The Lifting of the Zadokites: Ministerial Faithfulness

Ezekiel 44-45


“‘But the Levitical priests, who are descendants of Zadok and who guarded my sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from me, are to come near to minister before me; they are to stand before me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign Lord. They alone are to enter my sanctuary; they alone are to come near my table to minister before me and serve me as guards. Ezekiel 44:15-16 (NIV)


Yesterday we discussed God’s holiness and how it must be separated from the common. Today we will continue along those lines but in terms of ministering in the presence of such holiness. The temple was the place where God’s presence was located on earth and was considered the holiest place on the planet; it was a sacred space. Not just anyone could visit the temple; Israel was ripped by God for allowing uncircumcised (of heart and body) non-Jews to go into the temple (Ez. 44:7). After laying out the dimensions for a new holy temple in the last few chapters, God turns Ezekiel’s attention to who gets to minister there and in what capacity. 


Israel had not taken seriously the holiness of God, even in the temple, where the Holy of Holies was found. The Levitical priests, despite being chosen to act as ministers in the temple, couldn’t fulfill their duties without corruption. They allowed the unworthy to come into the temple and served as priests to idols. These priests may not have been, but Yahweh certainly was serious about keeping His temple holy and having the right people ministering there. So, in this new temple, those who hadn’t appreciated the importance of the job would miss out. Those who remained firm, those who did not go with the crowd, those who did appreciate the holiness of the temple, the Zadokites (descendants of Zadok), would be lifted up as an example and given the jobs the less than faithful had forfeited.


Today there isn’t a grand temple complex where we must minister before God. We don’t have to make animal sacrifices, wear special clothes, or worry about remaining ceremonially clean. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t just as serious today about those who represent Him as ministers. The sacrifices of today are spiritual in nature and offered by those who have chosen to follow Christ as their High Priest. We are to act as royal priests who, following the example of our High Priest, surrender ourselves completely to the will of God and do the ministry He calls us to. Just like the Zadokites, who were lauded for their faithfulness despite Israel’s disobedience, we need to make sure we stay true to who we are as disciples of Christ and God’s representatives on earth, regardless of how others act–Christian or not. Our God still cares about holiness and has put His spirit within us, let us guard the new temple with the same (or greater) fervor and faithfulness as (than) the Zadokites did. 

-Joel Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Biblegateway here –Ezekiel 44-45

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Ezekiel (chapters 46-48) as we continue on our

Rebel to Righteousness

Numbers 16 38 ESV

Numbers 16

There was a man named Korah who led a rebellion against Moses’ leadership (Numbers 16:2-3). Moses instructed them to put fire and incense in censors before the Lord to let God decide what man would be in charge. Of course, God stayed faithful to Moses and made it clear that Korah and his men were sinning.
God, to punish the rebels’ sin and rid Israel of false leadership, caused the earth to open up and swallow Korah, his household, and his rebellion. Next, God redeemed the sinful situation into a holy one by turning the censors the men used to sin with into a covering for the altar that was holy.
This is a large part of what makes the Christian faith different than other beliefs. In order to be justified, or have right standing, with the gods of many religions, one must work their way into the god or goddesses’ approval; they need to pray enough, give enough, fast enough, and do enough good all with the hope of making the cut. Our God doesn’t work like that. Instead of accepting the good or holy, he seeks the sinful and makes them holy (Mark 2:17), having exchanged our sin with Jesus’ perfection (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is a fundamental difference, that he takes the sinful and makes him holy, instead of expecting the sinful to clean himself up and work his way into his favor which is impossible for man (Rom. 3:10-12). We serve a wonderful God who can turn rebels to righteous before God.

