We begin the year with the words of verse 105: 'Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path'. This a great text with which to begin the year. It is a great starting-point for these studies in God's Word. As we journey through life with God and His Word, we discover that there is a Word from the Lord for every part of life's journey. There is never a time when God has nothing to say to His people. Sometimes, He speaks to us from places which seem rather unlikely. As we explore His Word, we learn that He is the true and living God, ever ready to bring to us something new, something fresh, something that will send us on our way rejoicing, something that will strengthen our faith, something to deepen our commitment to Christ, something to increase our love for the Saviour. As we receive God's Word - 'a lamp to our feet and a light to our path' - we are to pray, 'renew my life, O Lord, according to Your Word' (107).
2nd January: Psalm 23:1-6
Turning to 'the Shepherd Psalm', we focus our attention on verse 5: 'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows'. We are to feast on God's Word. We are to be filled with God's Spirit. The 'table' is the place of feasting. 'Oil' is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. As we feast on God's Word, we will have good cause to say, again and again, 'God is good': His 'goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life' (6). The Lord never fails us. He always comes with His life-giving Word, the Word of life, through which our life on earth becomes the beginning of life eternal, the pathway to a life in which the fullness of God's love will be revealed in a way that we can hardly begin to imagine: 'I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever' (6). This is what Christ is preparing for us (John 14:2)!
3rd January: Psalm 42:1-11
As we read God's Word day-by-day, we are to pray for an increase of our desire for God: 'My soul thirsts for God, for the living God' (2). This is the spiritual experience, referred to in verse 7: 'Deep calls to deep'. This is what Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 2:10 - Through His Spirit, God is at work in us, revealing to us 'the deep things of God. God has given us His Spirit for this reason - 'that we may understand what God has freely given us' (1 Cor.2:12). God wants us to explore, with Him, the meaning of the great salvation which He has so graciously provided for us in Jesus Christ. Learning of God's salvation, we will say with the Psalmist, 'I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God' (11). This song of praise will grow strong in both our personal devotions - 'a prayer to the God of my life' (8) - and our public worship - going 'to the house of God' (4).
4th January: Genesis 1:1-3
'Genesis' means 'beginning'. These opening verses challenge us to get our priorities right - (a) The priority of God (1). God comes first. Before anyone else is mentioned, He is there. (b) The priority of God's Word (3). God is the first to speak. Before any human word is spoken, there is the Word of the Lord. (c) The priority of God's Spirit (2). All was 'empty', all was 'darkness', yet the 'Spirit of God' was at work, and transformation was set in motion. Here, we have God's priorities, set out in the Bible's first three verses - Putting God first and listening to His Word, we are to pray for the moving of God's Spirit, 'hovering over' our lives to transform them. For those who make God's priorities their own, there is a promise of great blessing (Psalm 1:1-2). It is the great blessing of knowing Jesus Christ, our Saviour, as 'God with us' (Matthew 1.23).
5th January: Genesis 1:4-13
God speaks, and it is done (3,6-7,11). God is pleased with what He has done (4,10, 12). This is the pattern of God's original creation. It is to be the pattern of our life as a 'new creation' (2 Corintinians 5:17). God speaks to us and we say, 'Your will be done' (Matthew 6:10). We say, 'let it be to me according to Your Word' (Luke 1:38). God looks on such obedience, this 'walking in the Spirit' (Galatians 5:16, 22-23), and He sees that it is 'good' (Micah 6:8). In these verses we read of the separation of the light and the darkness, the separation of the waters and the dry land, and the fruitfulness of God's creation. There are lessons for us here. We are to 'walk in the light' (1 John 1:7). We are to to the Spirit's 'living water' flow in us (John 7:39-39). Walking in the light, letting the living water flow - this is the way of fruitfulness.
6th January: Genesis 1:14-25
The Bible's opening chapter is a great hymn of praise, emphasizing that all things have been created for the glory of God (Revelation 4:11). Nothing can be permitted to distract our attention from the Lord. He alone is worthy of worship. The creation of the 'lights' makes no reference to the sun and the moon. These were worshipped by neighbouring peoples. They are not gods. They are simply 'lights'. Our worship is to be given to God alone. The waters teemed with living creatures. The land produced living creatures. Here, we have a picture of life. There is life where the living water of the Spirit is flowing freely among God's people (Ezekiel 47:5-9). This water brings life to the land (Ezekiel 47:12). Moving with the flow of God's Spirit, we are to pray that 'the water of life' will flow freely 'for the healing of the nations' (Revelation 22:2).
7th January: Genesis 1:26-2:3
We now come to the creation of humanity, male and female. Our creation is described in a distinctive way - created in the image of God (26-27). We are different from the rest of creation. We have been given dominion over 'all the earth' and 'every living creature' (26,28). We are different from God. He is the Creator. We are His creation. Created in God's image, we have been created by Him and for Him. Though we have sinned (see Genesis 3, Romans 3:23), now - in Jesus Christ - we have begun to live as a new creation (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10). The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1) and that 'all things were created by Him and for Him' (Colossians 1:16). This is the Saviour who is at work in us, enabling us to live as a new creation! Creation has been 'completed' (2:1). Salvation will be completed (Philippians 1:6)!
8th January: Genesis 2:4-14
We read of 'the breath of life', producing 'a living being' (7). Separated from God through our sin, we have become spiritually dead (Ephesians 4:18; 2:1), we have been 'born again', 'born of the Spirit'. This new birth is brought about by the breath of life, the wind of the Spirit (John 3:5-8). As the river watered the garden (2:10), so our lives are to be watered by 'the river' which flows 'from the throne of God and of the Lamb' (Revelation 22:1). As we read of the 'tree' which features in our fall into sin (2:9; 3:2-6), our thoughts turn also to the 'tree' which forms the foundation of our salvation - Christ 'Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness' (1 Peter 2:24). In our hearts, we say, 'God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Galatians 6:14).
9th January: Genesis 2:15-17
We noted, in 1:1-3, the importance of getting our priorities right - God, God's Word, God's Spirit. Here, we emphasize the importance of these priorities. We are under God. We must remember that He is God (15). We are to obey God's Word (16). Here we learn that the act of obedience is an act of freedom. In Christ, we are set free to obey God. God says, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden'. He does not then say, 'You are free to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. He says, 'You must not'. The act of disobedience is not an act of freedom. By choosing the way of sin, we show that we are in bondage. We are not free. We are the captives of sin, and we need to be set free - by Christ (John 8:32,36). We come to know God, choosing good rather than evil, as we follow the way of God's Spirit (Galatians 5:16; Hebrews 5:14).
10th January: Genesis 2:18-25
We come here to the creation of woman. Her creation is bound up with the creation of man. She is created from man's 'rib' (21-22). The 'rib' is taken from his side, emphasizing that man and woman are to be together, side-by-side, not one in front of the other. The 'rib', rather than the head or the feet, emphasizes this togetherness rather than any superiority-inferiority relationship. The 'rib' is close to the heart. Woman is close to the heart of man. Both are close to the heart of God. The contrast between humanity and the animals is again clear. Among the animals, there was 'no suitable helper' for the man (20). The animals had been 'formed out of the ground' (19). Humanity has come from 'the breath of life' (7). Like the animals, we come from 'the dust of the ground', but there is more: the Breath of God, created in His image to glorify Him!
11th January: Genesis 3:1-5
We have read about the beginning of creation (1:1). Now we come to the beginning of sin. In these verses, we have temptation. Note that temptation is not sin. It only becomes sin when we do what the tempter suggests (6). Temptation comes from 'that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan' (Revelation 12:9). Satan reverses the priorities of God, God's Word and God's Spirit. God is 'our Father' (Matthew 6:9). Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). Satan quotes and questions God's Word (1). He not only questions God's Word . He contradicts it (4). Satan is spiritual, an evil spirit. We must be aware of his schemes, and , in Christ, we must take our stand against his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11). When Satan says, 'Did God really say?' (1), we must wage war for God, filled with His Word and Spirit (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
12th January: Genesis 3:6-9
Once we were innocent. Now we are guilty. The story of Adam and Eve is repeated over and over again. This is our story as well as Adam and Eve's story. Even in the face of sin, we see something else. We see the God of love, seeking to restore the fallen to Himself. In His words, 'Where are you?', we catch an early glimpse of the Gospel of salvation: 'the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost' (Luke 19:10). Adam and Eve had lost their way. Now, God was looking for them to bring them back to Himself. In the question, 'Where are you?', there is the searching question, 'What have you done?', but there is also the passionate appeal, 'Will you not return to me?'. This is the call of mercy: 'Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, "O sinner, come home"' (Sacred Songs & Solos, 414). Our loving Father is waiting patiently to welcome the returning prodigal (Luke 15:20).
13th January: Genesis 3:10-15
Having chosen the way of sin, we are 'naked' and ashamed (10). The Gospel teaches us that 'there's a way back to God from the dark paths of sin'. We can be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. We can bring the 'filthy rags' of 'our righteous acts' (Isaiah 64:6) to God, and we can exchange them for the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Putting our trust in Christ, we need not be ashamed in God's presence (Romans 10:11). There must be no 'passing the buck' - the man blaming the woman, the woman blaming the serpent (12-13). We are to confess our sins and receive God's forgiveness (1 John 1:9). This forgiveness comes to us through the Cross where the suffering Saviour becomes the victorious Victor and the subtle serpent became the defeated devil. This is the message of verse 15: through the Cross, God has provided for us a full salvation!
Tues. 14th January: Genesis 3:16-24
Sin has consequences. Human life could never be the same once sin had entered it. The effects of sin can be seen in the whole of life. The most profound effect of sin is summed up in verse 22. We cannot reach out our hands and take hold of eternal life. There is no way to heaven which begins with the word 'I'. We must begin with God - 'God so loved the world...' (John 3:16). No sinner can open the door of heaven: 'Christ only could unlock the gate of heaven, and let us in'. Sin leads not to heaven but to 'death'. If we insist on trying to get to heaven by our own good works, we will earn our 'wages' - 'the wages of sin is death'. Come as a sinner to Jesus. Come to Him, saying, 'Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling' ( Church Hymnary, 83). Look to Him alone for salvation, and know the truth of God's Word: 'the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 6:23).
15th January: Matthew 1:1-17
From the beginning of the Old Testament, we move to the beginning of the New Testament. This may be the beginning of the New Testament, but it is not the beginning of God's revelation. It is not the beginning of His redemption. The birth of Christ is the continuation of the history of salvation, recorded in the Old Testament. Matthew takes us back to Abraham (1-2; Genesis 12:1-3). Recalling the great events of the Old Testament, he takes us through forty-two generations. This history is the story of God's grace. We may illustrate this with two striking examples. Rahab (5) was a 'prostitute', yet, by the grace of God, through faith, she also takes her place with the people of God (Hebrews 11:31; Ephesians 2:8). The story of David and Uriah's wife (6) is a story of deceit (2 Samuel 11) - 'where sin increased, grace increased all the more' (Romans 5:20)!
16th January: Matthew 1:18-25
The birth of Christ is a fulfilment of prophecy: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel' (23; Isaiah 7:14). Christ is 'God with us'. He was born through the power of the Holy Spirit (18,20). He is still 'God with us', when we are 'born of the Spirit' (John 3:5). Some people do not believe what the Bible says here. They do not like the idea of a 'virgin birth'. The Bible gives no encouragement to such unbelief. Matthew simply says, 'This is the way it happened' (18). In view of the amazing thing God was doing - sending His Son to be the Saviour of the World - why should we doubt that God took things out of man's hands and worked in His own miraculous way? We rejoice not only in the miracle but also in its saving purpose: 'He will save His people from their sins' (21).
17th January: Matthew 2:1-6
We think of this chapter as 'the story of the wise men'. It is not so much about the wise men. It is about Jesus. He is the central character. We are not told how many wise men there were. The word, 'three' does not appear (1). We are not told their names. We are not told exactly where they came from - just, they came 'from the East' (1). The important thing is that they made their journey. They came, seeking Jesus: 'Where is he...?'. They came 'to worship Him' (2). The wise men were led to Jesus not only by 'His star' (2) but also by the Scriptures. When asked where the child was to be born, they answered by quoting from the Scriptures (5-6; Micah 5:2). Wise men are still led to Christ through the Scriptures. Reading the Scriptures, we become wise for salvation as we find Christ who is our Wisdom (2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
18th January: Matthew 2:7-12
Bethlehem was a 'little town'. Humanly speaking, it did not have any great importance. Its importance is derived from the fact that it was the birth place of our Saviour. When we think of Bethlehem, we do not think so much of the place as the Saviour who was born there. Herod says that he wants to go to Bethlehem to worship Jesus (8). Satan was speaking through Herod. Satan has no intention of worshipping God, and neither had Herod. Satan 'comes only to steal and kill and destroy'. Christ comes to give 'life...to the full' (John 10:10). As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Herod was not a worshipper of Christ but a servant of Satan. The wise men worship Jesus, then they return to their own country. We know nothing about their return journey, their destination or their life in their own country. Their whole purpose was to point away from themselves to Jesus.
19th January: Matthew 2:13-23
The story unfolds according to God's saving purpose and not Herod's Satanic schemes. Herod dies. Jesus lives. The purpose of man is defeated. The purpose of God prevails. Jesus' time in Egypt is full of prophetic significance (15; Hosea 11:1). Egypt was the place of bondage. God turns everything around, making it the place of protection (Exodus 1:11; 13-15). The emphasis is not on the place. It is on what God is doing, as He fulfils His purpose. From Bethlehem to Egypt and then to Nazareth - the young Jesus is being taken from place to place - all in the perfect plan of God. Again, the emphasis is not on the place but on God's purpose. Nazareth was a humble place, dignified by the fact that God chose it to be the home of His Son. Our concern is not with wise men or famous places. 'Turn your eyes upon Jesus'. 'Stand amazed in the presence of Jesus'.
20th January: Psalm 1:1-6
As well as journeying through the Old and New Testaments, we will read a Psalm at fairly regular intervals. The first Psalm contrasts two ways - the way of the Word and the way of the world, the way of blessing and the way of judgment. Encouraging us to build upon the solid foundation of God's Word, the opening Psalm sets the tone for what is to follow. To whet your appetite for the Psalms, here are some early lessons: stability in the Lord (1:1-2); service for the Lord (2:11); salvation of the Lord (3:8); sanctification from the Lord (4:4-5); singing to the Lord (8:4); strength in the Lord (9:9). These are some of the blessings promised to those who 'delight in the law of the Lord' (1-2). With a God like this - full of so much blessing for us - what else can we do but rejoice in Him?
21st January: Genesis 4:1-5
The name of Abel appears among 'the heroes of the faith' (Hebrews 11:14). The story of Abel is a story of grace, faith and obedience. Abel's sacrifice was a blood sacrifice while Cain's was a fruit sacrifice (3-4). The blood sacrifice points forward - via the Old Testament sacrificial system - to the greatest sacrifice of all - 'the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin' (1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:12). The blood sacrifice points to salvation by grace - 'without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness' (Hebrews 9:22). Abel's sacrifice was an act of faith: 'By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did' (Hebrews 11:4). The blood reminds us that true faith is always faith in Christ and never 'faith' in anything we can ever offer to God. Abel was obedient, bringing 'the firstborn' to God. 'In the course of time Cain brought some...'.
22nd January: Genesis 4:6-16.
In the story of Cain, we see the development of sin. Jealousy leads to anger, and anger leads to murder. In this story, we see ourselves in the 'mirror' of God's Word. Here, God emphasizes our exceeding sinfulness - 'The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt' (Jeremiah 17:9). Our sinfulness leads us away from 'the presence of the Lord' to 'the land of wandering (Nod)' (16). This is the work of Satan in our lives - Genesis 4 is an extension of Genesis 3. Even in the land of wandering, the hand of God is upon us. This is the meaning of 'the mark of Cain' - 'so that no one who found him would kill him' (15). Even in our wanderings, God is waiting in mercy for us to make our way back to Him by coming in faith to Jesus Christ our Saviour. Even when 'sin' is a good bit more than 'crouching at the door', it can be 'mastered' through Christ (6; Hebrews 7:25).
23rd January: Genesis 4:17-26
The story of Cain and Abel is a continuing story. Abel died, yet 'by faith still speaks, even though he is dead' (Hebrews 11:4). Cain 'went out from the presence of the Lord'. He became 'a restless wanderer' (14,16). What a contrast there is between these two brothers! For Abel, there was glory in the presence of the Lord - 'By faith he was commended as a righteous man' (Hebrews 11:4), he was 'justified by faith' (Romans 5:1). Cain was quite different. Far from God, he had no peace. He was haunted by his sins. What does God's Word say to us about Cain? - 'Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother...because his own actions were evil and his brothers were righteous' (1 John 3:12). Cain's sinful influence continues. We must be on our guard. The chapter ends with hope: 'At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord' ( 26).
24th January: Genesis 5:1-17
From the story of Cain - taking God for granted (the opposite of grace), approaching God proudly (the opposite of faith), rebelling against God (the opposite of obedience) - , we come to a list of names and numbers. In this first part of the chapter, there is nothing of any note. Perhaps, this is the significant feature of this long list of names. There is nothing considered to be worthy of special note, except the length of their lives. What a sad reflection on the value of a life when all that can be said is this: He lived, and he died! What we must remember is this: the quantity of our years is less important than the quality of our living. How long we live is less important than how well we live. We have been 'created...in the likeness of God' (1), yet so often we miss out on this spiritual dimension. We have been 'blessed' by God (2) - 'Count your blessings'.
25th January: Genesis 5:18-32
In this second part of the list, two names get a special mention - Enoch and Noah (22,24,29). The reference to Enoch is the more memorable of the two. Enoch's life was characterized by grace, faith and obedience. The life-story of so many others could be told without reference to God. Enoch's story was the story of God at work in his life. So many life-stories end with the words, 'he died'. Enoch's life on earth points beyond itself (24). Enoch had 'walked with God' (22, 24 ). Building his life upon the God of grace, Enoch had, by faith, stepped out of this present world and into 'what we hope for', 'what we do not see' (Hebrews 11:5,1). What a testimony Enoch left behind him! Not much is said about him, but what power of the Spirit of God there is in these few words! The reference to 'the Lord' in Noah's life (29) prepares us for what is to come (chs. 6-9).
26th January: Matthew 3:1-12
This chapter begins with 'John the Baptist' (1). It ends with our Lord Jesus Christ concerning whom the Voice from heaven says, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased' (17). Once John had served his purpose, once he has pointed away from himself to the Lord Jesus Christ, he retreats into the background. This is how it must always be. We point to One who is 'more powerful' than ourselves (11; Romans 1:16). With John, we must learn to say, 'Christ must increase, I must decrease' (John 3:30). The contrast between John and Jesus is highlighted in verse 11 - ' I baptize with water... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire'. This is still the contrast between the preacher and the Saviour - We preach the Word. He sends the power. Still He says, 'You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses' (Acts 1:8).
27th January: Matthew 3:13-17
Considering the contrast between Jesus and John - John is not fit to carry Christ's sandals (11) - , it is quite remarkable that Jesus submits Himself to baptism by John. Why does He do this? Jesus gives us the reason in verse 15: 'it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness'. When Jesus uses the word 'proper' (or fitting), does He use it to mean 'according to convention'? No - He means that 'it is fitting' into God's perfect plan of salvation. It is part of His perfect obedience to the Father. It is part of what is involved in His giving Himself for us as 'the Righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God' (1 Peter 3:18). As well as directing us to the Cross, Jesus' baptism directs to Pentecost - the descent of the Spirit (16; Acts 2:1-4). Christ died for us. The Spirit lives in us. Jesus 'fits' our need perfectly!
28th January: Matthew 4:1-11
God the Father has declared Jesus to be His Son (3:17). Now, the devil challenges God's Word: 'If you are the Son of God...' (3). The Spirit has descended upon Jesus (3:16). Now, the devil uses his power in an attempt to defeat Jesus. The devil sows seeds of doubt; the 'if you are...' approach is just the same as his 'Did God really say?' method used in Genesis 3:1. The devil is 'crafty' (Genesis 3:1). He comes to Jesus, quoting from the Bible (6; Psalm 91:11-12). His real goal becomes clear in verse 9 - he wants Jesus to 'bow down and worship' him. In Jesus' victory over the devil, we see the importance of Scripture - 'It is written' (4, 7, 10). We learn that true life comes from God (4), true safety is found in God (7); and true worship is given to God (10). When the tempter comes, we must stand on God's Word: 'every Word that comes from...God' ( 4).
