The United States of Gomorrah

Jeremiah 23-24 and Hebrews 3

After all of the doom and gloom we’ve read so far in Jeremiah, in 23: 5-6 we read a promise of the coming messiah,  “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.  This is the name by which he will be called:  The Lord our Righteousness.”

This is clearly a promise of Jesus, the heir to David’s throne.  Notice in particular the name attributed to the messiah here, “The Lord our Righteousness.”  This was especially important because the people of Judah were wicked.  They needed some external righteousness, because they weren’t righteous themselves.

In fact, in Jeremiah 23: 14 we read, “And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible.  They commit adultery and live a lie.  They strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no one turns from his wickedness.  They are all like Sodom to me, the people of Jerusalem are like Gamorrah.”

The very people who were supposed to be the most righteous, and who were supposed to be pointing others to God, were living a lie.  I don’t know if the adultery was physical adultery or spiritual adultery, but either way, they weren’t living the Godly lives they tried to portray.  They were living a lie.  We would call them hypocrites.  And not only that, they were promoting sin in the land so that the people were as bad as Gomorrah in God’s eyes.

When I look around at churches in our country, I see whole denominations who claim to be Christian, actively promoting wickedness.  As I look at our country as a whole, I can’t help but see many parallels to Judah in Jeremiah’s day.  We seem to be the United States of Gomorrah.  In fact, our wickedness is getting so bad that it seems like God either has to punish our nation or He will need to apologize to Judah for punishing them.  Because it seems like we are just as bad.

Today’s reading in Hebrews ties right in.  In Hebrews 3:12-13, we read, “See to it brothers that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Hebrews 3 goes on to give the example of the Israelites whom Moses led out of Egypt.  When they rebelled against God, their bodies were strewn across the desert.  (They couldn’t rest on their laurels.)

And this brings us to our application for today.  

Fortunately, we aren’t justified before God because of our own righteousness – because we could never measure up on our own.  It is by grace we are saved, through faith.  Faith in “The Lord, our Righteousness.”  And that faith will produce works.

Just like Jeremiah was grieved by the sin that surrounded him, if we are in tune with God, we will be grieved by the sin that surrounds us.  It is imperative that we turn wholeheartedly to God.  And it is critical that we don’t turn away.  And because we are surrounded by such wickedness, we must actively encourage fellow believers to seek God wholeheartedly too.  And if we have lived a God-centered life so far, we can’t rest on our laurels.

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”

-Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Jeremiah 23-24 and Hebrews 3

Detestable Practices

2 Chronicles 33-34

I have two dramatically different directions I’d like to go with today’s reading, and decided I’d share them both.

In 2 Chronicles 33:1-2, 6, we find, “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years.  He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. … He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists.  He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

Did you catch that, he sacrificed his sons in the fire.  As repulsive as everything else is that he did, in my mind, nothing can compare with that.  That sounds horrible, and in my mind, he deserved a horrible punishment.

2 Kings 24: 1-4 tells the end of that story.  It goes like this, “During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he turned against Nebuchadnezzar and rebelled. The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets. Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.”

God annihilated the nation of Judah because of all the innocent blood Manasseh had shed.  God wasn’t willing to forgive.   As I read this, I have to agree that God was right in his judgement against Judah.  They deserved everything they got.

But this makes me wonder, how are we different from Judah?  We may not sacrifice our children in the fire, but we do have rampant abortion in our nation.  I wonder, in God’s eyes, how do those two ways of shedding innocent blood differ?  Which makes me wonder how much we are provoking God to anger, and what will be the end of our story as a nation.  I see parallels, and they concern me. 

The second thing that jumps out at me from today’s reading is that Manasseh was born during the additional 15 years that God had extended Hezekiah’s life.  If Hezekiah had died when he was originally very sick, Manasseh would not have been born, and someone else would have been king.  It may have been that Judah would have existed as a nation far longer.  In this case, I think we can agree that for the greater good, it probably would have been better if Hezekiah had died young, so Manasseh would not have been born.

