Temptations…what are they saying to you when they light up your dashboard?


Are you being tempted? Are you being enticed · persuaded · convinced · inveigled · induced · cajoled · coaxed · wood · sweet-talked? Another word for tempted is to be tested! Can you resist it? What if it was leading you towards disaster? What if it was going to destroy you? What if it was going to end your life? Are you willing to flirt with bad decisions? Would you still do it if you knew the bad decision would be destructive to you? to your family? to your friends? Are you willing to see how close you can get to the fire without getting burned? But could you stop yourself in time? Are you willing to deal with the consequences if or when you can’t? The pain! The sorrow! The brokenness! The destruction!

Realize that temptation isn’t the bad part, it’s your response that makes it good or bad! Jesus was without sin and He was tempted! So it’s not the tempting that will cause you to miss the mark, it is how you respond to it! See that person walking by? What is going on in your mind? in your heart? in your body? If you do something who will it impact? What would be the outcome? Who would be affected? So what are you going to do? You see keys to a luxury car fall out of someone’s pockets. What will you do about it? Will you pick them up? Will call them to let them know? Will you give them back? What would you be tempted to do? You see a rich person drop a bunch of cash (say a million dollars) or even his full wallet. What will you do about it? Will you call them to let them know? Will you do whatever you can to help them get it all back? What would you be tempted to do? How would you respond?

Temptation isn’t a sin! Pursuing that person that caught your eye and going outside of your marriage is. Picking up the keys and going for a joy ride rather than giving them back is. Taking the cash thinking they won’t miss it is. Do you know the difference between right and wrong? Do you realize the devil will try to trip you up and make you think “oh it isn’t that bad”? Do give him a foothold over you and your life! Don’t fall into temptation! Don’t allow yourself to step over the line and start going down the slippery slope!

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. — James 4:7

Is the temptation a light on your dashboard of life letting you know something you need to look into or take care of? Do you need to take care of or invest more into your marriage? Do you need to take care of how you steward your finances? Is there something else you need to be working on or taking care of so that you won’t be as tempted? Is it some other temptation? What can you do to be prepared when it shows up? What can you do to resist it and avoid the fall? What is it telling you? What is it warning you about?


How to Resist Temptation — Day 80: Bible In One Year 2017

Devotional, Proverbs 7:21-27, Luke 3:23-38, Luke 4:1-13, Numbers 11:4-35, Numbers 12, Numbers 13:1-25

1. Tempted to cheat … Proverbs 7:21-27

21With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. 22All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer22 Syriac (see also Septuagint); Hebrew fool stepping into a noose22 The meaning of the Hebrew for this line is uncertain. 23till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. 24Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. 25Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. 26Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. 27Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death. — from Proverbs 7

Today’s devotional speaks to this verse and today’s reading as follows:

This passage describes the power and the dangers of sexual temptation.

Beware persuasive words

Be careful about what you listen to and what you read: ‘With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk’ (v.21).

Avoid foolish actions

Thoughts and words lead eventually to actions: ‘All at once he followed her… little knowing it will cost him his life’ (vv.22–23).

Control straying thoughts

Temptation often starts in our hearts: ‘Do not let your heart turn to her ways [the adulteress]’ (v.25; see Matthew 5:28).

Heed this warning: ‘Listen… take these words of mine most seriously. Don’t fool around… don’t even stroll through her neighbourhood’ (Proverbs 7:24–25, MSG). Following this path is a ‘highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death’ (v.27).

–from Day 80: Bible In One Year 2017

2. Tempted over control … Luke 3:23-4:13

23Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
the son of Heli, 24the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, the son of Melki,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
25the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, 26the son of Maath,
the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,
the son of Josek, the son of Joda,
27the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,
the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri, 28the son of Melki,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
29the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, 30the son of Simeon,
the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
31the son of Melea, the son of Menna,
the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David, 32the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,
the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,
33the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, 34the son of Jacob,
the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
35the son of Serug, the son of Reu,
the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, 36the son of Cainan,
the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
37the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan, 38the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.

–from Luke 3

1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’
5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’
9The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10For it is written:
“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’
12Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
13When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

–from Luke 4

Today’s devotional speaks to this verse and today’s reading as follows:

God allows temptation in your life. As you go through these tests your faith is strengthened.

Jesus knows all about temptation. Jesus was tempted for forty days (4:2). Although it was the devil doing the tempting (v.3), God allowed it (he ‘was led by the Spirit into the wilderness’, v.1).

This period of temptation followed Jesus’ powerful experience of the Holy Spirit at his baptism. This sequence of events is common, which is why we warn people on Alpha that they may experience increased temptation after the weekend (where the focus is on the work and experience of the Holy Spirit).

Luke emphasises Jesus’ identity as the Son of God (3:23–38) but the temptations that Jesus faced are often similar to the ones we face.

All these temptations revolve around control – control of our appetites, control of our ambitions, and control of our lives. The devil wants to control your life. In contrast, God wants you to know the freedom that comes from being led by the Holy Spirit.

Instant gratification

The devil appeals to Jesus’ physical appetite (v.3) and offers instant gratification. Jesus answers, ‘It is written: “People do not live on bread alone”’ (v.4).

In the long run instant gratification leads to disillusion, emptiness and despair. Listening to God and building a relationship with him leads to deep spiritual satisfaction, joy and purpose.

Selfish ambition

The devil showed Jesus in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. ‘He said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour… If you worship me, it will all be yours”’ (vv.6–7).

The temptation to accumulate things for ourselves is very powerful. Material prosperity may lead to ‘authority’ and ‘splendour’ (v.6) in this lifetime, but the danger is that financial security becomes our ambition and we put our trust in wealth and not in God.

Jesus responded to this temptation by saying, ‘It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only”’ (v.8). Ultimately, there is only one thing that can be totally secure and that is your relationship with God. This must be your primary ambition.

Presumptuous power

The devil takes Jesus to the highest point in the temple and says, ‘If you are the Son of God… throw yourself down from here’ (v.9). He then quotes the Bible at him (out of context, of course). Jesus answered this scripture with scripture, ‘It is said: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”’ (v.12).

