Amos. A prophet to Israel in a difficult time. Amos introduces himself as a mere shepherd rather than as a prophet–and God still used him to deliver a mighty message to His people. His words still ring loud for us today:
Seek me and live. (Amos 5:4b)
Every culture, every civilization, and every era of history has given false promises about where to find life to the full.
Seek the LORD and live (Amos 5:6).
God uses Amos to tell His people over and over again: life is only found in Him.
The God who made the stars, brings each passing day and night, and moves each and every tide of the ocean waves– the LORD is his name! (Amos 5:8).
We have a great God, who is glorious and mighty beyond comparison. He is a beacon of goodness, and if we seek him, we can pass that onto others. A major theme of Amos is a call to pursue justice and righteousness. Verse 14 says “seek good, not evil, that you may live.”
What does the LORD require of us? Church traditions? Heartless obedience? Quite the opposite. God tells us in verses 22-23 that the sacrifices, songs, and festivals mean nothing without– you guessed it– justice and righteousness. Treat your neighbors justly, and live rightly.
How do we know what justice and righteousness even look like? Where do we go?
Seek the LORD, that we may live!
Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Amos 5-6 and Revelation 3
After Adonijah’s revolt, Solomon ascended to power, and in 1 Kings 3, Solomon began making decisions of what he should do as a king. 1 Kings 3:3 describes him when it says, “Solomon loved the LORD by walking in the statues of his father David, but he also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” Deuteronomy 12:1-6 specifically gave directions to destroy all the high places, but Solomon and the rest of the people went to worship there. In 1 Kings 3:1, one of Solomon’s first decisions is to make a treaty with Pharaoh’s daughter, going against Deuteronomy 17:16-17. Solomon seemed like he wanted to make good, godly decisions, but he didn’t know and apply God’s word enough to keep him from committing these oversights, these sins.
Even so, in verse 5, after a large display of burnt offerings, God comes to Solomon and asks, “What should I give you?” This was a moment where he could have received so much from God – whether in power, wealth, status. But, instead, Solomon chooses to receive wisdom and discernment so that he could govern his people well. He recognized that he was a “youth with no experience in leadership” (v. 7) Solomon knew that he may have blundered in the past as he began to rule his kingdom. And so, he asked for the one thing that could truly help him to do better – discernment and wisdom from God.
In our lives, we may feel that we are in situations that we have been thrown into. We may be overwhelmed. We may be trying to make the best decisions that we can. The thing that makes the difference in those situations is not how hard we work at them or the people that we impact or make happy. What we should pursue in those situations is the wisdom of God. That is the only thing that will help us to know what is right to do. It is the only thing that will help us to know how to keep ourselves on the righteous path and away from sin.
What are you asking for from God? May we be a people who prays for the wisdom and discernment only God can give.
Moses and the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings continue on in Numbers 19-20. In previous chapters as we’ve seen, God faithfully shows up for Moses, choosing him and the Levites as the priesthood to be the leaders and go-betweens between God and the Israelite people. In Numbers 20, Moses has to deal with the Israelites’ rebellious spirit again. They came fighting against Moses saying, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord. Why have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? Why have you led us up from Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It’s not a place of grain, figs, vines, and pomegranates, and there is no water to drink!” (Numb. 20:3-5).
Even though God continued to provide for the Israelites time and time again, the Israelites had yet to learn to trust in him. They questioned God’s purpose for them and even stated that they wished they had died with the Israelites who had been killed in the plague after Korah’s rebellion. One rebellion had just been resolved with the blossoming of Aaron’s branch, but the people were again questioning Moses’ leadership because of their circumstances in the wilderness.
Moses responds as he normally does – by falling face down before God to beg God for help. God responds to Moses and Aaron and gives them specific instructions to follow: take your staff and speak to a rock. Then, water will flow out. However, Moses, heated in the moment, rashly gathers the assembly and says to them, “Listen, you rebels! Must we bring water out of this rock for you?” Then, he struck the rock twice and water gushed out (Numb. 20:9-11). In this pivotal moment of Moses’ leadership, he does not respond with level-headed humility. Instead, he responds rebelliously towards God because of his frustration with the people. By forcefully striking the rock and saying that it was him – Moses – who brought the water out, he took the glory away from God and placed it on himself. Moses decided that he was going to be the one to save the Israelites, and he forcefully showed them what he could do.