29th January: Matthew 4:12-17
Having overcome His enemy, Jesus begins His ministry. Satan will be back - Luke ends his account of Jesus' temptations with these ominous words, 'When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left until an opportune time' (4:12). Satan will try again, but - for now - he has failed to stop Jesus setting out on His ministry, a ministry which brings light into the darkness. The light is shining brightly - 'the Kingdom of heaven is near' (17). Jesus' ministry is viewed as a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (15-16; Isaiah 9:1-2). The prophecy had been given: Death will be overcome, men and women will be delivered from 'the shadow of death'. Now, in Christ, the prophecy has been fulfilled: by His death, Christ has destroyed 'him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil' and He has set 'free' those who live in 'fear of death' (Hebrews 2:14-15).
30th January: Matthew 4:18-25
Christ's victory over the world was won for us (1 John 3:8: 5:4-5). Jesus was not a loner. He was a team leader: 'From victory to victory His army He will lead' (Church Hymnary, 481). At the very outset of His ministry, He set about putting together His ministry team. Peter, Andrew, James and John were the first four disciples. He called them to follow Him. His call was both gracious and demanding. It is gracious because it is the Saviour who calls us: 'Follow Me'. It is demanding because He calls us to follow, to submit to His Lordship: 'Follow Me'. These men were called to a new kind of 'fishing' (19). Jesus' ministry reached 'great crowds' through His 'teaching ...preaching ...and healing' (23-25). This chapter sets the scene for Jesus' ministry. We see the Word of the Lord triumphant over Satan, fulfilled in Christ, and effective in the lives of the disciples and the crowds.
31st January: Proverbs 1:1-7
Scripture speaks of different kinds of 'wisdom'. In Proverbs, wisdom is closely associated with godliness. In Ecclesiastes, wisdom - viewed as mere human intelligence - is described as 'meaningless, a chasing after the wind' (1:12-18). This contrast is continued in the New Testament, where Paul describes Christ as our 'Wisdom', contrasting this Wisdom with 'the wisdom of the world' (1 Corinthians 1:18-25,30). The purpose of Proverbs is set out in its opening verses. Notice the vital connection between 'understanding' and 'doing' (2-3). We are to be 'doers' as well as 'hearers' of God's Word (James 1:22). We are to 'keep what is written' in God's Word (Revelation 1:3). The great theme of Proverbs is stated in verse 7: 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge'. Christ is our Wisdom. We will never be wise unless we build our lives on Him (Matthew 7: 24-27).
1st February : Genesis 6:1-8
The story of Noah is the story of God's grace - 'Noah found grace' (8). Noah lived in very difficult times (5-7), yet 'Grace found Noah'. His testimony could be summed up: 'Amazing grace...I once was lost but now am found' (Mission Praise, 31). Expanding on the thought of 5:29 - 'this one (Noah) shall bring relief from our work and from the toil of our hands' - we may allow our thoughts to turn to Christ and say to Him: 'Not the labour of my hands can fulfil Thy law's demands...All for sin could not atone, Thou must save, and Thou alone. Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy Cross I cling' (Church Hymnary, 83). In these two statements - 'Noah found grace' and 'this one will bring...', we see both salvation and service. We are saved to serve. Once we ourselves have been found by grace, we are to seek to bring others to Christ that they also may be saved by Him and become His servants.
2nd February: Genesis 6:9-22
To view the flood exclusively in terms of judgment is to see only one side of what God was doing. As well as judging, He was also saving - 'In this ship a few people - eight in all - were saved by water' (1 Peter 3:20). The ark points forward to Christ 'who came back from death to life', Christ who 'saves' us (1 Peter 3:21). God was working out His purpose of salvation. In Noah's day, the remnant of faith was very small, yet the promise of God's love was given to them - 'I will establish My covenant with you' (18). Even when wickedness threatens to overwhelm us, we still have God's promise of love, 'the new covenant in Christ's blood' (1 Corinthians 11:25). 'The blood of Jesus, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin' (1 John 1:7). Knowing that Christ loved us and died for us, we are to be like Noah (22). We are to walk with the Lord and serve Him.
3rd February: Genesis 7:1-24
Here, we pick up on the words of verse 16 - 'the Lord closed the door behind them'. What was going on outside of the ark is contrasted with the haven of salvation inside the ark. What was it that made the ark a place of salvation? - The Lord. What is it that makes Jesus Christ the Source of our salvation? - God has given Him the Name that is above every name, the Name of our salvation (Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 4:12). From the ark, we learn of (a) the one way of salvation - The ark had only one door. Jesus is 'the Door' which leads to salvation (John 10:9); (b) the eternal security of salvation - All were safe inside the ark. In Christ there is eternal security (John 10:28); (c) the absolute necessity of salvation - Outside of the ark, there was certain death. Refusal to come to Christ for salvation leads to judgment: 'How shall we escape...?' (Hebrews 2:3).
4th February: Genesis 8:1-22
Following the flood, we have this simple yet striking declaration: 'the ground was dry' (13). Safe from judgment! This is the message which comes to us from the Cross: 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). The judgment has fallen upon Christ. We are no longer swept away in the judgment. We can stand on solid ground: 'On Christ the solid Rock I stand' (Church Hymnary, 411). He is our Support in 'the whelming flood'. God said to Noah, 'Come out of the ship' (15). We are in Christ. He is the Source of our salvation. God has brought us into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). He does not bring us into Christ solely for our own benefit. We are sent out to be fruitful (17: John 15: 16). We are to 'abide in Christ'. This is the way of fruitfulness (John 15: 4-5). We are not sent out alone. Strengthened in 'the ship' (in Christ), we step out with Christ and for Him.
5th February: Genesis 9:1-19
'When you see a rainbow, remember God is love'. The rainbow reminds us of the gracious promise of God (13-15). If the love of God is revealed in the rainbow, it is more fully revealed in the Cross: 'We sing the praise of Him who died, of Him who died upon the Cross...upon the Cross we see in shining, letters 'God is love', He bears our sins upon the tree. He brings us mercy from above'. When we read the Old Testament stories, we must learn to see their place within the fuller Story, the Story of God's salvation: 'I will sing the wondrous Story of the Christ who died for me'. This is the greatest Story of all - 'the Story of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love,...the Story of wonderful redemption, God's remedy for sin'. 'This is our Story. This is our Song, praising our Saviour all the day long'. This is 'the Story to tell to the nations' (Church Hymnary, 258,381,132; Mission Praise, 59,744).
6th February: Genesis 9:20-29
What a sad episode this is! It teaches us that yesterday's victories can become today's defeats, if we do not keep close to God. We read, in Hebrews 11:7 of Noah the man of faith, but here we have a very different picture. The lesson is clear - 'The arm of flesh will fail you; Ye dare not trust your own'. We must not look to our own strength to keep us in the way of faith and obedience. It cannot be done. We fail. 'God can do anything but fail'. We must affirm our faith in God - 'All my hope on God is founded'. In man, there is no sure foundation - only 'change and chance'. There is nothing that will last - 'only pride of man and earthly glory' (Church Hymnary, 481,405). Can we be guided through change and chance? Yes, but we must learn from Noah's fall - Past grace is no guarantee of present growth - , and we must keep our eyes on Jesus, 'the Author and Finisher of our faith' (Hebrews 12: 2).
7th February: Matthew 5:1-2
Here, we have the introduction to 'the Sermon on the Mount' (chs 5-7). Reference is made to both 'the disciples' and 'the crowds'. The disciples are taught with a view to becoming teachers of the crowds. Peter learned from Christ and later he taught the crowds (Acts 2:14-42). The Sermon on the Mount was heard by the crowds as well as the disciples. Jesus spoke to the crowds. His ministry to the disciples had a dual purpose. It was for their own spiritual strengthening. It was training for the time when they would be entrusted with the Lord's commission: 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you' (Matthew 28: 19-20). Do you read God's Word solely for your own benefit? Or, do we have an eye for ways in which we can learn to share His Word with others?
8th February: Matthew 5:3-12
'The Beatitudes' show us God's way of blessing. We might also describe them as the Be Attitudes, since they show us what we are to be. Jesus teaches us that the way to happiness is the way of holiness. The only alternative to the way of holiness is the way of hypocrisy. There can be no true happiness when we are walking in the way of hypocrisy. Holiness is to take shape in our lives - the shape of Jesus Christ living in us. This is the truly happy life: the Christ centered life. We are not to live according to present appearances. We are to live in the light of the future Reality of God's heavenly Kingdom. Some of Jesus' later statements can be viewed as an exploration of the meaning of the Beatitudes. The general principles (3-10) are to be applied personally: 'Blessed are you...' (11-12). We are not only to read the Beatitudes. We are to live them.
9th February: Matthew 5:13-16
Holiness is to be seen. Happiness is to be shared. We are not to be secret disciples. It will not be easy to live the life of Christ's disciples. In a world of much corruption, we are to be 'the salt of the earth' (13). In a world of much darkness we are to be 'the light of the world' (14). If we are to bring the refreshing light of Christ into our world, we ourselves must receive spiritual refreshment as we let the light of God's Word shine on our lives. Reading God's Word can never be a purely personal thing. Being 'the salt of the earth' and 'the light of the world' - this is what Jesus says we are - , we read Scripture with a view to learning how we are to live in the world. Don't lose your saltiness. Be salty enough to create a thirst for God in other people. Don't let your light grow dim. Let it shine brightly. Remember - all the glory belongs to God (16; Psalm 115:1).
10th February: Matthew 5:17-20
In verse 20, Jesus refers to 'the scribes and Pharisees'. Jesus warned against the shallow superficiality of these men who were more concerned with outward appearances than inner reality. This conflict with the Jewish religious leaders lies close to the surface in the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus says, 'This is their way. This is My way', He is not calling in question the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures: 'Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them' (17). He is in conflict with 'the hypocrites' (6:2 5,16). He is warning against the 'false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves' (7:15). What a difference there was between Jesus' teaching and those who 'preach, but do not practise' (23:3) - He spoke with 'authority', they did not (7:29). May we be like Jesus!
11th February: Matthew 5:21-37
The teaching of Jesus here may be summed up thus: The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Jesus' teaching was much more penetrating than the pronouncements made by the scribes and Pharisees. Not content to scratch the surface, Jesus asked the deeper question, 'What's going on in your heart?'. Jesus' teaching has real spiritual depth. He takes seriously the biblical teaching that 'the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt' (Jeremiah 17:9). He knows that we need a 'new heart' (Ezekiel 36:26). The Pharisees were bogged down in intricate details - Do this. Do that. Do the other. All the emphasis was on what we do. Christ was much more direct - Get the heart right. Ask God for a heart of love (21-26), purity (27-32), and truthfulness (33-37). Do not say, 'Look what I've done' (7:22). Let Christ live in your heart; let Him change you.
12th February: Matthew 5:38-48
The Pharisees lived by law. Jesus lived by love. The law of God - 'holy and just and good' (Romans 7:12) - had been distorted by the religious hypocrites. They were saying, 'love your neighbour and hate your enemy' (43). 'Love your neighbour' is found in Leviticus 19:18. 'Hate your enemy' is not found in the Old Testament. For the Jews, 'neighbour' meant their own kind. They wrongly concluded that Gentiles were to be hated. Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that we are to love our enemies as well as our friends (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus' disagreement is not with the law of God. It is with man's misuse of it. Jesus' teaching is simple - Love is not to be limited. It is demanding - love is all-embracing. We dare not bring love within our reach. We always fall short. We can only come to Christ. Confessing our lack of love and trusting in His perfect love, we learn to love.
13th February: Psalm 2:1-12
In this Psalm we read of a conflict. On the one side there is 'the Lord and His Anointed' (2). On the other there are those who 'conspire and...plot' (1). The conspiracies and plots of men will come to nothing. The saving purpose of God will be fulfilled. This purpose will be accomplished in Christ, the One to whom God says, 'You are my Son' (7), the One to whom God says, 'I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession' (8). God calls us to worship Christ - 'Kiss the Son' (12). This call to worship Christ is accompanied by a warning against judgment and a promise of salvation. As sinners, we are under God's judgment. Trusting in Christ, we are saved (12; John 3:36). We are to take delight in Christ. This is the thought conveyed by the phrase, 'Kiss the Son'. We delight in God's Son, and we delight in God's Word which leads us to Him.
14th February: Genesis 10:1-32
What a lot of names! Why is all this included in God's Word? It may describe the historical context of God's unfolding purpose of providing salvation for sinners, but what does it say to us? The inclusion of so many obscure names emphasizes that everyone - however obscure - is important. 'God so loved the world' (John 3:16) - not only the 'important' people but all people. Names are important to God. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls His sheep 'by name' (John 10:3). Among the many names there is an interesting reference to 'Nimrod, the first mighty warrior on the earth...a mighty hunter whom the Lord blessed' (8-9). First among 'the cities of his kingdom' was 'Babylon' (10). Alarm bells ring! - Babylon's rebellion! The privilege of God's blessing brings the responsibility of maintaining His blessing. We must be 'mighty warriors' for God (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:10-20).
15th February: Genesis 11:1-9
Human pride sets itself up against the authority of God. This is the oft-repeated story of the 'Tower of Babel'. The end of godless men is sure - 'Tower and temple, fall to dust' (Church Hymnary, 405). Sin can be analysed psychologically in terms of the human attitude of proud independence ('let us make a name for ourselves', v.5), sociologically in terms of sin's pervasive influence on a whole society (this was the sin of a whole society), and theologically in terms of the divine judgment which human sin brings upon itself (5-9). What a contrast there is between the Tower of Babel and the great declaration of Proverbs 18:10 - 'The Name of the Lord is a strong tower'. In Babel there is scattering (9). In the Lord, there is safety - 'A righteous man runs to it and is safe'. Do not imagine yourself to be strong (Proverbs 18:11). True strength is in Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:27).
16th February: Genesis 11:10-32
Another list of names! Again, there is something here for us - God is moving on. These many names summarize the times between Noah and Abraham. We must look beyond this list of names. We must see them in connection with His Story. History can be tedious, until we see it as His Story. From the human standpoint, things seem to have come to a dead end: 'Now Sarai was barren; she had no child' (30). There are, however, no dead ends when God is at work. From verse 30, we move on to 12:1-3. We read on though the story of Abraham. We learn of the faith of Sarah and the faithfulness of God (Hebrews 11:11-12). We follow the Story on to Christ, who is the fulfilment of the promise given to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16). This is the Story of 'the God of Abraham', the 'God of love'. Through Christ our Saviour, we will 'sing the wonders of His grace for ever more' (Church Hymnary, 358).
17th February: Matthew 6:1-18
Jesus says that we are not to be like 'the hypocrites' (2,5,16). The word 'hypocrite' means 'play actor'. It refers to 'putting on a performance'. This performance may be extremely religious, but God is not in it. The hypocrites live according to 'the letter' of the law, but they know nothing of the power of 'the Spirit' (2 Corinthians 3:6). The hypocrites' religious performance gets along very well without God. His presence is not sought, welcomed or treasured. The hypocrites draw attention to themselves. They do not direct attention away from themselves to God. There is a better way than the way of hypocrisy. It is the way of holiness. Our lives are to be centred on Christ - 'it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me' (Galatians 2:20). We must not forget: apart from Him we can do nothing. We are to abide in Him (John 15:5) - in true holiness.
18th February: Matthew 6:19-34
On the one side of Christ's disciples, there are the hypocrites. On the other side, there are 'the Gentiles' (32). The hypocrites represent religion without reality. The Gentiles represent the world, living for material things only, refusing to take spiritual realities seriously. We are to be different from both the hypocrites and the Gentiles. Our top priority is pleasing God, not impressing men. We are to live for God's eternal Kingdom rather than living for a world which is passing away. Living for Christ is very different from worldly living. Our life is to be governed by heavenly, and not earthly, priorities (19-21). We are to walk in the light, refusing to be overcome by the darkness (22-23). We are to trust the Lord, refusing to let unbelieving anxiety rule our lives ( 25-34).
19th February: Matthew 7:1-14
Jesus' teaching regarding Christian living can be related to His teaching in 'the Lord's Prayer' (6:9-13). We are not to pray one thing and do another. We are to live the Lord's Prayer. We receive forgiveness from God. We are to show His forgiveness to others. We receive good things from God. We are to be generous in our giving to others. Before you can live the Christian Life, you must receive the Christian Life - Christ living in your heart (Revelation 3.20). Before you can walk in 'the way', you must enter by 'the gate' (13-14). Jesus speaks of two gates, two ways and two destinations. He tells us that some will be saved and many will be lost. What we must remember is this - Christ is 'the Door' (John 10:7), 'the Way' (John 14:6) and 'our Hope of glory' (Colossians 1:27). The gate may be narrow, the way hard, but never forget this - Christ is 'the Gate' and 'the Way' that leads to life.
20th February: Matthew 7:15-29
Whenever we are seeking to follow Christ, there will be dangers - false prophets (15-20), empty profession (21-23). Clearly, our faith must be grounded in the Son of God and the Word of God. This is the point of Jesus' parable of the two builders and the two houses (24-27). We must build upon Christ. We must build on the Word of God. Jesus' 'sermon' ends in verse 27, and is followed - in verses 28-29 - by a statement of its effect upon His hearers. Down through the centuries, Jesus' teaching continues to make this impression on people. His words come to us with authority, addressing us with remarkable relevance. We imagine that our time is very different from Jesus' time, yet Jesus' words make it very clear - things are not so different after all. Still, we hear Him speaking as One who has authority. His Word is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
21st February: Proverbs 1:8-19
If we are to be saved, we must follow the Wisdom of the Proverbs: 'Listen, my son, to your father's instruction' (8). We must follow the 'Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing', the living Word, our Lord Jesus Christ (Church Hymnary, 191). Satan is seeking to destroy us - 'let's swallow them alive, like the grave' (12). To 'go along with' those who do not honour the Lord Jesus Christ is to 'rush into sin' (15-16). To live by faith in Christ is to be 'kept by the power of God' for full salvation (1 Peter 1:5). There are choices to be made. You remain a fool if you choose not to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-8). The fool is 'a double-minded man', trying to live for the Lord and for the world at the same time. Will you be wise or foolish? - The choice is yours. Remember this has more to do with the moral choices you make than with how 'well educated' you may be.
22nd February: Genesis 12:1-20
This is a divine Story, carried forward by God's grace and power. God's very great promises (1-3) find their ultimate fulfilment in the coming of God's eternal Kingdom (Revelation 21:10). We have not reached our heavenly destination. We are still caught in the tension between obedience (4) and disobedience (11-13). We are conscious of our human failure, yet we rejoice in the divine faithfulness. We read of Abraham's sin (10-20), yet we look beyond this to God's salvation. This is not simply the story of Abraham. It is the Story of Abraham's God. This becomes clear in the change of name. Abram ('exalted father') draws attention to the man. Abraham ('Father of Many') points to God's purpose (17:5). Like Abraham , we are to worship God (7-8). We are to say, 'He is exalted'. We are to say, 'Christ must increase, and I must decrease' (John 3:30).
23rd February: Genesis 13:1-18
Life is full of choices. Lot made a selfish choice (10-12). He allied himself with 'the men of Sodom (who) were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord' (13). Abraham made a godly choice, and he was blessed by the Lord (14-17). The lesson of Abraham's choice is the lesson of Matthew 6:33 - Seek God's glory and find His blessing. We read later of Lot's restoration (19:29). This is 'amazing grace'! How much better it would have been if Lot had chosen the Lord's way in the first place! The choices we make reveal the people that we are. The worldly man, Lot, thought only of himself. The spiritual man, Abraham, concerned himself with doing the Lord's will. The worldly man takes for himself (11). The spiritual man receives from the Lord (15). Our sin comes from ourselves. Our salvation comes from the Lord. Confess your sin. Receive God's forgiveness.
24th February: Genesis 14:1-24
Following an account of military conflict, we come to a passage that is full of Christ (18-20). In Melchisedek, we see Jesus. In Hebrews 7:3, we learn that Melchisedek resembles the Son of God. We read on, in verse 4, 'See how great he is', and, in our hearts we say, 'How great is our Lord Jesus Christ'. Melchisedek is 'the King of Salem (peace)' (18), pointing to Christ through whom we have 'peace with God' (Romans 5:1). Melchisedek brings 'bread and wine' (18), pointing to Christ whose body was broken for us and whose blood was shed for us (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Melchisedek spoke of the divine deliverance from enemies (20), pointing to Christ's victory over Satan (Colossians 2:15). In this episode we see the origins of tithing. It is not a legalistic practice. God had been good to Abraham. In grateful worship, Abraham responded, giving the tenth to Him (20).
25th February: Matthew 8.1-22
In verses 1-17, we read of three people who received the Lord's blessing - the leper was cleansed (1-4), the centurion's servant was healed (5-13), Peter's mother-in-law was healed (14-17). Reading verses 18-22 together with Luke 9:57-62, we learn of three people who did not receive the Lord's blessing (Matthew mentions two, while Luke adds a third). Christ calls us to decision. Some say 'Yes' to Him and they are blessed. Some say 'No', and they miss out on the blessing. Christ touches our lives, and we are made clean (3; 1 John 1.7) - 'The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives' (13; Church Hymnary, 374). Through the entrance of His Word, we receive a new Spirit (16; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Cleansed and healed, we are to live as Christ's disciples. There is to be no half-heartedness: 'I will follow you, Lord, but...' (Luke 9:61). Yes, Lord!
