A Restorer of Life

Old Testament: Ruth 3 & 4

Poetry: Proverbs Introduction below

New Testament: Luke 19

Shalom! This is Stephanie Schlegel writing this week while my husband and youngest daughter are in Israel for a few weeks. 😊 We lived there for about 30 years and moved back to the States five years ago to care for his aging parents.

The passages for today are so fitting for my life right now, and I hope yours too. 😊 The Scriptures bring us so much hope and peace and sustain us, sometimes verses strike and encourage us more than other days. Overall, the faithful commitment in them isn’t disappointing!

When I met my husband (Bill Schlegel) in Jerusalem, he said he found his Ruth. A woman that would be willing to leave her home country and live with him in Israel where he wanted to stay. Both Boaz and Naomi call Ruth their daughter multiple times, and the LORD/Yahweh is acknowledged for having brought about events.

  • People and elders said, “The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two pillars who built the house of Israel.” (4:11)
  • “Because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.” (4:12)
  • “The LORD gave her conception.” (4:13)

It is good to acknowledge that the LORD is the giver and sustainer of life.  Ironically, these days I’m caring for my mother-in-law, like Ruth did. The women told Naomi “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative, and may his name be famous in Israel: And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” (4:14,15)

My mother-in-law has four sons, but she really needs a daughter-in-law these days, especially in rehab with three broken limbs, and I love her! Naomi had had two sons previously, but in her later days, she needed a daughter-in-law to care for her. In general, younger people (grandchildren) can be a restorer of life and nourisher in old age for the elderly.  Maybe this week, think of an elderly person or relative you could visit and encourage them, even a neighbor.  It can be a lonely time for them as they can’t move around as much. Hug them and speak words of encouragement to them in their days of old.

The passage in Luke 19 is also fitting!  Jesus was in Jericho with Zacchaeus and walked up to Jerusalem. He walked past Bethpage and Bethany and came to the Mt. of Olives. Now when one reads those places it sounds fairly simple to walk them, but the walk from Jericho to Jerusalem, which I’ve done, is quite an incline! It took 8 hours to walk the 15 miles with a 3,400 ft elevation increase. Jesus probably walked this a dozen times in his life, including when he was a 12-year-old boy. So, I didn’t have much sympathy when our 14-year-old daughter texted me the other day that Abba (Dad) made her walk from Jerusalem up to the Mt. of Olives, which was less than a mile. Lol I told her Jesus walked multiple times from Jericho to Jerusalem, and not only that but all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, which is about 80 miles and would’ve taken about 4 days to walk. So, I didn’t want to hear any complaining about a little hike up to the Mt. of Olives.  Here’s a picture of her smiling at the top of it. 😊

Now as he drew near the city, he saw the city and wept over it.”  (Luke 19:41) This would’ve been a similar view Jesus would’ve seen minus most of the buildings, and it would’ve been the temple instead of the Dome of the Rock. “And he was daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes, together with the leaders of the people sought to destroy him” (19:47)

So, despite difficulties we may have in our lives, seek the peace of God and reach out to the encourage the broken. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” (19:38)

-Stephanie Schlegel

Reflection Questions

  1. Think of an elderly person or relative you can visit and encourage. What do you think you would find helpful and encouraging when you are older than you are now?
  2. How can you be a restorer of life? How is Jesus a restorer of life?
  3. What do we learn about the LORD in our reading today? What do we learn about His Son Jesus?

Proverbs Introduction

The book of Proverbs is a collection of “sayings of the wise” which was mostly written by King Solomon.  According to Proverbs 1:2-4, the purpose of the book is, “for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young.”

Spoiler alert: Proverbs 1:7 gives the answer right away, where it says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

Solomon gave advice on many topics, some of which include.  

  • How to live life – Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  
  • Money – Proverbs 3:9-10, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
  • Hard work – Proverbs 6:6, “Go to the ant you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”
  • Alcoholism – Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”
  • Compassion – Proverbs 21:13, “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”
  • Childraising – Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
  • Revenge – Proverbs 24:29, “Do not say, I’ll do to him as he has done to me; I’ll pay that man back for what he did.”
  • Enemies – Proverbs 25: 21-22, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
  • Obeying God’s law – Proverbs 28:9, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable.”
  • Defend the poor – Proverbs 3:8-9, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

As you read through Proverbs, I challenge you to consider how you can benefit from applying these proverbs to your own life.  

