thanksgiving

1 Chronicles 17, Jonah 1

Happy Thanksgiving! Today, read 1 Chronicles 17 and Jonah 1.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 17.

When God tore the kingdom from Saul, He declared that he would give it to a man after his own heart (1 Sam 13:14). That man, of course, was David. David demonstrated his heart for God in multiple ways throughout his life including here where he declared his intention to build a temple for God--a permanent place to “house” the Lord’s worship.

Instead of allowing David to build him a literal house, God responded to David’s desire with a declaration that He would establish David’s “house” (metaphorically) forever. Verse 10 says, “I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you.” This is called “The Davidic Covenant” and it has the following promises within it:

David’s name would be famous historically on earth (v. 8c). God would establish Israel geographically and protect the nation (vv. 9-10). NOTE: this just restates what God had promised Abraham in the Abrahamic covenant. David’s descendants would rule over God’s kingdom forever (v. 14).

Promise #1 was fulfilled but promises 2 and 3 have not yet been fulfilled. God did establish Israel in the land until he removed them in judgment. And, God did establish Solomon’s throne and left it in place, in a sense, even after Solomon sinned through the nation of Judah. But the ultimate fulfillment of these promises awaits and our faith teaches that they will be fulfilled literally, in the future, in the person of Jesus Christ. When he returns to set up his kingdom, it will be established in the land known as Israel and it will never be overthrown again. Jesus will rule and reign on earth, in person, and he will rule “my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.”

These promises were made to David and, by extension, to Israel. But God’s intention was always to bless the whole world through the Jewish race. This universal blessing was contained in God’s original covenant with Abraham. That covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, was described in Genesis 12:3: “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” The Bible says that we Gentiles were “grafted in” to these promises by the grace of God. So we, too, look forward to the fulfillment of these covenants. When they come we will rule and reign with Christ--all by his grace.

There is something to put your hope in and something to thank God for on this Thanksgiving day.

Leviticus 14, Proverbs 28, Psalm 100

Today we’re reading Leviticus 14, Proverbs 28, Psalm 100.

This devotional is about Psalm 100.

This simple song oozes with joy. Verse 1 calls all the earth to “shout for joy.” Verse 2 commands us to worship him “with gladness” and come before him (in worship) “with joyful songs.”

Joy is an attractive emotion. But why should we do all this shouting and singing and worshipping with joy? The answer is in verse 3. That verse is the hinge on which this Psalm turns. We should worship joyfully because we belong to God:

  • He is God (v. 3a) and he made us (v. 3b) therefore we are his (v. 3c). What you make, you own. What you own, you control. We belong to God because he’s God and we’re his creation. But, the verse goes on and says:
  • We are his people (v. 3d). This refers to God’s covenant with Israel. His promises to Abraham and his descendants formed a unique relationship which made all Israelites “his people” in a more significant sense than “his by creation.” This promise to Israel still stands but we Gentiles have been grafted into it by God’s grace (see Romans 11:13-17).

But then, after describing how we belong to God by creation and by grace, the Psalmwriter says this, “we are... the sheep of his pasture.” This image suggests God’s care for us. He provides for us “his pasture” which we need in order to be nourished and healthy. He protects us from predators and cares about our spiritual well-being. We’re in good hands because they are his hands, the hands of the perfect shepherd.

Because we belong to God, he watches over and cares for us. What more reason, then, does a person need to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (v. 4)? Verse 5 affirms that God is good, he is loyally-loving, and he is faithful. Why? Because we belong to him.

This is directly opposite to how we think. We think (in our sinful thought patterns, that is) that to belong to God means to be controlled, manipulated, subjected, harassed by rules and punished severely. This Psalm argues the opposite. Because we belong to God he will take care of us. Most dog owners will feed and water and care for their dog because it belongs to them. Most of the same people won’t do anything for the stray dog that goes wandering through their backyards. The stray dog may be “free” to what he wants, but he becomes dirty and starved in the process. The dog that is truly free is the one that is loved and cared for.

This is why we rejoice. We belong to God but he loves us and will provide everything that is good for us like a great shepherd provides for his sheep. This is something to be joyful and bring glad praise for today.

