At the time this devotion is being written, the release of the new iPhone 12 will be announced tomorrow. Many people, as usual, will drool over this fresh piece of technology and feel compelled to get it even though they probably don’t need it. And my oh my how this is true with so many other material items in our life. We don’t really need them but feel as though we do. This is the world we live in as 21st century Americans. However, though having material possessions IS NOT BAD, as disciples of Jesus we MUST be aware of the ever lurking sin of greed and ungodly consumption.
In today’s text we read about two rich men who respond to Jesus in complete opposite ways. The two rich men are the Young Rich Ruler and Zacchaeus. The reality is both of these men represent two groups of people. One group who says they want to follow Jesus but do not want to give up their supreme desire for possessions/wealth and the other group are those who equally love money and wealth but repent of it and replace the greatest desire of their life (wealth) with Jesus.
In the account of the rich young ruler, Jesus plainly tells us it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Worldly riches and treasures and possessions mean absolutely nothing to the sovereign creator of the universe. It is ok to have money, it is absolutely not ok to love money (and what you get with it) more than God. The former is God’s gift to us, the latter is idolatry. Love the giver not the gift.
In the account of Zacchaeus we learn that it is never too late to repent of our sin (in this case greed) and come to Jesus and receive salvation. Zacchaeus was likely a career tax collector who made a living stealing from his own Jewish people. He shows us the way to repent from greed. He gives away many of his possessions and repays four times what he stole from people. Zacchaeus’ heart changed therefore his actions and lifestyle changed. True repentance is always evidenced in life change.
Who are you? Do you say you love Jesus but really wealth and consumerism has your heart? Or do you recognize greed has no place in the life of a believer. Our greatest treasure is Christ not the Iphone 12.
Other passages on greed and wealth:
P.S. The next 2 weeks of devotions will be authored by me. All my scriptural citations will come from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 18.15-19.48
Okay, let me start by saying, it was SO hard deciding where to even start when I was writing today’s devotion. There is just so much meat in these two chapters, and I highly recommend that you set aside enough time today to really dig into these scriptures.
In today’s first chapter, John 7, we watch as Jesus instructs his disciples to go to the feast without him, because the Jews do not hate the disciples as they do Jesus. Eventually Jesus goes, but in secret. He went to the temple and began teaching, aware that if he were to make himself known to too many people, things wouldn’t end well. Which of course, in the long run, they didn’t – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As Jesus said, his time had not yet fully come. This is one of the reasons he was often so discreet. He couldn’t yet draw too much attention to himself, because he knew that would almost immediately lead to his death. This is important to note because he was not done with his time on earth; he knew there was more to accomplish before fulfilling the prophecy. And so he did, showing as much love and kindness as possible, and bringing thousands and thousands of people into the light. (And in doing so, setting an example for us to do the same.)
We could, of course, continue to talk about this one chapter for days and days, however, there’s also a ton of good stuff worth addressing from the next chapter, John 8. This one’s actually jam-packed with wise words and food for thought… so let’s dive in.
The first little section in John 8 is the story of the adulterous woman, which is definitely a good one and can teach us a lot. However if you don’t know already, this story was not in early manuscripts of the book of John, and was likely not written by him. Regardless, the important take away of this story is that none of us have the right to judge another, for we all sin, and we all deserve forgiveness. What stood out to me most though, is that Jesus said “I do not condemn you, either. Go…” which of course is the point of the story, but then he said, “From now on sin no more.” We can’t forget this part in Jesus’ line of thinking. Yes, we can be forgiven, but that doesn’t mean just getting away with something and then going and doing it again. It’s also about repentance; turning yourself around and doing things different from there on out. That’s maybe the most important step: what you do after the fact.
In the next few sections of chapter 8, we’re walked through a series of conversations between Jesus and the Pharisees/Jews. Repeatedly, Jesus (humbly) says something authoritative, and repeatedly, the Pharisees have some illegitimate reason to disagree. Jesus describes himself in many ways over chapter 8: the Light, the Son, the Truth, etc. This is who he is, always, but it is in this chapter that these attributes resulted in so many people coming to believe in him, and so many people coming to hate him. What the Pharisees failed to understand was that Jesus truly did have authority over them. He is the Mediator between God and man. When he claims all these things about who he is, it’s not to glorify himself, it’s simply the truth, God’s truth. As the Son of God he speaks God’s truth, not on his own initiative, but as the Father teaches him (John 8:28).