-Steve Mattison

The Lord be with You

*Old Testament: Ruth 1 & 2

Poetry: Psalm 118

New Testament: Luke 18

Today we begin reading the book of Ruth, which is both enjoyable and easy to read; a book without heavy theology to parse. The importance of the book is made plain at its end (for a preview, look to Ruth 4:17), in that it identifies a certain history of the family of the later King David. In that sense, it serves the Old Testament purpose of remembrance. In this case, it establishes a back story for the royal family (which ultimately leads to Jesus himself), but it also shows the providential role of God in that family. Like the passages in the Book of Judges, an important purpose of the text is to remind Israel how God established a relationship with the nation and then provides, cares for, and protects the nation.

Chapter 1 of Ruth provides the context for the remainder of the book: a family’s migration to Moab, and Naomi’s return to Bethlehem with the unexpected companion, Ruth. Chapter 2 is where the action of this story is established, with Ruth going to glean in Boaz’s fields and the repeated acts of kindness that he shows to her. We must also recognize the extent of his kindness as well: Boaz is obligated to leave some of his unharvested crops for the poor (see Leviticus 23:22), but he goes above and beyond this in his instructions to his servants to purposely leave grains for Ruth. She must have been confused, perhaps embarrassed by the kindness of Boaz, but it all leads to Naomi recognizing Boaz:

“The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.” (Ruth 2:20 NASB)

Unfortunately, the depth of the term “closest relative” is not adequately captured in translation. The Hebrew term means “kinsman redeemer” – a family member that satisfies an obligation or vengeance of another in the extended family. Specific examples are the man that, following the Torah, marries his brother’s widow to preserve land inheritance, but also one who redeems a family member from slavery. This usage takes us to a second purpose of the Old Testament: prefiguring. Boaz, as a “kinsman redeemer” for the family of Naomi, prefigures Jesus as the one that redeems his family: Israel and (as we now know) Gentiles grafted in.

One aspect of Ruth that I greatly enjoy is the ordinariness of the spiritual expression of its characters. Without being ostentatious, the characters of the book recognize the providential role of God repeatedly and reflect it back to others to further recognize God’s role in their daily lives. Consider the statement of Ruth and Orpah in 1:8,9:

“May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”

It is not enough for Naomi to wish her daughters-in-law success in their presumed departure; she specifically calls on God to give them that success in their new lives.

Then consider the dialogue between Boaz and his servants in 2:4:

Boaz to his servants: “May the LORD be with you.”

Servants’ response: “May the LORD bless you.”

I think the implication is that Boaz and his servants lived lives suffused in the presumption that God would be with them in every action, in every step along every path. Think about it further: Boaz and his servants were not going to war or going on a trip; they were simply going to the fields for the ordinary work of the day. Yet, he begins the day with a blessing on his servants.

In today’s culture, we increasingly compartmentalize our lives, even our spiritual lives. We work for some hours of the day, we take care of our daily obligations, and, hopefully, we set aside time to relax. More than likely prayer is a “carved out” time and time reading scripture may have to be scheduled. The alternative is to suffuse the entire day with the recognition that God is with us at every moment, and that prayer can and should be spontaneous and simple – ordinary. That we can take any moment to request God’s blessing on another.

This reminds me of an experience from childhood that might be odd to some. One summer, sometime in my teenage years, I had taken my youngest sister on a bike ride to the post office ostensibly for an errand, but mostly to be outside. At the post office, we encountered two nuns in the waiting area. (This was not out of the ordinary, there was a very active convent in my hometown.) One of the nuns leaned down, laid her hand on my sister’s head, and spoke a very simple blessing on her. Then she went back to her business, without skipping a beat. For that woman, living a life devoted to serving others in the name of God, speaking a blessing on a young child was utterly ordinary – she simply wanted to express God’s love to a child.

One of the messages of the Book of Ruth is that God is present in all parts of our lives. We can endeavor to purposefully include our appreciation for God for who He is and to share His love for all people in every moment of our day.

-Dan Siderius

Dan Siderius is a member of the Fair Oaks Community Church of God in Virginia. He lives in central Maryland with his wife and daughter and works as a research scientist for a government laboratory. Apart from work and parenting, he enjoys studying history, gardening, and all varieties of cooking.

Reflection Questions

  1. How can you break your spiritual life out of its compartment this week and mix it with your ordinary every day life? What are the benefits to doing so?
  2. How and to whom can you share remembrances of God providing, caring for and protecting? How can you seek to more regularly and often request God’s blessings on others?
  3. In what ways are Boaz and Jesus similar? In what ways are they different?
  4. What do we learn of God, and His Son Jesus, in our Bible readings today?