Have you approached him “with thanksgiving” (v. 4) yet? If not, do that next.

Proverbs 27:1-13

Today, read Proverbs 27:1-13.

Got any leftovers from Thanksgiving? Maybe you don’t mind eating turkey for several days in a row, but there are probably some of you reading this who would rather not eat turkey today.

This illustrates one of our proverbs for today, Proverbs 27:7: “One who is full loathes honey from the comb....” Honey was one of the best tasting treats available in the days of Solomon. There was no ice cream, or Snickers bars, or pumpkin pie. If you wanted sweets, you ate fruit or honey. But, if you’ve had too much to eat already, you’re not going to eat even a tasty treat like honey.

This is what happens to people who get everything they want. They become entitled and no longer value what they have or what is offered to them. By contrast, verse 7b says, “...but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.” When someone doesn’t have much, that person has a greater capacity to enjoy what he or she receives.

Did you find it hard to feel grateful about your life this week? If so, give some thought to what you have. Earlier in your life you might have been thrilled to have the life you have now. There are probably people around you--people that you know--who look at your life and don’t understand why you are so unhappy all the time.

In an imperfect, sin-cursed world, there are always reasons to be unhappy about something. But the truth is that there are people who are much worse off than you are. If you can think about what it would be like to be “hungry” again, maybe God will use this Proverb to help you and me be grateful for what we have instead of complaining about how our bellies ache.

1 John 3

Today, read 1 John 3.

This chapter continues describing the differences between those who are children of God and those who are not. Of all the important things described in this passage, I am struck most by verses 17-18: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Here we are on Thanksgiving day. I hope you’re enjoying some great times with family and friends. I hope you are enjoying a great meal, too. But what is the state of your generosity? Are you quick to help out others who have genuine material needs? That is one of the marks of genuine discipleship. If you happen across someone with a need today or on “Black Friday” tomorrow, use the opportunity to share the love of Christ by giving to meet that need.

Philippians 2

Today’s reading is Philippians 2.

What makes believers in Christ distinct from the world around us? We have different beliefs about the past and the future, for one. We have different morals that cause us to make different choices and respond differently when we sin. We spend our time and our money differently. We certainly have a different understanding of who God is and what he’s done for us in Christ. These are all important differences, but maybe they don’t distinguish us from the rest of the world as much as we’d like to think that they do.

Here in Philippians 2, Paul invited the believers and us to consider the immense humility and sacrifice of Christ to save us. He urged us to follow Christ’s example by “looking to the interests of others” (v. 4). But when he wanted to teach us how to stand out from the unredeemed people around us, he commanded us: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (v. 14). Living this way “in a warped and crooked generation” would cause us to “shine among them like stars in the sky.” (v. 15).

Let’s face it--people complain a lot. We complain about the weather, about relatives and friends, about bosses, about what’s required of us in our jobs, about how little we’re paid and how much we pay in taxes. We complain about having to fix our cars or stuff that breaks at home, about traffic jams and long lines at the grocery stores. People argue a lot, too. Look at your Facebook feed; you probably don’t even have to scroll more than once or twice (or at all) before you see two or more people arguing about politics or sports or something else.

Complaining and arguing are symptoms of discontentment. [After I wrote that last sentence, I complained to my dog about how he just came in but wanted to go back out again.] When we complain to someone about their behavior, we’re showing our discontentment with them. Complaining like that is about trying to change them, to control them into acting differently or becoming different in some way. It is an expression of our discontentment with them or at least their behavior is some way. But, if they do change that behavior, then we move on and find something else about them that makes us discontent. Complaining about the weather or the traffic, or something else is an expression of discontentment with our circumstances.

Arguing is about being discontent with what we’re getting or not getting. If I argue with a clerk in a store about the price of an item, it is because I am unhappy about the price. If I argue with a co-worker that I’m doing too much of the work on a project that we’re both assigned to do, that’s an expression of discontentment. Arguing comes from having a different point of view in some instances—like sports or politics but it often results from a feeling of injustice.