I totally can identify and sympathize with Moses in this moment. He loved God. He loved the people. And, he truly wanted what was best for the people. But, he got frustrated. He was tired and probably thirsty. He was overwhelmed. Because of this, he made a mistake with dire consequences; he would not lead the people into the promised land. He got caught up in the feelings of the moment, the seeming impossibility of shepherding the Israelite people into a trusting, righteous way of living and into the promised land. When he looked at his situation, he may have felt trapped, may have felt hopeless, or may have just felt mad. The one thing he forgot to do was to view those feelings in light of the character of God. He forgot to trust in who God was – to remember that despite what the Israelites were saying, God was always in Moses’ corner.
We all have times where the circumstances we are in cause us to be blinded by the feelings we have. We may feel stuck, tired, hopeless, mad. Maybe we feel like we just want to hit something. Or we just want to give up. But remember – God is in our corner. When we face those difficult times, we can trust that he will always come through.
What was the best party you have ever been to? How did you get invited? What was your relationship with the host? With the guest of honor? Who else was there? What did you wear?
Or, maybe there was a party you were invited to that you didn’t make time for? Perhaps you didn’t really know the guest of honor that well so you weren’t too interested. Or maybe you were mad at the host so you stayed away? Or you figured it would be boring since they didn’t have (insert hobby/entertainment of choice). But then, come to find out – you missed out on the party of the century.
Jesus knew we like to talk about parties. Wedding receptions are particularly exciting – and royal wedding parties top the charts. So what a perfect parable and analogy for the Kingdom God is preparing. God is the King – and as host of the party he decides who to invite to this event of all events which will honor His Son – Jesus.
The guest list starts out somewhat small and elite which is very fitting for a royal party. The Jews were the first to be invited to the party. They could trace their heritage back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the fathers of the faith. But, they ignore their invite and the God who sent it. They don’t even RSVP. God sends his servants out as messengers (the prophets and those who speak for God) to remind God’s people of the graciousness of their host and the splendor of the party. But, the potential guests of the party are too deep into other things – their fields, their businesses, their homes, their selfish pursuits, their false gods. Most just ignore God’s messengers – but some decide the best way to decline the invite is through violence. In rage they attack God’s messengers, even killing some. For a time they may have thought they got away with it. But, God knows and delivers judgment.
The guests didn’t show but the party isn’t cancelled. God sends his messengers again. They hit the streets with new invitations. “Invite them all,” says the host. It no longer matters who your great great great grandfather was. It doesn’t matter who you were or what you did. Old, young, rich, poor, men, women, children, black, white, and every color in between. You are invited! And all your neighbors in the world are invited! Let the party begin.
But, wait – that’s not yet the end of the parable or God’s expectations. The host has indeed invited all and is ready to receive all into His Kingdom Party. But, you must come dressed appropriately for the party so you aren’t tossed out. No, God won’t check to see if you have a designer label – but He will check to make sure you have clothed yourself with salvation. To accept your invitation accept God’s Son as the only way to salvation. And then put on the robes of righteousness – seek to live the life that will bring glory to the Father and the Son. There are many passages that continue the analogy of being properly clothed with righteousness, not stained with sin – some are Job 29:14, Isaiah 61:10, Jude 23, Revelation 3:4 and 19:8).
The greatest party ever to come is about to begin and you and all your neighbors are invited. Don’t turn down the invite because you are mad at God or don’t know Jesus well or are busy at home and work. Accept His invitation. Come to the party. But don’t make the fatal error of trying to sneak in unprepared. Accept His Son and clothe yourself with righteousness. Make sure your neighbors know they are invited and help them select their proper attire.
I think we can assume it is universally known that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire from heaven for their wickedness. In Genesis 19:1, we read that Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. Historically, important people, like city elders, would sit in the gateway of a city to judge between parties in a dispute, or businessmen would congregate there to transact business.
2 Peter 2:7 tells us that Lot was a righteous man. And yet, there he was sitting at the gate of a very wicked city. This suggests to me that he was assimilating into the wicked city. I think Lot’s decline started in Genesis 13, when Lot and Abraham had to separate because the land couldn’t support all their flocks and herds. Lot greedily chose to live in the lush fertile valley near Sodom, and left the barren, rocky heights for Abraham to graze his flocks. In Genesis 13:12, Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom. In Genesis 14:12, he lived in Sodom, here, in Genesis 19:1, he was sitting in the gateway of the city, easing his way into assimilating into the sinful city.
