only man who didn’t kiss up to Haman was Mordecai, Esther’s guardian. As you will remember from chapter 3, Haman wanted to kill ALL the Jews because of Mordecai’s disrespect. That is how seriously Haman took himself and how deeply proud he was in his heart.

Here in chapter 6, Haman’s pride starts to become his downfall. Mordecai had saved king Xerxes’s life back in chapter 2:21-23 by exposing a plot to assassinate him. Now, on a night of insomnia, Xerxes read the record of Mordecai’s heroics (6:1-2) and determined to honor him.

Just at that moment, Haman showed up; when the king asked Haman how some should be honored, Haman assumed he was the one to be honored (v. 6) and hatched a plan to get maximum attention for himself in the city (vv. 7-9). But, in a cruel twist, Xerxes ordered Haman to provide for Mordecai--a man he hated--the ceremony of honor Haman had recommended. With no choice in the matter, Haman did it (v. 11) but was humiliated by the experience (v. 12). Those who loved Haman saw this as a bad sign and predicted Haman’s ruin despite all the honor he’d been receiving before this.

We haven’t reached the end of the story yet in our reading. But (spoiler alert): they were right. Things were about to go very badly for Haman. His story illustrates Luke 14:11: “...all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Keep this in mind when you experience some success and gain some notoriety for it. Pride messes with the morals of people; it causes us to think that we deserve things we don’t deserve. It convinces us that we are exempt from the laws of sowing and reaping and that we can play by different rules because we produce so consistently and so well. Many of the men who are caught in the #metoo scandals illustrate this very truth, just as Haman did.

Don’t let pride bring out the ugly in you. Don’t let it lead you down a path of sin because that sin will deliver you to destruction. Be thankful for any success you have and stay humble. Keep serving the Lord and others and let him exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:6).

3 John

Today’s reading is 3 John.

Can you imagine excluding one of the twelve apostles who walked with our Lord from coming to our church to speak? OK, Judas, yes. Without repentance we wouldn’t welcome him but that wouldn’t have been an issue since he killed himself.

I’m talking about John--the disciple that Jesus loved, one of Jesus’s three closest associates, and one of the three people who saw his transfiguration. That guy, John, wanted to come to some church, somewhere but he was refused entrance according to verse 9. Why? Because of some guy named Diotrephes. We don’t know anything about him other than what John wrote of him here in 3 John. He must have been an elder or have some kind of outsized influence in this church; otherwise, he would not have been able to prevent John from coming there.

But what an influence he must have had! To successfully prevent one of the Lord’s Twelve from getting an audience in his church suggests an outrageous amount of power. And, apparently that’s what he wanted because John described him as a man who “loves to be first” (v. 9b).

John wasn’t alone; verse 10 tells us that Diotrephes “refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” So any believer that tried to come to his church was prevented from entering and, if you were in the church and tried to bring someone in, you’d be subject to discipline by Diotrephes. Outrageous!

How did he amass this kind of power? We don’t know exactly, but there is a clue in verse 10a when John says that Diotrephes was “spreading malicious nonsense about us.” He used the power of words to gain control and influence, then used that influence to call attention to himself instead of to glorify God. This is one of the destructive aspects of gossip. Gossip is often true but embarrassing information about others. Sometimes, though, it is completely false and has been planted by someone with evil intentions. This appears to be one of the ways that Diotrephes was able to keep his church under his evil influence.

Although Diotrephes was affective, he should not be imitated for verse 11 says, “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”

Do you think about the words that you use and the destructive power that they potentially can have? Are you careful about the words used by others, not believing “malicious nonsense” (v. 10b) but going to the source to verify, clarify, or refute these nonsensical things? Do you “love to be first,” basking in the recognition of others? Let God’s word today help you examine your motives and your practices and teach you to “imitate... what is good” (v. 11a).

1 Timothy 6

Today read 1 Timothy 6.