Jesus was treated with extreme injustice. He had no sin but was made a sin offering for us. It was quite inconvenient (to say that least) to give up the worship of heaven for the scorn of humanity. If anyone had the right to complain or argue about the glory he wasn’t getting (or the mistreatment he was getting), it was Jesus. But Jesus never complained about anything nor did he ever argue with anyone about anything but truth.

There are many differences between believers and unbelievers but verses 14-15 tell us that the most obvious difference to an unbeliever between us and them is our contentment. As we saw yesterday, Paul was content to live and minister for Christ or die and be with Christ. He was content to remain in prison and give the gospel to the guards or be released to witnesses to another city about Christ. Instead of complaining or arguing, we should find something to give thanks for. The traffic that frustrates me so much is no fun, but I’m thankful that a car can take me long distances much faster than I could walk them. If you want to shine brightly like the North Star on a pitch black night, learn to speak words of thanks and contentment instead of complaining and arguing. This is a very specific, daily way we can show the difference Christ and faith in him has made in our lives.

Ephesians 5

Today, read Ephesians 5.

I mentioned yesterday that God’s love is a key theme in Ephesians and that, in Christ, we live worthy of the calling by acting in love towards one another. The opening verses of today’s chapter said it directly, “ Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us....” The rest of this chapter and much of the next one specify what it means to “walk in the way of love.” There are all kinds of highly applicable commands in this passage but let’s focus on this one: “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” A recent article in the Guardian, a newspaper from the United Kingdom reported dramatic increases in swear words that were used in books. Ordinarily I would link to the article, but it uses the swear words, so I’ll just link to Albert Mohler’s podcast The Briefing where I heard about this study.

Anyway, the Guardian article said that researches searched almost 1 million books written in American English and published between 1950 and 2008. During that time period, one swearword had increased in usage 678 times between 1950 and the mid-200s. Another word was used 168 times more over that time period. This is no surprise to any of us who have been alive for the last half or more of the past six decades. Our society has grown more and more comfortable using words that speak crudely of sex or of bodily functions. Many of these words are used to express a person’s anger. It seems to me that our society has more anger to express than ever before, too, which correlates with the increase in cursing.

One of the ways God calls us to “live a life of love” is to remove obscene, crude talk from our conversation. Paul said in verse 4 that these words are “out of place.” What makes them out of place? The fact that we belong to God, for one, who calls us to be holy like he is (see 3b). Furthermore, knowing Christ changes our outlook on the world and gives us the tools to be angry without sinning. But the most immediate antidote for cursing is given to us in verse 4 as well when Paul says, “...but rather thanksgiving.” You can’t be angry and thankful at the same time; one way to deal with anger biblically, then, is to pivot your thinking from the things that make you mad and want to curse to something you can give thanks for in that situation. Turn your curses, then, into opportunities to bless the Lord for the good things He has done in your life. This will help you to live a life of love, just as Christ himself did.

Luke 17

You guessed it! Read Luke 17 today.

Leprosy was a horrible disease to contract in the days Jesus lived on this earth. In order to keep from infecting other people, lepers had to live alone, away from society. If they came near anyone else, they had to warn them by calling out, “Unclean!” If you contracted leprosy, your family would never touch you again and the only human companionship you’d ever know again was from other lepers. You would watch parts of your body rot away and fall off until, eventually, you died.

So you can understand why lepers were so eager to meet Jesus and when they saw him, according to verse 13, they “called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’” Instead of making new skin out of mud or laying his hands on them or even waving his hands toward them, Jesus just told them to find a priest and have him check their skin. This was required by the Old Testament law for someone who wanted to be re-admitted to society after having a skin problem that cleared up. Between verses 14-15, they were healed. In verse 14b they expressed faith in his word by obediently turning to find a priest. But, according to verse 15, it took a few moments before they actually realized they had been healed.

Of the ten men who were healed of leprosy, only one of them returned to thank Jesus (v. 16a). And he was less than subtle about it; according to verses 15b-16a, “when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him....” This is what you’d expect from someone who not only just saved and extended your life, but made it possible to return to your family and friends. But he alone gave glory to God and thanks to Jesus and, to top it all off, “...he was a Samaritan.” This continues a pattern in Jesus’ life of being received best by outsiders. Jesus made a point of highlighting that only 10% of the cleansed lepers gave thanks to him and glory to God for their cleansing. His point is one that we should consider as well. People frequently ask others to pray for them but, in my experience at least, rarely give glory to God when the prayer is answered. Furthermore, genuine thankfulness is in scarce supply in our world. We should serve God by serving others in love without expecting to be thanked but thankfulness is a trait of godliness (see Colossians 2:7, 3:15 and 17 for just a few examples).