Even though Lot was a righteous man, he apparently didn’t exert much Godly influence over the locals. In Genesis 18:32, God said He would spare the city if only 10 righteous were found there. As it was, only Lot was considered righteous. Not only did he not convert others in the city, he couldn’t even convince his own future sons-in-law to leave the city with him. (And arguably, he didn’t have much positive influence over his own daughters. Read Genesis 19:30-38 as proof.)
Despite Lot’s poor judgment in choosing where to live, God was very merciful to Lot by sending two angels to lead Lot and his family out of the city before sending judgement. Once they were clear of the city, God rained down fire and burning sulfur on the cities of the plain, and everything and everyone was destroyed. Everything Lot had owned, everything he had worked for literally went up in smoke. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife looked back, presumably longing for what she had left behind. She died as a result of this.
We’re told in 2 Peter 2:6, “… he (GOD) condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…” This story in Genesis 19 is an example of what will happen when Jesus returns, when He will save the righteous, and destroy the wicked by fire.
In Luke 17, Jesus is talking about conditions before the second coming of Christ. Luke 17: 28-32 says, “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, no one who is on the roof of his house with his goods inside should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife.”
I think there are several applications for us.
First, if you don’t have a relationship with the Lord, it’s imperative you fix that right now. Isaiah 55:6-7 says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”
Second, If you do have a relationship with the Lord, continuously work on strengthening that relationship with the Lord. Especially since we don’t know when Jesus will return and we don’t know when we will die. We should live in such a way that we would always be ready to give an account for our lives. 2 Corinthians 5:10 reminds us: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
Next, we should all carefully choose the situations in which we find ourselves, and seriously consider whether we are being conformed to the patterns of the sinful people around us, or if we’re influencing others for the Lord.
Finally, we should not become too attached to the world or anything in it.
1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”
I’ll close by challenging you to follow Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Follow the 2021 SeekGrowLove.com Bible reading plan to read the Bible in a year – with an Old Testament and a New Testament/Psalms/Proverbs reading each day. Together let’s Seek God, Grow spiritually and Love Him and others more and more!
Why is this devotion being written? Why are you reading this devotion? Why have you experienced supernatural life change in the name of Jesus? It’s all because of what we read in today’s section of Matthew and Mark, the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel accounts give us a point of view perspective of the final moments of the Messiah’s life. Why did Jesus die? According to Jesus it’s because it was the purpose of his life (Mk. 10.33-34), Judas betrayed him, and the Jewish leadership sought out his execution.
But when we leave the gospels and enter Acts, the epistles, and the apocalypse (Revelation) new light is shed upon old truths about what happened at the cross of Christ. The rest of the New Testament, if you will, tills the soil of what we read in the gospels to reveal truths and realities bound in the death of Jesus. The cross is like a diamond when held up to the light. Depending on which way you hold the diamond the light will refract differently and reveal different aspects of the diamond. The cross is a multi-dimensional event with a number of faith-building, worship-inducing, Christ-glorifying truths and realities for the believer to soak up in the scriptures and to be consumed by the love of Jesus and the Father.
This morning we will look at three meanings of the cross:
1. Jesus died to demonstrate the righteousness of God (Romans 3.25)
According to Paul in Romans 3.25 Jesus’ death demonstrated or put on display the righteousness of God. What is the righteousness of God? The righteousness of God is God’s own holy, perfect, blameless, and just character and being. Sin is a capital offense against God. Because he is holy, just, and good he cannot allow sin and rebellion to go unpunished. If he did this, he would then be unjust and not good. When Jesus died his blood covered every past, present, and future sin. Jesus’ death satisfied the wrath of God. When we look at the cross it tells us not only how much God loves us, it also shows us how much God hates sin and the penalty for sin. The death of Jesus demonstrates God’s perfect judgement and character. The cross says God will not let sin go unpunished.
2. Jesus died to disarm the powers of Satan and darkness (Col.2.13-15)
When Jesus’ blood was shed the power that satan and darkness had over humanity was relinquished. The biggest weapon Satan and spiritual darkness can have against you is your own sin and from that, guilt, shame, and other consequences of sin. But when Jesus’ blood was shed the power and slavery that sin held over humanity was broken. The blood cancelled out our certificate of debt (list and penalty of sins) therefore, the power Satan once had was taken away. This is similar to Jesus’ teaching in Mark 3.22-27. The way Jesus conquered victoriously over the power of satan and spiritual darkness is through his death. Paul says in I Corinthians 2, that had the “the rulers of this age” (spiritual powers of darkness) had known what would have happened after Jesus died they “would not have crucified the Lord of Glory”. The death of Jesus breaks the yoke of slavery and oppression over our lives, we are rescued from the power of satan.