What motivates people who teach false doctrine? According to verse 4, it is pride: “they are conceited.” And, wouldn’t you have to be? To set forth your own ideas as if they were scripture, one would need an over-inflated self-confidence. Another motivation is greed; verse 5 says that false teachers “think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”

Instead of bringing us wealth, however, godliness teaches us contentment. Verses 6-8 say, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” This world has many nice things to offer but the person who accumulates them all will leave them all behind when he dies. When Steve Jobs died in 2011, he was worth over $10 billion but a beggar who died with nothing on the same day took the same amount of wealth into eternity. As Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.” If you walk with God, however, and learn to trust him, having the basics will be all that you need. Again 1 Timothy 6:8 says, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

This is what false teachers miss. They think that novel ideas about God will be a path to wealth that will given them satisfaction. Instead, they may find prosperity but miss the real gain of walking with God--a life of true satisfaction.

Are you content with what you have? Or do you think that more of something (or everything) will bring you more satisfaction? Money doesn’t by happiness but godliness brings contentment. Focus on your walk with God and let him satisfy you as no material thing can.

1 Corinthians 1

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 1.

During Paul’s two year stay in Ephesus, which we read about yesterday in Acts 19, he probably wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians so we will read those letters, then come back to Acts later.

The church at Corinth had a lot of problems and Paul started addressing them right away here in chapter 1 verse 10. Despite their many--and serious--problems, Paul took time to appreciate the evidence of their faith in God and express confidence in God’s power to make them holy in verses 4-9. The reason for this confidence was that they were “sanctified [set apart] in Christ Jesus” (v. 2) and that God was faithfully working in them (vv. 8-9). The Corinthians, it seems, had lost sight of the fact that God was the source of their faith and their salvation (vv. 28-30). Judging from Paul’s words in this chapter, it appears that the Corinthians began to think that they had some level of discernment on their own. They argued about who was the best teacher--Paul or Apollos (vv. 10-17) which suggests that they thought one or the other was more insightful. Those who argued for their guy may have thought, if you only had the spiritual insight I have, you’d see that Paul is the better teacher. Paul reminded them that it was not their clever insights that brought them to Christ, but Christ and his grace. Apart from his grace, we would consider Jesus and his atoning death for us to be foolishness (vv. 18-23); God, however, called us to trust in Jesus which is why we turned to him in faith (v. 24a). When we turned to Christ in faith, that’s when we learned that Jesus was God’s power and wisdom embodied (v. 24b). In fact, Christ is everything to us by the grace of God--“our wisdom... righteousness, holiness and redemption” (v. 30).

The pride that Paul addressed in the Corinthians is a present temptation to Christians at all times including us. Sometimes we may be tempted to pity or even despise the lost because of how deeply sin and unbelief has infected them. But it was not our keen insight that saved us from that life; it was God’s gracious work in our minds and hearts when we heard the gospel.

This should cause us to thank God for the gift of grace he gave to us. We’d be lost in our sins just life everyone else if it weren’t for his saving work. And, since God is the one who chooses and who saves, we should never write anyone off as being beyond the power of God. The gospel, by the grace of God, is a transformative message. You’ve witnessed its transforming power in your own life but don’t be proud of that fact. Instead, be proud of God (v. 31) and willing to share his message with others so that they may experience his grace as well.

Acts 12

Today’s schedule calls for us to read Acts 12.

In this chapter, Herod wanted the accolades of the Jewish people under his rule (v. 3), so he killed James and intended to kill Peter (vv. 1-5). God answered the prayers of the church and rescued Peter miraculously (vv. 6-18). Then the people of Tyre and Sidon appealed to Herod’s pride by praising him as a god after they settled a dispute with him (vv. 19b-22). God took his life for accepting this blasphemous praise (v. 23) but God’s word kept on growing and reaching more and more people (v. 24).

