The Shepherd

Ezekiel 32-34

Ezekiel 33 and 34 cover leadership, how Ezekiel cannot be an effective leader and how God will one day lead Israel directly and be their shepherd. 

30 “As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.” (Ezekiel 33:30-32 NIV)

Ezekiel is a leader over God’s people, but he cannot lead effectively if they will not listen to him.  Ezekiel has been proclaiming God’s word to the people for a few years now and telling them of the judgements of God and the consequences of their actions, and they have been collectively taking his messages about as seriously as you would a street performer’s.  I think that a lot of people go to church today because they want to hear nice things from the pastor and they enjoy how energetic and uplifting the speaker can be, but unless you are being pushed to change your ways and grow closer to God and step outside of your comfort zone, then you might be like the Israelites here, with the word of God going in one ear and out the other.  Hearing the word is not enough, you have to listen and change.

11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.

15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-16 NIV)

I think that this looks forward to two different times.  First it looks to the time after the death of Jesus when the sins of mankind can be covered by Jesus’ blood and man can go directly to God, without the need for an earthly priest and a temple and daily sacrifices.  I think that Jesus was even alluding to this chapter when he told the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 sheep to find the one, basically telling the Israelites that God was ready to begin this new type of relationship with them that he had told them about during the time of Ezekiel.  

I think that this verse also looks forward to the Kingdom of God when he will reign as the perfect shepherd over all those who have believed.  At the time of Ezekiel this was very far away, and Jesus had not begun his ministry, and the Church was not yet established, but God still had a plan.

Revelation 21:3

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 

Thanks for joining us this week as we have been going through Ezekiel.  It is not a book that we know particularly well and we are glad that we have had this time to study it.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+32-34&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will be reading Ezekiel 35-37 as we continue our Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 40-43

He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint

“Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” ~ Is. 40:1-2 

While the first 39 chapters of Isaiah consist of the judgment pronounced on Israel & Judah, the book of consolation begins in chapter 40 and continues for the last 27 chapters of the book (mirroring the set-up of the Bible itself). Isaiah 40-43 contains beautiful pictures of who God is and breath-taking prophecies of the future messiah. When we look at the story of the Israelites a central theme that we see is the forsaking of the true God for idols. Because they could see the idols and because other nations worshipped in the same way, they felt like it was more profitable to worship them. However, these idols always proved to be worthless and caused pain and destruction. If we see that we are worshipping idols, what should we do? How can we turn away from the worthlessness of these idols to the infinite value found in God through Christ. 

Isaiah 40-43 gives us an answer to that as well. In Isaiah 40, Isaiah reminds us who God is. He asks the question in v. 18-19, “Who will compare God with? What likeness will you compare Him to? To an idol? Something that a smelter casts, and a metalworker plates with gold and makes silver welds for it?” Instead of worshipping a created thing, God points us to what he has created to show his power and to show us that he is the only one worth worshipping. In v. 26, he says, “Look up and see: who created these? He brings out the starry host by number; He calls all of them by name. Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing.” When we find ourselves looking towards idols for our value and worth – and in turn worshipping them, we need to remind ourselves of where our true value comes from. To do that, we have to turn our eyes away from ourselves and the things we think define us – whether that’s our relationships, money, career, or anything else – and turn them towards the only thing that really gives us worth. By focusing on God and basing our lives on his unchanging character, we can rest in God through the storms and trials of life. He is our firm foundation. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 40-43.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 44-48 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76

I will defend this city and rescue it because of Me and because of My servant David._

In Isaiah 36-37, we read more about the good king Hezekiah. Like we learned last week, Hezekiah worked hard to take down the idols in the land and point the people back to God. In Isaiah 36, Judah came under attack from the neighboring nation of Assyria. Hezekiah then undergoes a battle for the minds of the people as he argues against King Sennacherib and the people of the court. In these two chapters, the Rabshakeh, a high-ranking military officer, tries to convince the people to forsake their kingdom and God. In his three speeches, we may see some similarities between what he says and the way that we are tempted today. At the heart of all of his speeches is a desire to turn Judah away from trusting solely in God. 