The God of Second Chances – Numbers 17

The story of the rod of Aaron.
The rod was like a stick and these twelve men carved their names on them, out of the twelve one of them sprouted. The one that sprouted was Aaron’s rod and he became the priest. God worked this miracle to prove to the children of Israel that they had been wrong in questioning whom the priesthood rightfully belonged to. God mercifully gave Israel another evidence of his will, to correct their judgment. The miracle was sufficient to silence the complaints of the Israelites. After they realized what they had done, they were terrified and said: “Behold, we perish, we are dying, we are all dying!” God asked Moses to place the rod in front of the alter so that it served as a reminder that they were wrong in questioning God’s authority.
How many times has God given us a second chance? If you haven’t noticed, every morning is an opportunity to serve Him, love Him, give yourself to Him, reconcile with Him, reconcile with your brother, love those around you, enjoy nature, be kind, serve others. My point is, God is merciful and loving, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercies for thousands..”(Exodus 34:6-7). In His great love, he gives us second chances. However, there will come a day when we will have no more second opportunities.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+16-17&version=NLT
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 18-20 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

His Tabernacle

Numbers 7 cain

During the building of the tabernacle, the tools and utensils were not holy. Everything was normal cloth or gold material until they were consecrated. Once Moses anointed and consecrated the tabernacle and the things that went in it, they were no longer normal objects.  Instead, they were objects of God. If God can turn a simple lamp stand into a holy object, then what can He do with us? We can be made holy and set apart by God to serve a great purpose. As we have said many times, through the book of Numbers God seeks holiness for Himself and His people. This desire didn’t disappear when Jesus came into the world. God desires for us to be holy. Although we sin, God can redeem us just like He did with the tabernacle in Numbers 7.

There is a moment after the tabernacle is consecrated that the people of Israel begin to bring sacrifices and gifts.  Among the gifts are six carts and 12 oxen that are going to be given to the Levites. Carts and oxen make moving things easier.  This would be a pretty handy gift during the time of the wilderness as they move everything they have across the desert by hand! In verse 9, we see the sons of Kohath weren’t given any of the oxen and carts – what kind of rotten deal is that? Why didn’t any of the carts go to the sons of Kohath? The sons of Kohath were in charge of carrying the holy objects on their shoulders. Each heavy object in the tabernacle, including the Ark of the Covenant, was built with places for poles to slide into so that they could be carried by pole on the shoulders of the sons of Kohath. You may remember the story of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6 when the Ark was going to be moved back into the city of Jerusalem after being gone for a long time. Notice in 2 Samuel 6:3 they placed the Ark, “on a new cart”. This was a big no-no. The Ark was not supposed to be put on a cart, but instead carried on poles like we see in the law. Then what happens? The Ark begins to fall off the cart on the way into the city and Uzzah, who was just trying to help by catching the Ark, died right as he touched it. God’s holiness can’t be infringed upon. Albeit easier, you don’t put the Ark on a cart. This is why no carts where given to the sons of Kohath. They didn’t need carts to assist in the moving of the holy objects of the tabernacle. Isn’t it interesting how the Bible connects in such unique places? Who knew that around 400 years after God gave the command to not move the holy objects on carts that Uzzah would learn the severity of breaking the command.

The rest of chapter 7 sound maybe like Pete and Repeat wrote it. These aren’t particularly exciting verses and the gifts of each tribe are the same. Between verse 10 and 83, the tribes, their gifts and their offerings are listed. After 12 days of offerings the total was: 12 silver dishes, 12 silver bowls (a total of 2,400 shekels of silver), 12 gold pans (a total of 120 shekels of gold), 12 bulls, 12 rams, 12 male lambs 1year old, 12 grain offerings, 12 male goats, 24 bulls for peace offerings, 60 rams, & 60 male goats for peace offerings (a total of 192 animals). The Israelites would have given a total of around $16,000 in silver and around $71,500 in gold. What a great out pouring from the sons of Israel to God in celebration and honor of the new tabernacle.

