Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk, reading an article for work, and I found myself nodding off. Which isn’t funny, unless you know that I sit on a physioball rather than a traditional office chair…which means I lost my balance when my body relaxed and I almost fell off…then it’s hilarious!
As I woke up and caught myself, I refocused on the article and realized that I hadn’t comprehended a word of the article. I had to reread it several times before I could understand the point the author was making.
Have you ever found your eyes moving across the page, but not reading? Have you sat through a lecture (or gasp, a sermon!) but not hearing?
As if Ezekiel’s vision of a four faced creature wasn’t extraordinary enough to hold his attention, God specifically says, “Listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you”.
This is pretty much the same thing that happens when adults are speaking to children and when we want to be assured of their attention we say, “Look at me when I am talking to you.”
The message that God was giving to Ezekiel was that important. The task that Ezekiel had to obey was literally the difference between life and death. God wanted to make sure that he had Ezekiel’s full attention.
Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, Scripture tells us to “listen carefully”. Obeying God’s Word is a matter of life and death. Whenever we open up our Bibles, we need to read, not just with our eyes, but with our hearts. When we do so, that is when our lives are transformed into Christlikeness.
Let’s be extra attentive today as we read the Word of God.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 3-4 and 1 Peter 3
Forgetfulness is a common ailment. We all forget. We forget where we put the keys. We forget to send the birthday card, forget to get milk at the store and forget to pay the bill or finish the homework or return the library books. We climb in bed after a long day of remembering lots of things and realize we forgot to exercise and read our Bible and call mom. I have done it all. I am pretty much an expert forgetter.
Much of the time our forgetfulness is just inconvenient or unfortunate. It means we have to make an extra stop at the store tomorrow, pay the late fee on our bill, or receive a lower grade. Maybe one day we will learn there are consequences to our forgetfulness and it will help us remember to do what we had planned to do all along – until we forgot.
But sometimes a poor memory will actually lead to death. Tragic cases can occasionally be read in the news. Forgetting to take children out of their car seats and into safety. Forgetting to latch and lock the pool gate. Forgetting the once familiar route home. There can be dreadful, heartbreaking consequences for yourself or others which can lead to death when one simply forgets.
You can also read about the devastating effects of forgetfulness in the Bible. In fact, in both of today’s passages we find instances of forgetful people, with various results. In our Psalm for the day (106), we continue the history lesson of God’s people. In today’s lesson the Israelites are exiting Egypt and traveling through the dessert. Maybe the heat is getting to them because they seem to be having a hard time remembering some pretty big and important events that happened not so long ago.
Psalm 106:7 — When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
Psalm 106:13 — But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
Psalm 106:19-21 — At Horeb they made a calf and worshiped an idol cast from metal. They exchanged their glorious God for an image of a bull, which eats grass. They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt
Sometimes the forgetful people are met with God’s mercy and yet another miracle they will also forget further down the road. Sometimes it’s more serious, and even fatal. Poisonous snakes, deadly disease, and the ground swallowing up those who forgot to remember God. What else could God do to help them remember?
Many generations later we see the same tragic forgetfulness recorded in the book of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 18:15 — Yet my people have forgotten me; they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient paths.
They had forgotten the MOST important thing of all – the One who gave them life, the One who provided for all their needs, the One who had laid out blessings for those who follow, the One who had laid out curses for those who went their own stubborn way. They forgot God. And because of their repeated forgetfulness God was preparing the curses promised in his covenant: destruction, invasion, death.
It is easy to get so caught up in living our own busy lives, going our own stubborn ways, before we know it, we have forgotten our Life-Giving Teacher and all the lessons He was trying to teach us. And, instead, we face death and destruction.
Thankfully, there are ways to remember. With effort we can fight off this deadly tendency to forget. Here’s some ideas to build your memory.
How to Remember
Keep a thankful journal. Write down at least 3 things each day to thank God for. The act of writing helps you remember, and you will have the written journal to return to when your brain gets fuzzy on the details of how God has provided and cared for you – every day.