In the Rabshakeh’s first speech, he points out one of Israel’s insecurities. He says in Is. 36:4-6, ‘What are you relying on? Your strategy and military preparedness are mere words. Look, you are trusting in Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff that will enter and pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it.’ Israel and Judah had both sought protection and manpower from Egypt as we read about in Is. 31. Now the Rabshakeh was pointing out that weakness and mocking them for it! We’ve all experienced a time when we have had our insecurities pointed out. I’m a terrible volleyball player. When I would have to play volleyball in gym class, I remember one of the cute guys at my school saying to me ‘You just have to hit the ball like this. It’s not hard!’ You can imagine that in that moment – when a shortcoming of mine was pointed out – all I wanted to do was for someone to take that problem away from me quickly! In my gym class that meant sitting out the next game, but the Judeans didn’t have that option. The Assyrians gave them the option instead to give him 2,000 horses if they could supply riders for them (v. 8). Again, this pointed out the lack of manpower and ability for the Israelites to protect themselves. 

At this point, we would probably say, ‘Well, that’s fine! Israel doesn’t need to protect themselves – they should trust in God!’ The Rabshakeh thought of that too. In verse 7, he says, ““Suppose you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God.’ Isn’t he the One whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You are to worship at this altar’?” The Rabshakeh twisted the actions of Hezekiah to make it seem like he had done something against God rather than something that God wanted. He even goes so far as to say in v. 10, “Have I attacked this land to destroy it without the LORD’s approval? The LORD said to me, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’ In his second speech, the Rabshakeh describes how he had destroyed the gods of the surrounding nations, which would just show that God himself wouldn’t deliver the people either (v. 18-20). 

This is some powerful psychological warfare! We know the Judeans had trust issues to begin with. Now, someone is coming and laying out all of their insecurities for the world to see (right before they try to march in and destroy their kingdom)! The heart of all of the Rabshakeh’s temptation can be summed up with what he said in Is. 37:10, “Don’t let your God, whom you trust, deceive you by promising that Jerusalem won’t be handed over to the king of Assyria.” He basically says ‘Did God really say that he would save you?’ which may sound eerily reminiscent of another ancient tempter (Gen. 3:1). At this point, if someone had tried to break our trust in God in this way, we may have caved and believed them. However, Hezekiah does what we all should do when we have people who try to break our trust in God. He prays and then reminds himself of God’s unchanging character. 

God hears his prayer and we read about the victory that God brings in Isaiah 37:36-38 when an angel of the LORD strikes down the Assyrian army and the king is killed in the temple of his god, Nisroch.

When we face temptations and challenges that try to break our trust in God, we need to be reminded that he is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do. We can trust in what the Bible says. We can trust in the promises of God. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 40-43– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Isaiah 31-34

The Lord gives victory to his anointed. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

One highlight of my year is going to South East Camp held on the mountaintops of the NC Blue Ridge. Years ago, we drove down the mountain to a center with a high ropes course. Everyone suited up with a helmet and a buddy and clipped their carabiner to the first level on the course. Now, I have some friends who are into rock climbing and would be happy to dangle off the top of a mountain just to get the adrenaline rush. However, I am not that person. As a child, I used to get weak knees going to the edge of the second floor balcony at my church. In fact, there are still some rides I refuse to go on at amusement parks, because the drop is just too much. I’ve gotten better, but I definitely am still scared of heights. Going back to our high ropes adventure, I made it through the whole course, including the more difficult parts, but then I came to the end where I needed to zip line down to the ground. 

Looking down off the ledge, I could already feel a tingling in my knees and my palms getting sweaty. At that moment, I felt like turning around and going through the whole ropes course again just to make it back down to the bottom, because I felt like that was something that I could control with my body. Even though my heart was racing, I paused to take a few deep breaths, and then I stepped off the side to zoom through the air. In truth, once I picked up my feet, I felt safe and secure in my harness. The obstacle I had to overcome was one of trusting that my harness would do what it was supposed to do. I had to trust in something that I couldn’t control, but was probably the quickest and safest way down. 