After the anointing of the tabernacle and 12 days of offerings, one of the coolest things I can imagine happened to Moses in verse 89. God spoke to Moses from above the Ark of the Covenant. Finally, after all the effort that has gone into getting the Israelites out of Egypt, God now has a place to dwell with His people. The time has come when God speaks to Moses from among His people. No longer does Moses have to travel to the top of a mountain to speak to God. God has moved even closer to His people today. We don’t have to travel to a temple in Jerusalem to be with God because, as we see in the New Testament, we are God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). God can now dwell among us in a more personal way; He has moved into the hearts of His people. We have been anointed and sanctified by the blood of Jesus to become the new temple that God dwells in. We see an ever moving forward march by God to be closer to His people. It started with the tabernacle, then into the hearts of men in the time of the New Testament and now. In the future, we have the hope of God dwelling with us in person in the kingdom! He is with us now in the power of the Spirit that moves among us but, at the time of the restoration of all things, God is going to be with us like it was in the garden of Eden. Revelation 21 says that God is going to dwell among men. There is no part of the Bible without significance. All of it is connected because all of it is the word of God. God’s desires don’t change and He desires to be with us. The creator of the universe, the creator of the estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars wants to be with you. To me, the realization of this fact is humbling and inspiring.  Thank you, God!

Josiah Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+7&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Numbers 8-10 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

His Law & Love

Numb 5-6 CainPicture1

Right at the beginning of chapter 5 we continue the theme of supreme holiness.  This helps me remember that chapter and verse separations are not part of the original scriptures. For me, sometimes using verse and chapter markings can hinder my Bible study because I can see them as walls dividing different ideas or topics instead of a continuation of an idea.  That being said, we see God’s holiness carry over from chapter 4 to chapter 5. He wants His people to be so holy that He doesn’t even want unclean people in the camp. Of course, this could have medical benefits as well, which I think is another reason God instructed His people to leave the camp if they are unclean (verses 1-4).

In verse 6 there is something that grabs my attention. The NASB translation says, “Speak to the sons of Israel, ‘When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the LORD, and that person is guilty”. The word unfaithful is מַעַל (maal) in Hebrew. It is the same word that is used to talk about unfaithfulness in marriage. You will notice that the rest of the chapter deals with unfaithfulness in marriage. I think it is intriguing how God sees sin and idolatry as unfaithfulness in the same way that people see unfaithfulness within marriage. In fact, this is the premise of the entire book of Hosea. God uses the authentic metaphor of an adulteress wife to show how Israel acts towards Him. In God’s eyes, sin and marital unfaithfulness are one and the same.

Speaking of marital unfaithfulness, the majority of chapter 5 deals with an interesting situation that may arise in the lives of the Israelites. We are presented with a situation where there is a jealous man who thinks that his wife might have been unfaithful in their marriage, but there is no proof. No one saw her with another man; there is just suspicion. Now I think it is important to understand the world in which the Israelites live. Surrounding the time the law was given to the Israelites, there were other nations with other laws to deal with similar situations. Here is what the code of Hammurabi says about a woman accused of adultery, “If a man’s wife should have a finger pointed against her in accusation involving another male, although she has not been seized lying with another male, she shall submit to the divine River god for her husband.” This divine River god test pretty much consisted of her husband making her jump into a raging river and if she survived then the “god” ruled that she was innocent and if she died then she was guilty and her judgment was given to her. Keep this in mind as we go through Numbers 5.

If a Jewish man had suspicion that his wife was unfaithful, he didn’t throw her in a river to see what happened. Instead, he had to go to the tabernacle and see a priest. The couple would bring barley meal as a memorial offering and then the priest would set out the rules for the test that was to come. Essentially, the woman agreed to drink some water mixed with a little bit of dust and ink. A little bit of dust and ink isn’t going to have major adverse health effects unless there actually is some divine judgment involved in the situation. However, jumping in a raging river has been known to kill people even if they weren’t unfaithful in their marriage. This test takes the judgment out of man’s hands and squarely puts it in the hands of God to make the call. I know it doesn’t look like it at first, but this dust and ink water test is a major step forward for women in ancient history. No longer can a man choose to beat his wife or throw her in a river based on his suspicion. He must do the very public act of taking her to the tabernacle and allowing God to make a judgment. If you notice in verse 28, she is free if the judgment doesn’t come over her. This means the man can no longer bring this charge against her. Women weren’t treated this well in any other society on earth during this time in history. The Bible puts men and women on equal playing fields in value. God makes sure that His people cannot take advantage of women the same way other nations do.