I know probably more than most, how we long to have life extended, and how we may plead with God to spare life.  But I’m reminded of Isaiah 57:1-2, “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart, devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.  Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”

We don’t often think that sometimes the righteous die, basically for their own good.  We view death as the enemy, and rightly so, but this life isn’t our final reward.  This life is the test to see which eternal reward we will receive, life or death.  It’s easy to say, but hard to put into practice that we should live so sold out for God, that we shouldn’t be concerned about our life or our death.  We need to seek first God’s kingdom, and God will take care of everything else.


–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – 2 Chronicles 33-34 and Romans 16

Fully Proclaim the Gospel of Christ

2 Chronicles 31-32 and Romans 15

Today’s reading is packed with so much good stuff, it’s hard to know what to write about.

I could comment about the overflowing generosity of King Hezekiah and the people when giving to the Lord, as found in 2 Chronicles 31.  But I won’t.

I could stress how God blessed another faithful king, as found in 2 Chronicles 31:21, which says, “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly.  And so he prospered.”  But I won’t.

I could comment extensively on how Hezekiah trusted God completely when attacked by the Assyrians, and then God sent the death angel, who killed 185,000 of the Assyrian army.  But I won’t.  (Besides, I prefer the accounts in 2 Kings 18-19 and Isaiah 36-37.)

I could talk about how Hezekiah cried out to God when he was about to die, and God added 15 years to his life, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 32.  But I won’t.  (Again I prefer the 2 Kings 21 and Isaiah 37-38 accounts.) 

I could even expound on 2 Chronicles 32:31, “…God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.”  But I won’t.

Since I already commented yesterday about doing things to build up our neighbor, I won’t comment on that even though it is recorded again in the beginning of Romans 15.

Instead, I’d like to point out Paul’s faithfulness in evangelism.  You may remember that Paul had a vision, where Jesus commanded him to spread the gospel to the Gentiles.  In Romans 15:19-22, we read, “… So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.  It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. … This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.”

It’s easy to pass over what Paul just said, so I’ll point out that according to The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, “from Jerusalem to Illyricum” covers about 14,000 miles (yes, fourteen thousand miles).  When you consider Paul’s mode of travel, and the difficulties he endured (read 2 Corinthians 11:23-27), you can understand the immense achievement of Paul’s missionary work.

For your convenience, I’ll include 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 here:

… I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,  I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

The real clincher comes in Romans 15:23, “But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions…”  Did you catch that?  Paul has traveled 14,000 miles and told everyone he could about Jesus.  Paul is basically saying, “But since there’s nobody else to tell (because they’ve all heard now); I’m done here; so I’ll finally come to visit you.”

What an astounding accomplishment.  What an astounding example.

Jesus commanded His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded.  And part of what was commanded includes making more disciples.  So, through the Great Commission, Jesus commanded you and me to share the good news about Jesus with the whole world.  Maybe we weren’t told as directly as Paul was, but we were told.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t say, “since I’ve told everybody I know about Jesus, I need to move on to find more people to tell.”  I think all of us need a good reminder that God still expects us to make disciples today.
–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 31-32 and Romans 15

Peace and Building Up

Romans 14

So far this week, I’ve been focusing on the Old Testament reading, since fewer people are as familiar with the Old Testament, and there is a lot to learn from it.  But today, I’d like to point out something from Romans 14.

Romans 14 is written to “strong” Christians, and discussed the topic of doing things that may offend a brother (i.e. cause someone to stumble into sin).  Back in the day, apparently there were some who felt they shouldn’t eat meat, because it may have been sacrificed to an idol.  But since we know idols are nothing, it’s fine to eat meat, as long as we thank God for it.  But here comes the rub, in Romans 14:15, “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.  Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.”

It continues in Romans 14:19 by saying, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”  And in Romans 14:21, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.”

I share this because it hits me personally.  Years ago, we had someone in our church who thought it was a sin to drink wine.  I happened to drink wine (sparingly, but still…).  Somehow, it came up that I drank, and he came to me to point out my sin.  I was familiar with this passage, and others like it, and knew it wasn’t a sin to drink, but it’s a sin to get drunk.  Of course I thanked him for his concern and for pointing this out, while secretly I was scoffing.