In Isaiah 31, we read about some trust issues that the Israelites had developed with God. They weren’t afraid of heights in this case; instead, they were afraid of the nations around them. Israel had chosen to rely on numbers of men and horses when they faced battle, and because of this, they had grown to depend on Egypt’s help. They thought that by controlling the amount of man- and horsepower they could bring to a fight they could ensure their victory. However, God reminds them that the “Egyptians are men, not God; their horses are flesh, not spirit” (Isaiah 31:3). God was so much stronger than anyone the Israelites would face, but they refused to see it. By not trusting in God, they paved the way for their own demise (v. 3). 

We also have a daily choice between trusting God or trusting our own flesh. It may come in the form of choosing to be obedient to God’s command, by giving away our money or time to someone in need, or by sacrificing a desire to make room for a deeper relationship with God. In those times, we may want to trust in our own minds or bodies, because we feel like we can control those things. But, remember, God is so much more mighty than we are. We can trust him in whatever situation that we face. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 31-34.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 35-36– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

God Works with Broken Spirits

Psalm 32, 51, 86 & 122

psalm 51 10 niv sgl

Have you ever done something and lacked the words to express everything to God? Saying, “God, forgive me” seems to fall short of what my sin deserves and how I feel about what I have done. If any of you have grown up in a church that was severely focused on obedience but didn’t give a full picture of who God was then you probably have felt this way, too.

Today as I was reading over Ps. 51, which is one of my favorite Psalms, I was conflicted about what I really wanted to write. What I really wanted to write about was Ps. 51.17 and correlate that back to Matthew 5.3. I actually wrote a devotion on Matthew 5.3 earlier this year and didn’t want to just duplicate the material. So today I am going to look at this Psalm in a new way.

This Psalm at its heart is a psalm of complete repentance. It expresses David’s emotion right after being confronted on his sin with Bathsheba. David’s heart is over flowing with that godly grief while in the moment of confrontation and writing his prayer to God he may have laid out a model for us to use in our own repentance. I want to break the Psalm down in sections and look at it in parts.

I think verse 1-2 provide a good preamble for what David is going to prayer for. I don’t think there is real reason to dive too deep into it.

Verse 3-6 is our first real section of the Psalm. Until recently when I looked at this section I thought lines seemed unconnected and kind of thrown together. I have changed my view on this now. I now know that all of these verses are looking to serve one purpose. In verse 3 David confesses of his sin and acknowledges that his sin is before him. Verse 4 is extremely interesting setting aside the “against you and you only” I think that this verse is referring back to 2 Samuel 12.9. David is acknowledging, according to God’s response through Nathan, that he did evil in God’s sight. By acknowledging that what God says is true is an act of obedience and submitting to God’s truth. David in line 3 and 4 says that he is admitting his fault in order to acknowledge the judgements of God as righteous and true. Verse 5 David admits that he has a deep sinfulness rooted inside him from his mother’s womb. Verse 6 is where we have the truth shine through. David says that God delights in truth in the inner being and he teaches him wisdom in his secret heart.  This is a strange statement in context at first glance. David starts out this section with confession and ends it with God delighting in truth. What is confession at its root? It’s simply telling the truth. David is acknowledging throughout this whole section his sin before God and confessing God’s truth to him. He is acknowledging God’s judgements are true and the full depth of his sin. The drive of this section is confession. We can’t ignore this last line either. God teaches him wisdom in his secret heart. This sounds almost exactly like the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit made David fully aware of his sin before God. So, to close this section out verses 3-6 are entirely about confession.