Many people want to point a finger at the Bible and say that it’s misogynistic and oppressive to women. However, God’s law ensured that women were taken care of and given the same value as men. God doesn’t hate women; He made both men and women in His image. I think there are two major points we can pull out of Numbers 5. First, God sees sin as a spouse sees marital unfaithfulness and second, God values both men and women the same. God put into effect laws that protected both His holiness and the holiness of His people and He made sure the men of His people couldn’t abuse the women who are also made in His image. This is a true gift of the Bible. In every page, in every sentence, we see the heart of God coming alive to us. Even in obscure laws about obscure situations, we see God’s heart for His people.

Now let’s take a look at Chapter 6. The majority of this chapter is dedicated to explaining the Nazarite vow. A Nazarite vow is a special vow that a person can take to dedicate themselves to God. Notably, Samson partook in a Nazarite vow which is why he lost his strength after his hair was cut. A part of the promise to Samson was to keep his vow with God and once he broke that vow, his strength left him. If you wish to take a Nazarite vow, remember the wise words of Ecclesiastes 5:5, “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” The Nazarite vow is so intense it even bars contact with dead relatives which would make a person unclean. Yes, if you were in a Nazarite vow and a close relative died, you wouldn’t be allowed to attend their funeral without breaking your vow. This is how serious the Nazarite vow is.

The last few verses of chapter 6 are an interesting section usually referred to as the Aaronic blessing (Aaronic referring to Aaron, the brother of Moses). The words of the Aaronic blessing are beautiful and tender. God asks for Aaron to make known how much God cares for His people.  In these words we see God’s heart. Later, there is a great promise that proclaims “they shall invoke my name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them”. Ultimately, God wants us to call out to Him in all seasons. When we see Israel go off track in the Old Testament, God desires for them to return to Him so that He can return to blessing them. We see this in Matthew 7:11 as we are reminded that God is our Father.  “So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Don’t these words resonate so well with what we see in Numbers 6?! Our God doesn’t change – He still loves us and wants to bless us. If God didn’t change in the 1,400 years between the writing of Numbers and the words of Jesus, then surely He hasn’t changed between the time of Jesus and our time now. If you are a child of God today, God wants to bless you and wants to take care of you. Take peace and find rest in this truth.

 

Josiah Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+5-6&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Numbers 7 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan (1) (1)

The Key

numb 2&4 cain

Over the last four years I have done a lot of moving. I’ve moved from an apartment, to a house, to a trailer, back to a house, to my in-laws, and now to my home. Not to mention, I have helped plenty of others move during this time. Despite my many moving back aches and cardboard box forts, I’ve experienced nothing in the moving department compared to the Levites in chapter 3-4 of Numbers. These chapters are dedicated instructions for the Levites about how to live around and move the Tabernacle.

A portion of the third chapter is dedicated to uncomplicated, yet purposeful counting of all the male sons of the Levites a month or older.  Remember the Passover in Egypt where God spared the first born sons of Israel while passing judgement over the rest of Egypt’s first born sons? In Numbers 3, we see God take the first born of Israel not to death, but to holiness. Numbers 3:13 says that God is making the Levites “sanctified” to Himself. This word sanctified means to make holy. Instead of killing the first born sons of Israel, God uses them to be mediators between Him and the Israelites. Does this sound like any other first born son to you? Jesus is now the first born son that acts as a mediator between us and God. It is so cool to me that the number of Levite males a month or older and the number of first born sons in Israel are almost the exact same number. God sees the males of the Levites being the ransom in place of the first born sons of Israel. In Numbers 3:39, the number of Levite males comes out to 22,00 and in 3:43 the number of first born males is 22,273. I will draw your attention to the extra 273 first born sons which aren’t covered by the ransom of the sons of Levi. Instead of taking their lives, which is what they would deserve, God only requires the small price of 5 shekels per person. That comes out to a total of 1,365 shekels in exchange for the lives of 273 first born sons. I guess I was wrong in my last post when I joked about Numbers being a math text book. But really, the math should be done from this point on. The point is this: God would rather redeem people than kill people; God opts for mercy instead of judgment. This is just one of the great things about Him that makes Him a God worth worshiping.