1 Out of 10

*NEW TESTAMENT: LUKE 17

Poetry: Psalm 117

Old Testament: Ruth Intro below

(and I forgot to include Judges 21 yesterday, so you can finish that up today)

The story of the ten lepers is familiar to many of us. Luke 17:11-21 is often included in youth Sunday School lessons as a powerful tale of healing and to give thanksgiving. In the parable, we read about the ten men who were cleansed but learn that only one returned to give thanks to Jesus. Often, we use this parable to teach young children about the importance of giving thanks.

Though like many, I learned this tale in my youth, it wasn’t until my adulthood that I more fully understood the need for thanksgiving. Verses 15-16 of this parable are what jump out at me as an adult. “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.”

It’s interesting to me that it’s specifically pointed out that the man who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan. This man had a double whammy in society! First, he had leprosy and would have been kept apart from others. Secondly, he was a Samaritan, considered less than desirable among people of Jesus’ time. In that simple phrase at the end of verse 16, we see yet again that Jesus’ ministry sought out and served the marginalized people. Healing and grace was for all people, not just an elite few.

That phrase jumps out to me, because at heart, I am a Samaritan. I’m one of the less desirable that Jesus came to save. As a youth, I didn’t have life experience to fully appreciate and understand the gift of God’s grace or the need for thanksgiving. As an adult, I have both the education of life and Bible study to have a full awareness of God’s grace and mercy. Just like the marginalized people that Jesus served in His day, I am in great need of healing and grace due to my sin. 

Verses 15-16 also strike a chord in me because of the manner in which the leper gave thanks. Look at the way he praised Jesus! He used a loud voice and he fell on his face before Christ. He did not shrink in giving praise and thanksgiving because he understood the power of the healing bestowed upon him. He had a true gratitude to Jesus. Do we have a true gratitude for the way in which we have also been saved?

Oh, how I want to praise Jesus just like the leper who fell at his feet! He has given me much, so let me praise him much! In our lives, can we live out Psalm 117? “Praise the Lord, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples! For his lovingkindness is great toward us, And the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord!”

Today, can you offer true gratitude for the mercy and loving kindness that God has offered to us through the gift of Jesus’ life on the cross? Can you share that mercy with others? As a church, can we seek out the marginalized people of our society and offer them the same love that Jesus lived in His ministry?

~Jen Siderius

Reflection Questions

  1. How can you (will you) offer true gratitude for the mercy and loving kindness that God has offered to us through the gift of Jesus’ life on the cross?
  2. How can you (will you) share that mercy with others?
  3. As a church, how can we (will we) seek out the marginalized people of our society and offer them the same love that Jesus lived in His ministry?
  4. In our Bible reading today what do we learn about God? What do we learn about Jesus? Why do you think it says that as the cleansed leper was throwing himself at Jesus’ feet he was praising God?

Ruth Introduction

The Book of Ruth is one of only two books of the Bible named after a woman.  It takes place during the time of the Judges in Israel.  It is named after the main character in the story, a Moabite woman by the name of Ruth, who became a believer in God, and followed her mother-in-law back to Israel.  Because it mentions Ruth’s great-grandson, King David, the book of Ruth must have been written after David became King.

One of the most familiar passages is Ruth 1:16-17, which says, “…Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.  May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”

The Book tells about a woman, Ruth, a foreigner, born to a people with no relationship to God, who became a believer, and was richly blessed by God.  Ultimately, she was listed in Matthew 1:5 in the ancestry of Jesus.

The Book of Ruth shows the incredible loyalty of Ruth to Naomi.  It also shows the kindness of Ruth to her mother-in-law, Naomi, as well as the kindness of Boaz to Ruth.  These remind us of God’s kindness toward us.  We are also introduced to the concept of a “kinsman redeemer” – a relative who will redeem someone when they can’t pay their own way.  This reminds us of Jesus, our relative, who paid for our sins, because we couldn’t pay for them ourselves.

As you read the Book of Ruth, consider how God watches over and blesses those who follow Him.

-Steve Mattison

I Love the LORD Because…

Old Testament: Judges 19 & 20

Poetry: Psalm 116

New Testament: Luke 16

As was discussed in two previous days’ devotions, Psalm 116 is another of the Hallel (literally, “Praise”) Psalms that are particularly associated with joyous events for Jews. They are prominent in the liturgies of the primary seasonal festivals such as Passover, and Psalm 116 is additionally part of the “Egyptian Hallel” subset of Hallel psalms. Psalm 116 does not make specific reference to Egypt, Passover, or the Exodus of Israel, but it is very straightforward to adapt its structure into a prayer of praise for the salvation of the nation of Israel. By connecting the psalm to that event, it is easily transformed into a pedagogical device that teaches the listener to acknowledge God for His grace toward Israel.