Clear an overly busy schedule. Trying to do too many other things that really don’t matter doesn’t leave time and space in your overbooked brain and calendar to remember God and do what is most important. You may even find some of those “extras” in your life that were getting too much of your time and memories were approaching, or at, idol status. Clear ’em out.
Get to church, Sunday school, Bible study, youth group, the church mens or ladies group, church camp, etc… Surround yourself regularly with those who are helpful for jogging your spiritual memory. When left alone brain connections can diminish leading to difficulty recalling. Instead, get to church. It’s a great place to overcome your own memory deficiencies – and it’s a great place where you can even help someone else remember God, His greatness and all He has done.
Add visual or auditory cues. What “tricks” will help you remember to keep God first. The Israelites were told to write it on their doorposts – maybe you need some Bible verses on your wall, mirror and refrigerator. Satan uses many schemes to erase God from people’s memory. Jesus found great power against Satan’s schemes by using God’s scriptures which he had committed to memory. Take out that Bible, the Sword of the Spirit, and use it daily to slash away cobwebs forming in your brain. Time and study and a love for God’s eternal word is the best cure I know for forgetfulness that leads to death.
Remember God and what He has done, is doing and will do!
Life is so busy and complicated that I have to create lots of reminders for myself. Fortunately, my phone and computer and watch all have features where I can set reminders for myself. “Doctors appointment Tuesday at 3:00. Take the garbage to the dump on the way to work in the morning. Stop by the store after work and pick up some milk and bread.” I can even set reminders months or years in advance. I can set alarms to remind me that in 2 hours I have a meeting. In 1 hour I have a meeting. In 15 minutes I have a meeting. The Meeting is now starting. Maybe I’m too busy or maybe I’m getting old, but I find myself more and more needing reminders.
Do you ever need reminders? Little kids need to be reminded to brush their teeth, make their bed, do their homework. What do you need reminders for?
The Apostle Paul thought reminders were important for Christians. I guess he understood how easy it can be to forget what’s important when we are busy living life and doing what’s necessary or urgent. Do Christians ever forget important things about God, about Jesus, about how we are supposed to live? Yep, we sure do.
In Titus 3 Paul tells Titus to remind the believers of some important things.
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” -Titus 3:1-2
Those reminders were important in the first century when Christianity was brand new and people were still learning the basics, but it’s been 2000 years. We’ve certainly got being a Christian all figured out by now, don’t we? Do we really need to be reminded to obey people in authority? Do we need to be reminded to always be ready to do good? Don’t all Christians always do what is good? Certainly we never slander or falsely accuse someone of wrong doing. I’m always peaceable and considerate and gentle toward everyone, aren’t you? (My tongue is in my cheek- that means I’m kidding).
To tell the truth, I still need to be reminded all of those things. Just because I’ve been reading the Bible for over 50 years doesn’t mean I always remember to do good. I still need to be reminded to be considerate and gentle, and so do you. That’s why Christianity was never designed to be lived in isolation, but in community. We need each other. There’s a passage in Hebrews (a different book from today’s reading, but important) Hebrews 10:24-25 says that Christians shouldn’t get out of the habit of meeting together, because we need to encourage (I think Hebrews says “spur one another on”, like a rider spurs on a horse) each other.
Following Jesus is hard some times. Being obedient to God is hard some times. Remembering to do good and be gentle is hard sometimes. I need help, I need encouragement to keep on doing what is right. I need you, and you need me, we need each other.
I’ve read the Bible many times in my life and I need to keep on reading it to help me remember all the important things I need to remember. Today’s readings in Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3 remind us both about God’s wrath and about God’s mercy. God has both. God hates sin, he hates it when his children are brutal to each other. He hates it when his children fight and argue. He hates sin because he loves us and he knows that sin hurts us. We hurt each other when we sin. No parent likes to see their children hurt each other. We learned that from our Father, God.
So keep reading your Bible and keep coming to Church and meeting with other believers so that you can remind them and they can remind you to keep on following Jesus.