But Beth, my late wife, pointed out 1 Corinthians 8:9, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”  In my arrogance, I was quick to point out that he was the weak one here, and I am the strong one.  That was irrelevant.  I was commanded to do things that lead to peace and to not put a stumbling block in front of the weak.  So, with Beth’s persistence, I was able to comply.

This points out a truth I’ve come to understand over the years.  Many times, we may recognize what God has to say, but we don’t necessarily want to do it.  In cases like these, I have found that it really helps to have an accountability partner to help hold us accountable, to do what God demands, even if we don’t necessarily want to obey.  And ultimately, obeying God works out best for everybody.

So if you haven’t considered having an accountability partner before, you may want to consider how this could be used to draw you closer to God.

-Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 29-30 and Romans 14

Governing Authorities

2 Chronicles 27-28 and Romans 13

In today’s reading, we read about Jotham, in 2 Chronicles 27:6, that “Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God.”  Then about his successor, Ahaz, in 2 Chronicles 28:19, “The Lord had humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most unfaithful to the Lord.”

Then in Romans 13:1, we read, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Wait a minute, in the Old Testament reading, we read about a good king, and the blessings that came because of his faithfulness, then we read about a wicked king, and the punishment that came because of his unfaithfulness.  And then in the New Testament reading, we’re told to submit to all governing authorities, because God has established them?  This doesn’t seem to make sense.  Shouldn’t we submit to good rulers, and rebel against bad rulers?

As intuitively right as this seems, this isn’t what God commands us to do.  By submitting to authority, God isn’t telling us to take part in their sins, or even endorse their sins.  But we do need to submit to governing authorities.  Period.  I have known of Christians who refused to pay taxes, because they alleged those taxes went to fund wicked practices.  But God demands submission.  We, as Christians, need to submit to ruling authorities.  We must pay our taxes (in this example), because that is our responsibility.  We aren’t responsible for how those taxes are spent.  Judgement for that will fall on someone else’s head.

Romans 13:2 goes on to say, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.”  You may complain about my pointing this out, but God is the one who said it, so if you have a complaint, take it up with Him.  This clearly says that civil disobedience is sin.  Period.

Romans 13 goes on to say in verse 7, “Give everyone what you owe him.  If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”  I’ve seen Christians who have a bumper sticker that says, “Not my president.”  I think that bumper sticker should really say, “I claim to be a Christian, but I am a hypocrite.” or “I refuse to obey God.”  

The problem is, many Christians think that this or that political party will save them.  They don’t seem to realize that all human rulers are wicked.  Instead of getting so worked up about politics, we should focus on the end of Romans 13, where we’re told in verse 11, “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

The bottom line is this… Jesus is coming soon.  Don’t get so worked up about politics, or following this leader or that leader.  Wake up.  Follow Jesus.  His return is very soon.  Don’t love this world or the things of this world.  Be zealous for Jesus!

I’ll close with Luke 21:28, “…Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”


–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 27-28 and Romans 13

Uzziah and I

2 Chronicles 25-26 and Romans 12

Good ol’ King Uzziah.  We’re told that he had a lot of livestock, and people working his fields and vineyards, for he loved the soil.  I can relate, because I too love the soil.  I have animals, an orchard, a garden, and am working on a vineyard.  Hey, here’s a guy I can identify with.

In 2 Chronicles 26:5, We read that king Uzziah, “… sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God.  As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.”

Nice, I’m trying to follow God too, and God is giving me success.  I’m still tracking with Uzziah.  I like this guy.

We see in 2 Chronicles 26: 15 that “his fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful.”  Well, I wouldn’t say this is true of me quite yet, but maybe, given enough time…  maybe?

Then in verse 16, we read, “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.  He was unfaithful to the Lord his God…”  No!  He had everything going for him.  Life was good.  Why did he blow it by turning away from God?  And he was so much like me, too.  I could relate to this guy.  What happened?

But that’s the problem.  All of us are in danger of being a lot like Uzziah, too.  All of us need to be careful that we don’t fall, regardless of how strong of a Christian we perceive ourselves.  I’m reminded of Hebrews 3: 12-13, which says, “See to it brothers, that no one of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

And this ties into the Romans 12 reading for today.  Romans 12:1-2 says, “I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Here we find the answer.  In Romans 12:1, we have to surrender our body to God.  And this means once and for all.  This is the right response 1) because of all that God has done for us (in view of God’s mercy), and 2) because it is the way we really worship God.