The Psalm is most naturally structured into three parts, but let us draw out the first two verses as an introductory dialogue (ellipsis of psalm text in bold):

I love the LORD. Why? Because He hears my voice, my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me. How should I respond? …. I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

The psalmist has provided a simple justification for the reader, all of us, to reverence and petition God: Because He hears me; the implication is that God answers those petitions. And because He hears me I should not fail to call on Him again and again.

Beginning in verse three, the psalmist builds upon the introductory dialogue to stretch and flesh out what could be the reason for calling on God and a more specific supplication: Cords of death wrap around me; the terror of the grave has come upon me; I found distress and sorrow. It is easy to see how this text was associated with Passover and the exodus: these words could be those of enslaved Israel, looking for deliverance from Egypt. Now look at verse four: Then I called upon the name of the LORD… “Save my life!” Taken in association with the enslavement in Egypt, these are the collective words of Israel, longing for deliverance, longing for God to “Hear my voice and incline His ear to me” (v 1). Verse four ends the first part of the psalm. 

The second part of the psalm does not begin with a description of the salvation desired by the writer (later usage: the nation of Israel), but instead utilizes another introductory statement: Gracious is the LORD .. our God is compassionate … the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. (vv 5-7). Only in verses 8-11 is the desired salvation described. The psalmist acknowledges God for who He is before getting to specifics about what He has done. Cast as part of the Hallel, we have Israel 1) acknowledging God as LORD and 2) thanking God for salvation from Egypt. To see a record of a similar acknowledgment, take a look at Exodus 15, a poem or song of adoration sung by Moses and the Israelites after passing through the sea.

Finally, beginning in verse 12, the psalmist builds out eight verses to answer the question What shall I render to the Lord? It is the question that must be asked after reflecting and acknowledging what He has done. And the answer, given in the text, is a catalog of options for worship and reverence toward God.

When the psalm is sectioned as outlined here, one can see how it was adapted for the celebration of Passover. It provides context (terrible circumstances, like Egypt) and a call for salvation, it identifies the LORD God as the agent of deliverance, and then provides options for adoration of God. Imagine sitting around a table, each member of a family saying or offering (perhaps competitively?) an option for active reverence: “I shall lift up the cup of salvation” (the mealtime allusion is especially apt in relation to Passover), “I shall pay my vows to the LORD” and “I’ll pay my vows in the presence of all His people.” The point is that the reverence, acknowledgment, and worship derive directly from the active role that God takes (took!) in deliverance from the circumstances of verse three.

Psalm 116 is a wonderful outline of one context for the why and what of thankfulness toward God: I may be in terrible circumstances, but the God that is gracious and compassionate can and will rescue me. In response, I bow to Him in reverence and worship, declaring my thankfulness to Him in the presence of others.

-Dan Siderius

Postscript

The Psalms, as poetry, always carry some underlying structure, though perhaps lost in the translation from Hebrew to English. One of the features of many psalms that I appreciate is doublet structure, in the form of question-and-answer. For example, Psalm 116:1:

Question: I love the LORD

Answer: Because He hears my voice

These doublets can be used to impart rhythm to the reading of certain psalms. One way to take advantage of the inherent rhythm is to speak the psalms antiphonally, where one person reads the first part of the doublet and a second person reads the response. Another option is to incorporate movement, by walking through the first half of the doublet, pausing, and then resuming with the second half. It can greatly liven the Psalms!
If you are interested in reading the Psalms whose translation purposefully retained rhythmic and melodic elements, I encourage you to use the Coverdale Psalter (e.g., Psalm 116: https://psalter.liturgical-calendar.com/en-emodeng/Coverdale/116) or its newer revision, the New Coverdale Psalter (available for viewing online: https://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/index.php/downloads-pdf/).

Reflection Questions

  1. How would you finish the sentence/poem/song which begins, “I love the LORD because…”? Think on it, write it down, share it with the LORD. Who else could benefit from hearing your testimony of why you love the LORD?
  2. What are some options for how you can respond to the LORD? Write them down as well. Some responses, perhaps some we do most often, are not very good responses – if your list includes any poor responses you can cross them out now. Put a star next to a response you will work on today.