Moving on to chapter 4 we again see the detailed and intentional nature of God through instructions He gives the Levites for the Tabernacle. Remember holiness is one of God’s main priorities when it comes to the Tabernacle. We are blissfully reading along in chapter 4, hearing about the job of the sons of Aaron….then we get to verse 15. Things get serious in verse 15. It becomes clear to us that the sons of Aaron took so much caution in covering all the holy objects in the Tabernacle so that when the sons of Kohath come to move the stuff they don’t die! Remember God’s holiness is serious. All it would take for an unclean person to die is to touch a holy object. It doesn’t sound like a simple list of instructions anymore; this is a life or death situation. I thought I had it rough when I had to take the legs off my couch to fit it through the door but at least I wouldn’t die if I accidentally touched it! I like to look at verses 5-20 as the “how not to die when moving the Tabernacle” verses. If you were a son of Kohath, in charge of carrying one of the holy objects, you would be thankful that one of the sons of Aaron did their job well.

Reading though chapter 4 and hearing how the jobs of these different people are broken down reminds me of the body of Christ. We have different positions and skills which allow us to come together and work for God. Moving the Tabernacle in a holy and dignified way was no easy task, so too is serving God and His son, Jesus. It takes a team effort with everyone pitching in to make it a success.

Reading this also gave me another idea. Maybe we should only ask people between the ages of 30-50 to help us move. I should have quoted Numbers 4:3 to all the people who have asked me to move over the years. But in all seriousness, there is one big take away that I see from Numbers chapter 4; it is a lesson taught all over the Old Testament. Keeping God’s holiness and His people being holy are top priorities. We need to be holy as God is holy (Lev. 19:2). That is a direct command from God to us. We see this in how God treats even the moving of the Tabernacle. Holiness is key. When God was setting up the nation of Israel He wanted to make sure that they were going to stay separate from the world, separate from their idol worshiping neighbors. All the laws and rules are supposed to help them stay righteous and holy. Of course, we know that this is an impossible task for us to do on our own. Thankfully, we have a God who understands us and knows that we need help. This is why all of history, all of God’s plans, even back in Numbers with the counting of some Jewish men, was leading to the revealing of Jesus. Don’t think for a second that we are redeemed by accident. God was working out the world to be in such a way that you now, reading this post, have the option to be redeemed and righteous. We might be tempted to skip these boring chapters of the Bible where all we do is read about how many 30-50 year olds were in the household of Gershon, but we would miss out on watching God reveal his plans. Seeing God act with such intentional detail reminds me that God is not too big to deal with our everyday highs and lows. God works in the details of our lives today, just as He did in the lives of the Levites moving the tabernacle.

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

Today’s passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+3-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s passage will be Numbers 5-6 as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

IF you Believe, THEN…

John 8

John 8 31 32

As we have read repeatedly in the last two chapters, we see again in John 8:30, 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

Then Jesus shared this powerful truth:

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This passage points out that while belief is important, belief alone is insufficient.  If I’m completely honest, I don’t like the implications of this passage.  I want to just believe and know I’m ok.  Unfortunately, I see a similar warning in James 2:19, where we’re told, “Even the demons believe – and shudder.”

Now Jesus has my attention.  If belief alone isn’t enough, what does He expect? I interpret these two verses as Jesus giving his followers a series of If .. Then conditions:

  1. If you hold to my teaching (which I interpret as meaning: you need to live your life like Jesus told you and demonstrated to you).
  2. Then you are really my disciples (meaning, you’re not really His follower unless you do what He told you to do.)
  3. If you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth. (This suggests to me that people can’t even understand the truth unless they are really Jesus’ disciples.)
  4. Finally, when one knows the truth, the truth will set them free.

 

The believers Jesus was talking to had the same reaction I tend to have.  Wait a minute, set me free?  I’m not a slave.

 

Jesus went on to say that anyone who sins is a slave to sin, and Jesus came to set people free from sin.

 

This is really interesting to me.  As members of a denomination that claims to have the faith of Abraham, we may tend to think we have a corner on the market for faith and truth.  But how focused are we on the holiness message Jesus is sharing in this passage?  This should challenge us.