This incident was a taste of the kingdom clash that Jesus began and will complete when he returns. This world wants to suppress God’s word and silence God’s messengers so that it can take the praise and adoration that belongs to God alone. Although God rarely brings the kind of immediate judgment on the foolish, proud kings of this world, he will eventually defeat them and rule all creation. Then he alone will finally receive the worship that he alone deserves. Until his kingdom comes in its fullness, the gospel of it continues to spread and grow and make more and more citizens who will worship him now and rejoice with him when his kingdom finally does come.

Very few rulers today would demand or even accept overt worship as God but there are plenty of people who still enjoy the ego boost that comes from the praise of people. The power they have, however, is not due to them because they deserve it; it is entrusted to them temporarily as managers of God’s authority as king. We should never give much credit, praise, or admiration to men or women who are politically powerful. Our Lord and king is Jesus; only he will rule perfectly.

Luke 18

Luke 18

The major theme of this chapter is humility. That theme comes out more clearly in some of the paragraphs of this chapter than in others. But consider this:

  • In verses 9-14 the tax collector was justified instead of the Pharisee because “those who humble themselves will be exalted” (v. 14c).
  • In verses 15-17 you have to become helpless like a child in order to enter the kingdom. Verse 17: “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
  • In verses 18-30 the rich man refused the kingdom of heaven because Jesus told him to sell everything. Selling everything would have humbled him, making him dependent on God.
  • Verses 31-34 doesn’t seem to fit the theme of humility except that Jesus’ death required him to humble himself, so maybe that’s why Luke recorded this passage in this spot.
  • In verses 35-43 the beggar was not too proud to stop calling out to Jesus asking for his sight. His personal dignity and reputation among others were less important to him than receiving this healing from Jesus.

So how does the first story in verses 1-8 fit with this theme of humility? Well, maybe it doesn’t. These chapter divisions are not inspired and were added to the Bible much later than the passages were written.

But, although being in this chapter doesn’t necessarily make verses 1-8 about humility and even though humility is not expressly mentioned in this story, I still think the concept is there. The point of this story according to Luke was, “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” The woman in this story badgered the unjust judge and eventually won her case because of her badgering (vv. 4-5). Then Jesus said that God will listen to those who “cry out to him day and night” (v. 7). What the story does not address is why we won’t “cry out to him day and night.” Why don’t we persist in prayer?

One answer is weak faith or a lack of faith. Another answer is just that we’re human and humans struggle with various kinds of weaknesses. But I think pride is a reason why we don’t pray persistently. Prayer is an acknowledgment that we cannot control something. It is a response to the knowledge among the faithful that we cannot make something happen on our own so, if it is to happen, God will have to do it. That takes humility! Our default assumption is that we can handle things. We can put up with stuff we don’t like, we can persuade someone to do what we want, we can reason with someone who we have a dispute with, we can change ourselves if we try hard enough for long enough. But prayer causes us to admit that these things may not be true and that only God might be able to make something happen. We might pray once or twice asking God for something but after that, we give up to look for “more productive” ways to attack the problem we’re praying about. And, of course, God is sovereign and will do his will, so he may refuse to answer our prayers with yes because they are outside of his will. All of these are blows to our pride.

So, what do you wish God would do for you? If it is within his moral will, will cause him to be glorified, and is truly righteous and just, don’t let your pride keep you from asking God--continually--for it.

Luke 14

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

The Pharisee who invited Jesus to eat in his home on this Sabbath day (v. 1) probably had no idea that his own sacred cows would be on the menu--spiritually speaking, of course.

A recurring theme in Luke has been what is permissible on the Sabbath. The Pharisees had very strict views on this subject and Jesus challenged those views by healing a man on the Sabbath (vv. 2-4), then pointing out their hypocrisy. They would help a child or an animal in a dangerous situation or with an injury on the Sabbath (v. 5) but were deeply offended when he healed a man who had been suffering. God is never offended when people do good and relieve the suffering of others on the Sabbath. The intent of the Sabbath laws supersede strict interpretations of that law.