When God Celebrates

Old Testament: Judges 17 & 18

Poetry: Psalm 115

*New Testament: Luke 15

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a perennial favorite in Sunday School lessons. As a child, how many of us studied this lesson on God’s forgiveness? I imagine most hands being raised! As adults, how many of us have taught our own children or other youth about redemption through this parable? Again, I can envision many nods of agreement!

Between you and me, I intensely disliked this parable in my youth and early adulthood. Don’t get me wrong; I understood the meaning and value of the parable. Through it, we learn that no mistake can separate us from God’s love and that He will always desire for us to return to the sanctuary of that love. 

However, a part of me always sympathized with the older brother. I understood his indignation, albeit misplaced, over the celebration of his wayward younger brother. Can’t you just hear the anger and self-righteousness dripping from his words in verses 29-30? “Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!”

Minus the part of being given a kid or killing a fatted calf, those words could have been mine. As the youngest of four girls, I understood the older brother’s resistance to the celebration. Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, I strived to be the “good child,” not giving my parents cause for grief, assisting them in old age, and caring for them in sickness. As I devoted my time to my parents’ needs, my sisters’ seeming freedom and my parents’ unconditional love towards them caused my resentment to grow unchecked.

It was during my father’s last months when I had my “Aha” moment. In one of our final conversations, he told me, “We always loved all of you girls. You all just needed our love in different ways.” During our conversation, I realized that my parents’ love for my sisters didn’t diminish their love for me. Love wasn’t meant to be a competition in the way I tried to make it. Love isn’t something to be given to a sole recipient, hoarded and kept from others. In fact, love isn’t something to be earned or gained through works. Love is given freely in spite of ourselves and our works. 

I hope the older son of this parable also had an “Aha” moment. Based on the final verses, I’d like to think he did. Read verse 28 in the parable again. When the older brother had his temper tantrum, his father “came out and entreated him.” His father so desired for him to be part of the celebration that he left the party to go find him. Then in verse 31, the father says, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” In his words, we see that the father’s love is multifaceted. Just because he loves one brother and rejoices in his homecoming, doesn’t mean that he loves the other brother any less. In fact, he acknowledges that he appreciates the older brother’s hard work and is already blessing him for his devotion. But the father confirms that he also loves the younger brother and that this love is freely given, in spite of each brother’s work or personality.  

If our earthly parents can love all siblings with equal love, imagine how much greater it is with God’s love! In those final verses of the parable, we are reassured that God’s love has room for everyone, whether it is a faithful worker or someone returning to Him. Throughout 1 John 4, we are reminded that “God is love.” In this chapter and in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we see that the very nature of God is to love and do all things within the scope of His love for us.

We should not possess envy or resentment towards others in their faith journey because we are reminded in 1 John 4:20-21, “If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.” From now on, as I read the Parable of the Prodigal Son, I’ll be reminded to focus my eyes on the father of the story. Do I rest in the love of God? And, how do I show that love to others?

Throughout your walk this week, how can you share God’s unconditional love with others? Is there someone, like the younger brother, who could use your encouragement as they seek their way to God? Or, is there someone, like the older brother, working hard but needs a gentle reminder that we are saved by faith not works?

~Jen Siderius

Reflection Questions

  1. Focusing on the Father – do you rest in the love of God? And, how do you show that love to others?
  2. Throughout your walk this week, how can you share God’s unconditional love with others? Is there someone, like the younger brother, who could use your encouragement as they seek their way to God? Or, is there someone, like the older brother, working hard but needs a gentle reminder that we are saved by faith not works?
  3. Through Jesus’ parables what do we learn about the heart, motives, purposes, desires, words and actions of his Father?

Egyptian Hallel

Old Testament: Judges 15 & 16

*Poetry: Psalm 114

New Testament: Luke 14

In yesterday’s devotion, we learned that Psalms 113-118 comprise the “Hallel,” or praise. These verses are recited or sung together at Jewish observances such as Passover. These specific verses are called the “Egyptian Hallel” to identify them from two other passages in Psalms also referred to as “Hallel.” Today, our reading brings us to Psalm 114, which focuses on praising God’s rescue of the nation of Israel from Egypt and contributing to the moniker “Egyptian Hallel.”

Instead of focusing on a detailed account of the exodus from Egypt, Psalm 114 uses beautiful language to focus the reader on the majesty of God displayed throughout that time period. It centers on the miracles that God uses to fulfill His promises to His people. In the eight short couplets, we get a sense that all things, including nature, are under God’s control.

Israel was never meant to make Egypt their home. In fact, in the first two verses, we read, “When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language.” It is a recognition that they did not belong there and were being delivered from their oppressors.