You are called to a life of obedience and service to God. Jesus performed some dramatic miracles during his ministry. In doing so, however, he was obeying God and following the Holy Spirit’s leading. This is quite different from testing God and then asking him to back you up. Rather than coming up with your own plans and asking God to bless them, seek to find out God’s plans and obey his calling.

Jesus saw off the devil and his temptations with God’s word. He repeatedly said ‘It is written… ’ and then quoted scriptures that directly answered the devil’s lies and temptations.

The devil ‘left him’. But he only ‘retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity’ (v.13, MSG). It is a relief to have periods in life when temptations are not so strong – but you can be sure that the devil will try to lure you astray again.

–from Day 80: Bible In One Year 2017

3. Tempted to compare … Numbers 11:4-13:25

4The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
7The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. 8The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. 9When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.
10Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”
16The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.
18“Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” ’ ”
21But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”
23The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”
24So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.
26However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
29But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
31Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It scattered them up to two cubits deep all around the camp, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. 32All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp. 33But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.
35From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there.

–from Numbers 11

Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses

1Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2“Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.
3(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
4At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6he said, “Listen to my words:
“When there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
I speak to them in dreams.
7But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
8With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
to speak against my servant Moses?”
9The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.
10When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
13So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”
14The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.
16After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.

–from Numbers 12

1The Lord said to Moses, 2“Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”
3So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. 4These are their names:
from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zakkur;
5from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori;
6from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh;
7from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph;
8from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun;
9from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu;
10from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi;
11from the tribe of Manasseh (a tribe of Joseph), Gaddi son of Susi;
12from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli;
13from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael;
14from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi;
15from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Maki.
16These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)
17When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
21So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 22They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 24That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. 25At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.

–from Numbers 13

Today’s devotional speaks to this verse and today’s reading as follows:

Just as Jesus was tempted in ‘the wilderness’ (Luke 4:1), the people of God were tempted during their wilderness years. The examples in this passage were written down as warnings for us (see 1 Corinthians 10:6).

Discontent

God had supplied them with food but they craved ‘other food’ (Numbers 11:4). Rather than thanking God for his miraculous provision they said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!’ (v.4b). They kept ‘whining’ (vv.10,13, MSG) and complaining.

They were tempted to make comparisons with the old life back in Egypt and turn back to where they had come from. It is easy to fall into this trap. There is always something to complain about. Yet, if we have eyes to see it, we are constantly surrounded by God’s goodness, mercy, forgiveness, love and grace.

Jealousy

We see an example of jealousy with Miriam and Aaron asking, ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’ (12:2). When Joshua had been upset about others prophesying in the camp, Moses asked in response, ‘Are you jealous for my sake?’ (11:29). The context here is spiritual leadership and gifting.

Moses’ leadership structure involved a group of three at the centre (Aaron, Miriam and Joshua). Then, there were the twelve leaders of the tribes of Israel (13:4–15), then the seventy leaders and officials (11:16 onwards). This is very similar to Jesus’ inner circle of three, the twelve apostles, and then the seventy-two others (see Luke 10). When the Holy Spirit rested on the seventy of Moses, ‘they prophesied’ (Numbers 11:25).

Like Moses, try to avoid the temptation to compare and to be jealous when you see God using other people in a powerful way. Moses recognised that he needed all the help he could get. He replied, ‘I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!’ (v.29). He did not feel he had to be the only one God used. The Lord had said, ‘I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone’ (v.17).

Pride

Jealousy comes from comparing ourselves with others and thinking that we are less well off. Pride comes from thinking too much of ourselves, comparing with others and thinking we are better.

Moses also resisted the temptation of pride. Pride is the biggest barrier between God and human beings. God loves the humble. As C.S. Lewis put it, ‘True humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.’

‘Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth’ (12:3). Perhaps that is why God used Moses in such a powerful way.

Moses was ‘humble’ (v.3), ‘faithful’ (v.7), compassionate and forgiving (v.13). All this stemmed from the very close relationship he had with God in which God spoke to him intimately in person (‘With him I speak face to face’, v.8).

–from Day 80: Bible In One Year 2017

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Are you confident?


Are you confident in God no matter what? Are you confident that God is good all the time no matter the situation? Does your confidence allow you to walk in the joy of the Lord in spite of your situation? Does your confidence allow you to trust in God in spite of your circumstances? With this confidence do you follow Jesus’ example of doing good?

Today’s devotional has an interesting quote from John Wesley:

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.’


God is Good – All the Time — Day 79: Bible In One Year 2017

Devotional, Psalm 35:19-28, Luke 3:1-22, Numbers 9:15-23, Numbers 10, Numbers 11:1-3


1. In all things God works for your good … Psalm 35:19-28

19Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye. 20They do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land. 21They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it.” 22 Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. 23Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. 24Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me. 25Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!” or say, “We have swallowed him up.” 26May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace. 27May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” 28My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long. –from Psalm 35

Today’s devotional speaks to today’s reading as follows:

Let’s be honest. Not everyone is good. Some people hate without reason and act maliciously (v.19).

There is a great contrast running through this passage between the difficulties that David is facing from those around him, and the goodness of God. The Message version brings out this contrast by using the word ‘good’ four times, but in very different contexts:

Beware the ‘no good’ crowd

There will be times in your life and in the life of your community when you come under attack from those ‘cooking up gossip’ (v.20, MSG). ‘They do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations’ (v.20). David says, ‘No good is going to come from that crowd’ (v.20, MSG).

Having a ‘good time’ is not always good

David speaks of this crowd’s ‘good time’ (v.24, MSG). These people are having ‘a party at [David’s] expense’ (v.19, MSG). They hate him for no reason: ‘winking and rolling their eyes’ (v.19, MSG). They think they are having ‘a good time’ but actually what they are doing is not good.

God works everything for good

‘God is great – everything works together for good for his servant’ (v.27, MSG). God takes even the bad things that are done to you and are said about you and uses them for good: ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him’ (Romans 8:28).

Tell the world how good God is

David ends this psalm by celebrating God’s goodness. He writes, ‘I’ll tell the world how great and good you are, I’ll shout Hallelujah all day, every day’ (Psalm 35:28, MSG).

Lord, help me to remember your goodness and trust in the ‘good things’ that you have stored up for me.

