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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.