Throughout the remaining verses, we read about miracles performed during the exodus from Egypt and while Israel wandered for forty years. While in the desert, God performed miracles, such as bringing forth water from rock, to provide for His people. The verses also refer to “the mountains skipped like rams,” which happened when the Lord descended to Mount Sinai (Exodus 19). The psalmist shows how even the earth obeys God’s word and reacts to His mighty power.

By stating, “The sea looked and fled, Jordan turned back,” the psalmist encapsulates the beginning and end of Israel’s journey. He refers to the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14) and the crossing of the Jordan under Joshua’s command (Joshua 3). He shows the completion of the work that began in Egypt. It’s affirmation that God sees all things through to completeness and within His time.

Though these verses are used in the Passover feast to remember the exodus and thank God for His miracles, I feel that they are also a promise to us. Like the nation of Israel living in Egypt, we too are a people living among “people of a strange language.” As sin grows within our world today, it becomes increasingly challenging to adhere to our faith and follow God’s word. But like Israel laboring within Egypt, we must labor within this world, holding fast to the promise that God has something much better in store for us. John 17:14-16 says, “I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” This is not our home. We must keep our eyes focused forwards on the Kingdom of God.

Isn’t it beautiful to think about the coming Kingdom? As a child, I always wondered when it would be established. In my lifetime? After my death? We will never know the exact time, but that’s not what is important. What is important is that God will fulfill His promises, just like He brought His promises to Israel to completion.

Just like within the exodus, even nature will obey God’s commands. Psalm 114 states, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord.” In Revelation, we read about several earthquakes that will occur in the end times (during the opening of the seals and the bowls of God’s wrath), as well as other natural events that will reveal God’s power to the inhabitants of the earth.

To me, it is interesting how Psalm 114 mirrors our own wait for the promise of the Kingdom and the events that will lead to its establishment. As we go throughout this week, let’s reflect on what we are doing to prepare. Are we being faithful like the Israelites in Egypt? Are we prepared spiritually to endure a wait? Are we thankful for the promises that will be fulfilled?

~Jen Siderius

Reflection Questions

  1. Spend some time considering the questions at the end of today’s devotion.
  2. Consider your view of God – are there any areas where your view does not completely match the God we see in our Bible reading? Any areas where your view is too small, too powerless?

Forevermore!

Old Testament: Judges 13 & 14

Poetry: Psalm 113

New Testament: Luke 13

Psalms 113-118 are known as “Hallel,” which means praise. These Psalms are recited, either in unison or responsively, in Jewish observances such as Passover and Hanukkah. This specific passage of Psalms is a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to God for the blessings He poured out on Israel during the Exodus from Egypt. Though “Hallel” typically refers to Psalms 113-118, two other sections of Psalms are also referred to as “Hallel.” Thus, Psalms 113-118 are also specifically referred to as the “Egyptian Hallel” due to recounting of the Exodus story in Psalm 114.

In Passover remembrances, the Hallel is used within both the temple and homes. Before the Passover meal, Psalm 113-114 would be sung together. Most scholars believe that Jesus and his disciples would have sung these verses together while gathered for the Last Supper. When you read the verses of Psalm 113 closely, they seem a fitting hallmark to Jesus’ ministry.

In verses 7-9, we read, “He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.” Throughout Jesus’ ministry, his work angered many because he focused on the ones that others forgot or ignored. Just like the words of the Psalm, he shook social norms. How many instances can we recount of him healing the less desirable, such as the woman at the well, or socializing with sinners, such as Zaccheus? Jesus acknowledged in words and actions that all will be made equals in God’s kingdom? 

In today’s New Testament text, we read another example of Jesus lifting the needy, while others found fault. In Luke 13: 10-13, we read, “Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God.” Later in the text, we read how the Synagogue leaders were indignant that Jesus healed on the Sabbath, causing Jesus to rebuke them. He had once again turned expectations upside down.

While reciting this Psalm during their Passover meal, did any of Jesus’ disciples connect his ministry to the words they were singing? It’s also poignant to think that despite his imminent betrayal and death, Jesus could recite this prayer of praise and thanksgiving from the Psalm. “Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and for evermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised! The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!” 

When we are faced with trials, can we do the same as Jesus? These verses remind us that in all things, the Lord is worthy of continual praise. It does not instruct us to be thankful once. Rather, it is imploring us to offer thanks “forevermore.” God is unchanging and there will never be a time in which we cannot offer homage to Him. 

My daughter’s teacher has her students complete a daily task in their agendas. At the end of each school day, the students are tasked with reflecting on the day and writing down two positives that happened to them. The teacher is striving to enable a mindset of gratitude and positivity within her class.