26th February:. Matthew 8:23-9:17
In 8:23-9:8, we read of three great miracles, in which Christ demonstrates His power over nature (23), demons (28-34) and sickness (1-8). Following such mighty works of power, the next verse seems so ordinary - Jesus said, 'Follow me'. Matthew 'rose and followed Him' (9). Matthew's conversion may seem so unspectacular, but it is no less a mighty work of God than the great miracles which preceded it. Where does the desire to follow Christ come from? Does it come from our own sinful hearts? No! It comes from the Word of Christ, spoken in power and love - 'He drew me and I followed on, charmed to confess the Voice Divine' (Mission Praise, 499). In the human heart there is resistance - we say, 'I am "righteous". "I have no need" of a Saviour' (12-13). This resistance is broken down by Christ when 'new wine is put into fresh wineskins' (17).
27th February: Matthew 9.18-38
In Jesus' miracles, we see Him triumph over sin, death and hell. As well as healing, there is forgiveness (9:5-6), the raising of the dead (18,24-25) and the casting out of demons (33). The Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) did not like what was happening, and they came up with their own explanation - 'He casts out demons by the prince of demons' (34). Jesus gives us another, better, explanation: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...' (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus was sent to preach the Gospel. We are to bring the Gospel to other people. Jesus was 'teaching...preaching...and healing' (35). What opportunities there are to bring the healing power of Christ into many hearts and homes! These opportunities will be missed if 'the labourers' remain 'few' (37). Many are 'harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd' (v.36). We must not fail them!
28th February: Psalm 3:1-6
This Psalm begins with the human situation - 'O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him"'' (1-2). It ends with the divine provision - 'From the Lord comes deliverance' (8). How does the Psalmist rise above his deeply distressing circumstances? He takes his problem to the Lord. The Psalm's opening words, 'O Lord', indicate the way toward its triumphant conclusion. Why is the Psalmist not overwhelmed by depression? - He is looking to the Lord. This is not a case of 'positive thinking' on the part of David. This is deliverance from the Lord. There is no simple 'psychological' explanation for David's change of mood. He is delivered by the Lord. He is raised from his depressive mood by the Lord, 'my Glorious One, who lifts up my head' ( 3). What He's done for others, He can do for you!
1st March: Genesis 15:1-21
God is greater than our circumstances. God had given great promises to Abraham, yet there appeared no sign that His promises were being fulfilled. The circumstances seemed bleak, and Abraham felt despondent. Abraham was full of questions. In verse 2, he asks, 'What can you give me...?'. This is the question of salvation. What does God give? He gives salvation. In verse 8, he asks, 'How can I know...?'. This is the question of assurance. We ask for assurance. God gives it - the assurance of salvation, the assurance that salvation has been given and received. Where are we to look for answers to these questions? Are we to look to our circumstances? Are we to look to our feelings? No. We look to the 'Almighty God' (2,8). Trusting in Christ, the 'Passover Lamb...sacrificed for us', we receive a sure salvation (6:1; 1 Corinthians 5:7; John 20:31; 1 John 5:13).
2nd March: Genesis 16: 1-16
From salvation and the assurance of salvation, we turn to Satan and the activity of Satan. Sarai came with temptation (1). Abraham yielded to temptation (2). Temptation becomes sin when we yield to it. In Abraham, we see the conflict between 'the old man' that he was and 'the new man' God was calling him to become (17:5; Galatians 5:17). He chose the way of unbelief. Listening to the voice of Satan, speaking through Sarai, he walked straight into immorality. Unbelief and immorality belong together (Romans 1:18). We must guard our hearts with respect to both what we believe and how we behave. We must not imagine that Satan will win the victory over the Lord and His purpose of salvation. Satan will try to overcome God's gracious purpose, but he will not succeed (Revelation 20:10). 'Hallelujah!... the Lord our God the Almighty reigns' (Revelation 19:6).
3rd March: Genesis 17:1-27
Amazing grace - this is the marvellous theme of this chapter. Abram became Abraham (5). Sarai became Sarah (15-16). What they were belonged to their sinful past. What they became was the work of God's grace. What a contrast there is between human sin and divine grace. We look at ourselves. We see sin, and we lose hope. We look at the God of grace, and we say, 'Sin shall not have dominion. Grace is victorious' (Romans 6:14). Abram and Sarai appeared to be hopeless cases. They had failed the Lord, but He did not fail them. He made them new people. They became the father and mother of nations. To those who do not deserve His love, God still renews His 'covenant', His promise of love (2). He still says, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love' (Jeremiah 31:3). In the Cross of Christ, we have the greatest 'sign of the covenant' (11; Romans 5:8).
4th March: Genesis 18:1-15
Is anything too hard for the Lord? (14). We need to hear these words as God's call to greater faith. Sarah, like Abraham, had heard God's promises, yet 'she laughed to herself' (12). We can hear God's Word, and still remain, in our hearts, men and women of unbelief. The Word of God does not benefit us when we do not receive it with faith (Hebrews 4:2). God knows what is in our hearts, just as He knew what was in Sarah's heart (13-15). He knows the human heart, 'deceitful above all things' (Jeremiah 17:9), yet He continues to love us. He does not give up on us. He perseveres with us. He could have given up on Sarah as a hopeless waste of His time, but He did not. 'The evil heart of unbelief' is always with us, but God is constantly at work to create in us 'a clean heart' ( Hebrews 3:12: Psalm 51:10). 'Soften my heart, Lord' (Mission Praise, 606).
5th March: Genesis 18:16-33
In the face of the threatened judgment of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah, we find Abraham engaging in mighty intercessory prayer. He is not concerned only about himself and his own salvation. He is prayerfully committed to seeking the salvation of others. This is a mark of spiritual maturity - a deep concern for the salvation of sinners, leading to earnest intercessory prayer for them. Abraham drew near to God (23; James 4:8). He pleaded with the God of grace to have mercy on the city (23-25; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3-4, 1:15; John 3:17). With a deep love for the people, Abraham prays with boldness and persistence (27,32; Hebrews 4:16). A great many people refused to honour God, yet His purpose was not hindered. The remnant seemed impossibly small. It was the beginning of blessing for all nations. 'To God be the glory, Great things He has done' (Church Hymnary, 374).
6th March: Matthew 10:1-20
Jesus gave authority to His disciples (1). He gives authority to us. It is the authority of the Word and the Spirit - 'you will be given what to say' by 'the Spirit of your Father speaking through you' (20). Christ's disciples were being trained for a great work to be done in the Name and the Power of the Lord (28: 18-20). If we are to communicate the Word in the power of the Spirit, we need to see our life as life in the Spirit and life under the Word. Scripture calls us to 'be filled with the Spirit' (Ephesians 5:18) and to 'let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly' (Colossians 3:16). To be filled with the Spirit is to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. To let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is to be filled with the Spirit. We are to live in the power of the Spirit. We are to live in accordance with the Scriptures.
7th March: Matthew 10:21-42
Jesus tells us that 'a student is not above his teacher nor a servant above his master' (24). Our Teacher is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Master. Jesus emphasizes that 'it is enough for the student to be like his teacher and the servant like his master' (25). This is the goal of the Christian life - we are to be like Jesus. This will not be an easy life. There will be persecution (22; 2 Timothy 3:12). In this situation - going the way of the Cross with Jesus (38) - we need to hear and heed the Word of the Lord: Do not fear man. Fear God (28). The fear of men is to be avoided. The fear of God is to be treasured greatly. There will be conflict with those who do not honour God (34-37). We must remember: pleasing God is more important than pleasing people. Our prayer is that our hearers will receive Christ as well as ourselves (40).
8th March: Matthew 11:1-19
Much is said about John the Baptist here, yet the whole purpose is to draw attention to Jesus the Saviour. Jesus is superior to John. He is the One to whom John pointed. There are two responses to Jesus. We can take offence at Him: 'Blessed is he who takes no offence at Me' (6). We can hear what He says, receiving Him with faith: 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear' (15). In His time, Jesus asked the question, 'To whom shall I compare this generation?', giving the answer, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn' (16-17). The promise of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not rejoice. The warning of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not repent. This is the story of our generation. May God help us to lead people of this generation to Christ, the 'Friend of sinners' (19).
9th March: Matthew 11:20-30
In John 16:8-11, Jesus speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit, convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. Before there can be conversion, there needs to be conviction of sin. None of us can come to the Saviour of sinners without first seeing ourselves as sinners who need the Saviour. God uses the warning of judgment to send us to the Saviour - there 'will be...judgment', so make sure that you 'come' to Christ for salvation (24,28; Luke 3:7-8; Hebrews 2:3; 3:7-15). Before there can be growth in grace, there needs to be conversion. Before we can live a righteous life, learning from Christ (29; 1 Peter 1:15-16), we must come to Christ for rest, being declared righteous by Him (28; Romans 4:5-8). In Christ, we have salvation, set free from judgment - 'no condemnation' - and set free for righteousness - 'living according to the Spirit' (Romans 8:1).
10th March: Proverbs 1:20-33
This section begins with the words, 'Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares' (20) and ends with the words, 'whoever listens to Me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm' (33). The Gospel is not to be kept to ourselves. Christ is to be proclaimed. Why is it so important that we tell others about our Saviour, Jesus Christ? - It is because He offers salvation to all who come to Him: 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved' (Romans 10:13). Later on, in Proverbs, we read, 'he who wins souls is wise' (11:30). Those who are wise will pray for a greater fulfilment of the Lord's promise: 'you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses...' (Acts 1:8). Filled with the Holy Spirit, we will speak the Word of God boldly (Acts 4:31).
11th March: Genesis 19:1-29
In Genesis 3, we read of humanity's fall into sin. Here, we see the awfulness of human sin and the awesomeness of divine judgment. We must take God with the utmost seriousness. If we refuse to take Him seriously, He will continue to take us seriously - in His judgment! Sin leads to judgment - that's the lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is sadness in the story of Lot. A compromised believer for whom the world had no respect, he chose Sodom. This choice brought him nothing but sin and shame - 'and now he wants to play the judge!' (9). The amazing thing is that God did not give up on this 'backslider' - 'the Lord was merciful to them...He brought Lot out of the catastrophe' (16,29). What a great thing it is to have God's salvation: 'everything we need for life and godliness' to 'escape the corruption in the world' (2 Peter 1:3-5).
12th March: Genesis 19:30-20:18
These are stories of deception and deceit. Lot is deceived by his daughters (30-38). Abraham deceives Abimelech (1-18). Even with the divine provision for godliness, we need to be constantly on our guard. Even those to whom we had looked for help can turn out to be a hindrance. Lot was drawn into incest. This had drastic effects - 'the father of the Moabites, the father of the Ammonites' (37-38)! Devotion to the Lord needs to be renewed day-by-day. Otherwise, we will be vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy and overcome by him. Abraham concealed the whole truth by telling a half-truth (12). Abraham was regarded as 'a prophet' (7). He ought to have lived the life of a prophet, a true life. We are to be true - the people of God.
13th March: Genesis 21:1-21
We have here the contrast between Isaac, the child of promise, and Ishmael, the fruit of unbelief. Ishmael was born as a result of impatience, the failure to wait upon the Lord. In the birth of Isaac, the initiative belonged with God, and the glory belonged to Him. In Christ, we are the children of promise - 'children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God' (John 1:13). God did not forget Ishmael. There were blessings for him (17-21). The difference between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between common grace and saving grace. Many people know much of the grace of God in 'the common things of life' (Church Hymnary, 457). There are so many blessings for them to count. Still they fail to appreciate God's greatest gift - His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thank God for this and that and...Jesus!
14th March: Genesis 21:22-22:14
Here, we see Abraham in his relationship with the world (22-34) and his relationship with the Lord (1-14). Abraham deals honestly and wisely with the pagan king, Abimelech, who acknowledges Abraham's closeness to God - 'God is with you in all that you do' (22). We are to be honest and wise in our relationship with the world (Romans 12:17; Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:12). Our relationship with the world is to be grounded in our relationship with God. In the testing of Abraham, we catch a glimpse of 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). Christ is the Lamb whom God will provide (8). In verse 14, we read, 'On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided'. On Calvary's hill, Christ died to bring us to God, so that we might learn to live for Him in this world (1 Peter 3:18; 2:24).
15th March: Genesis 22:15-23:20
After the renewal of God's promise (15-18), Abraham went to Beersheba (19). He returned to the place where he had 'called...on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God' (33). This is a good 'place' to be, the 'place' of calling on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. As we read of the death and burial of Sarah, we must remember this: the Lord is the Everlasting God. The death of Sarah took place in God's time. Her death signified that her work had been done. She had mothered the child of promise. Beyond the death of Sarah, there was the continuing purpose of God. The cave at Machpelah (23:19-20) became the burial place for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. We see the continuity of history, and we thank God for His continuing faithfulness down through the generations.
16th March: Matthew 12:1-21
Much of Jesus' ministry was carried out under the watchful eye of the Pharisees. The controversy with the Pharisees was intensifying (2, 14). The Pharisees were out to get Jesus. For all their religion, they had no time for Jesus. Still, there are the critics, those who try to undermine our faith in Christ, those who attempt to draw us away from serving Christ. We must remain resolute in our faith, believing what God says concerning His Son: 'Here is my Servant whom I have chosen, the One I love, in whom I delight' (18; 3:17; 17:5). As we read of Jesus, the chosen Servant of God, loved by the Father and bringing delight to the Father's heart, we should give thanks for all that God has done for us in Christ (Ephesians 1: 4-6), and we should commit ourselves afresh to the service of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:58).
17th March: Matthew 12:22-37
Opposition from the Pharisees was growing all the time (24). Jesus had to rebuke them in very strong words (30, 32,34,36-37). This was not exactly a 'How to win friends and influence people' approach! Nevertheless, this was a time for strong words. Jesus' ministry illustrates the principle: 'a time to tear down and a time to build' (Ecclesiastes 3:3). There was a time for 'whoever is not against us is for us' (Mark 9:40). This was the time for 'he who is not with me is against me' (30). There was a time for speaking of the Spirit as 'the Comforter' (John 14:16,26). This was the time for the warning about the 'blasphemy against the Spirit' (31). The opposition was severe, but Jesus was victorious - He 'drove out demons by the Spirit of God', in Him 'the Kingdom of God had come' (28). In Him, we are victorious (Romans 8:37; Revelation 12:11).
18th March: Matthew 12:38-50
Jesus did not 'mince His words' with the Pharisees. He described them as 'a wicked and adulterous generation' (39,45). They were men who, by their stubborn refusal to listen to Jesus, had placed themselves under the judgment of God. The Pharisees may have had no time for Jesus, but there were those who were eager to learn from Him. Out of 'the crowd' (46), Jesus was calling to Himself those who were learning what it really means to be related to Him (50). Jesus directed attention away from His human connections to His divine authority. Sometimes, people make too much of the wrong things - 'Blessed is the womb that bore you...' (Luke 11:27). They need to be reminded of the things that really matter: 'Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it' (Luke 11:28). As God's children we are to do His will (50; John 14:21).
19th March: Matthew 13:1-23
Jesus spoke in parables. He spoke of everyday things, teaching lessons concerning the Kingdom of God. He was a story-teller, and yet He was more than that. His stories had a message, a life-changing message, a message designed to lead His hearers into new life, the life of God's Kingdom. The parable of the sower may be described more fully as the parable of 'the sower, the seed and the soil'. Some respond to God's Word in a shallow way. In others, there is greater depth of response. Some 'enjoy' the preaching without really responding, in faith, to Christ. Jesus says, 'He who has ears , let him hear' (10). Receive God's Word in obedient faith, and your knowledge of God will increase (12). This is the way of childlike faith and spiritual growth. Beware of proud unbelief and spiritual decline (12; 11:25)!
20th March: Matthew 13:24 -43
Jesus' parables are so rich in spiritual content. They speak with an indirectness which is very direct! They may be parabolic in form, but they do go right to the heart of the matter in a way that is very challenging. The parable of the 'wheat and the weeds' (24-30, with explanation given in 36-43) contrasts a real believing response to Christ with an empty profession of faith in Him. There is also something else - leave judgment to God. He knows those who are His and those who are not. The parable of the mustard seed (31-32) is a word of encouragement - Do not give up hope that the seed of God's Word is growing, slowly and surely, in the hearts of those who do not appear to be bearing much fruit. The parable of the yeast is also encouraging - What a difference even a few believers can make to a whole community!
21st March: Matthew 13: 44-58
Be patient. Do not doubt the power of God's Word. Once God's Word has begun to exert its influence among the people, great things will happen. The beginnings may seem small. Remember: nothing is insignificant when God is in it! Some may be on the verge of the kind of joyful discovery of Christ, described in 44-46! The parable of the net (47-50) is similar to the parable of the wheat and the tares (24-30). The separation of 'the good' and 'the bad' comes 'at the end of the age' (48-49). The Gospel is 'old' and 'new' (52) - we've known its teaching for years, yet there are always some 'new treasures' for us to discover. It's sadly possible to hear the Word of God without believing it and enjoying its blessing. Don't let Christ be 'a prophet without honour' (57). Honour Him in your heart and life.
22nd March: Psalm 4:1-8
There is a great message of the Gospel here. By ourselves, we are sinners, turning God's glory to shame, loving delusions and seeking false gods (2). By grace, God has done something about this - 'the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself' (3). When we pray, 'Answer me' (1), we have this confidence: 'the Lord will hear when I call to Him' (3). The Lord hears the sinner's prayer, 'Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer' (1). Jesus Christ is God's Answer to this prayer. Christ brings relief (salvation).This salvation arises from the mercy of God. In Christ, we have a 'joy' and 'peace' which the world can neither give nor take away (7-8). When the seeking sinner comes with the question, 'Who can show us any good?' (6), the Gospel Answer is always the same - Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
23rd March: Genesis 24:1-21
The servant was sent on a mission. He was 'to get a wife for...Isaac' (4). When Christ entered Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11), He was on a mission. He had come for His Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 21:2-3). The servant was not to 'get a wife...from...the Canaanites' (3). The Church is to be made 'holy,...a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless' (Ephesians 5:26-27). The servant carried out his mission carefully and prayerfully (12-14). Jesus was careful to fulfil the words of the prophet - entering Jerusalem 'on a donkey' (Matthew 21:2-7). In His journey to the Cross, Jesus was concerned with this one thing - 'to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work' (John 4:34). The servant prayed, and the answer was given (15-16). Not my will but Thine, Lord!
24th March: Genesis 24:22-49
The detailed account of Isaac's marriage highlights the guidance of God. He directs the life of His people. This is our testimony - 'the Lord...has led me on the right road' (48). The great lessons of this story are stated in verse 27 - (a) the 'steadfast love' of the Lord; (b) the 'faithfulness' of God; (c) the guidance of God - 'the Lord has led me'; (d) worshipping the Lord - 'Blessed be the Lord...'. We are to seek God's guidance, rejoicing in His love and trusting in His faithfulness. Looking to Christ, who went to the Cross for us, we are to say, with Him, 'I have come to do Thy will, O God', 'I will praise Thee', 'I will put my trust in Him', 'Here am I, and the children God has given Me' (Hebrews 10:7; 2:12-13). To those who do His will, praising Him and trusting Him, God will give much blessing - 'an overflowing blessing' (Malachi 3:10).
25th March: Genesis 24:50-67
In verse 60, we read of the blessing of God upon Rebekah - 'Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies'. This refers to the long-term fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham. Through the death of Christ, the Lamb of God, 'a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation,' will sing the song of salvation, 'Salvation belongs to our God...and to the Lamb' (Revelation 7: 9-10). This is what we must pray for in our own community. In homes where Christ has not been honoured, there will be transformation. The Lord's messengers will be received - 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' - and the Lord's Name will be praised - 'Hosanna in the highest!' (Matthew 21:9). Such blessing will be given to those who spend time with God (63; Joshua 1:8).
26th March: Genesis 25:1-18
What will we leave behind us? What will we pass on to the next generation? In this passage of many names, there is a challenging contrast between the influence of Abraham and Ishmael on the next generation. In verse 11, we read, 'After Abraham's death, God blessed his son Isaac'. In verse 18, we find that 'Ishmael's descendants lived in hostility toward all their brothers'. In Isaiah 52:13-53:12, there is a great prophecy concerning the death of Christ. We read of His suffering, as He becomes 'an offering for sin'. We learn also of His glorious future - 'He will see His offspring and prolong His days' (53:10). Unlike Abraham (175 years) and Ishmael (137 years), Jesus did not live a long life on earth (33 years), yet 'He shall see the fruit of the travail of His soul and be satisfied' - 'many' will be 'accounted righteous' (11).