That opening paragraph (vv. 1-6) happened on the way to the Pharisees house, before the meal even began. That is suggested in verse 1 where it says, “Jesus went to eat...” but it is confirmed in verse 7 by the fact that people were picking out places to sit, so the meal had not yet begun. Jesus turned his rhetorical attention to pride, noting how at wedding banquets people assumed themselves to be the most honorable person in attendance by how they chose their seats. He counseled people to go for the worst seat at the banquet (v. 10a); after all, it is better to invited to move to a better spot than to be demoted to a lesser seat. This is one of the most practical things Jesus said that doesn’t have to do with an overtly moral or spiritual issue. He addressed a common life scenario for his land giving very culture and gave very sage advice. While the situation Jesus described in verses 7-10 is far more mundane than the usual topics he taught about, the deeper issue was human pride as we see in verse 11.

Finally, Jesus addressed his host directly (v. 12) and instructed him to be more discriminating about who he invited to dinner (vv. 12b-13). Instead of inviting people he loved and liked, Jesus advised him to invite the kind of people who don’t usually get dinner invitations--“the poor, the crippled, the lame, and blind.” This was about human pride, too. We like to spend time with people we like, friends who elevate our mood and even our status and who might invite us to their homes as well. A party for the poor, however, doesn’t appeal to us but Jesus said we “will be blessed” (v. 14a) if we befriend and include those who are low in social status. This blessing awaits in the future, however, for Jesus said, “...you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (v. 14b).

Passages like these indicate that pride was more overt in Jesus’ day than it might be in ours. We are the inventors of “the humble brag” after all. While we might be more subtle about our pride than the Pharisees and others in Jesus’ day, we still struggle with pride. It’s nice to be noticed so putting ourselves in a place where we are noticeable can be just as tempting now as it was in the wedding banquets Jesus attended. Likewise, we enjoy spending time with people who are like us--“your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives” and especially our “rich neighbors” (v. 12). Jesus’ confrontational style of speaking was designed to challenge our pride forcefully--not to say we can never have our friends and family over for dinner but that we should intentionally befriend and include those who are not usually coveted as friends. His teaching calls us to get over ourselves and look for ways to be a true, tangible blessing to others.

So, what might you do today or this weekend or next week that would wound your pride but make a real difference in someone else’s life?

2 Chronicles 26, Revelation 13, Zechariah 9, John 12

f you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 26, Revelation 13, Zechariah 9, John 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 2 Chronicles 26.

The life story of Uzziah is a sad one. It is about a man with great potential whose reign as king began in spiritual victory but whose life ended in disgrace. Although he became king at the tender age of 16 (v. 1, 3), he was graced with a godly advisor and mentor in the person Zechariah (v. 5). Although Zechariah “instructed him the fear of God” (v. 5b), it was Uzziah’s choice to follow the Lord in obedience or not. Every king in Judah and Israel had the power to do what he wanted. The priests and the prophets and good advisors could speak truth to the king and urge him to obey God’s word, but they had no power to stop an ungodly king from ungodly actions. Uzziah began his reign by listening to Zechariah’s godly advice and using the stewardship of power as king for good. What was the result? “As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success” (v. 5).

That success was defined by his military wins (vv. 6-7), the voluntary submission of the Ammonites (v. 8a), widespread fame (v. 8b), great building projects (vv. 9-10), and a powerful, well-equipped army (vv. 11-15). What an impressive resume!

Unfortunately, Uzziah read (and believed!) too much of his adoring press coverage. He began to believe that his success was a testament to his skill and wisdom rather than the blessing of God on his obedience. As a result, “his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God” (v. 16b). His pride expressed itself in his attempt to be both priest and king (vv. 17-19a). God brought judgment on his head (literally, v. 19b) for his pride and his once-good spiritual leadership ended in disgrace.