Could we take on the same task in order to offer continual praise to God? At the end of each day, let’s take time to reflect on that day. What can we praise God for? Perhaps your day at work was rough. But could you thank God that you had a job to go to that will provide for your needs such as food and shelter? This week, I challenge you to find at least two things in your day for which you can offer God praise and thanksgiving.

~Jen Siderius

Jen Siderius is a member of the Fair Oaks Community Church of God in Virginia. She and her husband Dan live in Maryland, where she works as an elementary school media specialist. When she’s not busy being entertained by the antics of their 9-year-old daughter, she loves to read, run, knit, quilt and try new crafts.

Reflection Questions

  1. Where do you see Jesus upsetting social norms? What was his purpose in doing so? Where have you – and can you – follow Jesus’ example?
  2. How would you rank yourself in the thankfulness category? Do you daily praise God for what He has done and who He is? How can you work at increasing your spirit of thankfulness?
  3. What did you see about God in today’s reading that you will praise Him for? What is Jesus revealing about His Father and God that we can praise God for?

Why the Old Testament?

* Old Testament – Judges 11 & 12

Poetry – Psalm 112

New Testament – Luke 12

The last week of readings for Seek, Grow, Love has quickly taken us through the first half of the book of Judges, introducing new rulers of Israel, highlighting their good and bad actions, and then moving on to the next. The ultimate point and purpose of Judges is not always obvious; God clearly called up leaders of Israel and empowered those leaders through His holy spirit, but their track records may leave us asking, “Why did God want us to remember this person?” or, “How does this part of the O.T. relate to me as a Christian, 2000 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension?” We could ask the same questions about many parts of the Old Testament.

God has many purposes for the Old Testament, for both its original audience and for us as Christians today. Judges, in particular, is part of the narrative that establishes a cultural and national identity for Israel. Think back just a few weeks, when today’s Jews celebrated Passover: before its exodus from Egypt, Israel probably did not view itself as a nation on par with the surrounding tribes and kingdoms. The first Passover and subsequent Exodus firmly established Israel as separate from its neighbors, with a special relationship with God. It is both a spiritual and national ethnogenesis. The Book of Judges continues the historical and spiritual narrative that reinforces Israel’s identity. Every character and every judge adds another element to that identity.

Today’s reading in Judges takes us to Jephthah. Overall, Jephthah is completely consistent with the pattern established earlier: in a period of danger and spiritual decline, God calls an Israelite, of ordinary stock for the most part, to lead Israel through the present struggle. Through this, God demonstrates His continual love for Israel and preserves the nation. The narrative purpose of Judges is also captured in Jephthah’s letter to the Ammonites in 11:12-28; this is essentially a short-form summary of God’s actions in preserving Israel and bringing it into the promised land. Jephthah’s message to the Ammonite king is recorded for Israel to remember. Then, there is the record of the victory over the Ammonites – with the specific attribution, ‘the LORD handed them over to him’ (11:32). Yet again, God leaves a record of His care over Israel.

Another purpose of the Old Testament is to establish the context for the coming of Jesus and the patterns that prefigure him as God’s Messiah. One part of today’s reading from Judges 11 that stands out is the specific circumstances of Jephthah’s life. Jephthah was “the son of a harlot” (11:1) and later in life his half-brothers drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.”’ (Judges 11:2b NASB). Despite this, Jephthah must have had a charismatic personality, with some natural leadership ability, because ‘worthless men gathered around Jephthah, and they went wherever he did.’ (11:3b NASB). Jephthah, due to the circumstances of his birth, was not naturally destined for leadership or respect. Yet, God uses this man to lead Israel in its struggle with and later victory over the Ammonites. In this manner, Jephthah is another pattern for who Jesus would be: of “questionable” birth (perspective matters, of course), with leadership abilities and purpose that did not fit the typical expectations of a man from an unimpressive town. God’s calling Jephthah to be leader over Israel is another instance of God selecting the unexpected, the cast-off, as the instrument of His purpose. It is entirely in congruence with the description of Jesus as

‘A stone which the builders rejected,

This has become the chief cornerstone;

This came about from the Lord,

And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

(Mark 12:10b-11 NASB; cf. Psalm 118)

Jephthah, rejected by his half brothers, and yet the leader that Israel needed, is an example that points us to Jesus as the one chosen by God to be king over His kingdom.