The next section comprises verses 7-12. They articulate exactly what I want God to do to my heart. Verse 7 in summation is, “God cleanse me, wash away my sin”. In verse 8 he is asking God to bring joy back into his heart. His sins had just drained the joy from him. In verse 9 he is asking God to overlook his sins and remove his iniquities. In verse 10 David asks God to create in him a clean heart and to put a steadfast spirit within him. In verse 11 David is asking God to not cast him away from his presence and not remove the Holy Spirit from him. In verse 12 David asks God to restore the joy he once found in how God saved him and help him have a willing spirit. I think you probably get the point but in every one of these verses David is petitioning or asking God to help or cleanse him from his sin.

I want to really delve into each one of these verses in the section 13-17 but I don’t want to wear out your attention here. So, I am just going to give away my point. In each one of these verses David is telling God his response. In each one of these verses David is ascribing an action or a change that David is making in his heart. True repentance always comes with with a new set of actions or a change in heart.

To pull all these together, David started out in verses 3-6 with a pure confession and a confession of God’s truth in the world. In verse 7-12 David petitions God to cleanse and purify him, to replace his heart, uphold him, give him a right spirit and finally to restore his joy. In verses 13-17 David tells God what he is going to do in response. David says he will teach transgressors God’s ways, his tongue will sing aloud of God’s righteousness, his mouth will declare God’s praise and finally give God the true sacrifice which is a broken or contrite spirit. This model of confession, petition of cleansing, and response is a great example for us. It firstly acknowledges our sin, then asks God to cleanse us and then gives God the response to our sin. This model allows us to do what we can do and allows God to do what ultimately only he can do. It is our responsibility to acknowledge our sin but ultimately, we can’t cleanse ourselves or restore our joy. Those things are dependent on God and David in this section of scripture acknowledges that fact. David doesn’t just stop his life, though. He acknowledges that he can still praise God and he can still offer up the proper sacrifice of a broken spirit through which God can work.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+32%2C+51%2C+86%2C+122&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 13-15 as we progress on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

In God’s Big Hands

2 Samuel 10, 1Chronicles 19 & Psalm 20

2 Samuel 10 12 NRSV sgl

Have you ever felt a little weird asking God to heal someone who is sick? I know I totally have. Inside my brain I feel this want to pray that God would heal the person but I also feel this tension between wanting God’s will to be done and wanting my own specific will to happen. For the record I absolutely think that we should be praying for the sick. I think that in some ways the tension exists because we want what we want and we all want this world to be as pleasurable as possible for everyone. While I think it is a little short sighted, it makes perfect sense. We don’t want to see our loved ones in pain, so we pray that God would bless them.

On the other hand, I do believe that the will of God will be accomplished eventually in this world. I also believe that the will of God is absolutely the best solution for each situation. Babies still die and sometimes younger people die too early. They don’t get to grow old and experience life through a number of years. This leads me to believe that there may be a creature out there in this world who is in opposition to God. So the question sort of remains do we pray that people will be healed or do we just pray that God’s will would be done in this situation. I believe that our prayers can be effective through God’s actions if they are God’s will. I think above all else in the realm of prayer my goal is to praise the Lord for all he has done and to try to pray according to his will.

In the reading today in 2 Samuel 10 we have this super weird story with half shaven beards and half naked men. Kind of crazy. The retaliation of this is where I want to focus though. So here the Ammonites had hired the Syrians and the king of Macaah and his men and the king of Tob and his men. This is looking to be a pretty intense battle. It’s sort of looking like everyone versus Israel in this scene. Now the Ammonites hired 33,000 soldiers and in addition you can throw in there all the men that the Ammonites had together. I can almost guarantee you that this was a formidable force against the army that Joab had.

Now this situation is kind of tricky because not only are they facing an army  that is larger than them but that army is also facing them on both sides. This is what is known as a flank and it’s a well used military strategy. Joab, the commander of Israel’s army, knows this and he knows that the odds are not in his favor at the current moment. He is well aware that he is already in trouble and the battle hasn’t even begun yet. Joab does the best with what he’s got and makes a plan to fight the battle. He divides his two forces and tells them we will help each other where we need it and after that Joab gives an awesome pep talk.