Jesus has to repeat himself many times in chapter 8, because his audience is really not getting it. At one point he even asks, “Why are you not understanding what I am saying?” which I always imagine was said in slight exasperation. From this point on, he really begins spelling it out for them, and for us. In verses 38-47 Jesus refers to two fathers, ours and his. At first the Jews think he means their descendant, Abraham. He proceeds to tell them that if they were truly children of Abraham, they would be acting like Abraham, but they’re not. Then they try to refute this by saying, oh well actually no, God is our one Father. Jesus then replies with, well if God was your Father, you would love me, because He’s the one who sent me. Then he reveals that the father he was really referring to as theirs was the devil, which had to have stung, but should really make us think. Who are we allowing to lead our lives? As children of God, are we fully giving ourselves to Him- our Creator, our Potter, our Abba.
Lastly I want to quickly mention something about 8:58. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (NASB). Many times trinitarians take this verse and try to claim that this means Jesus was around forever, making him one with God. However, it was really translated wrong, (as many verses are, due to the overwhelming amount of biased translators) and if translated correctly, would read something more like, “I am he,” or “I am the one,” which in this context, would just be referring to himself as the Messiah, existing not physically in Abraham’s time, or before, but in God’s plans for the world.
As you go through the rest of your week, pray that, being of God, you may hear the word of God, because followers of God WILL hear Him, and will know the truth (John 8:45-47), and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).
– Isabella Osborn
It’s a treat to hear from Isabella today. She is a wise and caring home-school student from South Carolina who loves loving God and others.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 7-8
Tomorrow we will read John 9:1-10:21 as we continue on our journey through God’s Word. Come follow along!
One parable that comes up many times when you talk about forgiveness is the parable of the Unmerciful Servant. This parable demonstrates how we should forgive others no matter how big their sin is. But to understand this parable best, we have to understand to whom Jesus was teaching, why Jesus was teaching this parable, and what happened before Jesus started telling the parable.
Before Jesus taught the parable, Peter asks in Matthew 18:21 “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” To him, it probably felt like he was doing more than he needed to by forgiving others that many times. But Jesus responded that you should forgive others up to seventy times seven times.
After saying this, Jesus goes into the teaching of the parable of the Unmerciful Servant. The parable starts by telling how the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. One of the slaves who had been brought to the king owed him ten thousand talents, which was equal to 20 years of work. Since the slave could not pay back the money, the king ordered for the slave, his family, and everything he owned to be sold. The slave pleaded with the king and asked for time to repay everything back to the king. The king then cancelled the slave’s dept in mercy towards him.
Just like the slave, we are in the debt of God. The ten thousand talents which the slave could not repay back is like our sins. We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Our response to God is to ask for the forgiveness of our sins, just like what the slave did. Through mercy, God grants us that forgiveness and cancels our sins.
We are like the slave in the beginning of the parable, but we do not want to be like the slave at the end of the parable. After leaving the king’s presence, the slave finds a fellow slave who owes him a hundred denarii, and demands to be repaid. One denarius was worth one day’s wage. The fellow slave pleaded with the slave, asking for time to repay his debt. The slave, however, did not show mercy to his fellow slave and had him thrown in jail. Other slaves who were watching this unfold, went and reported to the king what they had just seen. When the king found out what had happened, he was very angry for he had shown mercy to the slave, but the slave would not show that same mercy to others. Because the slave had thrown his fellow slave in jail for owing a debt, the king threw the slave in jail for owing him debt.
This parable concludes with Jesus explaining how if we do not forgive others, God will treat us the same way. We have been shown mercy by God, deserving to be punished but instead were forgiven. In the same way, we need to show mercy and forgiveness to others who sin against us. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” We want that forgiveness from God, and to receive it we must forgive others who sin against us. If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.
Saying that we forgive somebody, but not truly forgiving them in your heart, is not real forgiveness. The forgiveness towards others must come from our hearts to count. Matthew 18:35 states, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” In every version that I have looked at, it explicitly states that it must be from your heart.