— from Day 79: Bible In One Year 2017

2. Goodness comes from repentance and the Holy Spirit … Luke 3:1-22

1In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6And all people will see God’s salvation.’ ”
7John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
12Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
15The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
19But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

The Baptism and Genealogy of Jesus

21When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

–from Luke 3

Today’s devotional speaks to today’s reading as follows:

People are sometimes surprised to see John’s message described as ‘good news’ (v.18) – it can seem very negative to us! Yet the word of God is always ‘good news’. The word of God came to John the Baptist in the desert (v.2b). It is a message of ‘repentance for the forgiveness of sins’ (v.3b). Repentance is good; it is liberating. It leads to freedom and forgiveness.

Repentance should lead to ‘good fruit’ (v.9). John the Baptist says, ‘Produce fruit in keeping with repentance’ (v.8). What is this ‘good fruit’? ‘Good fruit’ includes both social justice and personal morality. Interestingly the examples given all relate in some way to work and money. What does goodness look like?

Generosity

Those who can afford it should support those who can’t: ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same’ (v.11).

Honesty

John tells the tax collector, ‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to’ (v.13).

Contentment

John tells the soldiers, ‘Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay’ (v.14b).

John is not just a preacher of social righteousness. He says of Jesus, ‘He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire’ (v.16b). Fire symbolised purity (Numbers 11:1–3), power and passion. As Jesus prayed, ‘the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”’ (Luke 3:21–22).

Goodness is one of the characteristics listed by St Paul as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Through the Holy Spirit we experience God’s goodness. What God said to Jesus, he says to you:

Enjoy being a child of God

God says to Jesus, ‘You are my Son’ (Luke 3:22). Through Jesus you are able to call God ‘Father’. While Jesus’ sonship is unique, the apostle Paul writes that God ‘sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts’ (Galatians 4:6). You are given this same experience of being a child of God – by adoption. This experience is vital for your identity, confidence and security.

Experience God’s love

God says to Jesus, ‘You are my Son, whom I love’ (Luke 3:22). Now, as Paul writes, ‘God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us’ (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit gives you an experience of God’s goodness and love for you.

Expect God’s pleasure

God says to his son Jesus, ‘With you I am well pleased’ (Luke 3:22). When the Spirit of God dwells in you, your life becomes pleasing to him (Romans 8:8–9).

As you experience God’s love and goodness poured into your heart by the Holy Spirit, the good fruit of the Holy Spirit will grow.

Lord, thank you that you love me as your child and that you take pleasure in me. Help me to live a life of generosity, honesty and contentment and bear good fruit.

— from Day 79: Bible In One Year 2017

3. God has promised to give you good things … Numbers 9:15-11:3

15On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. 16That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. 17Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. 18At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. 19When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. 20Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. 21Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. 22Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. 23At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.

–from Numbers 9

The Silver Trumpets

1The Lord said to Moses: 2“Make two trumpets of hammered silver, and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out. 3When both are sounded, the whole community is to assemble before you at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 4If only one is sounded, the leaders—the heads of the clans of Israel—are to assemble before you. 5When a trumpet blast is sounded, the tribes camping on the east are to set out. 6At the sounding of a second blast, the camps on the south are to set out. The blast will be the signal for setting out. 7To gather the assembly, blow the trumpets, but not with the signal for setting out.
8“The sons of Aaron, the priests, are to blow the trumpets. This is to be a lasting ordinance for you and the generations to come. 9When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the Lord your God and rescued from your enemies. 10Also at your times of rejoicing—your appointed festivals and New Moon feasts—you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God. I am the Lord your God.”

The Israelites Leave Sinai

11On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the covenant law. 12Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran. 13They set out, this first time, at the Lord’s command through Moses.
14The divisions of the camp of Judah went first, under their standard. Nahshon son of Amminadab was in command. 15Nethanel son of Zuar was over the division of the tribe of Issachar, 16and Eliab son of Helon was over the division of the tribe of Zebulun. 17Then the tabernacle was taken down, and the Gershonites and Merarites, who carried it, set out.
18The divisions of the camp of Reuben went next, under their standard. Elizur son of Shedeur was in command. 19Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai was over the division of the tribe of Simeon, 20and Eliasaph son of Deuel was over the division of the tribe of Gad. 21Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. The tabernacle was to be set up before they arrived.
22The divisions of the camp of Ephraim went next, under their standard. Elishama son of Ammihud was in command. 23Gamaliel son of Pedahzur was over the division of the tribe of Manasseh, 24and Abidan son of Gideoni was over the division of the tribe of Benjamin.
25Finally, as the rear guard for all the units, the divisions of the camp of Dan set out under their standard. Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai was in command. 26Pagiel son of Okran was over the division of the tribe of Asher, 27and Ahira son of Enan was over the division of the tribe of Naphtali. 28This was the order of march for the Israelite divisions as they set out.
29Now Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place about which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will treat you well, for the Lord has promised good things to Israel.”
30He answered, “No, I will not go; I am going back to my own land and my own people.”
31But Moses said, “Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes. 32If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives us.”
33So they set out from the mountain of the Lord and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest. 34The cloud of the Lord was over them by day when they set out from the camp.
35Whenever the ark set out, Moses said,
“Rise up, Lord!
May your enemies be scattered;
may your foes flee before you.”
36Whenever it came to rest, he said,
“Return, Lord,
to the countless thousands of Israel.”

–from Numbers 10

1Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down. 3So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the Lord had burned among them.

–from Numbers 11

Today’s devotional speaks to today’s reading as follows:

Moses told his father-in-law, ‘The Lord has promised good things’ (10:29). He urged him to come with them, ‘We will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives us’ (v.32).

Moses, together with God’s people, had experienced so much of God’s goodness. God had guided them with ‘cloud’ and ‘fire’ – symbolising his presence (9:16). This is but one example of the goodness that is seen throughout the history of the people of God.

Despite God’s goodness to them, his people ‘complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord’ (11:1). On another occasion in the wilderness they also grumbled about their leaders – Moses and Aaron (Exodus 16:2). Sometimes, when we forget the goodness God has shown us, we complain about our situation and can even blame our leaders. But wherever possible, leaders need our support and encouragement.

We all need to remember God’s goodness to us, especially in Christ, who is the ‘high priest of the good things’ God gives (Hebrews 9:11). Complaining keeps you captive, whilst remembering God’s faithfulness sets you free. Praise, thanksgiving and worship are the antidote to complaining and grumbling.

I praise you, God, for all your goodness to me – for the good news of Jesus, for your forgiveness, for your love for me, for the Holy Spirit and the love of God poured into my heart, for the fact that you delight in me and rescue me. Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings, for your provision, freedom, friends, family and every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. ‘God is good – all the time.’

— from Day 79: Bible In One Year 2017

Intimacy…


What is it? How do you develop it? How do you find it? How do you create it?

We find that it is defined as:

close familiarity or friendship; closeness:
“the intimacy between a husband and wife”
synonyms:closeness · togetherness · affinity · rapport · attachment · familiarity · friendliness · friendship · amity · affection · warmth · confidence · chumminess

So as we consider intimacy and the synonyms, let’s consider how we develop, find, and create it. What do you to develop closeness? What can you do to develop togetherness? How do you create a rapport with someone? Are you willing to be a friend before someone else becomes your friend? Are you willing to be warm, confident, and chummy with others? Relationships are a two way street, however, it usually starts with one of the people putting their hand out first and sticking with it. Once you find it, you know you have it! Once you start or create it, you need to keep developing it! If we use the synonym of warmth, just like a fire produces heat, if you don’t keep feeding into it, it will cool, it will reduce, and it will go out! So we need to not only be willing to find it, create it, we also need to develop it, build it, strengthen it!


How to Develop Intimacy with God

— Day 78: Bible In One Year 2017

Devotional Psalm 35:11-18, Luke 2:41-52, Numbers 7:66-89, Numbers 8, Numbers 9:1-14

Are you willing to step out and develop an intimate relationship with God? One like Jesus did?

Are you willing to go beyond the day to day grind and step out into the lives of the people around you, opening yourself up that others may come to know who you are and what you believe in?

Have you ever considered or grabbed a hold of what Jesus meant when He said “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these“?

1. Openness, vulnerability and honesty … Psalm 35:11-18

11Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about. 12They repay me evil for good and leave me like one bereaved. 13Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, 14I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. 15But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; assailants gathered against me without my knowledge. They slandered me without ceasing. 16Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;16 Septuagint; Hebrew may mean Like an ungodly circle of mockers, they gnashed their teeth at me. 17How long, Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. 18I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.

–from Psalm 35

Today’s devotional speaks to this topic from today’s reading as follows:

There were times when David was down; his soul felt empty (v.12, MSG). He was honest and open enough to talk about the challenges:

Opposition

David faced great opposition from those who repaid evil for good and attacked him. You also may face great opposition from those who repay evil for good and attack you (vv.12,15b). They may slander (v.15c), or maliciously mock (v.16a). Opposition does not only come through the world – it can even come from God’s people (v.16).

‘Unanswered’ prayer

There may be times when your prayers do not seem to be heard. ‘My prayers returned to me unanswered’ (v.13). He says to God, ‘How long are you going to stand there doing nothing?’ (v.17, MSG).

Failure

We all stumble (v.15a). We can feel we are walking with the Lord quite happily and then suddenly we stumble. There may be times when we fail to meet our own standards, let alone God’s.

Like David, speak to God about all these challenges. Do not pretend that all is well. Speak from the depth of your heart. He will not be surprised or shocked by anything you say. It is this openness, vulnerability and honesty that draws you into an intimate relationship with God.

Lord, thank you that you listen to the cries of my heart. Thank you that you rescue me and enable me to say, ‘I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you’ (v.18).

— from Day 78: Bible In One Year 2017

2. Grow in wisdom … Luke 2:41-52

41Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?”he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
–from Luke 2

Today’s devotional speaks to this topic from today’s reading as follows:

Even as a child Jesus had astonishing wisdom: ‘And all who heard him were astonished and overwhelmed with bewildered wonder at his intelligence and understanding and his replies’ (v.47, AMP).

As someone has said, ‘Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.’ Knowledge is horizontal. Wisdom is vertical. It comes down from above. It is far more important to grow in wisdom than to grow in wealth. Wisdom outweighs wealth. Intimacy with the Father leads to growth in wisdom.

After Jesus’ parents find him in the temple courts he says to them, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ (v.49b). Or as The Message translation puts it, ‘Dealing with the things of my Father’ (v.49b, MSG).

On the one hand, Jesus’ relationship with his ‘Father’ was unique. On the other hand, he also enables you to call God ‘Father’. He prayed to God as ‘Abba’ (the Aramaic word used by children on intimate terms with their father), and he taught his disciples to do the same (11:2). St Paul, writing about the Holy Spirit, says, ‘For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father”’ (Romans 8:15).

We can learn four things about the wisdom that comes from intimacy with the Father by examining Jesus’ example in these verses.

Wisdom comes from listening

Wisdom is willingness to listen to and learn from others. Jesus was ‘sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions’ (Luke 2:46).

Sir Isaac Newton said, ‘I find intelligence is better spotted when analysing the questions asked rather than the answers given.’

Often, those who know most speak least. When we are talking, we are usually merely repeating what we already know. When we are listening, we may learn something new.

Asking good questions is the key to being a good conversationalist. It was said of President J. F. Kennedy that he made you think he had nothing else to do except ask you questions and listen, with extraordinary concentration, to your answer. You knew that, for the time being, he had blotted out both the past and the future for you.

Wisdom leads to simplicity

Wisdom brings clarity. Jesus knew where he should be and what he should do. He declared, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ (v.49). Knowledge leads us from the simple to the complex; wisdom leads us from the complex to the simple.

Wisdom is holistic

Wisdom is shown not only in what we say, but also in how we live: ‘Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them’ (v.51). Wisdom is about the whole of life, rather than just our intellect or our words.

Wisdom should grow

Through his intimate relationship with God, ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and people’ (v.52) – a very similar description to that used of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26).

Wisdom should grow as we get older. Not that Jesus’ wisdom was flawed or imperfect, but it grew as he matured, as it should with us.

This is a prayer we often prayed for our children – that they would grow in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and people.

Above all, Jesus’ wisdom came from his intimate relationship with God. God was his Father. He knew he had to be in his Father’s house, and his intimacy with his Father was the foundation of his wisdom.

Father, thank you that you have given me the Spirit of adoption by which I can cry, ‘Abba, Father’. Thank you that you call me into the same relationship of intimacy that Jesus had with you. Help me to grow in this relationship of intimacy, simplicity and obedience. And to grow in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and people.

— from Day 78: Bible In One Year 2017

3. Stand still and listen … Numbers 7:66-9:14

66On the tenth day Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai, the leader of the people of Dan, brought his offering.
67His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 68one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 69one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 70one male goat for a sin offering; 71and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai.
72On the eleventh day Pagiel son of Okran, the leader of the people of Asher, brought his offering.
73His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 74one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 75one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 76one male goat for a sin offering; 77and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Pagiel son of Okran.
78On the twelfth day Ahira son of Enan, the leader of the people of Naphtali, brought his offering.
79His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 80one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 81one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 82one male goat for a sin offering; 83and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Ahira son of Enan.
84These were the offerings of the Israelite leaders for the dedication of the altar when it was anointed: twelve silver plates, twelve silver sprinkling bowls and twelve gold dishes. 85Each silver plate weighed a hundred and thirty shekels, and each sprinkling bowl seventy shekels. Altogether, the silver dishes weighed two thousand four hundred shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel. 86The twelve gold dishes filled with incense weighed ten shekels each, according to the sanctuary shekel. Altogether, the gold dishes weighed a hundred and twenty shekels. 87The total number of animals for the burnt offering came to twelve young bulls, twelve rams and twelve male lambs a year old, together with their grain offering. Twelve male goats were used for the sin offering. 88The total number of animals for the sacrifice of the fellowship offering came to twenty-four oxen, sixty rams, sixty male goats and sixty male lambs a year old. These were the offerings for the dedication of the altar after it was anointed.
89When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.
–from Numbers 7

Setting Up the Lamps

1The Lord said to Moses, 2“Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand.’ ”
3Aaron did so; he set up the lamps so that they faced forward on the lampstand, just as the Lordcommanded Moses. 4This is how the lampstand was made: It was made of hammered gold—from its base to its blossoms. The lampstand was made exactly like the pattern the Lordhad shown Moses.

The Setting Apart of the Levites

5The Lord said to Moses: 6“Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering. 9Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.
12“Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.
15“After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”
20Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.
23The Lord said to Moses, 24“This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”
–from Numbers 8
1The Lordspoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, 2“Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. 3Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.”
4So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, 5and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lordcommanded Moses.
6But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day 7and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”
8Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lordcommands concerning you.”
9Then the Lordsaid to Moses, 10“Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, 11but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. 13But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin.
14“ ‘A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the Lord’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.’ ”
–from Numbers 9

Today’s devotional speaks to this topic from today’s reading as follows:

You cannot develop an intimate relationship with God without setting aside time to communicate with him. ‘When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him… and he spoke with him. The Lord said to Moses…’ (7:89 – 8:1).

God spoke to Moses (8:1; 9:1). Moses spoke with God (7:89). It was a two-way conversation. God spoke to Moses face-to-face, as a person speaks with a friend (12:8) – talking and listening at the same time, watching for each other’s reaction.

In the age of the Holy Spirit you are in an even better position than Moses. You no longer have to go to a particular place, like Moses did, but can be with God wherever you are. By the Spirit of adoption you are brought into an intimate and eternal conversation with God the Father (Romans 8:15–17,26–27).

This was the pattern. ‘The Lord spoke to Moses… So Moses told the Israelites… The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses’ (Numbers 9:1–5). The Israelites’ whole way of life was built upon obedience to what God had said to Moses in the place of intimacy. Your intimacy with God needs to overflow into the way in which you live your life. You need to put into practice the things that God shows you in the place of intimacy.

There are times when it is not always clear how God is guiding us. Again, Moses’ example is a good one. When the people asked Moses a difficult question to which he did not know the answer, he replied, ‘Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you’ (v.8). If you don’t know the right answer it is wise to ask people to ‘wait’. This gives you time to pray and to find out from God the right way forward.

Eugene Peterson translates, ‘Give me some time; I’ll find out what God says in your circumstances’ (v.8, MSG). The Amplified Bible says, ‘Stand still and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you.’ In the busyness of life stand still and listen to what God wants you to do.

Lord, thank you that I can meet with you each day, speak with you and listen to you. Help me to hear what you are saying to me and to live today in this relationship of intimacy, simplicity and obedience.

— from Day 78: Bible In One Year 2017

 

 

 

Have you heard the good news?


No matter where you are, no matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done there is hope! There is an answer! There is way when there doesn’t seem to be a way! There is a plan to give you a hope and a future! There is a plan that you can have a life and a life to the full! There is a plan that you can be saved! Will you choose to receive it? Will you choose to grab hold of it? Will you choose to seek it? The choice it yours! It’s a matter of the heart!

The answer is Jesus!

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. –from John 3

When we receive the gift of Jesus, we are saved!

if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  — from Romans 10:9

Everyday there are people wandering by you. Everyday there are people searching for answers. Everyday there are people feeling hopeless. Everyday there are people looking for hope. Will you be someone who shows them that there is a way? Will you be the one who let’s them know there is a savior? Will you be the one who points them to Jesus? Will you be a vessel used by God to speak hope and life to them in a way they can receive right where they are at?


You Have a Saviour — Day 77: Bible In One Year 2017

Devotional, Psalm 35:1-10, Luke 2:21-40, Numbers 7:1-65

1. Call out to God your Saviour … Psalm 35:1-10

1Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. 2Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid. 3Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to me, “I am your salvation.” 4May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. 5May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away; 6may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them. 7Since they hid their net for me without cause and without cause dug a pit for me, 8may ruin overtake them by surprise—may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin. 9Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation. 10My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” 

–from Psalm 35

Are you there yet? Will you call out to God? Will you ask Him to help? Will you invite Jesus into your heart?

Today’s devotional speaks to today’s reading as follows…

At any time, you can call out to God for help.

Life is a battle. If we fly God’s flag, there are bound to be those who will be out to get us. David prays that God would contend with those who contend against him (v.1a).

He prays, ‘Fight against those who fight against me… arise and come to my aid… Say to me, “I am your salvation”’ (vv.1b–3). Or as The Message puts it, ‘Reassure me; let me hear you say, “I’ll save you.”’ (v.3, MSG).

When you are under attack it is easy to feel that it must be your fault. But twice David repeats that their desire to trap him is ‘without cause’ (v.7). Sometimes you may face opposition not because you are doing something wrong but because you are doing something right. David prays to God to rescue him: ‘then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation’ (v.9).

Your enemies may be stronger than you. David faced ‘hecklers’, ‘bullies’ and ‘thugs try[ing] to knife [him] in the back’ (vv.1,4, MSG). But God is the Saviour who rescues and ‘protects the unprotected’ (v.10b, MSG).

God’s ultimate rescue is the salvation that is in Jesus. I love the song written by Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan that celebrates this salvation. Let’s use these words as prayer and worship:

Saviour,

He can move the mountains,

My God is mighty to save,

He is mighty to save.

Forever,

Author of salvation,

He rose and conquered the grave,

Jesus conquered the grave.

Day 77: Bible In One Year 2017

2. Look to Jesus as your Saviour … Luke 2:21-40

21On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Jesus Presented in the Temple
22When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

–from Luke 2

Today’s devotional speaks to today’s reading as follows…

Jesus is the Saviour of the world. The angel had announced the birth of a ‘Saviour’ (2:11). In this passage we see how on the eighth day he was named ‘Jesus’ which means ‘the Lord saves’.

His parents take him to Jerusalem ‘to present him to the Lord’ and ‘to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord’ (vv.22–24). Jesus is the ultimate fulfilment of all the offerings and sacrifices we read about in the Old Testament.

  • Look to Jesus to receive peace

    Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and says to the Lord, ‘My eyes have seen your salvation’ (v.30). To see Jesus is to see salvation. Seeing Jesus gives Simeon ‘peace’ (v.29b).

  • Look to Jesus to see what God is like

    Jesus is a light that reveals God. He is ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles’ (v.32a). It is impossible to know God unless he reveals himself to us. Yet God has done just that in Jesus. Jesus shows us what God is like. Jesus said, ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the father’ (John 14:9). Jesus fully reveals God for everyone.

  • Look to Jesus for grace and truth

    Jesus is a light who brings glory: ‘the glory of your people Israel’ (Luke 2:32b). The word ‘glory’ speaks of God’s excellence, beauty, greatness and perfection. God is glorious. Israel had glory because God had lived among them, first in the tabernacle in the desert (as written about in today’s Old Testament passage), and then in the temple in Jerusalem.

    With Jesus, Israel came to see God’s glory in its truest and fullest sense. As John writes of Jesus, ‘We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14b). Jesus brings glory to Israel and to us, because Jesus is God coming to live among us.

Tragically though, many people reject the revelation and glory of God that we see in Jesus. Simeon prophesies about this, ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed’ (Luke 2:34–35).

Being so closely associated with Jesus brings great blessing but also suffering. Maybe you have a family member, close friend, or someone else you really care about who is either antagonistic to Jesus or simply not interested. When we see people reject Jesus we get a tiny glimpse of what Mary must have experienced: ‘And a sword will pierce your own soul too’ (v.35).

This great suffering of Mary lay in the future. In the meantime, she had the joy of seeing Jesus growing up and becoming ‘strong’. ‘He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him’ (v.40). ‘Wisdom’ and ‘grace’ are characteristics of the Saviour that we should seek to imitate in our own lives.

Lord, give me eyes like Simeon to see your salvation in the world today. Give me grace and wisdom today for all my decisions, meetings and conversations.

Day 77: Bible In One Year 2017

3. Worship the Saviour of the world … Numbers 7:1-65

1When Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it and all its furnishings. He also anointed and consecrated the altar and all its utensils. 2Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of families who were the tribal leaders in charge of those who were counted, made offerings. 3They brought as their gifts before the Lord six covered carts and twelve oxen—an ox from each leader and a cart from every two. These they presented before the tabernacle.
4The Lord said to Moses, 5“Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the tent of meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires.”
6So Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites. 7He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites, as their work required, 8and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their work required. They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. 9But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible.
10When the altar was anointed, the leaders brought their offerings for its dedication and presented them before the altar. 11For the Lord had said to Moses, “Each day one leader is to bring his offering for the dedication of the altar.”
12The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah.
13His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 14one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 15one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 16one male goat for a sin offering; 17and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nahshon son of Amminadab.
18On the second day Nethanel son of Zuar, the leader of Issachar, brought his offering.
19The offering he brought was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 20one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 21one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 22one male goat for a sin offering; 23and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nethanel son of Zuar.
24On the third day, Eliab son of Helon, the leader of the people of Zebulun, brought his offering.
25His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 26one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 27one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 28one male goat for a sin offering; 29and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Eliab son of Helon.
30On the fourth day Elizur son of Shedeur, the leader of the people of Reuben, brought his offering.
31His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 32one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 33one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 34one male goat for a sin offering; 35and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Elizur son of Shedeur.
36On the fifth day Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai, the leader of the people of Simeon, brought his offering.
37His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 38one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 39one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 40one male goat for a sin offering; 41and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai.
42On the sixth day Eliasaph son of Deuel, the leader of the people of Gad, brought his offering.
43His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 44one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 45one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 46one male goat for a sin offering; 47and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Eliasaph son of Deuel.
48On the seventh day Elishama son of Ammihud, the leader of the people of Ephraim, brought his offering.
49His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 50one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 51one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 52one male goat for a sin offering; 53and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Elishama son of Ammihud.
54On the eighth day Gamaliel son of Pedahzur, the leader of the people of Manasseh, brought his offering.
55His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 56one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 57one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 58one male goat for a sin offering; 59and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Gamaliel son of Pedahzur.
60On the ninth day Abidan son of Gideoni, the leader of the people of Benjamin, brought his offering.
61His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 62one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 63one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 64one male goat for a sin offering; 65and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Abidan son of Gideoni.

–from Numbers 7

Today’s devotional speaks to today’s reading as follows…

Many new parents have a deep sense that God has given them their baby, but it must have been even more so for Mary and Joseph that day in the temple as they gave back to God the miracle baby he had given them.

The birth of Jesus the Saviour was the most momentous event in history. Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and says, ‘For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations’ (Luke 2:30–31). Perhaps it is not surprising that the prophecies and preparations for the coming of Jesus were so extraordinarily detailed and elaborate.

In this section of the book of Numbers we discover how the Tabernacle service was inaugurated (Numbers 7:1 – 10:10). We read of each of the tribes making a voluntary offering. Each gave an equal share. They were given to God (through his servant Moses). The whole people of God were involved in the inauguration of the tabernacle.

At first this passage might seem like needless technicalities for the modern reader. Yet, the presentation of extravagant gifts to God in the Tabernacle (Numbers 7) is so beautifully mirrored by the presentation of Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:22). This Old Testament passage is not merely a bit of ancient accountancy.

The occasion for these extravagant gifts is the completion and dedication of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was the symbolic place of God’s presence with his people. The people give as a response to God’s grace and presence among them. Their gifts are an expression of worship and thanksgiving to the saviour.

At the same time though, these gifts are also part of the preparations for the final dedication of the tabernacle. They are making it fit for the presence of God. The elaborate preparations, the extravagance of the gifts, and the detail with which the writer records them, all point to what an amazing blessing it was for the Israelites to have the presence of God in their midst.

All the offerings and sacrifices in the Law of Moses were but preparation and a foreshadowing of the birth and death of the Saviour. The tabernacle pointed forward to something even greater. No longer does God dwell in a tent in our midst, he has come to live among us as one of us. Jesus is consecrated according to the Law, but he would go on to fulfil the Law’s very purpose (vv.22–24a): ‘When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord…’ (v.39a).

Many years later, Jesus the Saviour abolished the need for all the offerings and sacrifices of the Old Testament through the sacrifice of his body ‘once for all’ (see Hebrews 10:1–10).

No wonder that when Simeon realised the baby in his arms was the Saviour of the world, he ‘praised God’ (Luke 2:28). Anna likewise ‘gave thanks to God’ (v.38). Jesus the Saviour is the focus of all our praise and thanksgiving.

I love the words of another song, this one written by Ben Cantelon, which are an appropriate response in prayer and worship to everything we have read today about Jesus the Saviour:

For He made us a way, by which we have been saved,

He’s the Saviour of the world.

So we lift up a shout for his fame and renown,

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,

Jesus, Saviour of the world.

Day 77: Bible In One Year 2017

The grass greener because it is getting watered or because it is turf?


Ever heard the saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? When people look at it from that perspective and so want to jump the fence, do they ever consider why it is greener before they jump? Do they ever consider what they could do for their own grass before bailing? Do they see the work and effort that is being put in on the other side before they decide to give up on their own grass? Do they ever consider that by jumping the fence they could actually just make the other side go bad? So before you leave…before you move on…before you give up…reconsider what you can do to help make things better where you are at! Consider God’s plan for you and what He wants you to do about it. We know He tells us not to covet our neighbor’s stuff!

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” –from Exodus 20

So why are you looking at the grass and wanting a piece of that? So why would you consider destroying two families? So why would you consider messing up what you have and have been given rather than investing more time and effort into what you already have?

Imagine if there were people who were trying to feed on your fears and your doubt. Imagine if there were people who knew about your weaknesses and temptations and tried to set you up for the fall. Imagine if there were people who were trying to encourage bad behavior by making it look ok. Imagine if there were people who were trying to pull you away from God’s way so that you could get tripped up, messed up, hurt, injured, or even worse destroyed.

Now listen to what today’s devotional shares about a real situation…

A recent billboard campaign by one online agency offered a dating service for married men and women who wanted to have an affair. The agency is by no means alone in this market. What was new was that they executed an extensive advertising campaign specifically on massive billboards next to motorways with the slogan, ‘The grass is always greener.’

Essentially, they were making money feeding on people’s weaknesses and helping them to be unfaithful. This may seem attractive, but the reality is that it can ruin the lives of the individuals involved, as well as the lives of their partners, their families and their children.

Jesus puts faithfulness alongside justice and mercy (Matthew 23:23). Faithfulness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Mother Teresa said, ‘I do not pray for success. I ask for faithfulness.’

God’s faithfulness towards us gives us an example to follow in our own relationships. Faithfulness is something we should strive for in marriage, friendships and in our relationship with God.

–from Day 76: Bible In One Year 2017

So as we prepare for today, let’s grab a hold of God and His example so that we won’t be lured, tricked, or tripped up by the lies of the devil whose plan is to rob, kill, and destroy us any way he can find to get a foothold into our lives.


If the Grass Looks Greener, It’s Probably AstroTurf — from Day 76: Bible In One Year 2017

Devotional, Proverbs 7:6-20, Luke 2:1-20, Numbers 5:11-31, Numbers 6

1. Be faithful in relationships

… Proverbs 7:6-20

6At the window of my house I looked down through the lattice. 7I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense. 8He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house 9at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. 10Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. 11(She is unruly and defiant, her feet never stay at home; 12now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.) 13She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said: 14“Today I fulfilled my vows, and I have food from my fellowship offering at home. 15So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! 16I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. 17I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. 18Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love! 19My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. 20He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.”

–from Proverbs 7

Looking for wisdom? Go to the book of Proverbs! Looking for the difference between right and wrong? Check out what Proverbs has to say! Don’t be led astray! Don’t be seduced! Put your hope and trust in God! Take care of the person you married! Don’t let someone else’s decision to break their relationship cause you to fall into the trap! Trust in God! Pursue Him! Do what you must to keep your relationship healthy and strong! Pour love into it! Pour hope into it! Pour truth into it! You will sow what you reap, so sow into your relationships what you hope to get out of them! Allow God to help it grow! Don’t get led down the path to destruction! Consider the consequences! Trust in God and follow in His ways before it is too late!

2. Be faithful to God’s calling, his promises and his message

… Luke 2:1-20

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to their own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

–from Luke 2

Let’s consider the importance of faithfulness as we read today’s devotional from today’s reading

The faithfulness of those who played a part in the birth of Jesus is inspirational.