I wish this were only Uzziah’s story but it isn’t. Too many servants of the Lord have gotten high on the success God granted them and believed that it was their own wisdom and skill that achieved that success. God, however, has a way of humbling the proud by letting us follow our own desires and “wisdom” down a path of disobedience that leads to his discipline. As I’ve mentioned before, there are two ways to become wise: (1) learn from your mistakes and (2) learn from someone else’s mistakes and avoid those mistakes before you make them yourself. Let’s guard our hearts, then, against the sin of pride. Let’s remember that it is God’s blessing that causes our lives and ministries to thrive (v. 5) and to continually humble ourselves before him in full dependence throughout our lives.

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 1, Galatians 5, Ezekiel 32, Psalm 80

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 1, Galatians 5, Ezekiel 32, Psalm 80. 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 1.

Someone once said that there are two ways to become wise. You can (1) learn from your mistakes or (2) learn from someone else’s mistakes. The second of these two is, obviously, far better. It keeps you from experiencing the pain and consequences of making mistakes and it also allows you to progress faster because you don’t have to try again after your mistaken approach fails. 

Too bad Adonijah did not choose the second path to wisdom. He saw his older brother Absalom attempt to appoint himself as king (2 Sam 15:10). Although Adonijah waited until his father was older and weaker, he still made the same decision that failed Absalom (5a). Adonijah even copied Absalom’s attempt to exalt himself by riding around in chariots with 50 forerunners to announce his coming (2 Sam 15:1 cf 1 Ki 1:5). It appears that Adonijah was the oldest living child of David’s at this point in his life. With David being old and possibly in bad health (v. 1), and based on cultural customs in their times, it was reasonable to expect that Adonijah would succeed David as king. The oldest son alive at the time of a man’s death was usually the heir that received the most inheritance, including the kingship. Although it may be been customary for the oldest living son to be chosen as king, it was David’s prerogative as king to appoint his successor. So why did Adonijah make the same mistake as Absalom and try to appoint himself king before David had died? 

One answer to this question is that David had already chosen Solomon. We see this in verse 13 here in 1 Kings 1; indeed, that verse says that David had sworn to Bathsheba that Solomon would succeed him as king. Although the text does not say so, it is probable that David had made his plans to choose Solomon well-known in his family and circle of advisors. This is suggested by the fact that Adonijah “invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the special guard or his brother Solomon” (vv. 9-10). Why did Adonijah invite all his brothers except for Solomon? Why did he invite all the royal officials except for a select few (cf. vv. 8-10)? The most likely answer is that he knew that David had chosen Solomon, not him, so he would try to take the kingdom by subversion and deal with Solomon later (see v. 21). Adonijah’s actions, then, are quite similar to Absalom’s. But Absalom failed and Adonijah could have learned from that failure. God’s word tells us more than once not to exalt ourselves. Consider:

  • Proverbs 25:6-7: Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.”
     
  • Luke 14:7-11: When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Don’t assume that a promotion at work will be yours or that a slick plan can give you something you want or even what you feel entitled to get. Instead, learn to act in humility instead of putting yourself in a position to be humiliated.

David, unfortunately, did not follow the first way to wisdom by learning from his own mistakes. Verse 6 suggests that Adonijah’s chariot and 50 men entourage was something he had done more than once before he declared himself king. But, just as David did not deal with Amnon when he raped Tamar (2 Sam 13:21) or Absalom when he killed Amnon (2 Sam 13:39), he did not speak to Adonijah when he saw him exalting himself. We all make mistakes. We all make foolish decisions that are costly. We all sin sometimes. A wise person will learn from his own errors and take different actions in the future to avoid making that error again.

There is a third way to wisdom and it is the best way of the three. Learn from your own mistakes, yes. Learn from other people’s mistakes, absolutely. But better than both is to learn from God’s revelation. When we sin, we are testing the truthfulness of God’s word. We may presume that our case is an exceptional one, worthy of an exception to God’s word. Or, we may presume that we can get away with something that someone else did not get away with. Or we might presume that God will forgive us and that his forgiveness will limit the damage of the consequences for our sin. All of these are foolish. When we take God at his word and live obediently to him, we can avoid the problems that sin brings.