27th March: Matthew 14:1-14
John the Baptist was 'arrested' and 'put in prison' (3). Shortly after this, he was 'beheaded' (10). John was a faithful man. He was 'faithful unto death' (Revelation 2:10). His death arose directly from his faithfulness to God. He died as a 'martyr'. Following the death of John, news came to Jesus, who was to die as our Saviour. How did Jesus react to this news?- First, 'he withdrew...privately to a solitary place (13). Then, having renewed His strength in the presence of His Father (Isaiah 40:31), He stepped out again into the sphere of public ministry. He continued on His way, the Way that would lead Him to the Cross. What are we to learn from John, the faithful martyr, and Jesus, the faithful Saviour, who gave Himself in death for us? We are to be faithful to God. If suffering lies ahead of us, He will make us strong.
28th March: Matthew 14:15-36
We read of the feeding of the five thousand (15-21) and the walking on water (25-33), and our thoughts go to Calvary. From the feeding with bread and fish, we move to the bread and wine, symbols of Jesus' body broken for us and His blood shed for us (26:26-28). From the confession of faith - 'Truly You are the Son of God' (33), we move to the Cross to hear the centurion's words of faith; 'Surely He was the Son of God!' (27:54). We see Jesus, the Man of prayer (23), the Healer (35-36), and we look to the Cross, where we experience the healing influence of His prayer for us; 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing' (Luke 23:34). 'Thank You for the Cross, The price you paid for us, How You gave Yourself, So completely, Precious Lord, Now our sins are gone, All forgiven, Covered by your blood, All forgotten, Thank You, Lord' (Mission Praise, 632).
29th March: Matthew 15:1-20
The Pharisees were preoccupied with washing the hands (2), yet they missed out on the most important thing - the cleansing of the heart. They were obsessed with 'correct' religious ritual, yet they sent Christ to the Cross. They honoured God with their words, yet in their hearts they were far from Him (8). We must pray for the cleansing of the heart: 'Purify my heart, Cleanse me from within And make me holy. Purify my heart, Cleanse me from my sin, Deep within' (Songs of Fellowship, 475). When Jesus was buried, He was wrapped in a 'clean linen cloth' (27:59). This was followed by His mighty resurrection. Without lapsing into hypocritical obsession with outward appearances, we make this simple comment: the 'resurrection' of God's work among us will come as we pray earnestly for the cleansing of our hearts.
30th March: Matthew 15: 21-16:4
Above all Jesus' miracles, we celebrate His mighty resurrection from the dead (28:5-7). This miracle is referred to in 16:4 - 'the sign of Jonah': Jonah was raised from 'the belly of a huge fish', Jesus has been raised from 'the heart of the earth' (12:40). We are to 'remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead' (2 Timothy 2:8). In the girl's healing (21-28), we see the risen Lord's great triumph over evil - evil men tried to put Him down, but He did not stay down (Acts 2: 23-24). In the feeding of the crowd (36-37), we see the risen Lord's ongoing ministry of feeding His people. Here, we compare verses 36-37 with the Lord's Supper: (a) He took bread; (b) He gave thanks; (c) He broke it; (d) He gave it to the disciples; (e) The bread is shared with the people; (f) All are satisfied. All glory to the risen Lord !
31st March: Proverbs 2:1-15
There is a real call for spiritual growth here. We are to accept God's words, storing up His commands, turning our ears to wisdom and our hearts to understanding (1-2). If we are to grow in the fear and knowledge of God, we must pray for insight and understanding. These blessings are greater than silver and hidden treasure (3-5). In the Christian life, there is both promise and warning. There is God's promise - you will be led in a way that 'will be pleasant to your soul' (10). There is His warning - make sure that you do not 'leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways' (13). It is very important that we take time to read God's Word, since it is 'the Lord' who 'gives wisdom'. We must listen for God's Voice, speaking to us through Scripture (6). As we listen to Him, we will be led in 'every good path' - protected and victorious (7-9).
1st April: Genesis 25:19-34
Esau was a fool. He chose his own way rather than the Lord's way. Jacob was a 'heel'! 'Born with his hand holding on to Esau's heel..., he was named Jacob (Heel)' (26). A crafty twister, a manipulating cheat, there was nothing about him that merited God's blessing. He was not superior to Esau. Like Esau, Jacob was a sinner. Esau was not inferior to Jacob. Both were guilty before God. Why, then - in God's purpose - does 'the elder' (Esau) 'serve the younger' (Jacob) (23)? The answer is grace, the 'amazing grace' of God. Grace lifted Jacob. The glory belongs to God. Grace could have lifted Esau. By grace Jacob valued the birthright (God's blessing). His way of seeking God's blessing was devious. Nevertheless, he was seeking for God - and God, in His grace, found him and made him a new man (32:28). 'Wonderful grace of Jesus, Greater than all my sin'!
2nd April: Genesis 26:1-35
'History repeats itself'. Sin has a 'like father, like son' quality about it - Isaac is like Abraham (7; 12:13, 20:2, 12-13), Jacob is like Isaac (7; 25:31,27:19). Grace repeats itself. God is faithful. He gives forgiveness and victory over temptation (1 John 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13). He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Deceived by 'the father of lies' (the devil), 'man' denies the truth (John 8: 44). 'Let God be true, and every man a liar' (Romans 3:4). In verses 19-22, there's 'the story of the three wells' - 'Dispute', 'Opposition', 'Room'. Things went from bad to worse, then there was progress. There is room for both, when there is no more quarrelling. Isaac worshipped God, and was recognised as God's man (25,28). We are to be recognised as God's people, but remember - verse 34 - even the Lord's people can make mistakes!
3rd April: Genesis 27:1-40
The deception of Isaac by Jacob (prompted by Rebekah) is a sad episode, yet God - in grace - really bestows His blessing on Jacob. Beneath Jacob's deceit, there was a real desire to be blessed by God. To Esau (the late arrival), Isaac says, 'I have blessed him - yes, and he shall be blessed. I blessed him, and blessed he will remain' (33). Once the blessing had been given, it could not be recalled. The blessing could not be undone. Power bestowed by God could not be removed. This had nothing to do with 'Jacob's righteousness'. It had everything to do with God's faithfulness. The good work begun by God, will be completed by Him (Philippians 1:6). This was true for Jacob (28:15). It is true for us - 'All the promises of God find their Yes in Christ'. To this, we say 'Amen' and 'To God be the Glory' (2 Corinthians 1:20)!
4th April: Genesis 27:41-28:9
What a tangled web! Jacob has cheated Esau. Now, Esau is saying, 'I will kill my brother Jacob' (41). What are we to make of all this? We must look beyond the human scene. Behind it all, there is 'God Almighty' (3). God will fulfil His promises. Nothing will distract Him from His ultimate purpose of salvation. We look at the complex series of events involving Rebekah, Isaac, Jacob and Esau. God looks beyond all of that to Jesus Christ. He looks beyond the nation of Israel. His purpose concerns 'the ends of the earth' (Acts 1:8). 'The blessing of Abraham' refers not only to the 'land' (4). There is also 'the promise of the Spirit' (Galatians 3:14). We are to live 'by the power of the Spirit', and not 'according to the flesh' as Esau did when 'he went to Ishmael (the child of Abraham's unbelief...)' (9; Galatians 4:29).
5th April: Genesis 28:10-22
Just another night (11)? No! - this was a night to remember, a night Jacob would never forget. God came to him with His wonderful promise of love: 'I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you' (15). At Bethel ('the house of God'), powerfully transformed by the presence of God - 'Surely the Lord is in this place' (16) - , Jacob consecrated himself to the Lord. 'If' (20) means 'Since'. See Romans 8:31, 'If (Since) God is for us, who can be against us?'. Giving the tenth (22) - this is not legalism, a kind of repayment scheme. There can be no 'salvation by works'. We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our giving must always be a heartfelt expression of thanksgiving to the God of grace: 'Loving Him who first loved me'. We are saved 'to do good works' (Ephesians 2:10) - not because we do good works!
6th April: Matthew 16:5-23
What a contrast there is between Jesus Christ and the religious leaders of His day. Three times, we are told to 'guard against...the Pharisees and Sadducees' (6,11-12). These men had religion without salvation. They claimed to have faith in God, yet they despised Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of sinners. We are to guard against the 'Pharisees and Sadducees'. We are to glory in Christ, God's Son, our Saviour. In Christ, 'the Son of the living God' (16), we have a Saviour against whom 'the gates of hell shall not prevail' (18). Our faith is like Peter's - sometimes strong (16-17), often weak (22-23). Our Saviour is always strong. We 'are weak, but He is strong' - may we never 'outgrow' this simple testimony, as we confess our sin and glory in our Saviour who forgives sin.
7th April: Matthew 16:24-17:13
There will come a time when the glory of God will be fully revealed - 'the Son of man is going to come in His Father's glory' (27). Here on earth, there are 'foretastes of glory divine': verse 28 may be understood in connection with the transfiguration (2) - the divine glory of heaven breaking through into our human life on earth. Revelations of glory prepared these men for discipleship. They turned their eyes upon Jesus (8). They looked full in His wonderful face (2). The things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace (Mission Praise, 59,712) - 'Lord, it is good for us to be here' (4). The 'mountain top' experience could not be preserved - no 'three shelters' (4)! We can continue to worship, hear Jesus' words and look to Him (6-8), rejoicing in His suffering for us (12) and awaiting His return to 'restore all things' (11).
8th April: Matthew 17:14-27
Epilepsy is an illness. In this case, there was something more - demonic involvement (18). The disciples failed and were called to greater faith (16, 20). They were 'greatly distressed'. Troubled by talk of His death, they failed to hear this: 'He will be raised on the third day' (23). Jesus paid the annual temple 'tax' (24-27). His first allegiance was to God, yet He did not ignore His other responsibilities. There is a lesson for today's Church here. We are to be one body of Christ - not two groups, 'spiritual' and 'social', each looking down on the other: 'too earthly-minded to be any heavenly good', 'too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good'. We need the high spiritual principles: 'we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word' (Acts 6:4), but we must not forget the ordinary things that need to be done!
9th April: Matthew 18:1-14
From Jesus' reply to the question: 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' (1), we learn much about the valued place children are to have among us. Our attitude to children is to be marked by humility, respect, responsibility and - above all - love. (a) humility: We teach the children. We can learn from them (2-4). (b) respect: Physically, we may look down on them. Spiritually, we must 'not look down' on them (10). They are to be highly valued. (c) responsibility: What kind of influence do we have on the children? - This is a question of the greatest importance (6). (d) love: Our 'Father in heaven' loves the children (14). The kind of welcome we give to children shows the kind of welcome we give to 'Jesus' who 'loves the little children' (5). May God help us not to fail the rising generation.
10th April: Matthew 18:15-19:2
Discipline and forgiveness are not opposites. They belong together. Discipline is to be part of our caring. If it is not carried out in a caring way, it is not the discipline of the Lord. It is the expression of human arrogance. Where there is a genuine desire to honour God and do His will, we have more than some human beings imposing their own will upon others. We have God at work, purifying His Church. The link between discipline (15-17) and forgiveness (21-35) is prayer (18-20). Without prayer, we will never achieve a true balance between discipline and forgiveness. We must avoid a harsh legalism which knows nothing of God's love. We dare not soft-pedal the moral demands of discipleship. God is holy. God is love. We need both holiness and love - for the sake of the 'large crowds' who need the Saviour (2).
11th April: Psalm 5:1-12
This is a morning prayer: 'morning by morning', we are to come before the Lord 'in expectation' of His blessing (3). The Psalmist prays with great earnestness. His prayer is a 'sighing' before God, a 'cry for help' (1-2). He acknowledges the holiness of God: 'You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil, with you the wicked cannot dwell' (4). The words of verse 9 apply to every one of us. Paul quotes this verse in support of the conclusion that 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' (Romans 3:13, 23). There is, however, a way of coming to God. It is 'by His mercy' (7). Each of us has been declared guilty by God (10; Romans 3:19-20). For the fallen, God has provided a way of forgiveness. For the guilty, He has provided a way to gladness (11; Luke 2:10-11). 'Hallelujah! What a Saviour!' (Church Hymnary, 380).
12th April: Genesis: 29:1-30
The tables are turned on Jacob. The trickster is tricked! The 'trick' was according to the 'custom' that the elder daughter should be given in marriage before the younger one (23, 25-26). Seven years became fourteen years (18-20,27,30). Jacob did receive his heart's desire, but there was a lesson to be learned: Going God's way is better than getting your own way. 'All things work together for good to those who love God' (Romans 8:28) - this doesn't mean that we always get what we want. We must learn to 'let go and let God have His wonderful way', and to say, 'This God - His way is perfect' (Psalm 18:30). Out of love for Rachel (18,20), Jacob served Laban for an extra seven years. We would serve Christ better if we loved Him more. Jesus still asks the question, 'Do you love Me?' (John 21:15-17).
13th April: Genesis 29:31-30:24
Leah progressed beyond her own concerns (32-34) to the most important thing: 'This time I will praise the Lord' (35). Of the many children, the most significant, in terms of God's purpose of redemption, was Joseph (22-24). An answer to prayer, it was the work of divine grace (22). 'Rachel was barren' (31) yet the Lord gave her this testimony: 'God has taken away my disgrace' (23). We move from one Joseph to another - the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We see an even greater work of grace: the birth of our Saviour. Rachel was to have a second son, Benjamin (24). Through Christ, God has many sons and daughters (Galatians 4:4-5). Rachel rejoiced in the gift of a son, her son. We rejoice in the gift of the Son, God's Son. Through the Spirit of God's Son living in our hearts, we are God's children and He is our Father (Galatians 4:6).
14th April: Genesis 30:25-31:21
Jacob was still a complex character, trying to arrange his own prosperity (37-43). There is, however, another, better reason for his prosperity - God had promised to bless him, and God did bless him (28:15). Inner desire, favourable circumstances, the divine Word - all three were present in Jacob's decision to leave Laban and 'go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan' (18). (a) Inner desire - Jacob had been badly treated by Laban, and he did not want to work for him any longer (2); (b) Favourable circumstances - Jacob had grown 'exceedingly prosperous' (43). He didn't need to keep on working for Laban; (c) The divine Word - Inner desire and circumstances were not enough to confirm God's guidance to Jacob. He needed God's command and promise (3). Let God 'guide' by His 'light and truth' (Psalm 48:14; 43:3).
15th April: Genesis 31:22-42
As we try to unravel the complexities of Jacob's dealings with Laban, we must remember this one thing: 'If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac (the God before whom Isaac bowed in reverence) had not been with me...' (42). This is the spiritual dimension. We must not lose sight of this. Life can be complicated at times, but we must not forget this: God is with us. Jacob, who was renamed 'Israel' (32:28), confessed his faith: God is with me. Later on, the nation of Israel confessed its faith in God: 'If it had not been the Lord who was on our side...', it would have been disaster. 'Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth'. The Lord is with us still. With the Psalmist, we say, 'Blessed be the Lord'. He is the God of our salvation (Psalm 124).
16th April: Genesis 31:43--32:21
Jacob and Laban were not exactly the best of friends. Nevertheless, they came to an agreement that they would not continue feuding with each other (52). Jacob prepares to meet Esau (1-21). From verses 9-12, we learn some important spiritual lessons - (a) Make sure that God is your God, and not only the God of your father and grandfather (9). (b) Confess your unworthiness of 'all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness' of God (10). (c) Pray to God for salvation - 'Save me I pray...' (11). (d) Stand on the promises of God - 'You have said...' (12). Jacob, soon to be renamed Israel (32:28), was preparing to meet Esau. There is, in his prayer, the way of being prepared for a more important meeting: 'Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!' (Amos 4:12). Confess your sin, pray for salvation, stand on God's Word - make it personal!
17th April: Matthew 19:3-30
Even though 'large crowds followed Him' still 'the Pharisees' opposed Jesus (2-3). Jesus' teaching regarding marriage has perfect balance. Marriage is God's purpose for 'male and female' (4-5). 'Others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven' (12). There is no compulsion in these matters. Each one must seek God's will. Celibacy should not be viewed with suspicion. This way can also be chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. It must not be suggested that celibacy is the only truly 'spiritual' way. Jesus calls for humility (14,30). What we cannot do for ourselves, God does for us (23-26). The Gospel humbles us and exalts God. Before we can be exalted by God and with Him, we must be humbled by God and before Him. 'Eternal life' (16) begins when, conscious of our sin - 'Who then can be saved?' (25) - we look to Christ alone for salvation.
18th April: Matthew 20:1-28
The workers served for different lengths of time (1-7). They received equal payment (8-16). This a parable of grace. Some have served the Lord a long time. Some have served Him a short time. The length of time is not the most important thing. More important is this: each one of us has been saved by grace. We owe it all to the Lord, the Giver of salvation. In verses 17-19, Jesus speaks of His death and resurrection. These are the great events upon which our salvation rests (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). If we are to follow Christ, we must walk the way of the Cross (22). He suffered for us. We must be ready to suffer for Him. His glory did not come without suffering. Our glory will not come without suffering. Do not seek 'greatness'. Go the way of the Cross (26-28).
19th April: Matthew 20:29-21:17
Four times, Jesus is called 'the Son of David' (30-31, 9,15). Christ is greater than David. He is David's 'Lord' (22:41-46). Christ is not only 'the Son of David'. He is also the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4). We rejoice with the Psalms of David. We rejoice even more in the Gospel of Christ. Our response to Christ is to be marked by discipleship, depth and devotion. Discipleship - The blind men 'received their sight and followed Him' (34). They did not receive their sight and then forget about Him. Grace is to be followed by gratitude. Those who have received grace are to give themselves to the Lord in gratitude. Depth - The crowds were enthusiastic (8-9) but superficial (27:20-23). Pray for depth, a true and lasting response to Christ. Devotion - Pray that the spirit of praise will overcome the spirit of pride (15).
20th April: Matthew 21:18-46
Jesus entered the city (10). He entered the temple (12). He went 'back to the city' (18). He entered the temple (23). Here, we have the pattern for Christian living - in the place of worship, out into the world, back to the place of worship...Worship, witness, worship... The two go hand in hand throughout the Christian life. We will encounter unbelief - even in the place of worship (23). God's servants - the prophets - were rejected (35-36). God's Son - Jesus - was rejected (37-39). We live in a situation where the threat of judgment is very real (19). Nevertheless, there is hope. Christ is 'the Church's one Foundation' (Church Hymnary, 420). Through Him, we will bear fruit which will bring glory to God (42-43). We have been slow to believe, but God is 'swift to bless'. No more 'I will not' - let there be repentance, entering God's Kingdom and doing His will (29- 31).
21st April: Proverbs 2:16-34
We read the warning about 'the adulteress': 'her house leads down to death' (16-18). We also hear the warning of the Gospel: 'the wages of sin is death' (Romans 6:23). We are told that 'none who go to her return or attain the paths of life' (19). Left to ourselves, none of us would return to God, none of us would find the way to life (Romans 3:10-12). Some seek 'prosperity' (1). They seek 'a good name in the sight of...men' (4). We must not, however, make these things the be-all and end-all. There is more to life than material possessions, more than high ratings in the popularity stakes. There is eternal life - 'the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 6:23) - and the forgiveness of sins - 'justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ' (Romans 5:1).
22nd April: Genesis 32:22-32
At the place called Peniel, Jacob 'saw God face to face' (30). We see 'the glory of God in the face of Christ' (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jacob wrestled with God and became an overcomer (28). Christ wrestled with the powers of evil, and has won a mighty victory for us. When He cried out from the Cross, 'It is finished' (John 19:30), this was not an admission of defeat. It was the declaration of victory - the victory has been won, the victory is complete. 'Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Corinthians 15:57). For Jacob, crossing the Jabbok involved a spiritual 'crossing over'. Jacob became Israel, a new man (28). After he had been 'touched' by God, Jacob was 'limping' (31-32). This was a reminder of his own weakness. His true strength was in the Lord. Wait on the Lord, and renew your strength (Isaiah 40:31).
23rd April: Genesis 33:1-20
From Jacob's meeting with God, we come to his meeting with Esau. Before we start thinking of this as a big 'come down', we should note Jacob's word to Esau: 'truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God' (10). Jacob is describing his meeting with Esau in terms of his encounter with God at Peniel: 'I have seen God face to face (32:30). Before we dismiss Jacob's words as 'a bit over the top', we should remember Jesus' words: 'as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me' (Matthew 25:40). We are not to choose between loving God and loving our neighbour. We are to love both (Matthew 22:37-38). We honour God. We are to honour other people. The two go together - reverence for God our Creator and respect for people, created in God's image (1 John 4:20-21).