We don’t hear a lot about Joab’s life. We mostly hear about his military conquests but here we get a little glimpse into his spiritual life. In verse 12 he says, “Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.” Love this motivational speech. He says be of good courage, which in my head and maybe some of Joab’s men immediately kicks me back to Joshua where Israel was winning every battle set before them. Then he says do for the fam, or for the family, and for the cities of our God. He acknowledges that they are God’s cities, Amen, right?!

The next subphrase though I want to hone in on a little bit. He asks that the Lord may do what seems good to him. That is nuts. He has all these men under him, he is literally responsible for all their lives. That is how leadership works. No begging and pleading for mercy and asking for blessings on his men and his nation. All he is asking is the Lord to do what seems good to him. He must have really believed that he deserved good to be done with him or he must have decided that God deserves to have what is good done in his eyes. He believed in putting it in God’s hands. He may have even believed and had confidence that God would want to do good to him. Not because of his actions surely, but because of God’s nature.

I think this phrase was spoken in humility and he was allowing his life and the lives of his men to be put in God’s hands. Of course all our lives are in God’s and the things that go on in our lives are still in God’s hands but Joab was crazy enough to voluntarily submit and acknowledge it. That’s the best type of crazy. I think this was the same attitude Jesus had in the garden of Gethsemane.

I think what is actually going on is these people are volunteering their sense of control over their lives. They are submitting to God and telling him you do what you think is good to you. This is the point of surrender in our lives that I believe God is continuously working us towards – an emptiness of our own and fullness of things of God. It is ushering us towards the freedom that we yield control over our lives to God.

So let’s give to God what is his and pray that he would do what is good to Him in our lives.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+10%2C+1Chronicles+19%2C+Psalm+20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalms 65-67 & 69-70 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Who You Want to Be

Psalm 101

Psalm 101 2a

Are you who you want to be?

Almost no one jumps up at this question and says I am exactly who I want to be. Maybe we won’t ever become who we want to be. Our view may be too grandiose to actualize. We all have strengths, weaknesses and limitations which is perfectly fine. I have accepted that I will never have a voice like any of the singers from Casting Crowns. Haha. I have identified areas of my life where I am semi successful and try to work on those areas. This doesn’t mean I don’t work on my weakness it just means that I know the areas that I am most able to serve others in and hone those skills in order to serve God and those around me better.

With all that being said I am still not who I want to be in the picture-perfect sense.

Actually, before we move forward, I want you to write down exactly who you want to be and maybe what you think you are missing to become that person in 100 words or less. Sometimes it’s helpful to write down our goals.  Envisioning them can make them more concrete and help to actualize them. No longer are they just things or ideas they have an actual physical existence now.

Second question: Do you think you are on the road to become who you want to be?

Does your life reflect that you are taking steps daily in that direction and you are pushing yourself to become that person? Are you doing that hard work in your life? Or do you shrink back to what is comfortable?

These are problems that all of us face and today we are going to look at some of these.

Ps. 101 is going to be the focus today.

Verse 1 praised God for all that he does through his steadfast love and faithfulness. I like how David doesn’t stop there. He follows the praise and gratitude with an action step by saying “to you Lord I will make music.” I wish that I would do that more often—turn the gratitude in my heart into an action step to worship and praise God.

David starts out verse 2 by saying “I will ponder the way that is blameless.” This isn’t the first time anyone will hear this but sometimes we need reminders. What you think about will be what is manifest in your life. If you are continually allowing sinful things to have space and time in your mind, you probably won’t be able to stay pure and live a holy life. There are scientific studies that show if you think about something that you are grateful for, you will be more content. The thoughts you allow in your mind will be the rudder that steers the ship of your life.

David asks God when will God come to him. It shows us where David’s heart is. It shows us that the desire of his heart is to be in God’s presence.