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.

2 Samuel 24, Galatians 4, Ezekiel 31, Psalm 79

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Samuel 24, Galatians 4, Ezekiel 31, Psalm 79. 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 2 Samuel 24.

Of all the disturbing things recorded about David’s life, 2 Samuel 24 is one of the tougher ones. Verse 1 tells us that “the anger of the Lord burned against Israel.” God is not angry by nature; his anger is a righteous response to sin. The problem is that we are not told what sin(s) Israel did that caused God to become angry in this instance. Since idols were the biggest problem during the era of Judges, that might be the reason but we just are not told. The fact that God was said to be angry with Israel without a stated reason might make you wonder if he was angry for no reason at all. That’s the first disturbing aspect of this passage.

A second issue comes from the phrase, also in verse 1, “…he incited David against them, saying, ‘Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.’” This sounds like God commanded David to take the census; however, in verse 10 David said, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done….” So how could God command David to do something that was sinful for David to do?

The answer is that God did not directly command David to take the census; instead, verse 1 says that God “incited him.” This word means to “suggest” in the original Hebrew, so it isn’t a direct command. Still, would God suggest that anyone do something sinful?

Of course not.

Yet sometimes God lets us go our own way in order to accomplish something he had decided to do. I take this phrase to mean not that God directly tempted David or created evil in David’s heart. Instead, it seems God allowed David to be tempted and to fall into that temptations. The point of the census was to count the number of available fighting men. That was a sin because a large army may become an expression of pride for the leader. By knowing exactly how large his army was, David could feel very proud about himself as a leader. And pride is a sin that beats in every human heart; unrestrained by the Holy Spirit, people are very given to pride. Instead of putting his confidence in God, David would be tempted to trust his large, highly experienced army. Since pride is inherent in the fallen hearts of humanity, God did not have to tempt David directly. All God had to do was remove the restraints on David’s life and let him do what he wanted. I believe that is what happened in this passage. David’s choice to count the troops was his sin because of the attitude of pride that prompted it. Don’t let pride become a tool for Satan in your life; maintain a humble spirit and cry out to God daily for his blessings as you go about your daily life.

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.

2 Samuel 18, 2 Corinthians 11, Ezekiel 25, Psalm 73

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Samuel 18, 2 Corinthians 11, Ezekiel 25, Psalm 73. 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 2 Samuel 18.

Of all the battles David fought in his life, none created as much anxiety for him as this one must have. His anxiety had nothing to do with fear of losing; God had made an eternal covenant with David, so David could be confident that God would be with him. David also had an impressive army with him (v. 1) led by Joab, his experienced, successful field general (v. 2). Although David expressed his willingness to enter the battle personally (v. 2f), his soldiers convinced him to stay in the fortified city of Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17:24 compare to 2 Samuel 2:8) while they fought on his behalf (18:3-6).

As expected, God gave David’s troops this victory (vv. 7-8). Absalom certainly believed he was a capable judge (remember 15:1-4); apparently he also believed he was a mighty warrior. There is no mention of him fighting in Israel’s army; though Jonathan fought in Saul’s army, David’s kingdom and army were more highly developed than Saul’s. It seems unlikely to me, therefore that Absalom had ever fought in any battle prior to this battle here in 2 Samuel 18. Though the Bible does not accuse Absalom of arrogance, it certainly seems to paint a picture of an arrogant man. He had hired men to go before his chariots and horsemen to announce his arrival (15:1). Unlike most men who have receding hairlines or some type of balding problem, Absalom had a thick head of hair that he allowed to grow long (14:26), maybe to stand out in a crowd and draw attention to himself. Our passage today told us that Absalom built a monument to himself so that he would not be forgotten, since he had no son (v. 18). Despite his great self-confidence, Absalom’s army was no match for his father’s and his thick hair was instrumental in bringing him to a humiliating defeat (vv. 9-17). 