Then, in verse 2, we have to surrender our mind to Him.  The word here is metamorphosis, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.  It is a total and complete transformation, and there is no going back.  Only once we have surrendered our body and mind to God, God will transform our will, to make us want to live for him.  

And this is the only way we can avoid becoming another Uzziah.

So, now go build your crystalis and start your transformation.  Get into God’s word, pray, and emerge changed.


–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 25-26 and Romans 12

Who Do You Listen To?

2 Chronicles 23-24

From yesterday’s reading, we learned that a baby named Joash was hidden when his grandmother attempted to wipe out the whole royal line, so she could rule unopposed.  Joash was abducted by his aunt, and her husband, Johoiada, the high priest.  (The fact that his aunt was godly, coming from such a wicked family is nothing short of miraculous.)  Joash was hidden in the temple for 7 years.  (What better place to hide someone from the wicked queen, Athaliah?  She would never go there!)

When Joash was 7, Jehoiada arranged for Joash to be crowned king, and had Athaliah killed.  We’re told in 2 Chronicles 24:3, “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years of Jehoiada the priest.”  Jehoiada chose two godly wives for Joash.  Joash also commanded that God’s temple be repaired.  Because of this, many people consider Joash a godly king.  

When Jehoiada died, he was buried with the kings because of all the good he had done for God and his temple.  I wish the story stopped here, but it doesn’t.  After Joash’s godly mentor died, he listened to the officials of Judah, and abandoned the God of their fathers to worship Asherah poles and idols.  God sent prophets, but the king wouldn’t listen.  Joash even killed Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (who had raised Joash).

As punishment, God sent Aram raiders to plunder Judah.  We’re told in 2 Chronicles 24:24, “Although the Aramean army had come with only a few men, the Lord delivered into their hands a much larger army because Judah had forsaken the Lord …)  

Joash was wounded in the battle, and some of his own officials conspired to kill Joash for murdering the son of Jehoiada.  Joash was not buried with the kings because of the evil he had done.

In this story, we see an example of someone who started out zealously serving the Lord.  As long as his godly mentor was there to remind him to follow God, he did follow God.  Once that godly influence was dead, Joash was enticed away from God through peer pressure. His life was a downward spiral after that, then he died.

This highlights the importance of surrounding ourselves with godly mentors and godly friends.  It’s so easy to be enticed away from God.  I picture sin sort of like an addiction.  Every one of us should think of ourselves as needing to join a program so we do not relapse.  Every one of us can say, “Hi, I’m Steve (substitute your name here), and I have a problem.”  We need godly friends to hold us accountable to live for God.  And we have to be vigilant ourselves.

If we’re surrounded by worldly friends, we will almost certainly crash and burn like Joash.

I’d like to encourage you to think about each of your close friends, and think about how each of them is helping you draw closer to God or is drawing you away from God.  And while you’re at it, how are you influencing your friends?

I understand that if someone has an addiction, one important step in the recovery process is to cut ties with old friends who would cause you to relapse.  After all, if they cause you to relapse, they are helping destroy you, so are they really a friend?

I’ll close with James 4:4, which says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

-Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 23-24 and Romans 11

Following Evil

2 Chronicles 21-22

Even though King Jehoshaphat “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”  He was sure stupid when it came to raising his kids.  He had arranged a marriage between his son, Jehoram, and  Athaliah, Israel’s evil king Ahab’s daughter.  This was a stupid arrangement for two reasons.  First, this would virtually guarantee Jehoram would be evil and lead Judah into evil.  Second, the future of God’s plan of salvation depended on the continuation of David’s dynasty through Jehoram, and as we will see, that came into peril.

Anyway, 2 Chronicles 21 starts with Jehoshaphat’s death, and Jehoram’s ascension to the throne.  Once he established himself as king, Jehoram killed all of his brothers and some of the princes of the land – basically, anyone who may challenge his authority.  (Presumably, he wanted them out of the way so they couldn’t oppose his promoting the worship of Baal.)  Then he proceeded to follow the evil ways of the evil King Ahab, because he had married Ahab’s daughter.  