Verses 35 and 36 go on to say, 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

I don’t know about you, but I want a permanent place in God’s family.  But to have that place, I need to be set free – first, from sin, and ultimately from death.

 

This requires adding to belief:

  1. Following Jesus’ teaching
  2. Becoming his disciple
  3. Knowing the truth
  4. Having Him set me free.

Sign me up!  How about you?

-Steve Mattison

What Is In You?

SATURDAY

1 Thessalonians 4_7

1Thessalonians 4:7 For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

 

In looking at how to live a holy life, how to make moral decisions, we have looked at three things. Two are external to us — what have we been taught and how are we treating another person. The second was internal, i.e., what is best for me? The last is also internal, and perhaps the most amazing: what is the Spirit of God saying within me?

 

The most amazing teaching about our new life in Christ is that the Spirit of God is actually within us. Jesus is within us through the presence of the Spirit. As Paul writes, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). It’s staggering to think that we bring Jesus into our immoral actions, but can it give us hope that he is present in us and will give us the strength to do his will?

 

How do we live a holy life? Are we willing to ask, what does Jesus, who lives within me through the Holy Spirit, say to me?

 

-Greg Demmitt

Not with Lustful Passion

THURSDAY

1 Thessalonians 4 4

1Th. 4:4 that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, 5 not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;

 

We wrote yesterday that the most important thing in making moral decisions is to know what God has said. The second most important is to exercise self-control. The first has an external source — what has God said? The second is internal — What does it mean to have self control?

 

Not everyone agrees with me, but I believe that in life, after being true to God, we must be true to self. That’s more important than anything else. That doesn’t mean, “if it feels good, do it.” the mantra of my generation, but rather, what is best for me as a one of God’s creation. Paul writes about moral decisions in these terms in 1 Corinthians:

 

1Cor. 10:23   “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

 

This world says that we can do anything. Can we stop and ask, “What is actually good for me?”

 

I have worked with many people who have practiced the world’s view of sexuality, i.e., “I can do anything I want to do.” I truly love people who have been caught up in sexual sin, still see them as people for whom Jesus died, but I cannot say that their life choices have been good for them. Their choices have made them miserable, sometimes have even shortened their lives.

 

Making good moral decisions includes respecting ourselves and not hurting ourselves through bad choices.

 

-Greg Demmitt

Right from Wrong

WEDNESDAY

In understanding right from wrong, the most important thing is to know what God has said.

1Th. 4:1   Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication;

 

The church at Thessaloniki was made up of mostly non-Jews, so Paul knew that it was important to teach them about sexual purity, because that was not something that was expected in their society. As Demosthenes wrote:

 

“We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for our day-to-day bodily needs, but we have wives to produce legitimate children and serve as trustworthy guardians of our homes.”

This attitude was not acceptable to God’s people. In Acts 15, when the leaders of the Jerusalem church welcomed the Gentile Christians into the body, they thought it important to remind them to abstain from fornication (Acts 15:29).

 

We live in such a world today. How do we make moral decisions? As we continue in this chapter we will see three more important points, but Paul begins with what we have been taught. In understanding right from wrong, the most important thing is to know what God has said. Paul writes that they have been taught to abstain from fornication, meaning every type of sexual sin.

 

-Greg Demmitt

Paul’s Prayer: Strong Holy Hearts

TUESDAY

1 Thessalonians 3-13a

I Thessalonians 3

1Th. 3:1   Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, 3 so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor had been in vain.

 

1Th. 3:6   But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. 7 For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. 8 For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

 

1Th. 3:11   Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

 

I highlighted Paul’s prayer at the end of this chapter. In several of Paul’s letters, he offers a prayer in the middle. In these prayers, he often prays about the things which he is about to write. In this prayer, after praying that God will make it possible for him to return to Thessaloniki, he prays three things for the Thessalonians:

 

  1. May they increase and abound in love for one another,
  2. May God strengthen their hearts in holiness.
  3. May they be blameless before God at the coming of our Lord Jesus.

 

Paul gives practical teaching on these three things in chapter 4 and we will be looking at his teachings on holiness in the remainder of these devotions this week.

-Greg Demmitt