unbelief

2 Kings 16, Hosea 9

Today’s readings are [2 Kings 16 and Hosea 9] (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2kings16%2C+hosea8&version=NIV).

This devotional is about Hosea 9:7d-g: “Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired person a maniac.”

Our society pretends that it has rejected God and our faith because it has advanced beyond belief in anything beyond the natural world. Scientific study has yielded so much truth about things that used to mystify people in the past. So many people to equate our faith with superstitions from the past that should be rejected in this modern age.

This passage confronts that thinking. People reject God’s word because they want to live an immoral, godless life. The verse says that the greatness of humanity’s sins is what causes people to think God’s servants are stupid. People today may have a more secular mindset in general. But they deny historical facts that are biblical, despise the moral commands of the Bible, or laugh at the miracles in scripture because of their sons. The greater the sin and unbelief, the stronger the negative reaction one will have to the commands of God’s word.

The cure for this is not to emphasize the points where some unbeliever might agree with the Bible or show how wise advice from the Bible makes for better living. The cure is more of God’s word; that’s what God gave Hosea despite the fact that prophets were considered “fools” and “maniacs” in Hosea’s day. Although sinners try hard to suppress the truth of God’s word, God’s word is like a hammer that breaks hard hearts and fire that melts them down (Jer 23:29).

The same is true for us believers. Although our faith in Christ inclines us to receive and believe God’s word, our sin nature at times may cause us to react to some of God’s commands as crazy. In those moments we need to immerse ourselves deeper in scripture, not sit in skepticism toward it. May God give us the grace to receive his word obediently ourselves, hold it out unflinchingly to the world around us, and find some who will believe it and obey it for eternal life just as we have.

2 Kings 1, Daniel 5

Today we’re reading 2 Kings 1 and Daniel 5.

This devotional is about 2 Kings 1.

Sometimes greatness is recognized in people while they are alive. At other times, however, great people are not recognized until much later. Elijah is one of the great men of God in the entire Bible. He spoke God’s word with great authority and he called on God’s power to authenticate his message (such as here in 2 Kings 1:9-15). Even though he did not write like Isaiah and Jeremiah, yet his ministry as a prophet of God was the pattern that John the Baptist followed (Malachi 4:5, Luke 1:17). Also, his prayer life is a model for us to follow according to James 5:17. So Elijah was a great man, a powerful servant of the Lord.

Yet Elijah was unappreciated in times. His odd appearance (v. 8) might have had something to do with it, but it was really more a matter of the deep unbelief among the people he served. He was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel (v. 2: “Samaria”) which had not one godly king among the twenty it had in its history.

In this chapter one of Israel’s forgettable kings Ahaziah had an accident and wanted to know if he would recover. So, he sought an answer not from Elijah or Elijah’s God YHWH, the God of Israel; instead, he sent a messenger to ask “Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron” (v. 2).

Although he did not consult YHWH, he got an answer from YHWH. God messaged Elijah (v. 3) and dispatched him to confront the unbelief of Ahaziah (v. 3). Elijah found the messengers that Ahaziah had sent and knew what information they were seeking from Baal-Zebub. Those two facts should have offered strong proof that Elijah spoke for God and that God had the power and answers that Ahaziah sought. But, perhaps because the answer was a negative answer of judgment (v. 4), Ahaziah did not respond in faith toward God and appreciation for God’s messenger. Instead, he sought to do harm to Elijah (vv. 7-15).

You can tell a lot about someone’s beliefs by looking at (1) where they turn for answers and (2) how they respond when they get an answer from God’s word, especially if that answer was negative and unsolicited. We have access to God’s word and many capable--even excellent--teachers of it unlike most people in history have had. Sure, none of us is Elijah, but we have a much greater amount of God’s revelation than Elijah had because we have Christ revealed and the scriptures completed.

Yet how often do we turn to secular sources--books, radio shows, podcasts, Oprah, whatever--for answers instead of to God’s word and his servants?

Are you looking outside God’s word for answers to your problems?

Exodus 8, Job 25-26, Psalm 56

Today we’re scheduled to read Exodus 8, Job 25-26, and Psalm 56.

This devotional is about Exodus 8.