Whenever you read a portion of the Old Testament, consider the two purposes discussed here: remembrance and prefiguring. Look for the examples, the records, of God’s ongoing care for Israel as He promised; those examples give us confidence that his promises of the Age to Come, the Kingdom of God, will be fulfilled. Then, examine the text to see if you can find characters that prefigure Jesus, shadows of the Messiah (then) to come. You will find him in surprising places!

~Dan Siderius

Reflection Questions

  1. Judges can be a hard book to read. Why?
  2. How are you at remembering how God has cared for His people through all of history and also during your lifetime? What is the danger when we don’t remember? For what do you give God credit, thanks and praise?
  3. What similarities do you see between Jephthah and Jesus? What differences do you see?
  4. What can we learn about God and His plan of salvation through His Messiah Jesus throughout the Old Testament and more specifically in our Bible reading today?

A Great Gift from God

Old Testament: Judges 9-10

Poetry: Psalm 111

* New Testament: Luke 11

I have someone in my family with the love language of giving gifts. She loves to give her friends and family gifts. She has surprised me with birthday presents when my real birth date is months away. We definitely feel the love she is showing us.

In Luke 11, Jesus asks the fathers in the group this question, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

What an amazing promise for us! Our loving, heavenly Father wants to give us the Holy Spirit. We know that the results or fruit of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-26)

Throughout the scriptures, there are so many examples of the LORD filling His children with the spirit and enabling them to do His will and work. We should completely receive God’s spirit as a gift of love to guide us in our spiritual lives. We also find a warning from Jesus about allowing evil to make its home within us. It is important to rid ourselves of all evil and we must also fill ourselves with the things of God.(v.24-26) When we allow the LORD to dwell in us through prayer, reading and obeying the scriptures, it doesn’t leave room in us for evil. This close fellowship we have with God and Jesus should be so strong that it is seen by others. We are to be the light of the world, full of the light given to us from Jesus Christ. That light shows us our true selves, the good and the bad. (v.33-36) He can correct our faults if we allow him to. Notice that Jesus warns the Pharisees and experts in the law about their sin, but rather than changing, they began to oppose him fiercely. (v.37-54) Rather than letting our pride oppose Christ, let us receive his correction. We can live in fellowship with him and feel blessed as we remember his words, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (v.28)

-Rebecca Dauksas

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you asked your Father in heaven for the gift of the Holy Spirit? Are you using it well? Does your life show the results (fruits) of the Spirit in you?
  2. Looking carefully at yourself – what evil needs to be removed so you can fill yourself with what things of God?
  3. Is there a part of the word of God that you have heard but are struggling to obey? What will it take to obey fully?
  4. How do we see God in our reading today? How do we see His Son in our reading today?

At the Feet of Jesus

Old Testament: Judges 7 & 8

Poetry: Psalm 110

*New Testament: Luke 10

Raspberry pie filling had poured on my shoes as I finally wrestled the large, heavy aluminum pan filled with pie onto the countertop. It was then that I noticed that this extra-large catered size pan had spilled raspberry filling from the car into the house and through the kitchen. I caught myself wondering if the restaurant staff had booby-trapped this massive dessert and I still had another to bring in. My friends were empathetic, but they were frantically searing ribs on the grill. This last minute pickup for a large rehearsal dinner had turned into chaos. Yes, it is hilarious now, but at the time, it was a little overwhelming. So I can completely identify with Martha in Luke 10.

Jesus was accompanied by his disciples and often with large crowds. Imagine the bustle in the village of Bethany as Jesus enters the home of Martha. Jesus loved Martha, her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus. Jesus had been revealing some amazing spiritual truths. He confirmed that eternal life could be inherited by loving the Lord God with all our hearts, souls, strength and minds while loving our neighbors as ourselves.(v.25-28) He explained that love is expressed by mercy in action through the parable of the good Samaritan.(v.30-37) His teaching was amazing and we can understand why Mary did not want to miss a minute of it. I imagine Mary had helped Martha with preparing for Jesus’ visit, but he was there now and he was teaching so Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

We can all learn from Jesus’ words. There are so many things to do – good things to do – but these good things should never take the place of just being with and listening to Jesus. We all need to choose to be in Christ’s presence “which is better” and it will not be taken away from us.

-Rebecca Dauksas

Reflection Questions

  1. What is the one thing that is needed?
  2. What most often distracts you from what is most important? What does this reveal about your priorities? How can you work towards fixing this?
  3. What does it look like to sit at the feet of Jesus today? How can you do it more consistently?
  4. What do you find most amazing about the teachings of Jesus? What does this tell you about Jesus and even about His God and Father?
%d bloggers like this: