Can you tell the difference between right and wrong?

How about the difference between good and evil? How about absolutes? How about morality? So what does your conscience tell you? When you get put into a situation is it able to tell you the difference between good and evil? When you get put into a situation does it go off like radar? How do you stay focused? How do you sharpen it? Do you allow God’s Word into your life? Do you allow God’s Word to sharpen it like iron sharpens iron?

Day 48: Bible In One Year 2017

Devotional ,Proverbs 5:1-14, Mark 2:18-28, Mark 3:1-30, Exodus 21, Exodus 22

1. Beware of evil disguised as good

1My son, pay attention to my wisdom,turn your ear to my words of insight, 2that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. 3For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,and her speech is smoother than oil; 4but in the end she is bitter as gall,sharp as a double-edged sword. 5Her feet go down to death;her steps lead straight to the grave. 6She gives no thought to the way of life;her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it. 7Now then, my sons, listen to me;do not turn aside from what I say. 8Keep to a path far from her,do not go near the door of her house, 9lest you lose your honor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel, 10lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich the house of another. 11At the end of your life you will groan,when your flesh and body are spent. 12You will say, “How I hated discipline!How my heart spurned correction! 13I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors. 14And I was soon in serious trouble in the assembly of God’s people.” –from Proverbs 5

What about seduction? What about temporary pleasure at the cost of long term happiness? What about life lessons? What about instruction and wisdom? What about the cost? What about the long term effects on your life? What about the impact on the people around you? What about doing what is good and what is right? What about not being tempted or fall into temptation? Does the appeal feel stronger than the danger? Does the wrong impersonate being good? Are you able to resist the devil so that he will flee? Are you able to resist the temptations brought before you for the greater good?

Today’s devotional speaks to today’s reading in the following way…

All sin involves a kind of deception. It often involves the disguising of evil as good. There is a superficial attraction – ‘For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil’ (v.3). But in the end she is ‘bitter as gall’ (v.4) and following that path leads to ‘death’ (v.5a) and ‘the grave’ (v.5b).

These verses capture both the appeal and the danger of sexual temptation. We live in an increasingly sexualised society, with internet pornography readily available, sexual images all around us and a culture that encourages us to seek sexual ‘fulfilment’.

Our sexuality is a God-given blessing (see Genesis 2:24), but when used wrongly it can be destructive and damaging. These verses alert us to the attractiveness of sexual sin, but warn us not to be deceived by it.

‘You don’t want to end your life full of regrets’ (Proverbs 5:11, MSG). Joyce Meyer writes, ‘Wisdom is our friend; it helps us not to live in regret. I think the saddest thing in the world would be to reach old age and look back at my life and feel nothing but regret about what I did or did not do. Wisdom helps us make choices now that we will be happy with later.’

Keep away from the path you will regret. ‘Keep your distance… stay out of her neighbourhood’ (v.8, MSG). If we ignore this advice we may waste our lives and at the end of our lives we will deeply regret it. Don’t flirt with temptation; flee temptation.

–from Day 48: Bible In One Year 2017

2. Decide about Jesus: good or evil?

18Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”19Jesus answered, How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. 21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” 23One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”25He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”Mark 2

Who do you say Jesus is? What kind of person do you think He was?

1Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” 4Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. 5He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. 7Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him. 13Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15and to have authority to drive out demons. 16These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 20Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” 22And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” 23So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” 30He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” –from Mark 3

Was Jesus evil? Was Jesus insane? Is Jesus God? Today’s devotional speaks to these points based on the today’s reading…

Who is Jesus? All of us have to make up our minds about Jesus: Was he evil? Was he insane? Or was he God? This is not a new question. The people in Jesus’ time also had to decide between these three options.

Jesus was not just a great religious teacher. He clearly regarded himself as far more than that. Jesus made astonishing claims about himself. Even in this relatively short part of Mark’s Gospel we see a number of such claims.

C.S. Lewis pointed out that, ‘A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be [insane] or else he would be “the Devil of Hell”. You must make your choice,’ he writes. ‘But,’ C.S. Lewis goes on, ‘let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.’ There really are only three options: either he was evil or insane or else the claims were true.

  • Was he evil?
    The teachers of the law said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons’ (3:22). They were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit’ (v.30b, NIV).
  • Was he insane?
    People were saying about Jesus, ‘He is out of his mind’ (v.21b).
  • Is he God?
    Jesus is implicitly saying that he is the bridegroom (see 2:18–19). He describes himself as ‘Lord even of the Sabbath’ (v.28), and when the evil spirits cry out, ‘You are the Son of God’ (3:11), Jesus did not deny it but ‘gave them strict orders not to tell others about him’ (v.12).

Our decision about whether Jesus is evil, insane or God has huge consequences.