Be faithful to God’s calling

In this understated account we read how Joseph went to Bethlehem, ‘to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child’ (v.5).

It can’t have looked good. Joseph knew that Mary had not been unfaithful. However, he must have known that to everyone else around, it looked as if she had. The temptation must have been to dissociate himself from her (the account found in Matthew 1:19 even says he considered divorcing her quietly until an angel of the Lord spoke to him).

However, he was utterly faithful to God’s calling and to Mary, no matter how it looked from the outside.

Be faithful to God’s promises

Mary must have been bewildered by what was going on. Yet, she believed what she had been told – she was faithful to the promises she had received. She ‘treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart’ (Luke 2:19).

This is a wonderful example of what to do with prophecy and other words that you sense may be from God. Sometimes, you need to keep them to yourself. Like Mary, keep your mouth closed and, at the same time, keep your heart open. Treasure up God’s promises to you and ponder them in your heart.

Be faithful to God’s message

The shepherds’ message was very different however. It was ‘good news… for all the people’ (v.10). Once they had found the baby in the manger as the angel had described, ‘they spread the word concerning what had been told them’ (v.17). You too have been entrusted with this amazing message about Jesus and are called to faithfully ‘spread the word’.

Trust that God is faithful

Above all, this is an account of God’s faithfulness. Everything that God had promised to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, took place ‘just as they had been told’ (v.20). Yet God’s faithfulness to them was part of something even greater.

We begin to see how Jesus is the fulfilment of all God’s promises in the Old Testament. He is born in ‘the town of David’ (v.11), and his earthly father is ‘of the house and line of David’ (v.4). He is the promised king to whom the whole Old Testament points, ‘he is the Messiah’ (v.11).

This is ‘good news… for all the people’ (v.10). We see here a glimpse of what that means for us. Jesus is your ‘saviour’ (v.11), through whom you can know the peace and favour of God (v.14). You no longer need to carry a burden of fear (‘Do not be afraid’, v.10a). In knowing Christ you know God. He himself is God; he is ‘the Lord’ (v.11). God’s faithfulness and love are the bedrock on which everything else is built.

–from Day 76: Bible In One Year 2017

3. Be faithful in response to God’s faithfulness

… Numbers 5:11-6:27

11Then the Lord said to Moses, 12“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.
16“ ‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”
“ ‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”
23“ ‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. 25The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. 26The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. 28If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.
29“ ‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, 30or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. 31The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’ ”

–from Numbers 5

The Nazirite

1The Lord said to Moses, 2“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, 3they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. 4As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.
5“ ‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.
6“ ‘Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. 7Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head. 8Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord.
9“ ‘If someone dies suddenly in the Nazirite’s presence, thus defiling the hair that symbolizes their dedication, they must shave their head on the seventh day—the day of their cleansing. 10Then on the eighth day they must bring two doves or two young pigeons to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 11The priest is to offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering to make atonement for the Nazirite because they sinned by being in the presence of the dead body. That same day they are to consecrate their head again. 12They must rededicate themselves to the Lord for the same period of dedication and must bring a year-old male lamb as a guilt offering. The previous days do not count, because they became defiled during their period of dedication.
13“ ‘Now this is the law of the Nazirite when the period of their dedication is over. They are to be brought to the entrance to the tent of meeting. 14There they are to present their offerings to the Lord: a year-old male lamb without defect for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering, a ram without defect for a fellowship offering, 15together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and a basket of bread made with the finest flour and without yeast—thick loaves with olive oil mixed in, and thin loaves brushed with olive oil.
16“ ‘The priest is to present all these before the Lord and make the sin offering and the burnt offering. 17He is to present the basket of unleavened bread and is to sacrifice the ram as a fellowship offering to the Lord, together with its grain offering and drink offering.
18“ ‘Then at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that symbolizes their dedication. They are to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering.
19“ ‘After the Nazirite has shaved off the hair that symbolizes their dedication, the priest is to place in their hands a boiled shoulder of the ram, and one thick loaf and one thin loaf from the basket, both made without yeast. 20The priest shall then wave these before the Lord as a wave offering; they are holy and belong to the priest, together with the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. After that, the Nazirite may drink wine.
21“ ‘This is the law of the Nazirite who vows offerings to the Lord in accordance with their dedication, in addition to whatever else they can afford. They must fulfill the vows they have made, according to the law of the Nazirite.’ ”

The Priestly Blessing

22The Lord said to Moses, 23“Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24“ ‘ “The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.” ’
27“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

–from Numbers 6

Let’s consider the importance of faithfulness as we read today’s devotional from today’s reading

Be faithful to your marriage partner

The elaborate instructions here (5:11–31) are an indication of how destructive unfaithfulness can be in a marriage. Whereas our passage in Proverbs was a warning against adultery, this passage deals with the consequences of adultery. However, the law recognised that suspicion of sexual unfaithfulness was not enough. It might have arisen simply out of jealousy. There might have been false accusations. It was particularly important to protect women from false accusations, as their position in ancient societies was more vulnerable. If the woman was innocent, this test meant that she had nothing to fear. The water was not harmful in itself. The law required a demonstration of guilt rather than one of innocence. Whether the husband chose to use this test depended on the kind of person he was. Joseph did not use it (Matthew 1:19).

Be faithful to your promises

The Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:1–21) could be lifelong (for example Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist) or temporary. It was a particular expression of holiness not required of everyone. It was not a matter of extra merit. Jesus himself was not a Nazirite (although he was a Nazarene – which is slightly different!). The important point of this passage is that if you do make promises to God, you should be faithful to them.

Be faithful in response to God’s faithfulness

Aaron and his sons were told by God how to pronounce God’s blessing on his people (vv.24–27). This is how God wants to bless you and me.

He wants to bless you with his presence, his face shining on you: ‘God smile on you’ (v.25, MSG). He wants to be gracious to you (v.25b). He is kind, merciful, forgiving and full of love.

He gives you his peace (v.26b) in the midst of the troubles of life and his protection (v.24). He wants to keep you from evil and falling away from him. God’s desire from first to last is to bless you (vv.24,27).

As you experience God’s faithfulness to you, your response should be to be faithful to him in all of your relationships.

–from Day 76: Bible In One Year 2017