When forgiveness comes from our hearts, we are forgiving others with no pride or desire for revenge. If we have pride or a desire for revenge, there is no true repentance or forgiveness. The slave in the parable did not have true repentance and forgiveness, which caused him to not forgive others. He had not truly repented, but was glad just to be “off the hook.”
As Ephesians 4:32 says, we need to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving towards others, just as God has forgiven us.
Kaitlyn, a middle school student from Michigan, has made the most of a wild and crazy 2020 and she is already working on her third time reading through the whole Bible this year. Way to go! Thanks for sharing with us today!
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Matthew 18
Tomorrow’s reading will be John 7-8 as we continue on our journey through the Bible. Print your copy of our Bible Reading Plan and hop onboard! Kaitlyn will tell you there is something new to discover every time you read His Word!
We mentioned on Wednesday (John 1 and Luke 1) why and how John the Baptizer played such a key role in announcing the coming of Jesus the Messiah. John the Baptizer was such an influential figure in 1st century Israel that many people thought he may be the Messiah. But the Baptizer and the authors of the New Testament made it clear: this prophet of God was not the Messiah, but came to bear witness that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah and the Lamb and Son of God.
Mark 1:2 and Luke 1:17 tie the coming of John the Baptizer to a declaration of the last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi (Mal. 4:46; cf. Matt.17:12, Mark 9:12). But all four of the Gospels quote a passage from Isaiah 40 in connection to the ministry of John the Baptizer (John 1:23 is the Baptizer’s own testimony).
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness;
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”
Did the Prophets Isaiah or John the Baptizer think and proclaim that the LORD, Yahweh was literally to come to earth as a human being? This is the way much of traditional Christianity interprets this verse. However, it is clear that both prophets understood that the LORD Yahweh would come, and His glory be revealed, through the circumstances of events that were about to unfold. In Isaiah’s case the restoration of Israel from Babylon would be a second Exodus in which Yahweh the LORD is understood to come and lead Israel, displaying His glory.
For the prophet John the Baptizer, Yahweh, the LORD, would break into human history and reveal his glory by sending the Messiah, the one who “comes in the name of the LORD Yahweh” (Psa. 118:26, John 12:13). The Messiah is Yahweh the LORD’s messenger, Yahweh’s agent. To receive Yahweh’s messenger was to receive Yahweh.
And how were the people to prepare for the one who was to come after John the Baptizer, to whom John testified “I’m not worthy to carry his sandal”?
Repentance. Both John the Baptizer and Jesus preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. “The time is fulfilled, and the king of God is at hand; repent, and believe the good news of the kingdom” (Mark 1:4, 14-15, Matt. 4:17, 23).
Ezra, who was from the lineage of Aaron the high priest came up from Babylon. He was skilled in the Mosaic Law. King Artaxerxes gave the children of Israel the right to return to Jerusalem if they chose. In 7:10 it says, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel”. A letter was given to the ones returning from the king. Interestingly enough, this would have been the stepson of Queen Esther. Maybe he had heard about God through her. He starts out “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven:” He allowed the Israelites who wanted to return to go back, they were given gold and silver from the royal treasury, and then they were urged that if they needed anymore, that they were to pay for it from the king’s treasury. Ezra said in 7:27 “Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” It sounds like Queen Esther must have talked about God to her family, and the king acknowledged that he was the God of heaven, and he did not want to have the wrath of God on him or his sons.
In chapter 8 they list those who returned, I love 8:21 “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.” They fasted and prayed to God before making any decisions, just like we read in Esther as well. It is important that we follow these guidelines in our lives before we make decisions, pray about it and ask God to lead us in the direction that He would have us take.