After spending three years with him, his disciples came to the conclusion that he really was the unique Son of God, the Word made flesh, a man whose identity was God (2:21–22). Jesus called them, as he calls us, first to be ‘with him’ and then to take his message to the world (3:14–15).

Jesus says to those who are describing him as evil, ‘Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven’ (v.29). This verse has caused great anguish to many people. But anyone who is worried about it will not have committed the sin. Those who are repentant will be forgiven. The fact that they are troubled (that is, are willing to repent) is sure proof that they have not committed it.

What is referred to here is not the uttering of a sentence but a fixed attitude of mind. Jesus does not say that they have committed a sin – but warns them of the danger they are in. These are not ordinary people. The scribes were duly accredited theological teachers of God’s people. They were in daily contact with the word of God.

This sin is an attitude that regards good as evil and evil as good. Such a person has sunk to a point where they cannot repent and be forgiven. Also, in this category is ‘Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him’ (v.19).

The New Testament assures us that anyone who does repent and turn to Jesus will be forgiven.

–from Day 48: Bible In One Year 2017

3. Promote good and prevent evil

1“These are the laws you are to set before them:

Hebrew Servants

2“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. 3If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. 4If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.
5“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
7“If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. 8If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. 9If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

Personal Injuries

12“Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. 13However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. 14But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.
15“Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.
16“Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.
17“Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.
18“If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, 19the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.
20“Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.
22“If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
26“An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. 27And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.
28“If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. 29If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death. 30However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded. 31This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. 32If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.
33“If anyone uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34the one who opened the pit must pay the owner for the loss and take the dead animal in exchange.
35“If anyone’s bull injures someone else’s bull and it dies, the two parties are to sell the live one and divide both the money and the dead animal equally. 36However, if it was known that the bull had the habit of goring, yet the owner did not keep it penned up, the owner must pay, animal for animal, and take the dead animal in exchange.

–from Exodus 21

Protection of Property

1“Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
2“If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.
“Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft. 4If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—they must pay back double.
5“If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard.
6“If a fire breaks out and spreads into thornbushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.
7“If anyone gives a neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor’s house, the thief, if caught, must pay back double. 8But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. 9In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to the other.
10“If anyone gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to their neighbor for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking, 11the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person’s property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required. 12But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor, restitution must be made to the owner. 13If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, the neighbor shall bring in the remains as evidence and shall not be required to pay for the torn animal.
14“If anyone borrows an animal from their neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, they must make restitution. 15But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.

Social Responsibility

16“If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. 17If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.
18“Do not allow a sorceress to live.
19“Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.
20“Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed.
21“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
22“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
25“If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. 26If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, 27because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
28“Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.
29“Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats.
“You must give me the firstborn of your sons. 30Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day.
31“You are to be my holy people. So do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs.

–from Exodus 22

Today’s devotional speaks to right and wrong, good and evil as follows…

The people of God drew up rules for their society. Some of the laws may appear very strange or harsh to us. However, if we compare them to the laws of other ancient people they are remarkably humane and some of the principles are still relevant today.

These laws were designed to limit evil. For example, there is a right to self-defence, but not to use excessive force in self-defence (22:2–3). There is also the prohibition against escalating violence and the provision of an equivalent penalty – ‘life for life, eye for eye…’ and so on (21:23–25).

The law was clearly created for judges and not for private individuals (see Deuteronomy 19:18–21). It was a guide for judges and sentencing. It was never intended that individuals should exact such revenge. In fact, it was almost certainly never taken literally, except in the case of capital offences. The laws were seen as giving the maximum possible sentence. Penalties were generally replaced by financial fines and damages.

To an ancient reader, the emphasis on slaves’ rights would have been revolutionary. Masters had to release their slaves after a maximum of six years (Exodus 21:2) and there were strict controls to limit the mistreatment of slaves (vv.20, 26–27). There seems to have been a particular concern for the rights of female slaves, who would have been especially vulnerable in the ancient world. They are not to be treated the same as male slaves (v.7) but must either be married or allowed to be redeemed (vv.8–11).

At the same time, the laws of Ancient Israel sought to promote good. God said, ‘You are to be my holy people’ (22:31a). So there were laws to protect the ‘foreigners’ (v.21), as well as widows and orphans (v.22). In tomorrow’s passage we will see that there were also laws to ensure ‘justice’ for the poor (23:6). Individuals were taught not to seek revenge and not to bear grudges. Rather, they were taught, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18).

The law helped to build a community that had interdependence and mutual accountability as its basis. Each strange regulation helped the people to learn how to belong together and care for each other. This is a lesson we all need to learn, particularly in the independent and isolated environment of twenty-first-century living. We do not follow rules and regulations just because we have to, but because they help us to treat each person as someone made in the image of God.

–from Day 48: Bible In One Year 2017





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