In Exodus 7, we read yesterday that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened after Moses did two incredible miracles. Part of his hardening, it would seem, was related to the fact that his sorcerers were able to turn their staffs into snakes and were able to turn water into blood. Although Moses’s snake ate theirs and Moses was able to generate a whole lot more blood, in Pharaoh’s mind, perhaps, he had access to as much supernatural power as Moses did.

Today, however, as we read Exodus 8, Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to make frogs just as Moses and Aaron did (v. 7). Still, there was something about the plague of frogs that affected Pharaoh in a different way than the previous plagues because even though “the magicians did the same things by their secret arts” (v. 7), “Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away....’” (v. 8). Maybe the plagues were having a cumulative affect but, for the first time, Pharaoh looked to the Lord for relief.

He received that relief, too, but to emphasize to Pharaoh that this really was an act of God and not a mere coincidence, Moses allowed Pharaoh to choose the time when the frogs would go away (v. 10b). I don’t know why he said, “tomorrow” (v. 10a); I would have said, “Immediately! ASAP!” Just as he asked, however, the frogs all... um... croaked the next day (v. 13). Before the sun went down, however, Pharaoh “hardened his heart” (v. 15b) and would not let God’s people go.

Why exactly did he harden his heart? Verse 15 says it happened, “when Pharaoh saw that there was relief.” We do this sometimes, too. We suffer because of our sin or just because of foolish choices we make, so we get really serious about our faith. We cry out to God for help earnestly, with tears even, maybe. As soon as there is relief, however, we return to our unbelieving ways. I’ve seen this too many times to count in the lives of people I’ve tried to help. They come to me in pain and in fear, admitting that they’ve neglected the Lord and sinned against him. I pray with them and for them and try to encourage them but as soon as the pressure is off, they return to their routines and show no more interest in walking with God than they did before.

This is a symptom of unbelief. Pharaoh was an unbeliever which is why he responded to God’s work as he did. Unbelievers around us respond to God this way, too. We believers, however, are capable of nearly every sin that unbelievers do, including this one. We treat God like a spare tire, riding unseen and unthought about in the trunk of our lives until we find ourselves in an emergency. We turn to God when we need him, then return him to the trunk when life is back on track again.

Does that describe your walk with God? If so, learn from Pharaoh the difference between true repentance, which makes you want to know and glorify God, and the kind that only looks to God in emergencies. Ask God to give you true repentance and faith and learn to cultivate your faith in bad times and good times.

John 7

Today we’re reading John 7.

People often become skeptical when what they “know” (actually, what they believe or assume) to be true is challenged. You and I have assumptions that seem true to us and seem to have served us well throughout our lives. Those assumptions seem “true” to us and they affect how we process anything that we hear and see. When someone challenges those assumptions, we respond defensively with skepticism. Skepticism rises because it seems to conflict with something we think has already been proven true. The more important the principles are to you, the more skeptical and defensive you get when they are challenged.

John 7 shows us this over and over again. Jesus’ brothers are skeptical about him (vv. 1-9), the common people tended to be more open to Jesus (v. 12a, 40-41a) but many of them had suspicions about him (v. 12b, 15, vv. 25-27, 42b-44). The religious leaders were very threatened by Jesus and his teaching, so they were looking for him (v. 11) and were desperately trying to discredit him (vv. 20, and silence him (vv. 19-20, 30-32).

What was Jesus’ answer to all of this skepticism? “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (v. 17). In other words, the skepticism of the people indicated an unbelief in God. Those who were seeking God genuinely, eagerly trying to know him and serve him would instantly recognize Jesus and believe in him. But to eagerly seek after God requires his grace. He must lift the blindness of unbelief from one’s eyes in order to see the light of God’s glory in Christ.

This is why we must pray for those we want to see saved, in addition to giving them the gospel. The gospel is an immediate, direct challenge to anyone’s belief about God, about the world, about their own right and ability to choose. So, we must pray.

It also reminds us of our absolute need to submit to Christ always in all things. Many things the Word commands us to do are a direct challenge what we want, what we believe, and what we think we need. Our skepticism about believing, obeying, and living by faith in God is an expression of unbelief. So put aside your unbelief and just trust God--then you will find out that Jesus is the truth, not the other way around.