Unlike his father, David, who was chosen and anointed king by God and who waited until Saul was dead and Israel was ready for him to become king, Absalom anointed himself king and tried to take David’s kingdom from him by force, despite what God had promised to David. Absalom’s life and death illustrate the truth Jesus taught in Luke 14:11: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” May the Lord protect us from the high risk foolishness of arrogance. I think that we are especially susceptible to arrogance when we are young. I know that I, as a younger man, thought I saw things more clearly at times than the leaders I followed. I remember thinking that I could do better and agitating for more authority. Now that I am older and have struggled with the realities of the adult world and spiritual /church leadership, I have a much lower view of my own abilities. If you are young, take a lesson from Absalom; there is great virtue in following your leaders as your leaders do their best to follow and obey the Lord. Don’t let arrogance put you into a self-destructive place.

One final thought: I do not believe in allegorical interpretation of the Bible and I think it often produces theology that is untrue and even reckless. But since we are made in God’s image, aspects of human life recorded in scripture can sometimes help us relate personally to God’s own heart. So I can’t help but see God’s heart in David’s deep anguish at the loss of Absalom (v. 33). Like Absalom, humanity—we—have rebelled against God’s authority and rulership. Like Absalom, we think too much of ourselves and act as if we know better than the King. Like Absalom marching against David’s army, we try to overthrow the Almighty Warrior with logic, science, and other gifts of God that we try to employ perversely as weapons against him. Yet, like David, God still cares for us in our rebellion. He wants to be the king that he rightfully is, but he wants to show us mercy when we try to overthrow him. Our rebellion stirs the heart of God in anger but also in pain, yet he longs to be reconciled to us because he loves us. Unlike David, however, God was able to redeem us, reconcile us, and change our rebellious hearts through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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 Samuel 18, Romans 16, Lamentations 3, Psalm 34

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Samuel 18, Romans 16, Lamentations 3, Psalm 34. 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 Samuel 18.

First Samuel 18 presents us with a study in contrasts. Saul is king but David has been anointed his successor. Saul is jealous of David, but David is not jealous of Jonathan, even though Jonathan would be the natural human successor to Saul. David has the Spirit of God on his life; Saul has lost the Spirit’s anointing and is, instead, troubled by an evil spirit. Saul wanted to kill David but David was so humble that he did not consider himself worthy of marrying Saul’s daughter. 

Remember that David has already been anointed king by Samuel and has received the anointing power of the Spirit that kings and judges received. There is inevitability about David’s becoming king and, as you would expect, he is ascending in the military. Remember that being king, at this point in Israel, is mostly about fighting battles. That’s what the Israelites said they wanted: “We want a king over us…  to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:19b-20). So the fact that David “was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army” (18:5), and “…in everything he did he had great success” (18:14) and “…all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns” (18:16) showed how Samuel’s prophecy about David was becoming a reality. 

Yet David shows no sense of entitlement. He knew that the kingdom will be his and he saw the fulfillment of that prophecy developing day after day, but he did not assassinate Saul, not even in self-defense (18:11) Also, Saul had promised his daughter to the man who defeated Goliath (17:25) so David was entitled to become Saul’s son-in-law. But David did not demand what was promised to him and even deflected the opportunity to marry Saul’s daughter twice (18:18-19, 23) until he finally felt worthy to marry Michal after “skinning” a hundred Philistines (vv. 25-27). If anyone could have felt entitled, SHOULD have felt entitled, it was David but all we see is humility, humility, humility. That humility was shown in service—fighting Saul’s battles even in far-flung places (v. 13) and playing the harp on demand whenever Saul wanted (v. 10). Why was David so humble and why did he live like a servant? Because he trusted the Lord and walked with him.