24th April: Genesis 34:1-31
This chapter is about sin - the name of God is not even mentioned! We might well say of this chapter: 'the less said the better'. We should, however, notice that Jacob is still turning out to be a big disappointment. Despite all Jacob's potential (28:15-17,20-22; 32:28-30), there is still, in him, a great deal of self and not very much of the Lord. We see this in verse 30: 'You have brought trouble on me by making me odious...my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household'. Where is God in all this? It seems that Jacob has become so preoccupied with himself and his own interests that he has forgotten all about God. Amazingly, the next chapter begins, 'God said to Jacob, "Arise..."'. God was still calling him to higher things. What love! God doesn't give up on us. He keeps on calling us back to Himself.
25th April: Genesis 35:1-15
'God appeared to Jacob again ...and blessed him' (9). The Lord's blessing does not come only once. Again and again, He blesses His people, leading us on to a closer walk with Him. God knows what we have been - 'Your name is Jacob' (10). He knows how often we have failed Him, yet still, He loves us. Still, He holds out before us a new and better future - 'Israel shall be your name' (10). God is inviting us to enter into a future of fruitfulness (11): 'I choose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that you fruit should abide' (John 15:16). Special mention is made of 'the place where God had spoken with him' - 'Bethel' (the house of God) (15). We cannot expect to be fruitful witnesses if we are not faithful worshippers. Listen for God's Word. Take His Word with you - and share it with others.
26th April: Genesis 35:16-36:43
Two prisoners looked out from the same cell. One saw the sunshine and the other saw mud! - two ways of looking at every situation: 'Benoni' (son of my sorrow), 'Benjamin' (son of the right hand) (35:18). Spot the missing name in chapter 36? - God. Many never think of God (Psalm 10:4). Esau's hardness of heart was more than personal. It has continued for generations - 'two nations...two peoples...' (25:23). He has 'spiritual' descendants too - God's Word warns us: 'See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God...like Esau' (Hebrews 12:15-17). Salvation does not come to us because of our good works (Romans 9:10-13). Every attempt to save ourselves meets with the divine condemnation (Malachi 1:1-4; Romans 3:19-20). Thank God for your own salvation. Never feel superior because of it. Pray that hard hearts will be brought to Christ (1 Timothy 1: 12-17; Romans 1:16).
27th April: Matthew 22:1-14
Jesus speaks in parables. Some hear, understand and believe. Others miss the point altogether. One man was 'not wearing wedding clothes' (11). He was dressed in the 'filthy rags' of his own 'righteous acts' (Isaiah 64:6). He was not clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Revelation 21:1-2, 7:9-14). Without Christ's righteousness we are naked and ashamed. Sin brings shame. Before sin, there was nakedness without shame (Genesis 2:25). After sin, 'they realized they were naked...and made coverings for themselves' (Genesis 3:7). Spiritually we are naked before the all-seeing eye of God (Hebrews 4:13). Christ says, 'buy from me...white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness' (Revelation 3:18). God says, 'Come, buy ...without money...Seek the Lord...call on Him... He will have mercy...He will freely pardon...' (Isaiah 55: 1, 6-8). Do you want to enter God's Kingdom? Make sure you are clothed in Christ's righteousness.
28th April: Matthew 22: 15-33
The Pharisees were subtle - just like the 'ancient serpent who is the devil' (Genesis 3:1; Revelation 20:2). They tried 'to entangle Jesus in His talk' (15). They wanted to trap Him and bring a charge against Him. They asked Jesus about payment of taxes to Caesar (17). Jesus moved beyond this question to our greatest responsibility: 'Render ...to God the things that are God's' (21). If we must speak words of political significance - 'Render.. to Caesar the things that are Caesar's' (21) - , let them arise out of this: Giving God His rightful place in His Church, the nation and the wider world. Jesus' words to the Sadducees, in verse 29, were not simply a protest against the religion of the Sadducees. They were a protest for the Scriptures and the power of God. A positive faith is much more helpful than a purely negative reaction!
29th April: Matthew 22:34-46
The Pharisees had failed. The Sadducees had failed. Now, 'they come together' (34). There were differences between them, yet they were prepared to lay aside their differences and join forces in their common opposition to Jesus. They were trying to get Him to set one commandment above all the others. They would then say that He had insufficient respect for the other commandments. Jesus answered them wisely: Love - for God and our neighbour - embraces all the commandments. They have fired questions at Jesus. Now, He puts a question to them (42). He seeks to raise their thinking beyond the human level - Jesus is not merely 'the son of David' (42). He is the Son of God. Greater than all of the great men, He is 'our Lord and our God' (John 20:28). No more trick questions. Give the answer of faith: 'You are...the Son of the living God' (16: 16).
30th April: Psalm 6:1-10
What a pitiful picture: 'languishing ... troubled ... sorely troubled ... moaning ... tears ... weeping ... grief ... weak' (1-7). Transformation - Overwhelmed by evil becomes overcoming evil. 'O Lord - how long?' becomes 'The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication' (3, 8-9). We look at our circumstances. We ask, 'How long must this continue?'. We look at Christ's Cross. We say, 'He has won the victory'. His victory becomes ours, as we say, in faith, 'the Lord accepts my prayer' (9). We look beyond our present circumstances to Christ's Second Coming. When He returns, the tables will be turned. In a moment, there will be complete shame for His enemies (10; 1 Corinthians 15:25) and complete salvation for 'those who are eagerly waiting for Him' (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Hebrews 9:28).
1st May: Genesis 37:1-36
Here, we have human sin and divine grace. We see jealousy (11) and its effects: 'where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice' (James 3:16). There is God working out His purpose: 'you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good' (50:20). In his dreams, Joseph was given a glimpse of the 'new thing' (Isaiah 43:19) God was about to do. Joseph's situation seemed hopeless: 'cast...into a pit', 'sold' into slavery (24,28). God was in this situation. Each of us is in a 'pit', but we are not alone. Jesus has gone into the 'pit' for us, and He has come out of it victorious: 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?'. Slaves of Satan, we have been set free by Christ (Romans 6:17-18; Hebrews 2:14-15). God was with Joseph. He is with us.
2nd May: Genesis 38:1-30
'Judah went down from his brothers, and turned in to a certain Adullamite...' (1-2). This is the sad story of so many people: Drawn away by an unbelieving man/woman from the fellowship of God's people. The story then goes from bad to worse. A whole catalogue of disasters follows. God is mentioned in only two verses (7,10). Both speak of human sin and divine judgment. God's Word is clear: Believers are not to be joined in marriage to unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Lower your spiritual defences at this point, and you are asking for big trouble! Satan is ready to sweep in and cause chaos. This sad story of sin and shame stands as a warning to us. Do not rush into sinful choices. Put God first, and let Him lead you in His perfect way: 'Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well' (Matthew 6:33).
3rd May: Genesis 39:1-23
In chapter 38, we read of unbridled lust. Here, we read of sexual restraint: 'how can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?' (9). Sin brings complications, and so does obedience! There is, in fact, only one complication - sin. We live in a sinful world, which has no real interest in obedience to God. We must be realistic: 'all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted' (2 Timothy 3:12). Obedience and persecution - we see both in the story of Joseph. He was tempted, but he did not sin (7-9). Temptation is not sin. God provides 'the way of escape' (1 Corinthians 10:13). Christ is 'the way' (John 14:6), God's way of escape. We go to Him when we are tempted (Hebrews 2:16; 4:15-16). Joseph was put into prison, 'but the Lord was with him, and showed him steadfast love' (20-21) - 'persecuted, but not forsaken'' (2 Corinthians 4:9).
4th May: Matthew 23:1-39
As you read Jesus' stinging words, remember this: there is a 'Pharisee'' in every one of us! Jesus disturbs the 'peace' of 'those who sit at ease in Zion' (Amos 6:1). He invites us to see ourselves as God sees us: 'before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do' (Hebrews 4:13). Why does Christ speak such disturbing words? - He loves us. He longs for us to return to Him and be forgiven. Many times He comes to us - 'How often would I have gathered you'. Many times we refuse His appeal of love: 'you would not' (37). You may have refused Him often, yet still He waits. Still, He perseveres in love. Still, He seeks to show you the emptiness of your life without Him - 'forsaken and desolate' (38). Still, He waits for you to say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord' (39).
5th May: Matthew 24:1-31
After the first two verses, concerned with the destruction of the temple, Jesus speaks of 'the sign of His coming and of the end of the age' (3). There will be times of testing (9,21). We must take care not to be drawn away from Him (4,23-24). Beyond the time of testing, there will be the return of the Lord (29-30). The events of our day are not without significance. They are signs of His coming. We are to prepare ourselves for His return. We must live as servants of the Gospel (14). This will not be easy. There will always be opposition. Current affairs may be confusing, but we must look beyond all this to 'the momentous event': 'the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory' (30). Awaiting the Lord's return, we say, 'If no-one joins me, still I will follow' (Mission Praise, 272).
6th May: Matthew 24:32-25:13
'The times they are-a-changing'. There is, however, one thing that remains constant. Jesus says, 'My words will not pass away' (35). In an age of unbelief, our faith is often under threat. We must stand upon this solid Rock: 'The Word of the Lord stands forever' (1 Peter 1:25). The scoffers will say, 'Where is the promise of His coming?' (2 Peter 3:3-4). We are to believe that 'He is near' (33). Christ has risen. He will return (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). When He returns need not concern us: 'the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect' (44). We are to be ready at all times (13) - doing the Lord's will (46). We are to be 'faithful and wise' (45). As 'the bride of Christ' (Revelation 19:7; 21:2), we await the Return of Christ our Bridegroom: 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him' (6).
7th May: Matthew 25:14-46
We are to be faithful to God (21). There is a reward for faithfulness (29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our 'reward' is not to get more glory for ourselves: 'what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord' (2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy. We are not to be thinking, 'What am I going to get out of this?'. We are to be asking, 'What can I give to others?'. The 'righteous' are not full of boasting about their 'righteous' actions (37-38). The Lord's true servants do not draw attention to themselves. Do you have 'talents'? Yes - you do! Use them! 'Serve the Lord with gladness' (Psalm 100:2). Let this be your 'reward': the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God. On earth, we begin to 'enter the joy of our Lord' (21). In heaven, there will be 'fullness of joy' and 'pleasure for evermore' (Psalm 16:11).
8th May: Proverbs 3:5-18
'Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 3:18). If we are to know the Lord, we must come to an end of ourselves: 'Be not wise in your own eyes' (7), 'do not rely on your own insight' (5). True knowledge of God comes through faith: 'Trust in the Lord...' (5). True knowledge of God is heart-knowledge: 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart' (5). Knowing Christ involves growing in grace. We cannot get to know God apart from the grace of God working within us. Growth in grace is not always a smooth pathway (11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11). Never forget: 'the Lord's discipline' is an expression of the Lord's love. 'Lord, You are more precious than silver, Lord, You are more costly than gold, Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds, And nothing I desire compares with You' (13-15; Mission Praise,447).
9th May: Genesis 40:1-23
God gave Joseph power to overcome temptation (chapter 39). Now, He gives him power to interpret dreams. Here, Joseph the dreamer (37:5-11) becomes Joseph the interpreter of dreams. Joseph may be viewed as a prophet: 'Surely the Lord does nothing, without revealing His secret to His servants the prophets' (Amos 3:7). As a true prophet, he gives the glory to God alone: 'Do not interpretations belong to God?' (8). Joseph became the forgotten man (23). For Joseph, life had become very difficult. He had known prosperity (39:2-3). Now, he was suffering adversity. God is in both our prosperity and our adversity. He uses adversity to produce in us a heart of humility. What was Joseph doing while he was in prison? He was keeping close to God, waiting patiently for his 'time to speak' (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
10th May: Genesis 41:1-57
'After two whole years', Joseph was still the forgotten man. Then Pharaoh had a dream (1). This was the beginning of the next stage of God's plan for Joseph. In the interpretation of Pharaoh's dream, Joseph directs attention to God: 'It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favourable answer...God has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do...God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do... the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass (16,25,28,32). Joseph spoke with divine authority because 'the Spirit of God' was living in him (38). God was at work in Joseph, enabling him to forget his hardship and to be fruitful in his affliction (51-52). This is the work of divine grace - a reversal of human expectations. By God's grace, hardship and affliction lead not to bitterness and resentment but to a deeper love for the Lord.
11th May: Genesis 42:1-38
'Joseph's brothers...bowed themselves before him' (6): Remember Joseph's dream (37:5-11)! God is fulfilling His purpose. This has nothing to do with the glory of Joseph. It has everything to do with the glory of God. Joseph was exalted to a place of honour because he was a man of God: 'I fear God' (18). All the glory belongs to God alone! Joseph's treatment of his brothers seemed harsh. In verse 24, we see another side of him: 'he turned away from them and wept'. Joseph loved his brothers. Behind his 'harsh' words, there was love. He wanted them to recognize their sin (38:18-33). He was paving the way for his reunion with them in brotherly love. God loves us. Sometimes, His ways seem harsh, but they are always for our best (Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:5-11). He shows us how much our sin hurts Him so that we might see how much He loves us.
12th May: Genesis 43:1-34
The roles have been reversed. At the beginning of Joseph's story, it seemed that the brothers had control over his destiny (37:19-20). Now, Joseph has the upper hand. Ultimately , it was the Lord who was in control. In all the events of Joseph's life, God had been leading him towards the re-uniting of the family through which He would work out His purpose of grace. Joseph, the man at the centre of God's purpose, knew the God of grace and desired that others might also know the blessing of the gracious God (29). Benjamin was Joseph's only full brother. The others were step-brothers (29:31-30:24; 35: 16-18). Joseph had a special affection for Benjamin (30). In the love of Joseph for Benjamin, we see God's love for us: 'My compassion grows warm and tender' (Hosea 11: 8); 'I have loved you with an everlasting love' (Jeremiah 31:3).
13th May: Genesis 44:1-34
God is fulfilling His purpose: 'the brothers fell before Joseph to the ground' (14; 37:7, 10). God's purpose is moving towards its ultimate fulfilment: 'that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow' (Phillipians 2:10). As God's purpose moves forward, the brothers are being changed from men who sold their brother into slavery to men who will welcome him again as their long-lost brother (37:28; 45:15). God wants to change us - 'Jesus, You are changing me, By Your Spirit You're making me like You. Jesus, You're transforming me, That Your loveliness may be seen in all I do.You are the potter and I am the clay. Help me to be willing to let You have Your way. Jesus, You are changing me, as I let You reign supreme within my heart' (Mission Praise, 389). Bowing the knee to Jesus Christ begins here and now.
14th May: Genesis 45:1-28
In the reunion of Joseph with his brothers, there is a great testimony to the God of grace: 'Do not be distressed... because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life...God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God... God has made me lord of all Egypt' (5,7-9). Joseph was the pioneer. He went ahead of the others. He paved the way for them. Jesus is 'the Pioneer of our salvation'. He will 'bring many sons to glory'. He will welcome us as His 'brothers' (Hebrews 2:10-12). Jesus is also the 'Perfecter of our faith' (Hebrews 12:2). He is leading us to 'a better country - a heavenly one' (Hebrews 11:16). Let 'every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord' (Philipians 2:11). Let it begin here on earth.
15th May: Matthew 26:1-13
Jesus was on His way to the Cross (2). His death was the direct result of the hatred of men (3-4). It was also the supreme demonstration of the love of God (Romans 5:8). In verses 6-13, we read of a woman who loved Jesus very much. Jesus was deeply moved by her great love for Him. He wanted everyone to know about her deep devotion to Him: 'Truly, I say to you, wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her' (13). We read in Acts of the advance of the Gospel (1: 8). Great crowds became believers (2:41; 4:4; 6:7). In all of this, Jesus says to us, 'Don't forget the woman. Don't forget her love'. Love for Jesus - simple, sincere, childlike love - this is the most important thing of all: 'O for grace to love Him more' (Church Hymnary, 676).
16th May: Matthew 26:14-35
Peter and Judas Iscariot had something in common. They both failed their Lord (14-16, 34). Things turned out very differently for them (27:3-5; Acts 2:38-42). When we fail the Lord , we find ourselves at a cross-roads. We can turn to Him. We can turn away from Him. In view of His great love for us - His 'blood' has been 'poured out for the forgiveness of sins' (28) - how can we turn our backs on Him? How can you and I say 'No' to such love? There is no reason why we should say 'No' to Him - yet we do! Do we doubt that He is there for us? Do we wonder if He really loves us? What about you? Do you think that He cannot or will not forgive your sins? He can and He will. That's why He died - 'for the forgiveness of sins' (28).
17th May: Matthew 26:36-56
Jesus' suffering is increasing. What pain His disciples caused Him. Three times, He 'found them sleeping' (40-45), 'My betrayer is at hand' (46), 'all the disciples forsook Him and fled' (56)! Was this the end of the road for His disciples? No! With one exception - Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus still called 'friend' (50), the others became men of prayer (Acts 1:13-14). They stood with Peter as he preached the Gospel, as he led many sinners to the Saviour (Acts 2:14,37-38). Jesus loved His disciples. He died for them. Then - after Jesus was 'glorified' - the Spirit was 'given' to them (John 7:39). The fleeing disciples became men 'on fire' (Acts 2:3). No more 'fleeing'. Now it was 'flowing' - 'rivers of living water' (John 7:38). 'Blaze, Spirit blaze. Set our hearts on fire. Flow, river, flow. Flood the nations with grace and mercy' (Mission Praise, 445).
18th May: Matthew 26:57-75
'Peter followed Him at a distance' (58). He didn't want to get too close! Keeping your distance from Jesus leads to trouble! Trouble was not the end of Peter's story. Three times Peter denied the Lord (69-75). Three times Jesus asked him, 'Do you love me?', three times Peter answered Jesus, 'I love You' (John 21:15-17) - For each denial, an opportunity to re-affirm his love for Jesus. Three thousand souls won for Christ (Acts 2:41) - For each denial, one 'thousand souls' brought to Christ. The contrast between the 'Peter' of the Gospels and the 'Peter' of Acts is striking. When Jesus first met Peter, He said, 'You are Simon...You shall be called Peter' (John 1:42). 'Peter' means 'rock'. Peter's confession of faith - 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God' (16:16) - is the Rock on which our faith is built. With Peter, let us confess Christ.
19th May: Psalm 7:1-17
Scripture speaks to us of both judgment and salvation (6,10; Hebrews 9:27-28). The Gospel brings salvation, - 'God sent the Son... that the world might be saved...'. There is also a warning - 'he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God' (John 3:17-18). The Lord does not wish 'that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance'. Nevertheless, there will be 'the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men' (2 Peter 3:9,7). What is happening here on earth? - 'the wicked man...makes a pit...and falls into the hole which he has made' (14-15). What does God say about this? - 'If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword...' (12), 'God... commands all men everywhere to repent' (Acts 17:30). God calls for 'repentance' and 'faith in our Lord Jesus Christ' - 'Repent and believe the Gospel' (Acts 20:21; Mark 1:15).
20th May: Genesis 46:1-34
Jacob goes to Egypt. There were three factors in Jacob's guidance: Inner desire - He wanted to see Joseph; Circumstances - Joseph wanted to see him and his sons were going to take him; God's Word - God told him to go. With God's command there was also His promise - 'I will there make of you a great nation'. There was no need for fear because God would be with him (3-4). Life would not be easy in Egypt - 'every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians' (34). We live in a world which does not honour Christ as 'the Good Shepherd' (John 10:11,14), 'the Great Shepherd' (Hebrews 13:20-21), 'the Chief Shepherd' (1 Peter 5:4). In Christ, we are 'a holy nation'. Why has God made us His 'own people'? - 'that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him..' (1 Peter 2:9). 'The nations are waiting for us, waiting for the gospel we will bring' (Songs of Fellowship, 539).
21st May: Genesis 47:1-26
Jacob and Joseph - the two stories are one. Christ and the Christian - our story is bound up with His story. Jacob reflects on his life - 'What has it all amounted to?'. He does not sing his own praises (8-9). Let the glory be given to God and not kept for ourselves. Joseph provided food for his family (12). Jesus has provided for us something better than food (Matthew 4:4) - 'an eternal redemption' (Hebrews 9:12). Grateful to Joseph for what he had done for them, the people said, 'You have saved our lives...we will be slaves' (25). Saved by Christ we are to be 'slaves' of Christ (Romans 6:17-18). We belong to Christ. We are to serve Him. We look to Him to 'give us seed (His Word)...that the land may not be desolate' (19; Mark 4:14; Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 126:5-6). We 'sow'. We 'reap'. 'God gives the growth' (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) !