Do you live a thankful life? Do we notice when God answers our prayers and give him praise and glory for it? Do we thank his servants, his children, when they are good to us? These are habits of a godly life.

Excuse me now, I’ve got a couple of overdue thank you notes to write....

Deuteronomy 20, Psalm 107, Isaiah 47, Revelation 17

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 20, Psalm 107, Isaiah 47, Revelation 17. 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 107.

This song begins by inviting us to “give thanks to the Lord” for his goodness and his eternal love and devotion to his people (v. 1). Verse 2 sets the theme for the rest of the song which is, “Who should give thanks to the Lord?” The answer is “the redeemed of the Lord” (v. 2). Verse 2 encourages anyone who has been saved by God to “tell their story” (v. 2a). Then the author gets into specifics:

  • In verses 4-9, the homeless who cried out to the Lord and received his provision should “ give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind…” (v. 8).
  • Verses 10-16 describes those who lost everything due to the consequences of their own sin (v. 11). When they cried out to the Lord for help “and he saved them from their distress” (v. 13), then they should give thanks to him for his love.
  • Verses 17-22 talk about those who became ill to the point of death “through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities” (v. 17). Like the others, “they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave” (vv. 19-20). As a result, they should “give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind” (v. 21). 
  • Verses 23-32 is about those who do risky work. These sailors saw God’s immense power revealed in nature (vv. 24-26) and were nearly obliterated by it but when they called out to God, he rescued them (vv. 28-30). They, too, should “give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”
  • Verses 33-42 talk more generally about the acts of God for people. He provided prosperity for people (vv. 33-38) and brought recession and need into their lives (vv. 39-40) but ultimately he blessed those who needed him (v. 41). Verse 43 concludes by urging the wise to think about the loving works of God. 

Everyone who knows God has seen him work in some way. It might be large and dramatic or it might be simple. It is easy to internalize these blessings or even to forget about them. This song urges us to go public and give praise to the Lord when he answers our prayers and rescues us from problems. So, what has God done in your life? Where has he met you when you were in a tough spot, had a deep need, feared for your life, or were trapped by the consequences of your own sin or foolish behavior? Will you post a few testimonies about this in the comments below or on our Facebook page?

Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Numbers 11, Psalm 48, Isaiah 1, Hebrews 9

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 11, Psalm 48, Isaiah 1, Hebrews 9. 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 Numbers 11.

EVERYBODY has something to complain about in Numbers 11. The people of Israel complained about how hard it was living in the desert (11:1) and then they complained about the food that God graciously, faithfully, and miraculously provided for them (vv. 4-9).

Moses complained to God about what a burden it was to lead God’s people (vv. 10-15). And, of course, God himself had a legitimate complaint not only with the ungratefulness of the people (vv. 1b-3) but also with the unbelief of Moses (v. 23). Although God did punish some of the people for their complaining, he was mostly faithful and patient in this passage. He was patient with Moses’ unbelief and provided the month’s worth of meat that he had promised (vv. 18-19, 31) even though Moses threw a fit when God made the promise, as if God would require Moses to do something that only God himself could do (vv. 21-23). He also provided the elders of Israel to share the leadership load with Moses (vv. 24-29). Complaining comes so naturally to us, doesn’t it? And why do we complain? Because we think we deserve better—a better job, a happier life, a better spouse, more obedient children—whatever. Complaining is a symptom of an entitled heart; it demonstrates a heart that envies others, that lusts after things God has not willed for us. It rises from a mind that is focused on what we don’t have but think we deserve instead of seeing all that God has faithfully given to us. Instead of complaining, let’s learn to ask God for the things that we want and need in life (see James 4:1-3) and to be thankful for all that God has done for us (Colossians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

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.