Jehoram received an astounding warning.  He received a letter from Elijah pronouncing judgment on him because of his sins.  This is astounding, because this is several years after Elijah was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind (as recorded in 2 Kings 2:11).  This passage in 2 Chronicles 21 corresponds to events recorded in 2 Kings 8.  Elijah had obviously written this prophetic letter and had directed it to be delivered at a particular future date.  Anyway, this letter declared a curse on Jehoram because of all of his sins and the sins he caused Judah to commit.  According to the letter, he was going to be inflicted with a disease of his bowels until his bowels came out.  And two years later, that’s exactly what happened, and how he died.

As the story continues, Jehoram’s son, Ahaziah, became king but only reigned one year.  After his death, Athaliah (remember her from the first paragraph?) killed all her kids and grandkids so she could rule the nation.  (Remember my comment in the first paragraph about David’s dynasty being in peril?).  Athaliah was no descendant of David!  As it turned out, her infant grandson, Joash, was whisked away while everybody else was being killed.

The main thing that jumps out at me from today’s reading is the importance of not only following the Lord ourselves wholeheartedly, but also how imperative it is to pass along a love for the Lord to our children (both physical and spiritual children).  I’m convinced Jehoram could have been a great king, who loved the Lord, and had a blessed reign, if only Jehoshaphat had stressed the importance of following the Lord, and if Jehoshaphat had chosen a godly wife for Jehoram.

The second thing that jumps out to me is the importance of choosing a godly spouse.  This is literally the second most important decision any of us can ever make (after the decision to follow the Lord).  And this will either make it easier to live for God, or will make it harder – and the implications are eternal.

The third thing that strikes me is how God alerted Elijah in advance, so he could write a letter to be delivered to Jehoram years later, declaring his downfall.  And then Elijah had to have someone deliver this letter on a specific future date, at just the right time.  God really does know everything.  (Maybe He knows a thing or two about how we should live, and maybe I should read His word to find that out, and maybe I should live for Him.)

The final thing that I see is that God saved exactly one descendant of David – and that was a baby – so he could continue David’s line, and fulfill His promise to David.  Despite everything seeming to go wrong, God was still in control.  And much later, He would ultimately fulfill His promise to David through another baby, Jesus.

I want to be on God’s side – since God can still be in control, even when everything seems to be falling apart.  How about you?


–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – 2 Chronicles 21-22 and Romans 10

Detestable Prayers

Proverbs 28

As Marcia mentioned in yesterday’s devotion, many of us were at Midwest Family Camp last week, where the theme was “Stand Firm”.  In a nutshell, if we don’t have a relationship with the Lord, it is critical that we repent and come into a relationship with Him. If we already have a relationship with the Lord, we need to strengthen that relationship, and stand firm in the faith – no matter what.

In today’s reading in Proverbs 28, there are a few verses that jumped out at me which reinforced that message.  The first is found in Proverbs 28: 9, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable.”  This proverb tells us that if we’re not doing everything to live the life God called us to live, if we’re not following his rules, then He won’t listen to our prayers.  Since many of our prayers are about asking for God’s help with various things, if we selfishly want Him to answer our prayers, then we need to obey His rules, and live for Him.  As we grow in relationship with Him, we come to long for an even deeper relationship with the Lord. Then we learn that prayer is powerful, and we don’t waste it just asking for superfluous things.

Proverbs 28:13 goes on to say, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”  This is saying if we pretend to be Christians, we won’t prosper (you can’t fool God).  But if we confess and renounce our sins, and turn completely to God, we will receive God’s mercy.  I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have His mercy than to have Him holding me back from prospering.