22nd May: Matthew 27:1-26
Jesus went to the Cross for us. Refusing to protest His own innocence, He took our guilt upon Himself. Observing this, 'the governor wondered greatly' (14). We also should wonder greatly at this - Christ took our place, receiving the punishment that should have been ours. Barabbas was released, Christ was crucified (26). This is the great exchange - the sinless Saviour takes the place of the guilty sinner (2 Corinthians 5:21). As well as its divine aspect - 'God so loved...' (John 3:16) - the Cross has a human dimension - the people, Jews and Gentiles (the whole sinful world), sent Jesus to the Cross. For Jews and Gentiles ('the whole world'), Christ has provided salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 John 2:2). In the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Christ, we are invited to ask ourselves, 'What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' (22).
23rd May: Matthew 27:27-54
The 'King of the Jews' wore 'a crown of thorns' (29). In the Cross, we see the King. The way of crucifixion - this is the way of the Kingdom. The prayer, 'Thy Kingdom come' (6: 10), could only be answered by way of the Cross. From the Cross, we hear the call for decision. It is the call of love. The love of Christ calls for our answer: 'What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' (22). Here, we see different responses to Christ - derision, mocking, reviling (39-44); misunderstanding (47-49); believing worship (54). How are we brought out of unbelief and into faith, out of derision and into rejoicing? By the mighty working of God in our hearts, we are brought out of darkness and into light (2 Corinthians 4:6). Salvation comes from above, from God - 'The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom' (51).
24th May: Matthew 27:55-66
'Mary the mother of James and Joseph' was also the mother of Jesus (56; 13:55). She began by receiving Jesus, not only as her son but also as her Saviour (Luke 1:38). She was still following Jesus - 'kept by the power of God' (1 Peter 1:5). None of us - not even the mother of Jesus - can walk with the Lord without His grace keeping us in the way of faith. The unbelieving world still denies Christ - 'that imposter' (63) - and His resurrection - 'fraud' (64). As believers, we must maintain our testimony: 'He has risen from the dead' (64). The unbelievers expected a 'fraud'. They did not expect a resurrection! For them, a resurrection was out of the question. God had a surprise in store for them! Unbelief says, 'Resurrection? - Impossible!'. Faith says, 'it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him' (Acts 2:24). He has risen (28:6) - Hallelujah!
25th May: Proverbs 3:19-35
'You will walk on your way securely...for the Lord will be your confidence' (23,26). Trusting in the Lord, we are to say, 'He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold' (Job 23:10). Our faith is under threat. There is the danger of 'sudden panic' (25). We are faced with the 'man of violence...the perverse man...the wicked...the scorners...fools' (31-35). What are we to do? Even in the most testing and trying times, we must hold on to this: God is at work for our holiness - 'Refiner's fire, my heart's one desire is to be holy. Set apart for You, Lord, I choose to be holy, set apart for You, my Master, ready to do Your will' (Songs of Fellowship, 475). Submitted to God's holy purpose, we rejoice in this: Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:39).
26th May: Genesis 47;27- 48:22
No more fear (46:3). No more pride (47:9). Now, no more doubt - God will bless (15-16, 19-21). Let it be confidence (Philippians 1:6), humility (John 15:5) and faith (Hebrews 11:1; Philippians 3:14). Man's way is set aside - 'his younger brother shall be greater than he' (19). We are 'saved by grace' (Ephesians 2:8). There is one way of salvation - God's way (John 14:6). Israel was promised a 'land' (21). In Christ, we are being led on to 'a better country...a heavenly one' (Hebrews 11:16). Jacob said, 'I am about to die' (21). Jesus says, 'I died and...I am alive for evermore' (Revelation 1:18). He says, 'I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also' (John 14:3). No more fear, pride, doubt - Christ saves 'to the uttermost' (Hebrews 7:25).
27th May: Genesis 49:1-27
Jacob blesses his sons, 'blessing each with the blessing suitable to him' (28). The most significant blessings are reserved for Joseph (22-26). This is not simply the blessing of Jacob. This is the blessing of 'the Mighty One of Jacob...the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel...the God of your father...God Almighty' (24-25). God blesses us 'with blessings of heaven above, blessings which are mighty beyond the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills' (25-26). He does this for us in Jesus Christ, the fulfilment of the divine purpose within which Joseph was privileged to take his part. 'God... has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places' (Ephesians 1:3). What blessings He has given to us - the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit, eternal life (Ephesians 1:7,13-14)! 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits' (Psalm 103:2).
28th May: Genesis 49:28- 50:26
It was a time of 'very great and sorrowful lamentation' (10). Jacob had died (33). Soon, Joseph would be gone (26). God was still there. He had been there in the past (20). He would be there in the future (24-25). Times are hard. We rejoice: 'The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases'. An earthly life has ended. We say, 'His mercies never come to an end'. We cannot cope. We discover that 'His mercies are new every morning'. Everything seems to be changing. We trust in God's unchanging love: 'Great is Thy faithfulness'. It seems hopeless. We say, 'I will hope in the Lord' (Lamentations 3:22-24). 'Bad' things are happening to you. Do you need to be 'reassured... and comforted'? - 'God meant it for good...Do not fear'. The Lord 'will provide for you' (20-21). Whatever happens, remember this - God is in control, and He loves you (Romans 8:28)!
29th May: Matthew 28:1-10
The resurrection declares Christ's victory over evil, the triumph of His love. There is no need for fear: 'He has risen' - His 'perfect love casts out fear' (5-6; 1 John 4:18). There has to be a new beginning in faith. First, there was a new beginning 'in fact - Christ has been raised from the dead' (1 Corinthians 15:20). Christ has won the victory over the grave. Christ has taken the sting out of death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Between the new beginning in faith - making disciples (19) - and the new beginning in fact - Christ's resurrection - , there is worship (9). The fact is not dependent on our feelings. 'He has risen' (6-7) - the fact stands, even when many doubt and few worship (17). As we worship, we are strengthened in faith, strengthened for our task. We are to invite people to come to the place where 'they will see' Jesus (10). We are to 'make disciples' (19). Run and tell - with great joy (8)!
30th May: Matthew 28:11-20
Why is it so important that we 'make disciples' (19)? There is a devil, and he is doing his utmost to hinder the progress of God's truth. He spreads lies about Christ - 'to this day' he is still sowing seeds of unbelief (11-15). We must combat the enemy of Christ - with words of truth, with the believing declaration, 'He has risen' (6-7). Satan failed to halt the progress of the Gospel. Christ's disciples rose to the challenge, and so must we: 'Rise up, you champions of God...We'll reach this generation...Go forth! Jesus loves them. Go forth! Take the Gospel. Go forth! The time is now. The harvest is ripening; Go forth! Feel now the burden of the Lord. Feel how He longs to save them. Feel now for those who never heard...Now is the time' (Songs of Fellowship, 486). 'All authority...has been given to Me...I am with you always' (18-20).
31st May: Psalm 8:1-9
The Lord is 'majestic' (1,9). He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. He show us His greatness, the greatness of His love. We feel forgotten. He remembers us. We feel unloved. He cares for us (4). We are tempted. He will 'still the enemy' (2). We look beyond our creation (5-8) to our salvation - 'we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone...that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil' (Hebrews 2:8-9,14). This is 'Majesty' - 'Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings'. The Name of the Lord is majestic 'in all the earth' (1, 9). To God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - we pray, 'Glorify Your Name in all the earth' (Mission Praise. 454,142).
1st June: Exodus 1:1-2:10
Things were difficult for Israel yet 'the more they were oppressed the more they multiplied' (12). Difficult times can be the making of God's people! Pharaoh (and Satan!) is murderously anxious about the growth of God's people (15-16; John 10:10). God is about to move in saving power - His 'midwives' are preparing for the 'birth' of His redeemed people (17,20). Moses was preserved in 'a basket made of bulrushes' (2:3). Born again, we are preserved through God's Word and Spirit - 'the living and abiding Word of God' (1 Peter 1:23). Moses was drawn out of the water (2:10). Israel was drawn out of the bondage in Egypt (6:6-8). Like Israel, we have been redeemed by blood (12:13; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Redeemed by the Lord, we are to be consecrated to Him. In 20:1-2, 'the Ten Commandments' are introduced by a declaration of God's salvation. Our obedience to God is to be grounded in this: He has redeemed us!
2nd June: Exodus 2:11-3:22
Salvation, service, personal faith, life among God's people - God has much to teach us. Moses sins (2:12). God graciously forgives (Micah 7:18-19) - this is salvation. His sin forgiven, Moses is called to service. He is called by the eternal God, the God who draws near to His people (3:14-15). Saved by Christ, we are called to serve Him, the eternal 'God' who 'became flesh and dwelt among us' (John 1:1-14). Saved, we belong to God's people (1 Peter 2:10). Serving, we play our part within the 'one body' of Christ (Romans 12:4-5). Moses was to serve God's people, the people whose prayer God answered - delivering them from bondage and leading them on to great blessing (2:23-25; 3:8). Moses was a key figure, but he did not stand alone. The work of God made progress because the people of God went forward together. In God's work, we are to be participators - not spectators!
3rd June: Exodus 4:1-31
Two great obstacles had to be overcome - Moses' sense of inadequacy and Pharaoh's stubborn resistance. Moses had to learn that 'our competence comes from God' (2 Corinthians 3:5). Part of God's provision for Moses was Aaron (14-16). We are not called to go it alone. What encouragement there is in the support of our fellow-believers. Weak believers need strengthening. Stubborn unbelief (Pharaoh) is ready to overwhelm us. We need strength if we are to 'attempt great things for God' and 'expect great things from God' (William Carey). Concerning Pharaoh, God says, 'I will harden his heart' (21). This was also Pharaoh's own choice - 'Pharaoh hardened his heart' (8:15,32; 9:34). God sent circumstances into Pharaoh's life which led him to harden his own heart by rejecting God's Word. Pharaoh's resistance did not hinder God's salvation - he was 'compelled by a mighty hand' (3:19). God is at work - make sure you don't miss out on His blessing!
4th June: Exodus 5:1-6:13
In 4:29-31, we see Moses, the elders and the people worshipping God. Pharaoh opposes them - 'Who is the Lord, that I should heed His voice...?' (2) - , and 'the foremen of the people of Israel' start complaining (19-21). What does Moses do ? - He prays. Notice the honesty of his prayer - he asks the 'Why ?' question, and he protests, 'You have not rescued Your people at all' (22-23). God gives His answer - redemption will be given (6:1,6-8). Redemption - this is God's answer to our suffering. He gave His Son to suffer for our sins. Through Christ, we receive salvation. Moses had to learn to wait for the fulfilment of God's promise. God's own people were not listening to him. How could he expect the unbelieving Pharaoh to listen to him (6:9,12)? It was not easy. Nevertheless, this 'charge' had been given - 'bring the people out'. It shall be done!
5th June: Mark 1:1-20
This is a new 'beginning'. The prophets had spoken. Now, the Saviour has come. This is good news. John has prepared the way. Now, he stands aside to make way for Jesus Christ, the Son of God' (1,11). Following Jesus' baptism, there was temptation. This was Kingdom against kingdom. Satan's kingdom was under threat. The Kingdom of God had come. Christ triumphed over Satan. In Him, we triumph when, hearing the Gospel declaration - 'the Kingdom of God is at hand' - , we obey the Gospel command - 'repent and believe the gospel' (15). With the command, 'Follow Me', there is the promise, 'I will make you...' (17). Christ's call is 'full of grace and truth' (John 1:14). It is truth - a call to discipleship. It is grace - a call from Jesus. In Christ, we become 'a new creation' (2 Corinthians 5:17). We become 'fishers of men' (17).
6th June: Mark 1:21-2:12
Great things were happening. God was moving in power. In all this, we could easily overlook something very important: Jesus prayed (35). He made time for prayer. This was not wasted time. This was time well spent. Jesus was mighty before men - the power of God was flowing freely. Jesus knew where the power comes from - He was humble before God. We long for this - 'they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"' (12). We must pray in faith, bringing people before the Lord, convinced that such prayer 'is powerful and effective' (2:5; James 5:16). "If my people...pray..., I will...forgive their sin and heal their land' (2 Chronicles 7:14). "O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me. Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need. For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead' (Mission Praise, 587).
7th June: Exodus 6:14-7:24
This list of names emphasizes that God is concerned with the 'little people', and not only the 'the big names' like Moses. Gifted individuals have their important place in carrying forward God's purpose. Such individuals are used by God for the blessing of the whole people of God. The forward movement of God's work is often preceded by great difficulties. We must 'walk by faith, not by sight' (2 Corinthians 5:7). Adverse circumstances must not defeat us. The Lord is calling us on to greater faith. God's purpose of grace moves forward according to His power and not our weakness. Moses spoke 'with faltering lips' (30). God worked miracles (8-24). Turning to 'sorcerers' and 'magicians', Pharaoh, the servant of Satan, 'would not listen' to God's servants (11,13;7:22). 'Our God is marching on' - to glorious victory (Church Hymnary, 318)!
8th June: Exodus 7:25-8:32
God's work is 'in the midst of the earth'. He claims His own people for Himself (22-23). To 'all the ends of the earth', He says, 'Turn to Me and be saved'. Concerning His own people, He says, 'In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall triumph and glory' (Isaiah 45:22,25). In the plagues, we see God's power and Pharaoh's pride. There is a conflict between the reality of God and Pharaoh's fantasy. Conflict is God's training ground for spiritual growth. We take our stand on the reality of God. Those who oppose God live in a fantasy world, imagining that they can successfully oppose the mighty God of salvation - 'To pluck from His hand the weakest, trembling soul, it never, never can be done' (Sacred Songs and Solos. 508). Pharaoh was neither the first nor the last to oppose God- and fail! Put to death by men, Christ was raised by God (Acts 2:23-24) - Hallelujah!
9th June: Exodus 9:1-35
Today, we highlight three lessons: The importance of trusting Christ as your Saviour, the folly of refusing Christ's salvation and the danger of professing conversion without really meaning it. Each of us must choose: Will you step into Christ or remain outside of Him? Will you flee to Him and take refuge in Him or will you neglect Him and remain under judgment? 'Flee from the wrath to come'. 'How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?' (20-21; Luke 3:7; Hebrews 2:3). You can enter into salvation through faith in Christ or you can, in unbelief, remain outside of Christ (Hebrews 4:2-3). Pharaoh 'confessed' his sin, but didn't really mean it. He had had 'enough' of God's interference. That was his 'reason' for admitting his sin. This was not real repentance - only a dislike for suffering! Make your decision for Christ, and make it real!
10th June: Exodus 10:1-29
The conflict between God and Pharaoh is a conflict between light and darkness. We are to shine as lights - for God, the 'Light' in whom there is 'no darkness at all' (Matthew 5:16; 1 John 1:5). God's purpose is moving forward. Pharaoh becomes more determined in his rebellion. Pharaoh's stubborn unbelief becomes his own undoing. Pharaoh doesn't want God. God confirms him in his unbelief (28-29). God says, 'You can go your own way, but you will be spiritually dead' (Psalm 106:13-15). God says, 'Do not harden your heart. You may be very close to the point of no return' (Hebrews 3:8; Proverbs 29:1). Before you lose all inclination to return to the Lord, let Christ's love touch your heart. Only His love can 'create in you a clean heart'. Only His love can 'put a new and right Spirit within you' (Psalm 51:10).
11th June: Exodus 11:1-12:28
Here, we focus attention on two verses which emphasize the importance of being saved by the Lord and going on to live for Him: 'when I see the blood, I will pass over you...you must eat unleavened bread' (13,20). In verse 13, we are directed beyond the Passover to Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins (John1:29; 1 John1:7). In verse 20, we have the call to holy living. In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Galatians 5:7-9, Paul uses 'leaven' as a symbol of 'sin', which holds us back from 'running a good race'. We are to live as a new creation, who feast on 'the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth'. Forgiveness of sins and holy living belong together. We are not to rejoice in God's forgiveness and then gloss over His call to holy living: 'justified by faith', we are to 'walk in newness of life' (Romans 5:1; 6:4)
12th June: Exodus 12:29-13:16
God delivered His people from their bondage (3,14,16). There is, in the Exodus, a great picture of the Gospel, which sets us free. Christ sets us free. He does this by His Word of 'truth' (John 8:32,36). The Gospel says, 'Sin will have no dominion over you...You have been set free from sin' (Romans 6:14,18,22). Through 'the Spirit of God', we have received 'not...the spirit of slavery...but...the spirit of sonship' (Romans 8:14-15). Israel's deliverance from the land of bondage was also deliverance for a new life in 'a land flowing with milk and honey' (5). We look back in grateful remembrance. We look forward in eager anticipation. We have received 'the first fruits of the Spirit'. There is more to come - 'the glorious liberty of the children of God...the redemption of our bodies' (Romans 8:21-23).
13th June: Exodus 13:17-14:31
Sin may be 'near', but God never leads His people into it (13:17, James 1:13). Following Christ means walking a narrow road (Matthew 7:13-14). We are surrounded by many temptations. Pray that your feet will not slip (Psalm 37:31; 17:5; 44:18). Sometimes, the Lord leads us 'by way of the wilderness' - a way of apparent fruitlessness. Why? - So that 'equipped for battle', we might learn to serve Him better (13:18). The Lord does not leave His people in the wilderness. Pursued by their enemies (the Egyptians), they were guided by the 'cloud' and 'fire' (13:21-22). God was with them, and He was about to reveal His saving power in a mighty way (13-14). There is judgment as well as salvation (30). Looking to neither the 'right' nor the 'left', we must look to the Lord (14:21-22). Rejoicing in 'the great work' He has done, our faith 'in the Lord' grows strong (31).
14th June: Exodus 15:1-21
This is a song of redemption - God has redeemed His people; a song of thanksgiving - we give thanks for God's redemption; and a song of hope - we look forward to the complete fulfilment of God's redemption. This is not only a 'song of God's people'. It is also the song of Moses, a personal song. This is worship - not a mere formality, but worship which arises from the depths of Moses' heart. Deeply moved by the grace and glory of God, Moses pours his heart out to God in worship: (i) He praises the God of grace - 'my strength...my song...my salvation' (2). (ii) He praises the God of glory - God triumphs 'gloriously' (1). His 'glorious' power is demonstrated in His 'glorious' deeds (6,11). (iii) Worshipping this God of grace - the redeeming God (13) - and glory - the reigning God (18) - , we say, 'You are my God, and I will praise You' (Psalm 118:28). Let us worship God - personally as well as publicly.
15th June: Mark 2:13-3:12
Jesus changes people. Levi became Matthew (14). He became 'a new creation' (2 Corinthians 5:17). The change of name marked his new birth (John 3:6). To be changed by Jesus you must recognize yourself as a sinner (17). There is a world of difference between legal obedience - 'old wine' - and Gospel obedience - 'new wine' (21-22). There is an eternity of difference between belonging to God's Kingdom and remaining outside of His Kingdom (John 3:3,5,7). The religion of the Pharisees was legalistic. The obedience of Jesus was spiritual. Will we follow Jesus, or will we be like these 'religious' men who planned 'to destroy Him' (6)? It is sadly possible to participate in 'religion', professing faith in 'the Son of God', in an 'unclean spirit' (11). Prompted by the Holy Spirit, let us truly confess that 'Jesus is Lord' (1 Corinthians 12:3).
16th June: Mark 3:13-35
The conflict intensifies. The 'twelve' are 'sent...to cast out demons' (14-15). Jesus is accused of being demon-possessed (22). Jesus warns against 'an eternal sin' - blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (28-30). With the offer of forgiveness - 'the blood of Jesus...cleanses us from all sin' - , there is the call to 'confess our sins' (1 John 1:7,9). 'If we say we have no sin' (1 John 1:8,10) and no need of Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we resist the Holy Spirit who seeks to convict us of our sin and lead us to the Saviour (John 16:8-9,14). Are you anxious about 'an unpardonable sin' ? Let the Holy Spirit lead you to the Saviour. Take your sin to Jesus, and let His 'perfect love cast out your fear' (1 John 4:17). Do you think you cannot be forgiven ? God's thoughts are 'higher': 'Return to the Lord...He will abundantly pardon' (Isaiah 55:6-9).
17th June: Proverbs 4:1-9
This is 'a father's instructions' to his 'sons' (1). The father has been a 'son' (3). He has wrestled with temptation. He has needed the exhortation - 'Let your heart hold fast...' (4) - and the warning - 'Do not turn away...' (5). Now, we turn to the divine Father and Son. The Father does not keep His distance from us. Through the Son, He has come near to us. Through the Son, we come to the Father (John 14:9,6). When Scripture says, 'Get wisdom' (7), it means this: 'Come to the Father through Jesus the Son'. Wisdom brings 'a beautiful crown', 'the crown of righteousness', 'the unfading crown of glory' (9; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4). Be wise. Be ready for the Lord's Return (Matthew 25:1-13). 'Purer...higher...greater - Our wonder, our worship, when Jesus we see!' (Church Hymnary, 374).