“Hey Siri set a reminder for 7 a.m. tomorrow: be considerate and gentle to everyone.”
“Alexa, remind me to get up for Church Sunday at 8:00.”
Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3
When I first started reading my Bible regularly as a teenager, my youth pastor suggested reading a Proverb each day because they were full of wisdom and you can read one for each day of the month. Years later, I heard my pastor at the time, John Railton, suggest the same to his church. I have implemented that strategy intermittently over the years, and while I don’t do it every month, I have come to learn that the book of Proverbs is a terrific source of reading for wisdom/comfort/practical teachings. I would definitely recommend reading words from “wise King Solomon” to anyone! And, no matter how many times I read them, I still find new lessons and comforts.
Just this week I was reading Proverbs 3, and found a few of them to be very relevant with what I had read a few minutes before in the current events of this world! In fact, if there is one thing that makes me realize how much I need to read the Bible more, it is reading the news these days. So, in case a few words of wisdom that brightened my day brightens yours, here goes. And there are lots more where these came from. Smack dab in the middle of your Bible. Or under “P” in your trusty Bible app.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.[a]
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.
And a few more wise words of comfort, verses 21-26
21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; 22 they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. 23 Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. 24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 25 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, 26 for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.
Solomon has finished the calling that God assigned to him. The temple was completed. In addition, Solomon has built an elaborate palace and pursued wisdom in his life. In 1 Kings 9, God appears to Solomon and makes a second promise to him. If Solomon commits to following after God and living by the commandments of God, God will build his kingdom and establish it. But, this promise presents a choice: either Solomon can have a kingdom established forever or he would have his kingdom ruined and removed. These consequences are contingent upon the actions of the Israelites outlined in Deuteronomy 30: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the Lord your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the Lord swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (v. 19-20).
The Israelites could have life and blessings, but they needed to love God, obey him, and remain faithful to him. If they didn’t, they would live a life apart from God, full of troubles and difficult times. Even though the choice seems like a no brainer, generations of the Israelites still choose death, including Solomon. Because of their choices, they faced exile, famine, sickness, and death.
We have the same choices today. We can choose life or death. I’ve always wondered why the Israelites couldn’t see the goodness that they were leaving behind because they chose to live a sinful life. However, when I look at my own life, I can understand why that path seemed pleasing to them. Sin feels good in the moment. It fills us up in the short term. But, as life continues and sin upon sin piles up, it turns out to be rotten. Like sweet cakes or soft drinks, it tastes good, but over time, too much leaves us feeling gross inside. Too much leads to death. To say no to sin requires self-discipline and sacrifice. We recognize that we are giving up something that may feel good now, because later on, we will have a better thing.
Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, our consequences are not contingent upon all of our actions. We will not be judged by the law, because we have freedom in Christ – if we make one choice. If we choose to make Christ our Lord, we will have life in him. Today, choose life! Choose to live righteously and follow after Jesus, the perfect king. This choice and the sacrifice is so worth it!
As Solomon’s reign continues, he begins to build the temple: the job promised to him by God through David. Solomon knows that this is his calling – and he wants to do it well. After David was told that he could not build the temple because of the blood shed on his hands, David amassed a treasure trove of building supplies for years. Even though temple building was not David’s calling, he still worked hard to make sure that he made Solomon’s task easier through his actions.
One of the first actions that Solomon takes is to get the best lumber he could find. He goes to the king of Lebanon and asks for the cedars of Lebanon. Then, he began to build the temple – a process that lasted 7 years!
Solomon knew that when God has called you to do something you make sure to do two things: (1) you give him the best of you first and (2) you complete the task assigned to you no matter how long it takes. Solomon didn’t let the difficulty of getting the cedars of Lebanon stop him from being sure to get the finest lumber. He also didn’t give up in the process of finishing the temple. He was committed to finishing the task he was assigned to well.