As we continue to read through this chapter, we get to verse 20, which says, “A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”  I’ll take a detour here and comment on the health and wealth teachings we often hear from people who don’t know better.  The theory goes sort of like this… “if someone follows God, God will bless every aspect of their life.  They will be rich, healthy, and blessed.”  Many people who call themselves Christians subscribe to this false belief.  Jesus told us in John 16:33, “…In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  We have to remember this life isn’t our reward.  This life is the test to see what reward we will receive when Jesus returns.  If we are faithful to the Lord now, we will enjoy peace with God now, and eternal life when Jesus returns.  If we are just trying to get rich, we are actually worshiping money, not God — our reward is in this life, and we will forfeit eternal life.  

1 Tim 6:9-11 says, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and have pierced themselves with many griefs.  But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.”

Instead of trying to get rich, we need to follow the advice given in Proverbs 28:27, “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.”  Again, I think the idea is that if I’m greedy, wanting to keep all my money for myself, I’m not trying to please God, I’m just greedy for money, and God will curse me for not following Him.  But if I’m generous with the things God has given me by giving them to the poor — this mimics God’s generosity to me.  When I am imitating God, God loves that.  In fact we’re commanded in Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.”

So the bottom line is this.  We need to do everything we can to reconcile ourselves to God.  We need to confess and renounce our sins, obey His laws, be faithful, and be generous.  All these things are required to live in close relationship with God.  And if we live in a close relationship with God, we will have peace with God in this life, and an amazing reward in the life to come.  In Rev 21:4, we’re told, “He [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…”   Rev 21:7 goes on to say, “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”

How well are you imitating Dad?

Stand Firm.

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Chronicles 23-24 and Proverbs 28

A Pattern for Prayer

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 31 & 32 and Matthew 16

After Jacob had served Laban in Padan Aram for 20 years, God told him to go back home.  It was finally time for him to face his past.  Remember, he had cheated his brother Esau, and had run for his life.  He had about 500 miles to go to get home.  He sent some servants ahead to let Esau know he was coming home.  When the servants returned, they told Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men.  Jacob was terrified, and prayed a beautiful prayer that is recorded in Genesis 32:9-12.

He started, “Oh God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac…”.  In this section, I see Jacob acknowledging the history his family had with following God, ever since God called Abraham in Genesis 12.

He continued, “O Lord, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and to your relatives, and I will make you prosper’. ”  In this section, I see Jacob acknowledged what God had told him to do, and he had followed what God had told him to do. 

Next, he acknowledged his own unworthiness, praying,  “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.  I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.”  And he acknowledged what God had done for him, even though he was unworthy.

He continued, “Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children.”  In this section, he admitted his fear to God, and then he finally got around to begging God for what he needed help with – “save me”.   Note that he didn’t give God suggestions as to how God could solve the problem.  He just turned it over to God.

He concluded with, “But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’.”  He closed with reminding God of His promises.

In this prayer, I see a potential model for our own prayers.  It goes sort of like this:

  • Start by thanking God for his provision until now for our family, including for our ancestors.
  • Today, God speaks to us through His word.  I think it is important to be familiar with his word and follow his word.  And I think that’s a perfectly fine topic to bring up in prayer, “God, you said to …, and I have done that as you commanded.”
  • I believe we need to humble ourselves before God, and acknowledge that we don’t deserve all he has done for us.  I think it also helps to remind ourselves in our prayers what God has done for us.  (We don’t need to remind God.  He already knows.)
  • We should admit whatever we’re feeling to God.  (He already knows anyway, but it helps us maintain an open channel of communication with Him.)
  • We are finally at the point in our prayer where we should clearly lay out the problem we’re facing.  And we don’t need to offer God suggestions as to how He could solve our problems.  He can come up with solutions better than we can even imagine.
  • I think in the closing of Jacob’s prayer, he was not just reminding God of the promises God had made.  I think he was also looking forward to those promises himself.  We should do the same.

And I think it’s fine to pray something like, “God, you promised that everything works for the good of those who love you.  I don’t understand how that is possible in the situation I’m in right now.  Please open my eyes to understand that, or at least to accept it as truth.  I know you have promised that nothing can separate us from your love, not even death.  God, things aren’t looking very good from my perspective right now, but I’m holding on to your promise that when Christ returns, you will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.  God, I’m really wanting that now.  Please keep me focused on you, and living for you.  And please send Jesus soon.  Amen.”

–Steve Mattison