18th June: Exodus 15:22-16:36
God allows His people to suffer difficulties. Why? - To strengthen our faith (15:25; 16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2,16; 1 Peter 1:6-7). He chastens us, to teach us repentance (Revelation 3:19). Don't forget God's love. He is faithful: 'He didn't bring us this far to leave us'. He shows us His glory (7). He assures us that He is God (12). He provides us with 'daily bread' (4). Yesterday's 'bread' is insufficient for today's challenges (19-20). 'Morning by morning', the 'bread' is to be gathered (21; Lamentations 3:22-23). Jesus is the Living Bread (John 6:32-35,48-51). Feed on Him each day. Don't invite spiritual starvation by missing days. If you miss some days, don't let it continue. Remember: 'Seven days without prayer makes one weak'! 'How long has it been since you talked with the Lord?' Too long? It is time to pray and feed on Jesus!
19th June: Exodus 17:1-18:27
Worldly people create problems (17:3). Moses asks, 'What shall I do...?' (17:4). Indecision asks, 'Is the Lord among us or not?' (17:7). He gives victory (17:8-9,13). Joshua is being equipped for special service - 'in the ears of Joshua' (17:14). God's great concern is that His people move forward together. The work is not to be left to the few (18). God is looking to faithful servants who will 'bear the burden' together (21-22). There is much to be done, but we must never forget this: 'prayer and the ministry of the Word' (Acts 6:1-4). You may not be a Moses or a Joshua, but you can play your part. We rejoice in who God is and what He has done for us. Assured of His presence with us, let us worship Him: 'Blessed be the Lord...' (18:10-11).
20th June: Exodus 19:1-25
Before law, there is Gospel - what God has done for us (4). We are to obey in the Spirit of grace, as those who have been redeemed by His mercy (5-6; 1 Peter 2:9-10). God's Word is not only for the leader. It is for the whole people of God (3,7,9,11). God speaks to us concerning possession, consecration and reverence. Possession - We are His 'own possession' (5). In love, He has claimed us for Himself. We belong to Him. Consecration - God is holy. We are to be holy (10,14; 1 Peter 1:15-16). Reverence - Don't rush into God's presence, presuming on His blessing. We must not take God's blessing for granted. That would be arrogance (21-22). We must come to Him with this humble confidence: God will bless those who truly call upon Him (2 Chronicles 7:14-16). May God help us to say, 'All that the Lord has spoken we will do' (8).
21st June: Exodus 20:1-20
God does not want to see sin in us (20). He wants to see Himself in us. Sin robs us of His great blessing. He wants to fill us with love (Mark 12:28-31; Galatians 5:14; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). Before our love for Him, there is His love for us. He is the God of redemption. He has redeemed us. We are His people. This is His doing. All the glory belongs to Him (1-2). We are to live as His people. He is to have first place in our lives (3). The 'law' is 'holy' and 'good', but it cannot make us holy and good - without 'the new life of the Spirit' (Romans 7:12,6: 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:3). 'Moses' cannot save! There is only one Saviour - Jesus! Not under law, we yield ourselves to the God of salvation (Romans 6:13-14). Our obedience comes from faith in Christ - not legalism (Romans 1:5-6)! Our holiness comes from the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
22nd June : Mark 4:1-34
God's Word carries this message: 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says...' (9; Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). We must listen for the voice of the Spirit. Grace has been 'given' to us (11). It is God's gift. To God be the glory! Sadly, some refuse to listen. Think about your response to God's Word (15-20). Let your light shine (21-23; Matthew 5:16). Use your gifts, or lose them (24-25). We preach the Word. God gives the growth (26-29; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7). A small child can count the seeds in an apple. Only God knows how many apples there are in a single seed! God's Word is a 'seed' which bears much fruit (30-32; 1 Peter 1:23-25). Parables whet the appetite - for more! They were given to people 'as they were able to hear it' - 'a starter' (33-34)! May we be 'visual aids' to whet people's appetite - for God!
23rd June: Mark 4:35-5:20
Jesus was sleeping because He was tired - not because He didn't care (38)! He does care. Everything was under control. Faith was being tested. Fear and faith are opposites (40). 'Awe' (41) is very different from unbelieving fear. Awe leads to worship. Fear destroys faith. The man was filled with 'unclean spirits' (13). He was a 'demoniac' (15-16). No one could do anything for him (3) - except Jesus! They tried to 'subdue' him (4). Jesus saved him! He is able to lift from the guttermost...and 'save to the uttermost' (Hebrews 7:25). The human situation is hopeless (Ephesians 4:18-19; 2 Corinthians 4:4) - without Christ! With Him, everything changes (2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 4:22-24). ''The gates of hell prevail against' us. They do not prevail against Christ (Matthew 16:18). Tell others what the 'Lord has done for you' - God will use your words to bring blessing (19-20).
24th June: Mark 5:21-6:13
The story begins with Jairus (21-24). Then, there is an 'interruption' - which brought healing to a woman (25-34). The woman had nowhere else to go (25-26). She came to Jesus (27). She was healed - not because she touched His garment (many others were brushing against Him), but because she had 'faith' (28,31,34). Jesus brought her out into the open - so that she might confess Him (30,32-33). The new birth can take place in very quiet circumstances - by faith in Christ. Jesus wants us to 'come out' - to confess Him. Back to Jairus' daughter - People thought there was no hope. Jesus said, 'Do not fear, only believe' (35-36). Not everyone believes. We can limit the power of Christ among us - by our unbelief (5-6)! We can, however, be called, sent and given authority...(7) - Never forget: The power and glory belongs to God (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
25th June: Mark 6:14-44
They were great men of God - 'John the baptiser...Elijah...the prophets of old' (14-15). None of them can compare with the Lord Jesus Christ. These men directed attention to the Lord (1 Kings 18:36-39; Isaiah 52: 13-53:12; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Of Christ alone, we say, 'There is salvation in no one else...' (Acts 4:12). Christ saves - and satisfies: We feed on Him and we are 'satisfied' (42). Apart from Him, the human search ends in this: 'I can't get no satisfaction'. In Him, there is satisfaction - He is the Saviour. Saved, satisfied and sharing - this is what we are to be. To His disciples, He still says, 'You give them something...' (37). We say, 'We don't have enough'. He says, 'I am more than enough' (2 Corinthians 3:5). Many are 'like sheep without a shepherd'. We must not fail them. We must 'teach them many things' (34).
26th June: Mark 6:45-7:23
The storm is raging: 'they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them' (48). Jesus draws near, and there is peace: 'the wind ceased' (51). Another 'storm' continues to rage: 'Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders...?' (5). How did Jesus respond to this 'storm' of criticism? - He exposed the hypocrisy of those who made the tradition of men more important than the Word of God (7-9,13). He invited 'the people' to come 'to Him', to 'hear', to 'understand'. His Word was addressed to 'all' of them (14). Jesus emphasizes this point: 'man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart' (1 Samuel 16:7). The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Which will it be? - 'Their hearts were hardened' (52) or 'Loving the Lord your God with all your heart' (12:30).
27th June: Mark 7:24- 8:26
Verse 27: The Gospel is for all - Jews and Gentiles (John 3:16). It seems like a 'refusal'. It is not. In love, Jesus says, 'Show me that your faith is real'. First things 'first': Do you really want to be blessed by the Lord ? Or, are you content with 'going through the motions' of religious ritual. Is God's Word going in one ear and out the other (deaf)? Are you ashamed of the Lord (dumb)? Jesus 'makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak' (37). Jesus feeds those who are hungry - for Him. To those who say, "'Yes, Lord, even the crumbs', so long as it comes from You", Jesus gives much - and we are 'satisfied' (28;8). Don't settle for 'the leaven of the Pharisees' (15) - second best (by a long way!) - when you can have Jesus, the very best! 'Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus' (22-26; Mission Praise, 545).
28th June: Mark 8:27-9:13
'Who do you say that I am ?': Jesus puts this question to all of us. Some believe He is the Christ. Others do not. Some try to 'sit on the fence'. Everyone makes their response to Him. God is not deceived by outward observance of religion, when it masks an inward refusal to receive Christ as Saviour, to submit to Him as Lord. On the day of judgment, God will not be looking for respectability. He will be looking for faith (Luke 18:8). Peter confessed Christ (29). Then, he was overcome by Satan (33). He became 'puffed up' with pride (1 Corinthians 8:1). He forgot that faith comes from divine revelation (Matthew 16:17). We are not 'to rebuke' the Lord (32). Looking to 'Jesus only' (8; Romans 4:5), we are to live as His disciples (34) - not of this world, as He is not of this world (John 17:14,16; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
29th June: Mark 9:14-50
'Our God is able' (Daniel 3:17). Do we believe this? There is no doubt about God's power. What about our faith? We come to Jesus, saying, 'If you can'. Jesus turns things around: 'If you can! All things are possible to him who believes' (22-23). This is not so much an appeal for positive thinking. It is a call to prayer (29). Less self-confidence and more confidence in God - This is what we need. God's greatness is more important than our 'greatness' (33-35). Are there things that you don't understand? Don't be afraid to ask (32). You may even learn from those who 'don''t belong to our group' (38-40). They don't belong to our group? So what? Do they belong to Christ? That's what matters. 'It is better' (43,45,47) to be Christ's - than anything else! May our faith, though 'tested by fire', grow strong - to God's glory (49-50; 1 Peter 1: 6-7).
30th June: Psalm 9:1-20
'I will give thanks to the Lord...'(1-2). The enemy is defeated (3-6). 'The Lord sits enthroned for ever' (7). 'The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble' (9). What an encouraging Psalm this is: We have the victory in Christ. Nevertheless, it is not easy when we face determined opposition from the enemies of Christ and His Gospel: 'Behold what I suffer from those that hate me' (13). In this situation, we must call upon the Lord: 'Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail' (19). Though the conflict is raging all around, we must - taking our stand in Christ - declare God's praises and rejoice in His salvation (14). 'The Lord dwells in Zion' (11): 'Blest inhabitants of Zion, Washed in the Redeemer's blood', may we always say, 'Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy Name' (Church Hymnary, 421).
1st July: Exodus 20:21-21:32
So many instructions - Don't get bogged down in details. Remember this: We do not live by an ethic of legalism. This is an ethic of redemption (20:1-2). Forget the God of redemption, and you have nothing but a lot of rules and regulations. Become obsessed with rules and regulations, and there will be no room for the Redeemer and His redemption. 'Earmarked' for Jesus, we are to 'serve Him for life' (6). No turning back! We are bound to Him by love - not law! What love He has for us! Verse 30 speaks of 'ransom' and 'redemption': What great words of the Gospel (Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 1:18-19)! 'Eye for eye...' (24) - This limits vengeance. Remember: Love is the answer - not vengeance (Leviticus 19:18)! Let Christ's love give you strength - to keep on serving Him (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:6).
2nd July: Exodus 21:33-22:31
We travel from grace to glory - from 'Egypt' to 'the promised land'. In the wilderness there are many pitfalls. We can become careless in our obedience to Christ. Do not 'leave a pit open' - you may cause a brother to stumble (33; Romans 14:13). Restitution (1-17) - Be faithful in practical matters (Luke 19:8; 3:10-14). Read of 'the thief' (8). Think of the Lord - and be ready for His return (1 Thessalonians 5:2; Matthew 6:19-21). All our human problems are to be brought 'before God'. Never forget Him (8-9,11). God is 'compassionate' (27). We are to be 'consecrated' (31). God loves us. Will we continue to live as those who have never known His love? - 'God forbid! How can we who died to sin still live in it?' (Romans 6:2).
3rd July: Mark 10:1-31
The Pharisees came to Jesus - 'to test Him' (2). They asked Him about divorce (2). He spoke to them about marriage (6-9). We need to be positive, well grounded in the basic principles of God's Word. When the thorny problems come - as they surely will - we will face them with maturity, and not as 'children, tossed to fro and and carried about with every wind of doctrine' (Ephesians 4:14). Jesus loved the little children (13-16). Do we? Some say 'No' to the love of Jesus (21-22). Say 'Yes' to Him. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation is God's doing, not ours (26-27). Don't let 'self' take the place of Christ: 'we have left everything...' (28). Don't say, 'I have given so much to God, done so much for Him, given up so much for Him'. God has given you more! God has done more for you! God has given up more for you! John 3:16.
4th July: Mark 10:32-52
Jesus was 'going up to Jerusalem' - to the Cross (32). He came to die, 'to give His life as a ransom for many' (45). The death of Christ lies at the very heart of the Gospel (1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Corinthians 1:23 & 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 1 John 1:7, 2:2; Hebrews 2:9). Don't think, 'Glory for me' (37). Think, 'Glory to God' (43-44): 'God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Galatians 6:14). Bartimaeus cried out to the Lord for mercy (47). 'How embarrassing', some people thought - 'how undignified' (48). When God is at work, some people don't like it! They like everything to be dignified - dull and dead! When God is at work, people get converted. This may not please the 'critics', but it pleases God - and that's what matters. Cry to God for mercy. Your prayer will be heard - and answered.
5th July: Exodus 23:1-33
God is love: He loves 'the stranger' (9). God is holy: He 'will not acquit the wicked' (7). He wants to reproduce His love and holiness - in us. Not holiness without love: that is self-righteous legalism. Not love without holiness: that is spineless sentimentalism. To Israel, He sent 'an angel...' (20). To us, He has sent Christ: He is the Way to the place prepared for us (John 14:2-3,6). Through the Holy Spirit, Christ continues His ministry among us (John 14:25-26). 'Pay attention' to the words of Christ. 'Listen' for the voice of the Holy Spirit (21). Do not 'quench' or 'grieve' the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). It may take time - 'little by little' (30) - but God will work through his obedient people - 'I will...you shall...' (30-31).
6th July: Exodus 24:1-18
Moses was alone with the Lord - receiving the Word of the Lord (1-2). Moses went to the people - speaking the Word of the Lord (3). There was also a written ministry of the Word (4). At the heart of our worship, there is 'the blood of the covenant' (8; 12:13; John 1:29; Hebrews 9:22; 10:4; 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7). Moses worshipped on 'the mountain of God' (12-18). We worship 'in spirit and truth' (John 4:19-24). We come to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). We come on the basis of Christ's blood shed for us (Hebrews 10:19-22). We come as those to whom the Spirit has been given (John 1:33; 3:34). With 'the Spirit of God' living in us and helping us as we pray, let us feast on Christ, the Truth, the living Word, to whom the written and spoken word point us (Romans 8:9,26; John 14:6; 1:1,14; 17:17).
7th July: Exodus 25:1-40
This is full of Christ! We don't 'read into' the Old Testament things which aren't really there. We read this part of Scripture in the light of the full revelation of God. We see Christ as the Central Theme. Above everything else and everyone else, there is Jesus Christ our Saviour. God dwells among His people (8). Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20; Colossans 1:27). God is merciful to us (17-22; Psalm 103:8-12; Micah 7:18-19). Through Christ, we have received 'mercy' (Ephesians 2:4-7; Titus 3:4-7). From 'mercy' we move on to 'testimony' (18). The two are vitally related (1 Timothy 1:12-17). The 'bread of the Presence' (30) turns our thoughts to the Cross. The 'lampstand of pure gold' calls us to shine brightly for Christ, who 'came...to save sinners' (1 Timothy 1:15).
8th July: Mark 11:1-33
Here we learn of the authority of Christ. Calling the 'colt' into His service, He says, with authority, 'The Lord has need of it' (3). With authority, He speaks to the fig tree (14) - a 'visual aid' of His teaching: 'Every branch of Mine that bears no fruit, He takes away' (John 15:2). In the temple, He speaks with authority, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer...' (17). He speaks of authority in prayer: 'whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours' (24). The religious leaders did not understand Jesus (27-33). Why? - They didn't love Him. We can experience His authority: His Word spoken to us 'in power...' (1 Thessalonians 1:5). We can exercise His authority: Through prayer, setting His Word free to do His mighty work (Ephesians 6: 18-20) - if we are learning to love Him!
9th July: Mark 12:1-44
Jesus - God's 'beloved Son' (6): Rejected by men, raised by God (10-11). Jesus' enemies tried 'to trap Him in His talk' (13). He spoke with wisdom - and so can we. Anointed by the Holy One, we have the mind of Christ (1 John 2:19-20; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16). Christ's enemies knew 'neither the Scripture nor the power of God' (24). We are to speak as those who know the living God (27). Our 'first' priority is love for God (29-30). Jesus says, 'Love your neighbour' (31). This is not, however, 'the be-all and end-all' of our life. There is more. We must not forget God. Jesus is 'Lord' (35-37). Let it be: Jesus is my Lord. The scribes had all the external trappings of religion - and nothing else (38-40)! The 'poor widow' had very little, yet she had everything that really matters: she loved the Lord (41-44)!
10th July: Exodus 26:1-37
From the outside, it was a 'tent'. On the inside, the tabernacle was a place of great beauty. Many look at Christ, and see 'no beauty that we should desire Him' (Isaiah 53:2). The believer looks at Christ, and says, 'You are beautiful beyond description, too marvellous for words, too wonderful for comprehension, like nothing ever seen or heard' (Mission Praise, 788).The 'veil' has been removed (2 Corinthians 4:3-4,6). Our sin had separated us from God, hiding His face from us (Isaiah 59:2). When Christ died, 'the curtain of the temple was torn in two...' (Mark 15:37-38). He has changed everything (Hebrews 9:7-8,11-12). Once, we were 'separated...alienated... strangers...far off'. Now, we are 'in Christ Jesus' - 'brought near in the blood of Christ' (Ephesians 2:12-13; Hebrews 10:19-22).
11th July: Exodus 27:1-19
We highlight two interesting phrases - (a) 'as you were shown on the mountain' (8); (b) 'towards the sunrise' (13, New International Version). We need both 'the Scriptures' and 'the power of God' (Mark 12:24). Our faith is based on divine revelation - 'according to the Scriptures' (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We are 'not' to 'go beyond what is written' (1 Corinthians 4:6). Face the risen Son - We may not always be facing the rising sun, but we should always be facing the risen Son! The revelation, the resurrection, the Scriptures, the Son - these are the great focal-points of our Christian Faith: God has revealed Himself, Christ has risen. Encouraged by the Scriptures, and empowered by the Son, we face the risen Son and we say, 'I will proclaim the glory of the risen Lord' (Romans 15:4; Matthew 28:18-20; Mission Praise, 14).
12th July: Mark 13:1-37
We are not to be a people whose 'faith' is locked in the past! We are to be a people of hope. We look to the future. We 'see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory' (26). There may be 'wars and rumours of wars' (7). When Christ returns, only one thing will matter: 'he who endures to the end will be saved' (13). 'This day - the noise of battle': Look beyond all that to 'the victor's song' (Church Hymnary, 481). In human conflict, there is so much of self - 'We are the people'. When Christ returns, nothing will matter but this: 'When the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there' (Mission Praise, 759). We hear of 'wars and rumours of wars'. Do we say, 'This is part of our history. It's always been this way'?. We must remember: Preaching Christ's Gospel is far more important than 'defending' our ways (10)!
13th July: Proverbs 4:10-19
'The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day' (18). Face the risen Son. His life in us is like the rising sun. It begins with 'the first gleam of dawn'. It 'shines ever brighter until the full light of day''. Christ 'dawns on us like the morning light' (2 Samuel 23:4). In a moment of discovery, we say, 'It's just dawned on me'. It is very wonderful when Christ reveals Himself, when He brings us out of our darkness and into His light. This is just the beginning. There is so much more: 'No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him' (1 Corinthians 2:9). 'Light has dawned that ever shall blaze...Light a flame within my heart... Let my flame begin to spread' (Mission Praise, 422; Songs of Fellowship, 339).
14th July: Exodus 27:20-29:9
The 'lamp' was 'set up to burn continually' (27:20) - 'May we be a shining light...Let the flame burn brighter...' (Songs of Fellowship 389; Mission Praise, 743). A 'royal priesthood', we have been called by God - to let His light shine (1 Peter 2:9). He has called us to serve Him (28:1 John 15:16; Acts 20:28; 13:2; 9:15; Hebrews 5:4). The divine call is accompanied by a divine empowering - 'the Holy Spirit sent from heaven' (1 Peter 1:12). We are precious to God - Our 'names' are written on His heart (9-12,21,29-30; Luke 10:20; Phillipians 4:3; John 10:3). In Christ we are cleansed (29:4 1 John 1:7), anointed (29:7; 1 John 2:27) and robed (29:5-6,8-9; Isaiah 61:10). In Christ, we have 'the best robe' (28:2; Luke 15:22; Revelation 7:9-10,13-14). In Him, we are 'consecrated' by the Word and 'anointed' by the Spirit (28:3,41; John 17:17; 14:16-17, 26; 16:13-14).