In our lives, are you as committed as Solomon to completing the calling God has assigned to you well? We are God’s hands and feet in the world. Part of our testimony to the world is how well we complete our callings. “Let’s not grow weary of doing good” (Gal. 6:9). “Let’s finish the race we are running with endurance” (Heb. 12:1-2).
After Adonijah’s revolt, Solomon ascended to power, and in 1 Kings 3, Solomon began making decisions of what he should do as a king. 1 Kings 3:3 describes him when it says, “Solomon loved the LORD by walking in the statues of his father David, but he also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” Deuteronomy 12:1-6 specifically gave directions to destroy all the high places, but Solomon and the rest of the people went to worship there. In 1 Kings 3:1, one of Solomon’s first decisions is to make a treaty with Pharaoh’s daughter, going against Deuteronomy 17:16-17. Solomon seemed like he wanted to make good, godly decisions, but he didn’t know and apply God’s word enough to keep him from committing these oversights, these sins.
Even so, in verse 5, after a large display of burnt offerings, God comes to Solomon and asks, “What should I give you?” This was a moment where he could have received so much from God – whether in power, wealth, status. But, instead, Solomon chooses to receive wisdom and discernment so that he could govern his people well. He recognized that he was a “youth with no experience in leadership” (v. 7) Solomon knew that he may have blundered in the past as he began to rule his kingdom. And so, he asked for the one thing that could truly help him to do better – discernment and wisdom from God.
In our lives, we may feel that we are in situations that we have been thrown into. We may be overwhelmed. We may be trying to make the best decisions that we can. The thing that makes the difference in those situations is not how hard we work at them or the people that we impact or make happy. What we should pursue in those situations is the wisdom of God. That is the only thing that will help us to know what is right to do. It is the only thing that will help us to know how to keep ourselves on the righteous path and away from sin.
What are you asking for from God? May we be a people who prays for the wisdom and discernment only God can give.
When David came to power, he had his work cut out for him. Part of his legacy was fulfilling the calling that God gave to the Israelites when they first came to the Promised Land. He was charged with taking the land. He was supposed to be strong and courageous, and over his lifetime, he proved to be a man of strong military prowess who doubled the size of the kingdom of Israel. 2 Samuel 23 describes the men who helped David make that happen. These are his mighty men, the elite warriors who single handedly won battles against the Philistines with God’s help. One warrior killed 800 men at one time with a spear. Another group broke into an enemy stronghold just to get a cup of water for David. Repeatedly, these men are described as strong, fearless. They ‘stood their ground’ against their enemies. When they faced them this way, ‘the Lord brought about a great victory’ against their enemies.
In Acts 21, Paul is facing strong and terrifying enemies. In fact, he is told what would happen to him by a prophet in verses 11-12 when the prophet describes how he would be tied up and delivered to the Romans in Jerusalem. The people are begging him not to go to Jerusalem, weeping for the bitter end that they knew would come to Paul if he decided to go to the city. Paul shows his determination and willingness to follow Jesus no matter what when he replies: “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” What a mighty and fearless response! Paul may have not been marching into a war with spears and swords, but he knew the spiritual battle he was facing that would have real – and very dire – implications for his health and well-being. But, it didn’t matter – he would do anything for the name of Jesus.
We need to face our everyday battles with the same determination and strength, resting in the knowledge that God will bring about the victory if we stand our ground. We need to be strong and courageous, because God is right there with us in our battles. We will emerge victorious!
In today’s Old Testament reading, 2 Samuel 21-22, we see David, a victorious king and man broken by sin, dealing with the legacies of previous leaders of Israel and the political unrest they left behind. In addition to this, we see fall out with the Canaanite peoples, who had remained in the promised land for a thousand years after Joshua and the Israelites were told to conquer it. The last few chapters of 2 Samuel function as an appendix; they list stories that occurred during David’s reign, in non-chronological order.