This next line is something I want to work through in more detail. “I will walk in the integrity of my heart within my house.” A definition of integrity that I think is applicable for this verse is the quality or state of being complete or undivided. Integrity is being the same person even when no one is watching. I don’t think any of us want to think that we display a “for show” version of ourselves but I think most of us do. Do you think that you are whole in what you think is right in your heart and do in your actions? This is something I really want to be a part of my life.

For a long time, I have known that God is the only place that I can truly be satisfied. I have found this to be an extremely prominent theme in scripture. Here are seven Psalm 107.9, Isaiah 58.11, Jeremiah 31.25, Psalm 91.16, Isaiah 55.2, Mark 15.15, Psalm 132.15. Also, via google there is a page that has 54 verses regarding satisfaction in God. So, it’s kind of a big deal. I know that God is the only one in whom I can find contentment, satisfaction, peace, and fulfillment. I know this and yet I let myself believe the lie that other things may satisfy.  In this way I am not walking in the integrity of my heart.

There is a chasm between what I believe to be true and what I do.

I started out the devotion asking you who you wanted to be. I think that person would be the one who walks in the integrity of your heart.

I can offer you a little insight if you are younger and tell you that you may not ever be the person you want to be but I will tell you that you should be content with making progress and putting in the effort to walk in the integrity of heart.

I hope that you will join me in reorienting your life or continue the process of walking in the integrity of your heart and becoming who you want to be and who God has called you to be.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+89%2C+96%2C+100%2C+101%2C+105%2C+132&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be back to the life of David – 2 Samuel 7 & 1 Chronicles 17 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

For Others not For Yourself

2 Samuel 5:11-6:23; 2 Chronicles 13-16

2 Samuel 5 12a NIV

 

Have you ever been in class, at home or with your friends and you start to get the impression that the people around you don’t necessarily have your best interests in mind? In fact, I think one of the most heartbreaking things in life is that moment that you start to realize that you have to look out for your interests. You start to realize that people will talk behind your back, they will say nasty things about you, they may try to take advantage of you. It’s truly heartbreaking for me to see someone have their trust betrayed.

The reason why this is heartbreaking for me is it leads people to have a cynical view of the world. This view can be seen all over the world. People looking out for themselves instead of caring for those around them. In some ways, this is a natural behavior for humans. Inside all of us there is this innate desire toward self-preservation. This isn’t entirely a learned behavior. I can see this in my 2 and half year-old nephew as he interacts with his 10-month-old sister. He doesn’t want to share his toys with her. When she is holding one of his toys his desire is to take the toy away from her. Even if he isn’t playing with that toy or even wanted it before she started to play with it. As a parent or adult, one of the things you are supposed to teach your child is how to share or how to look out for the interests of others. Putting others wants and needs above your own is unnatural but that is the way that love works.

One of our passages for the day is 2 Samuel 5.11-6.23 but as I began to read this passage it was the second verse that struck a chord with me. I encourage you to read the whole passage; it really is a great passage. That being said I really want to just hone in on this verse today and get all we can from it.

5:12 “And David knew that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.”

To give you a little backstory David at this point had overcome Saul and was no longer a “criminal” on the run. God had established him as king of Israel through all the trials that he had to overcome and endure through. This was a long time coming for David but God finally gave him the victory.

The first statement gives us an indication of David’s heart when becoming king. David knew and gave the credit to God for when he assumed the throne. He didn’t try to say it was because of all he endured that he was now the king of Israel. He gave the credit back to the one who actually put him there. Even then as the king of Israel David was humble before God.

The next line though is really what I want to hone in on. David knew that God had exalted his kingdom for the sake of the people of Israel. God put David on the throne because God and David loved God’s chosen people, Israel. David was given the responsibility of the kingdom, not for his sake, or for his own self-interest, David was climbing the ladder from shepherd to harpist to giant slayer to mighty warrior to king but for God’s and his people. He was seeking the people’s best interest and this is where God put him. God put him there because he knew he cared for his people and that he would seek God and seek the people’s interest above his own.