In Chapter 9, we see the beginning of some problems, the children of Israel had taken pagan wives for some of their sons and daughters, even the religious leaders were included in this sin. Ezra was very upset at this and he prayed and wept before God because of their sin. They had been forbidden in Deuteronomy 7:3, to take foreign wives. Now, this was not a matter of being racist, because the foreign people could convert to Judaism, but the ones they married were pagans, which meant that they continued to worship idols. In 1 Kings 11:2b “the Lord said to the children of Israel “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your heart after their gods. Solomon clung to these in love.” V.4 “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” This was when their idolatry began which eventually led to the kingdom being conquered by the Babylonians. It is a fact that if we marry outside our faith it makes it more difficult to love God with our heart, soul, and might. That’s why we are told in 1 Corinthians not to be “unequally yoked with an unbeliever.” I believe who we choose to marry is one of the most important decisions we can make in our lives. I have a friend who said that of her four children, only one remained in the faith. She said it was who they married that made the difference. One married someone who was an active participant in church, two would go on occasion, and one married an atheist. When we marry, we are to be one, and it works best to be in accord with one another, and to both be pulling in the same direction. You will not get very far if the two oxen are trying to go in opposite directions.
The assembly decided that they would put away the pagan wives and children that they had with them. They confessed their sin and repented of it. Ezra 10:2b “We have trespassed against our God and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this.” 10: 10b-11 “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel. Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and to do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.” There was hope when the people repented because God will always accept us back when we return to him.
That is what is so encouraging to us as we read the history of the Old Testament. None of our patriarchs were perfect but God is able to use imperfect people to accomplish His will. We all need to be willing to let God use us in our imperfections. When we sin and make mistakes, that isn’t the end, if we return to God, he will return to us as we read earlier this week.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezra 7-10
Tomorrow we will begin the book of Nehemiah (chapters 1-5) as we continue on our
In Ezekiel 14, we’re told that some of the elders of Israel came to Ezekiel. God told Ezekiel in 14:3-6, “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any of the Israelites set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet, I the Lord will answer them myself in keeping with their great idolatry. I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’
“Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!’”
I see two attributes of God at work here: justice and mercy. For those claiming to follow God, but not really following Him, there will be justice (i.e. punishment). They will be made an example so others will see and turn to God. This is a scary concept, and should cause us to repent and turn completely back to God so this doesn’t happen to us.
We see God’s mercy as he says to those not following him, “Repent!” and “Renounce all your detestable practices!”. This too should cause us to repent and turn completely to God.
It doesn’t matter whether we respond better to a carrot or to a stick, since we’re given both. The simple fact remains that we need to repent, renounce all our detestable practices, and turn completely to God.
And once that happens, we’re told in 14:11, “Then the people of Israel will no longer stray from me, nor will they defile themselves anymore with all their sins. They will be my people, and I will be their God, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
May this be said of us too. But it is conditional upon repenting and turning completely to God. The choice is yours.
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 13-15
These first 3 chapters of Jeremiah have several applications for the reader. In the beginning of this book, we learn about the calling of Jeremiah. Before Jeremiah was even born, the Lord set him aside to be a prophet. God wanted to use Jeremiah to fulfill this calling. Jeremiah at first believed himself incapable of such a thing. But the LORD said he would be with Jeremiah. He would not only guide him; he would also protect him. Jeremiah then trusted God and began this work.
We can learn a lesson from this. Sometimes it is easy to doubt ourselves and believe that we are incapable of something. We may think that God couldn’t use us because of x, y, and z. In reality, though, it is not by our strength or ability that we serve the LORD. It is rather him working through us. So, by doubting ourselves, we are doubting the ability of the LORD to work through us. Jeremiah also did not believe himself capable of being called, but nonetheless he was. The LORD called many sinners such as David, Jonah, Paul, and countless others. So, do not doubt yourself. The LORD is capable of calling you and through him, you are capable of answering that call.
Another interesting thing found in these three chapters is the fact that God warned the people of their ways. He did not make them guess. Sometimes when we are upset with someone, we think that the offending party should be able to figure out why we are upset with them. God did not do this. He used Jeremiah to tell them what they were doing and what they needed to do. If I really think about this, I think of how generous and caring this act is. Even though the Israelites were completely in the wrong and should know what it was they were doing, God still communicated with them. He did not keep them in the dark even though they were ignoring him.
It is interesting also that it seems like the main thing that God is asking of the Israelites in these chapters is for their repentance. Through Jeremiah, he tells them that they should not continue on in their ways as though they are doing no wrong. They should acknowledge what they are doing and repent. They needed to accept that they were wrong.