3. Jesus died to provide us an example to follow in our own Christian walks (I Pet. 2.21)
Jesus, though he was tried and executed unjustly, still endured the cross to save his sheep (John 10). He surrendered his privileges and his rights and humbled himself for the eternal benefit of others. Likewise, we as Christians should consider the plight of Jesus and imitate him. When we are treated unjustly and unfairly we should not return evil with evil but instead love. When we suffer for doing the right thing we ought to entrust ourselves to God as Jesus did to his Father.
When you read Matthew 27 and Mark 15 these three realities among others are present when Jesus breathed his last on the cross.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Matthew 27 & Mark 15
Tomorrow’s reading will be Luke 23 and John 18-19.
Ezekiel 18 describes three generations of men in a family, the first generation is righteous and follows God, the second generation is evil and does everything that God detests, and the third generation is Godly just like the grandpa. According to the thinking of the Jews of that time each person inherits God’s blessings from their parents, so the evil man would be blessed by God and live a happy and fruitful life because of the righteousness of his father, while the son of the evil man will have a miserable and cursed life because of the evil of his father. God is going to make it very clear to them that their thinking is fundamentally faulty, because obviously a person who goes around robbing the poor, sleeping with his friends’ wives, and worshiping false gods is going to have a miserable life. He won’t have friends, and will never be trusted, no matter how great his father was. How is that a blessed life?
The opposite is also true, if the evil man has a son and that man lives a Godly life and helps the poor, and gives money to the needy, and keeps all of God’s laws he will have a full and blessed life. People might remember how horrible his father is, but his own actions will speak for themselves, and God will also see his actions and bless him.
This is summed up perfectly in Ezekiel 18:30-32.
“30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”
This verse is a great blessing, but also a warning. It is a blessing if you or your family has a past that is full of sin and brokenness and you want to break the cycle, repent and live! It doesn’t matter what your parents did, good or bad, God will judge you for your own actions. This makes it very important to make our faith our own, because even though my Mom had and Dad has faith that can move mountains, that does not make me a Christian by default, I still have to work hard at it and build my own faith up. Just like how knowledge will never transfer from your textbook to your brain when you use the textbook as a pillow, righteousness will not transfer from your parents to you when you sit next to them at church, you have to open the book and read for yourself.
Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway, here – Ezekiel 18-19
The book of Isaiah holds many judgments against Israel, Judah, and all the nations surrounding them. Page after page contains descriptions of how God will deal with these people, because of the sin that they commit. In the midst of this, there are glimpses of a wondrous hope to come and worship God in his future kingdom. We see the beautiful future that God has prepared for all those who love him despite the brokenness of our current realities.
Isaiah 35 describes this future in a continuation of the prophecy beginning in Isaiah 34. In Isaiah 34, Edom’s eventual punishment and destruction is described: “Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her soil into sulfur” (v. 9). In this place, jackals, hyenas, goats, birds of prey, and snakes will gather – all symbols of destruction and brokenness (v. 14-15). The very land has turned bitter and worthless under the consequence of sin. In contrast to this, Isaiah 35 describes the land of the Israelites as a desert that blossoms like a rose (v. 1). In this place, “the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness and streams in the desert; the parched ground will become a pool of water and the thirsty land springs of water” (v. 5-7). Unlike the land of Edom, in the redeemed land, “There will be no vicious beast, but the redeemed will walk on it” (v. 9). In fact, the places where the vicious beasts resided, like the lairs of jackals, will be turned into a meadow of grass, reeds, and papyrus (v. 7). A road will go through this land called the Holy Way; “the unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for the one who walks the path. Even the fool will not go astray” (v. 8). This path will lead up to the mountain of God where the people will come to worship God.
We live in an incredibly broken world that seems like it is full of vicious beasts and people bent on destroying themselves and others. We can see the consequences of sin in the hurt that is being done so carelessly to everyone, including our most vulnerable. We can rest in the hope that this will not always be the way the world will be. Those that would be overlooked by society and viewed as less than are the very people that God includes in the description of his future kingdom: the blind, deaf, lame, and mute. These are the people who lead the way for praising God’s redemption of the land. We will not always live in these broken times. We can trust that one day streams of water will flow through the desert and the whole world will blossom like a rose. In fact, through the Holy Spirit, we can begin to redeem our time here for God and be his hands and feet in this broken world. How can you bring the living water to those around you?
~ Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 35-36.
As we turn back to Isaiah in our reading, we read about the judgments pronounced upon Jerusalem and the surrounding nations. At the end of Isaiah 27, God had given the Israelites a picture of their hope – to return to Jerusalem. However, in Isaiah 28, we turn back to the reason why the Israelites had to be removed from the promised land in the first place.
When I was in high school, every student that drove had to take a driver’s education class before they could get their parking pass. I was standing pressed against the glass at the DMV the day I turned 15 (the age we could get our learner’s permit), and I knew that I would do whatever it took to be able to drive to school as soon as I could. Along with the videos of car crashes and the several hours driving with the instructor, one activity we had to do was put on a pair of beer goggles to show the effects of driving under the influence. With the vision of someone who had way too many beers, we were supposed to catch a tennis ball. As you can imagine, almost all of us dropped the ball as we stumbled and swayed with the goggles on our face. With our vision clouded, there was no way that we were able to complete the task that we were given.
We’ve been looking at the effects of idolatry over the previous days. This was not the Israelites only sin though. In Isaiah 28, God turns to focus on Ephraim’s drunkards and says woe to them. These priests “stagger because of wine and stumble under the influence of beer. They are muddled in their visions, they stumble in their judgments. Indeed, all their tables are covered with vomit; there is no place without a stench” (Isaiah 28:7-8). This presents a dire picture of priests turned alcoholics, which means they can’t do much good for anyone. We know how alcoholism and drunkenness itself can be dangerous, but what is so striking to me in this description is the way that it shows a parallel to all sin. All sin clouds our vision and judgments. All sin realigns our priorities. Ultimately, all sin separates us from God and leaves our lives defiled.
When we are living under the influence of sin, we miss out on God’s purpose for our lives. The priests in this chapter were supposed to teach the people how to seek after God. Instead, they stumbled over their words while they instructed and caused their people to stumble in their everyday walk with God. Where do you see the effects of sin goggles in your life? Where can you take off the sin in your life so that you can have a clearer vision for how to serve God better?
~ Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 28-30.
Reading through the prophets can be difficult. Just like the story of Gomer that we read yesterday, we may find ourselves wanting to reach through the pages across the span of time and just whip these people and nations back into shape. Because of our hindsight, we think (arrogantly) that we would have made better choices if we walked in the shoes of our ancestors. The Israelites downfall is that they always seemed to fall prey to idolatry, though that idolatry existed in many forms. Unfortunately, like we saw yesterday, we are quick to worship those same idols in different forms.
If we look back to the birth of the Israelites as a distinct set apart nation, we return to the infamous scene with the golden calf in Exodus 32. The Israelites had the choice to follow the word of God or follow the gods of the surrounding nations. While Moses was receiving the law, they chose to worship the golden calf. Hundreds of years later, the calf returned in 1 Kings 12:28-30. King Jeroboam of Israel created two golden calves and set up places to worship them, going directly against the laws of Moses that all of Israel has received. The Israelites had continued to worship the calf through Hosea’s time as we see in Hosea 8:5-6: “Your calf-idol is rejected, Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence? For this thing is from Israel – a craftsman made it, and it is not God. The calf of Samaria will be smashed to bits.” For hundreds of years the Israelites worshipped the calf, and because of it, they started to resemble the thing that they worshipped. In fact, we see the qualities of the cow come out in the Israelites in Hosea 4:16 where it says, “For Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn cow. Can the LORD shepherd them like a lamb in an open meadow?” They had held the cow as an idol for so long in their life that they started to imitate that. This imitation led them directly away from becoming the people that God wanted them to be.
Israel thought that they knew God and were seeking after him (Hos. 7:16, 8:2-3), but they were really seeking after their own hand-made idols. A life that seeks after God cannot be categorized as lustful, greedy, selfish, or prideful. If our life looks like that, we have begun to imitate those idols that we may follow. A life that follows after God will be full of love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit. If we follow after God and not idols, we will seek his righteousness all of our days.
So, ask yourself: Who or what are you worshipping? Who or what are you imitating?
“Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the LORD until he comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.” ~ Hosea 10:12
~ Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Hosea 8-14.