Entitlement is one of the most subtle sins that tries to seduce us. I know that the word “entitlement” does not appear in any sin lists in the Bible, but entitlement is simply one manifestation of pride. An entitled person is one who thinks he deserves whatever he has now, gets in the present and future, and usually thinks he deserves even more. A person who feels entitled usually shows a (1) a lack of gratitude for the things he has and (2) anger about the things he is not getting. A disgruntled employee is often one who suffers from entitlement. Church conflicts are often caused when someone feels entitled. Bratty children and spousal unrest are often the result of entitlement. The best antidote to entitlement is to realize that everything we have was given to us by God, so we should be grateful for what God gives and wait for what God has promised. If you are suffering from ingratitude and conflict, check your heart. Are you walking with God, thanking him for what he’s given you and seeking to serve him and his children? Or is your mind and heart focused on what you think you deserve that you are not getting? 

An entitled person will never live up to his potential because he thinks he deserves things, so he won’t work hard to get them. Consequently, an entitled person is constantly disappointed. We see that in Saul when the women were praising David more than Saul, the “mighty king” who was too cowardly to fight Goliath (16:6-8). If you find yourself disappointed, you need to focus on what you’re not giving instead of what you aren’t getting. Maybe your disappointment, your anger, and your ingratitude are the poisonous fruits of self-entitled pride.

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.

Joshua 4, Psalms 129–131, Isaiah 64, Matthew 12

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 4, Psalms 129–131, Isaiah 64, Matthew 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 131.

Pride is, perhaps, the most self-damaging attitude a person can have. It is self-damaging on multiple levels. First, if others detect pride in you, it lowers their estimation of you as a person. Have you ever met someone who was obviously in love with their own intellect, enamored with their own talents, and impressed with their own accomplishments? Did his or her pride make you think more of them? Of course not; so the social cost of pride is one way in which it damages us.

Pride also damages us in the sense that it keeps us from learning and growing. You cannot teach a proud person because that person will not believe that they have anything to learn. It takes humility to admit that you are wrong or that you are ignorant. If you’re too proud to do that, you can’t learn. As jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis once said, “The humble improve.” If you’re stuck anywhere in life, you should start getting unstuck by asking yourself if your pride is what is impeding your progress. Chances are, it is.

A third way in which we damage ourselves with pride is that pride prevents us from truly knowing God. Proud people believe that God owes them something; they feel that their moral character or good works entitles them to God’s love and favor. By failing to understand God’s perfection, they fail also to see how far each of us falls short of him and deserves his judgment, not his favor. Repentance is the opposite of pride and sinners can never know God without repenting first of our wickedness and disobedience. Furthermore, the proud believe that they can figure God out; they think that the almighty can be comprehended by mere mortals—maybe not all mortals, but the smart ones at least. This is where Psalm 131 begins; the author describes the state of his heart as a place of humility in verse 1a. He augments that thought by saying that his appearance is not marked by pride either (v. 1b). Nobody outside of him will charge him with pride because, in his heart, is not too proud. The evidence of his humility is described in verses 1c-d: “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” It is not that he never wonders about these things or tries to understand them; rather, he doesn’t allow his inability to understand them to undermine his faith. A proud person would say, I cannot believe in a God I don’t understand; a humble man will realize that if God is worth believing in, his nature, his character, and his ways must be beyond human comprehension. A god that people have figured out is a god that is too small to worship in awe and too dull to fascinate us for eternity. While we are certainly able to understand what God has revealed to us, we can only understand anything about him because God has revealed it to us. It takes humility to realize that everything I know about God I only understand because of his grace, his revelation. 

In verse 2 the Psalmist compares his spiritual status to a contented baby. A baby is incapable of understanding his mother but he finds contact with her comforting. What he knows is that she loves him and will do anything it takes to care for him; when he accepts that truth, he is able to rest in contentment despite what he does not understand. In verse 3, the Psalmist urges Israel to find that same contentment by putting their hope in God. A proud person hopes in himself; those who want to know God, by contrast, receive by faith what God has to give and find their comfort in him.

Are you too proud to really know God or have you humbled yourself so that you can put all your hope 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.