In 2 Samuel 21, we find a brutal story that involves betrayal, sacrifice, and tragedy. Earlier in David’s reign, there was a famine that lasted 3 years. David responds to this famine, recognizing it as discipline from God, by going to God in prayer. The reason God gave for the famine is because of Saul’s, the previous king, slaying of the Gibeonites – a people the Israelites had made a treaty with (Josh. 9:15-20). David goes to rectify the situation, and so the Gibeonites ask for seven of Saul’s male descendents to punish for Saul’s decisions.
The seven descendents were handed over and killed. Heartbreakingly, Rizpah, the mother of two of the sons, goes to the place where her sons were killed and protected their bodies from the elements and birds from April to October. four months of a day-in-day-out vigil, through heat, cold, rain, and sun. Finally, David heard about what Rizpah had done, her love and dedication to her sons, and because of her actions, he decided to honor the memories of Saul and Jonathan – and Rizpah’s sons – by burying them in their family’s tomb. After all of this, the famine stops in the land.
This story is hard to read, but it shows an important truth: Our legacy is determined by the small, everyday actions of our lives. Those small everyday actions build up into something that can make a profound impact on the lives of those that come after us.
Because of Saul’s actions and his failure to consistently follow the law, he devastated the lives of both the Gibeonites and his own family. His legacy left a ripple effect of destruction that led to a famine in the entire land of Israel. That legacy of destruction was only stopped when another woman consistently showed love instead of violence, for both her sons and for God. Because of her actions, God answered the prayer for the land.
What type of legacy are you building? How are you daily and consistently building up a legacy that honors God and provides hope and help to those around you?
Yesterday, we witnessed the rebellion of the Israelites against Moses. At this point, the Israelites had refused to enter into the promised land after focusing on the battles they would face rather than the rewards they would reap with God’s help. After that, the Israelites continued to not trust God when they spoke out against Moses. They didn’t realize that in doing so, they were – in effect – not trusting God. The rebellion that Korah instigated ended for the most part when he died. In Numbers 16, we see God choose Aaron and the tribe of the Levites as his priesthood. The twelve tribes all brought their staff to the temple to represent them. Aaron’s staff – which represented the Levites – sprouted, formed buds, blossomed, and produced almonds (Numb. 16:8). Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that almond branches and almond blossoms make their appearance in relation to the temple and the priesthood. In Ex. 25:31-40, the lampstand that was to be kept continually burning on the altar was supposed to be shaped like almond blossoms. This was the light that the priesthood was in charge of day and night. In the miracle of Aaron’s rod, God showed clearly which group of people he wanted as his priesthood, and he chose the Levites.
Numbers 18 continues on with laws and requirements for the priesthood along with ways that the priesthood could be provided for by the Israelites people. Nestled in these verses is such an important truth for us today. Numbers 18:5-7 says, “You are to guard the sanctuary and the altar so that wrath may not fall on the Israelites again. Look, I have selected your fellow Levites from the Israelites as a gift for you, assigned by the Lord to work at the tent of meeting. But you and your sons will carry out your priestly responsibilities for everything concerning the altar and for what is inside the veil, and you will do that work. I am giving you the work of the priesthood as a gift.”
Moses was clear in the last chapter that the laws and responsibilities given to him by God were not things that he was doing out of his own will. In this chapter, God is clear about his intentions to give as a gift the work of the priesthood. Yes, the ministry that they had would be challenging. They would face opposition from the people, and they would have to work hard in the temple. Some of their responsibilities included doing animal sacrifices, staying up all night to tend the lamps, dealing with skin diseases, and more. But, this work was a gift. A special provision and reward to be the light to the Israelites as they entered the promised land.
In Christian circles, we talk often of the gift of Salvation. That is the first wonderful gift that we receive in our Christian walk, and we should always be grateful for that amazing grace. But, that is only the first of the many gifts that we receive as a believer in Christ. We are also given the gift of the priesthood, the gift of being a light to others. We will face the same opposition from others at times. And we will have to also take part in the grueling work of ministry. But, that is the work – the priestly responsibilities – that we have been assigned to do.
As we head into another week, ask yourself: What is the ministry that you have been called to? Are you treating this ministry as a gift?