David had unlearned that natural tendency towards self-interest and preservation and learned to put other’s interest, safety and good above his own. He put on the heart of a servant. The world and our own minds have taught something that may be the way that this world works but it isn’t the way that God works. He works through people who have laid themselves aside and serve and put others ahead of themselves.

The fascinating thing about David in this is he didn’t have Jesus telling him to love others as he had loved them. David just had a heart for people and I don’t think this was something special because of who David was. I think David had this because of his relationship with his heavenly father.

Here is my exhortation for us today—go serve people. Go out there and lay aside your own self-interest and seek someone else’s good. Seek the good of those around you. In the same way that David wasn’t given the kingdom for his own good, the things that we are given whether it’s our money, time, attention, or work—what has been given to us is meant to serve those around us. Whether we acknowledge it all the time, or not, ALL that we have, including this very day, has been given to us by God. So, let’s lay ourselves down to serve those around us.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+5%3A11-6%3A23%3B+1+Chronicles+13-16&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 1-2,15, 22-24, 47,68 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Be the Good in the Crazy

ruth 2 12

Ruth 1:1 “In the days when the judges ruled…”

If you’re reading along with this Bible plan and read yesterday’s blog, you might expect to read more about people “doing as he/she saw fit” as you read the introduction to Ruth.
Thankfully, this book of the Bible is nothing like Judges. We read about individuals who are faithful, loyal, hardworking and honorable.
If you’re paying attention to the news lately you’ll hear a mixture of very sad statistics right alongside stories of people doing good. And that’s one of the things that I appreciate about the book of Ruth: while all sorts of people are ignoring God’s Law, there are still righteous people, like Boaz, doing the right thing.
So while you are quarantined to your homes, what good and right thing can you do? It starts with how you treat and speak to those with whom you share a living space with. Do you find yourself with spare time on your hands these days? Instead of increasing your screen time, what good and right thing can you do for your neighbors (while maintaining your social distance, of course)? Maybe because your social calendar is empty, you actually have some spare change in your pocket. What good and right thing could you do for your church and/or community with that extra cash?
So while we are living in extraordinary times, you have the prime opportunity to do something special. Be faithful. Be loyal. Be hardworking. Be honorable. Be Christlike.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible reading is the Book of Ruth (just 4 short chapters worth the read).  You can read or listen to it at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ruth+1-4&version=NIV
Tomorrow we begin the book of 1st Samuel (chapters 1-3) as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan .  Or, there is no time like today to start!  

Gifts

wise men

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

 
‘Tis the season to be giving gifts. Like the Wise Men from long ago, we present our loved ones with gifts each Christmas. The gifts that were brought before the young Messiah, held great significance. The gold was representative of Jesus’ kingship. The incense points to Jesus’ priesthood. And the myrrh was an indication of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. All three were costly. All three were given as an act of worship.
But what about the gifts that we bring to the Messiah? What is it that you and I have that can be presented to the Prince of Peace? I can think of another trio of gifts that would be pleasing:
Acts of service
Acts of devotion
Acts of faith
I may not have gold to give, but I can serve. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love people. How we choose to do that on a daily basis are acts of service. When we put ourselves in a position of lifting others up, we are making an offering that is pleasing in God’s sight.
I may not have incense to give, but I can be devoted. We are instructed to love God with ALL of our heart, and with ALL of our soul, and with ALL of our mind, and with ALL of our strength. When we stop holding back and finally submit to our Lord all that we are, the good, the bad, and the ugly, we position ourselves to be forgiven by the great High Priest.
I may not have myrrh, but I can be faithful. When circumstances don’t make sense; when we are in a season of loss; when we have given every last effort, when we don’t know what else to do, we can still be faithful and trust in the One who gave himself for each one of us.
Friends, whether today is a day that you can be surrounded by those you love or you’re in a place where your heart is hurting (maybe it’s a combination of the two), know this: whatever you have, your joys and your sorrows, out of your wealth and your poverty, in your health and in your illness, the gifts you bring will be treasured beyond measure.
Bethany Ligon