It can be hard though to admit when we are wrong. By doing this our pride is injured and we have to humble ourselves. It is far easier to keep doing what we were doing and act like we are in the clear. This, however, is not right. We need to admit when we are wrong. Through doing so, we can grow and mature.
Today’s reading might have seemed a bit repetitive. Going back to the history books, we are reviewing the reigns of King Uzziah of Judah and several kings of Israel. Did you notice a pattern? Nearly every king is described as having done, “what was evil in the LORD’s sight.” While there could be many ways in which these kings sinned, I noticed every time the phrase “evil in the LORD’s sight” was used it was immediately followed by, “He [the king] refused to turn away…” It seems to me the author is trying to get across a point. The refusal to turn from sin is just as evil and displeasing to God as the sin itself. What God desires, and what none of these kings had is a true repentant heart.
God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we are human. He knows we are going to make mistakes. That’s why he sent us Jesus, a way for us to be redeemed. God knows we are going to sin. He is not shocked by our mistakes, while we might be. We might find ourselves in a place we never thought we would be, walking down a road of darkness we never thought we would find. We may see ourselves as too dirty to present ourselves to God, and so continue down a path of sin. Perhaps we find ourselves unworthy of forgiveness and so decide God must feel the same. We keep ourselves from God, and by doing so, remain in sin.
When you sin, what God requires is full repentance. To completely turn away from sin and enter a life of freedom. True repentance means recognizing our sin, turning away from it, and no longer allowing it to define our lives. This last part is key. Do not act as your own judge and jury. God has already forgiven you. He forgave you before you were even born. According to the passages read today, not repenting, continuing to live in guilt, can have just as many negative consequences.
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.
Judges reminds me of the movie “Groundhog Day”—the one where Bill Murray, the local weatherman, relives the same day over and over and over. While not a single groundhog makes an appearance in Judges, the book does repeat itself over and over and over. You see, the Israelites are in a downward spiral, stuck in a vicious cycle of sin. In the reading for today, Judges 3-5, we see this cycle play out three times, once under Othniel, again under Ehud, and finally under Deborah. Today, we’ll take a closer look at this cycle using the example of Othniel:
1. SIN – “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs” (Judges 3:7). The Israelites neglected to kick out all the bad people from the Promised Land, and they often find themselves tempted by the Canaanite’s sinful ways. Their temptation leads to habitual sin, tearing themselves further from God.
2. OPPRESSION – “The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathain king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years” (Judges 3:8). I think, perhaps, God uses oppression as a tool to bring His people to their knees. His people become so desperate with no other choice but to turn to Him.
3. REPENTANCE – “But when they cried out to the LORD…” (Judges 3:9a) In their newly humbled position, the Israelites cry out to God. They recognize their sin and run from it, towards a God whose arms are always open.
4. DELIVERANCE – “He raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the LORD came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war” (Judges 3:9b & 10a). God works for His people through His people. He fills people with His Holy Spirit to accomplish His work.
5. PEACE – “So the land had peace for forty years” (Judges 3:11a). With a newfound trust in God and a godly leader to follow, the Israelites find peace. Unfortunately, after Othniel passes, this peace leads to complacency which leads right back to sin.
As a soon-to-be English teacher, this literary structure of the book of Judges is impressive. As a follower of God, this repetition is alarming. Why do the Israelites keep finding themselves back in a stage of sin? Why am I a repeat offender of the same sins?
Temptation and habit.
First, just like the Israelites were tempted by the corrupt and wicked ways of the Canaanites dwelling in the Promised Land, we, too, are surrounded by temptation. Set healthy boundaries from whatever may be luring you towards sin because the more distance we give between ourselves and temptation, the less likely we are to fall into sin.
Second, the Israelites were caught sinning over and over and over—their sin became their habit. Recognize the power of your habits and work diligently to set healthy rhythms that honor God. Ever since I read this quote, I’ve been convicted of the power of my own habits: “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures” -F.M. Alexander
Let the boundaries and habits you set lead you away from sin and towards God.
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Judges 6-7 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan. Reading God’s Word daily is one healthy habit to pursue. Keep at it! It has the power to determine your future.