15th July: Exodus 29:10-46
There is a great contrast between the many sacrifices of the Old Testament and the one sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:25-28; 10:1-4, 10-14). Looking to Christ, we focus attention on verses 42-46. For God's people, 'the tent of meeting' was a special place concerning which God said, 'I will meet with you, to speak there to you. There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by My glory' (42-43). Let us pray that, in both the pulpit and the pew, there will be the glory of God. Aaron and his sons were 'consecrated to serve' (44). We look beyond them to Christ who 'came ...to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many' (Mark 10:45). He dwells among us (45; John 1:14). He has provided for us a 'better' redemption than the redemption of Israel from Egypt - He is 'much more excellent' (46; Hebrews 8:6; 9:23-24).
16th July: Exodus 30:1-38
The Word of God ('the testimony') declares the mercy of God, leading to our meeting with God (6). We highlight several features of our worship: (a) 'the blood of the sin offering of atonement' (10) - This points to the 'how much more' sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for us (Hebrews 9:13-14); (b) 'washing' (18) - Christ 'has washed us from our sins in His blood' (Revelation 1:5; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5-6); (c) 'holy anointing oil' (25) - We are to be 'consecrated', 'most holy', servants of the Lord, 'making holiness perfect in the fear of God', living in the power of the Holy Spirit (29-30; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Zechariah 4:6); (d) 'incense' (35) - We are to be 'the aroma of Christ', spreading His 'fragrance' (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Christlike living is grounded in prayer (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4; Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
17th July: Mark 14:1-25
Jesus was surrounded by enemies, 'seeking to kill Him' (1). There was also a hypocrite, preparing 'to betray Him' (10-11). What a joy it was to find a woman with such heartfelt love for Him (3-9). Her love for Christ must never be forgotten (9). There is something else which must never be forgotten - His love for us. Our love for Him can never begin to compare with His love for us. When we celebrate the Lord's Supper (22-24; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26), we rejoice in His love. Think little of your love for Him. Think much of His love for you. 'Who His love will not remember? Who can cease to sing His praise? He can never be forgotten throughout heaven's eternal days' (Songs of Fellowship, 168). Remember Christ, and let your remembering be filled with worship (25; Ephesians 5:19-20; Colossians 3:16-17).
18th July: Exodus 31:1-32:14
'Called' by God and 'filled' with His Spirit (31:1-3), Bezalel had the support of Oholiab and 'all able men' (31:6). Few may be called and equipped to lead, but many are required for God's work to be done - effectively (1 Corinthians 12:4-10). 'All' of us receive our strength from the 'Spirit' (1 Corinthians 12:11). We offer ourselves in service with this faith, 'Jesus is Lord'. Faith is God's gift: 'no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit'. There are many gifts. They are varied expressions of one gift: the faith which confesses that 'Jesus is Lord' (1 Corinthians 12:3). The people fell into idolatry and immorality (32:6): a 'warning' to us (1 Corinthians 10:6-12). We have God's help - to overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10: 13). Moses sets for us a godly example: he spent time with God, hearing His voice and prevailing in prayer (32:1,7-14).
19th July: Exodus 32:15-33:23
In Moses, we see the holiness and love of God: a deep hatred of sin (32:19), an intense longing for sinners to be forgiven (32). Filled with 'the fear of the Lord', Moses was fearless before men. God's Word to sinners is clear: He warns them (Proverbs 29:1); He calls them to repent (Acts 2:38); He invites them to return to Him (Hosea 6:1). Moses' faithful and fearless preaching emerged from his closeness to God: 'The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend' (11). Moses prayed; God heard; God answered (33:17). Moses prayed for a revelation of God's glory (33:18). God revealed Himself as the good God, the God of grace and mercy (32:19). Let us go up to God and bring down all that is needed to build the Body of Christ that God may take pleasure in it and that He may appear in His glory (Haggai 1:8).
20th July: Exodus 34:1-35
God gives His promise (33:19). God keeps His promise (5-7). The glory of Christ is revealed to those who are learning to love Him (John 14:21). We are not yet ready for the full glory (33:20). When Christ returns, 'we shall see Him as He is' (1 John 3:2). There is to be 'no other god' but the Lord (14). We are not to be squeezed into the world's mould (Romans 12:2). 'No molten gods', 'no graven image' - We are to be remoulded by God, 'conformed to the image of His Son' (17; 20:4; Romans 12:2; 8:29). Moses' face was shining - Other people noticed (29)! Let others see Christ in you. Never take pride in your own spirituality - 'If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not know (the Lord) as he ought to know (Him)' (1 Corinthians 8:2). Keep your eyes on Jesus. The glory comes from Him. No glory for me - All glory to Him (2 Corinthians 3:18)!
21st July: Mark 14:26-52
After 'they had sung a hymn' (26), Peter showed that there was a great deal of 'self' in him (29). All of us can be like this - 'they all said the same' (31). We attend Communion (22-24), we sing hymns (26) - yet still the wrong attitudes persist! We 'enjoy' praise, prayer, and preaching - Remember: God is concerned with the whole of life, not just the 'spiritual' activities! Christ looked ahead to the Cross - 'the hour', 'this cup' (35-36). He was far removed from an 'enjoyable atmosphere' within which prayer is 'easy'. Sorely tempted, He prayed, 'not what I will but what You will' (36). This was no easy road - the 'betrayer' was waiting for Him (42). It was a lonely road - 'they all forsook Him, and fled' (50). 'The gate is narrow, the way is hard' (Matthew 7:14). May God help us to follow Jesus.
22nd July: Exodus 35:1-36:7
The work of God is shared by many different people with many different gifts. The work is done according to (a) the Lord's command (35:1,4,10; 36:1,5); (b) heartfelt obedience (21; 36:3,5-7); (c) the God-given abilities (24-25; 36:2,4,8). There is something for 'everyone' to do - everyone 'whose heart is stirred whose spirit is moved' (21). Many gifts are needed (31-35). Underlying them all, there is this: 'filled with the Spirit of God' (31). In God's work, there is to be 'full' obedience. When we are fully obedient, there will be 'an overflowing blessing' (Malachi 3:10). 'The people bring much more than enough...'. There 'was sufficient to do all the work, and more' (36:5,7). God is ready to bless. Are we ready to obey? 'If my people...I will...'(2 Chronicles 7:14). 'Always abounding in the work of the Lord' (1 Corinthians 15:58)!
23rd July: Exodus 36:8-38
Moses may have been the leader among God's people, but he could not do all the work by himself! Two of his helpers - Bezalel and Oholiab - are named (1-2). Most - 'all the able men' - remain anonymous (8). Anonymous yet indispensable - Without them, the work of God would have been left undone! To those who are full of their own importance, God says, 'No-one is indispensable. I will find someone else to do My work'. To those who, without fuss, get on with doing His work, God says, 'You are my servants, through whom My work will make good progress'. Building Christ's Church is a long process, involving suffering and disappointments as well as hard-fought victories. In so many ways, the tabernacle pointed to Christ: 'God with us' (Matthew 1:23). May God help us to lead many people to Christ!
24th July: Mark 14:53-15:5
Jesus is 'the Christ, the Son of the Blessed'. He is 'seated at the right hand of Power'. He is 'coming with the clouds of heaven' (61-62). He is 'the King of the Jews': His Kingdom is greater than Herod imagined - it is 'not of this world' (2; John 18:36). Why, then, did He remain silent when false charges were brought against Him? He was bearing our sin - That is why 'He did not open His mouth' (Isaiah 53:4-7; 1 Peter 2:22-24; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He knew that He was going to the Cross - for us (John 10:11,15,17-18). Jesus did not deny us: His silence was a godly silence - 'He bore the sin of many', making 'Himself an offering for sin' (Isaiah 53:12,10). Will we deny Him? Our silence is a guilty silence (66-71). May Christ's Word, and His look of love, cause us to weep - and repent (72; Luke 22:61-62; 2 Corinthians 7:10).
25th July: Exodus 37:1-29
Pure gold (2,6,11,16-17,22-24, 26); Jesus Christ is 'pure gold'. He is 'God with us'. His body was broken for us. We feed on Him, the living Bread. His light is shining. He spreads the fragrance of His holiness, and the aroma of His love (Matthew 1:23; Luke 22:19; John 6:35; 8:12; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Read about the ark, the mercy seat, the table, the lampstand, the altar of incense, the holy anointing oil...Think of Christ: He is the 'mercy seat of pure gold' (6). 'The Lord is merciful and gracious...': In mercy, He withholds His judgment from us - He is 'slow to anger'. In grace, He pours His blessing on us - He is 'abounding in steadfast love' (Psalm 103:8). We deserve judgment. We receive salvation. Why? Christ took our judgment that we might receive His salvation. This is the Gospel - and it is 'pure gold'!
26th July: Exodus 38:1-31
We read, in verse 8, of 'the ministering women...'. See also 35:25-26,29 - 'all women ...all the women... All the men and women...'. Male and female - We need each other. We are 'one in Christ Jesus'. In Him, 'there is neither male nor female' (Galatians 3:28). There should never be a competitive spirit. We are to complement each other. In verse 25, we read of 'the silver from those of the congregation'. God's work does not depend entirely on those who have been called to be leaders. Each of us must play our part. There should be no pulling in different directions. We belong together. We are to work together. Let's pull together, pooling our resources, pulling our weight. Among God's people, there is 'gold' - but it must be 'used for the work' (24). Will you be worth your weight in gold - for God?
27th July: Mark 15 6-41
Jesus did not 'save Himself'. 'He saved others' (31). He sacrificed Himself for our salvation. His was the sacrifice. Ours is the salvation. He 'put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself' (Hebrews 9:26). Barabbas was 'released'. Jesus was 'crucified' (15). This is the Gospel - He took my place, He died for me. He was 'forsaken' by God (34). We are reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:19,21). We rejoice that Christ ignored the mocking call from 'the chief priests' and 'scribes': 'come down now from the Cross' (32). He paid the full price of our salvation. For us now, there is full salvation. His suffering was complete: 'It is finished' (John 19:30) was not a whimper of defeat. It was the declaration of victory. All that was needed - He has done for us. Now, He invites us to receive salvation: 'Come; for all is now ready' (Luke 14:17).
28th July: Exodus 39:1-43
'As the Lord had commanded...' (1,5,7,21,26,29,31-32,42-43): Obedience to God - this is the most important thing. 'And Moses blessed them' (43): Where there is obedience, there is blessing - there's a vital connection between the two. In Jesus, we see perfect obedience: 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work' (John 4:34). Jesus was fully obedient to the Father's will: 'He became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross' (Philippians 2:8). Through His obedience, there is blessing for us: 'by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous' (Romans 5:19). We look beyond the Old Testament priesthood to Christ, the 'High Priest of the good things that have come' - By 'His own blood', He has secured for us 'an eternal redemption' (Hebrews 9:11-12).
29th July: Exodus 40:1-38
Here, we highlight three lessons: (a) The work of God begins with the Word of God: 'The Lord said to Moses...' (1). Before we can do anything for God, we must be taught by God. (b) The work of God must proceed in the way of God: 'Thus did Moses; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did' (16). If we are to accomplish anything for God, we must do God's work in God's way. (c) The work of God must lead to the worship of God: 'The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle' (34). If we are really seeking to work for God, we must seek to give Him the glory for all that is accomplished. Making these our priorities - the Word, way and worship of God - , we will look for 'the cloud and fire', the presence and power of God among us: He will be our Guide 'throughout all our journeys' (38).
30th July: Mark 15:42-16:20
Dead and buried (44-46) - 'The End'? No! There is more. An 'Appendix'? No! A whole new beginning - For Jesus, for us! He is 'the first fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20,23). The full glory is still to come (1 Corinthians 15:24). He has risen (6). 'At His coming, those who belong to Christ' will be raised - with Him and by Him - to everlasting life (1 Corinthians 15:23). This is the glory of the resurrection. It is not simply a thing of the past. It is our glorious future - we 'will be raised imperishable' (1 Corinthians 15:52). There is a Gospel to be preached - the Gospel of salvation (15-16). May God help us to preach the Gospel 'everywhere' - This will involve all of us, not just a few of us! May He give us the joy of seeing Him at work, confirming the message by the signs that attend it (20).
31st July: Psalm 10:1-18
Wickedness seems to be so prevalent. Many 'renounce the Lord', saying 'There is no God' (3-4). It seems that the wicked 'prosper at all times', while the innocent victims of oppression feel that 'God has forgotten' (5-11). When it appears that God 'has hidden His face', when we feel that He has forgotten us, we must remember this: 'The Lord is King for ever and ever' (11,16). Do not judge by appearances. Do not trust your feelings. Everything changes. Nothing remains the same. Everything changes - except God. He is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable in His faithful love for us. We rejoice in this: 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever' (Hebrews 13:5). Whatever circumstances and feelings may suggest, never forget this: 'He loved us from the first of time, He loves us to the last' (Church Hymnary, 293).
1st August: Leviticus 1:1-2:16
Jesus Christ, 'the Lamb without blemish', has 'made atonement' for sin through the shedding of His 'precious blood' (1:3-5; 1 Peter 1:18-19). This offering of Christ - He 'loved us and gave Himself up for us' - is 'a pleasing odour to the Lord', 'a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God' (1:9,13,17; Ephesians 5:2). Read of the 'cereal offering' in which there was to be 'no leaven' (2:11). Think of Christ - 'Our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed': 'Let us celebrate the festival (the Lord's Supper)...with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth' (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). May our worship - 'frankincense': an expression of worship (Matthew 2:11) - be filled with 'the oil of gladness', 'with the Holy Spirit and with fire' (Psalm 45:7; Luke 3:16). Such worship is 'most holy...to the Lord' (2:3,10).
2nd August: Leviticus 3:1-4:35
Christ is the real thing. Israel's sacrifices are only 'copies of the heavenly things', 'a shadow of the good things to come' (Hebrews 9:23-24; 10:1,5-10). As you read of the 'peace offering', rejoice in this: 'we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ' (Romans 5:1). We look to Christ, and we say, 'He is our peace' (Ephesians 2:14). Christ is 'our sin offering' - 'offered...to bear the sins of many (4:3; Hebrews 9:28). The 'blood' has been shed - We have been 'washed...in the blood of the Lamb' (4:5-7; Revelation 7:14). Christ went 'outside the camp' for us: He 'suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood' (4:12; Hebrews 13:11-12). For Christ, there was suffering. For us, there is forgiveness - 'he shall be forgiven' (26,31,35).
3rd August: Luke 1:1-38
God was about to do 'a new thing' (Isaiah 43:19). It was centred on Christ, though John also played his part (31-33,16-17). There were obstacles - Zechariah and Elizabeth were 'old' (18), and Mary had 'no man' (34). What were these obstacles to God? - Nothing: 'with God nothing will be impossible' (37). How are we to respond to God's 'new thing'? - 'let it be to me according to Your Word' (38). How will God's 'new thing' make progress among us? - Through the power of the Holy Spirit: 'he will be filled with the Holy Spirit' (15), 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you...' (34). 'Holy Spirit, we welcome you...Move among us with holy fire...Let the breeze of your presence flow...Please accomplish in me today, some new work of loving grace, I pray; Unreservedly have Your way...' (Mission Praise, 241).
4th August: Leviticus 5:1-6:30
Christ's sacrifice covers every sin. No matter what your sin may be, you can bring it to Him for forgiveness. 'If any man sins' - Take your sin to Christ: He has 'made atonement for sin' (5:1,6,10,13-14,16; 6:2,7). 'Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit' (Mark 3:28-30) does not refer to some specific, identifiable sin, which lies beyond God's power to forgive. It refers to your persistent refusal to bring your sins to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and leads to the Saviour (John 16:8-9,14). Let Him show you your sin. Let Him lead you to your Saviour. 'It is a thing most holy' (6:17) - Never forget God's holiness. Christ's death speaks of both holiness and love. In holiness, God pronounces His judgment on sin. In love, He provides forgiveness for sinners.
5th August: Leviticus 7:1-38
As we read about the sacrifices, rejoicing in Christ - the perfect Sacrifice for sin - , let us bring our sacrifice of 'thanksgiving' (12-13,15). 'Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God' (Hebrews 13:15). Let it be 'a living sacrifice', the sacrifice of our lives - this is 'our spiritual worship' (Romans 12:1). God's salvation is 'to the praise of His glorious grace' (Ephesians 1:6). 'We bring the sacrifice of praise...we offer up to You the sacrifices of thanksgiving...the sacrifices of joy'. 'Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God, In every part with praise...Not for the lip of praise alone nor e'en the praising heart, I ask, but for a life made up of praise in every part' (Mission Praise, 722; Church Hymnary, 457). Still 'in the wilderness' (38), let us learn to worship as we travel to 'the promised land'!
6th August: Luke 1:39-80
There are two great 'songs of praise' here (46-55,67-79). God was doing 'a new thing'. His people were rejoicing in Him. Great things were happening. Greater things were going to happen. Soon, the Saviour would be born. The birth of John the Baptist (57-66) - This was great. The birth of our Saviour - This would be even greater. Mary and Zechariah felt the touch of God upon their lives, and their hearts were filled with praise to God: 'When I feel the touch of Your hand upon my life, it causes me to sing a song that I love You, Lord. So from deep within my spirit singeth unto Thee, You are my King, You are my God, and I love You Lord' (Mission Praise, 753). John was 'in the wilderness'. He 'became strong in spirit' (80). May God help us to grow spiritually, even when life is not very easy!
7th August: Leviticus 8: 1-36
'This is the thing which the Lord has commanded to be done' (5): For us, it must be 'as the Lord commanded' (4,9,13,17,21,29,36). God calls us to serve Him (Hebrews 5:4-5). Obedience to God, love for God - These are to be our priorities (1 Samuel 15:22; 1 Corinthians 13:3). Christ is to be our 'first love' (Revelation 2:4). Washed, robed, anointed (6-7,12): Our robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, we have this anointing - 'to preach the Gospel...' (Revelation 7:14; Luke 4:18-19). Ears, hands and feet: Consecrated by the blood of Christ to hear the Word of the Lord, do the work of the Lord and walk in the way of the Lord (24), we must pray for a change of heart - 'O for a heart to praise my God, a heart from sin set free; a heart that always feels Thy blood so freely shed for me' (Church Hymnary, 85).
8th August: Leviticus 9: 1-10:20
Aaron had to make atonement for himself and for the people (9:7). Christ did not need to make atonement for Himself - He was 'without sin' (Hebrews 4:15). In Christ, we are 'accepted'. In Him there is blessing, glory and joy (9:22-24; Ephesians 1:6,3; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Peter 1:8). God has given us 'holy fire'. Let us not try to do His work with 'unholy fire' (10:1-2; Acts 2:3-4). To those who seek to live 'as the Lord has commanded' (9:7; 10:15), God promises to reveal His holiness, nearness and glory (10:3). Do you want to draw near to God, to become 'mature' in Christ? - Learn 'to distinguish between the holy and the common... the unclean and the clean...good and evil' (10:10; Hebrews 5:14). God reveals the glory of His holiness. Let us confess our sins, be forgiven and be obedient. (Isaiah 6:3-8).
9th August: Luke 2: 1-20
God is in control! Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Long before it happened, God had it planned (1-7; Micah 5:2-3). As we approach Christ's Return, God still has His plan. He is still in control. The birth of Christ is not merely an event from the past. It is also a message for the future. We look back so that we can move forward. We are fearful about many things. 'What's the world coming to?', we ask. God turns our question on its head: 'Christ is coming to the world'. From His first coming, we look on to His second coming - He 'will come to all the people' (10): 'every eye will see Him' (Revelation 1:7). His Return invites us to ask another question: 'when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?' (18:8). For you, is it still 'before Christ'? Let the 'new age' begin: Let Christ be 'born this day' (11) - in your heart!
10th August: Leviticus 11:1-47
God sees only two types of people: 'clean' and 'unclean'. All of us are 'in Adam' (sinners). Not all are 'in Christ' (saved) (Romans 5:12-21). How about you? - Are you cleansed, forgiven, born again, saved, committed (1 John 1:7,9; John 3:7; Acts 16:31; 2 Timothy 1:12)? Or, are you still in your sins, guilty of neglecting God's great salvation, not far from - yet still outside of - God's Kingdom, almost persuaded but still uncommitted (John 8:24; 9:41; Hebrews 2:3; Acts 26:28)? Before the call to holiness (45), there is the call to salvation. Give your heart to Christ. This is where holiness begins (Mark 7:14-23). Holiness is not our own achievement - 'God is at work in you' (Phillipians 2:13). Remember: Our holiness is grounded in His redemption (45). Feed on His Word - and let holiness grow (Psalm 119:9-11).
11th August: Leviticus 12:1-13:46
How can I be made clean (12:8)? - This is the vital question to which the Gospel gives its emphatic answer. We ask, 'What can wash away my stain?'. The answer is given, 'Nothing but the blood of Jesus'. We ask, 'Has atonement been made for my sin' (12:8)?'. The answer is clear: 'Christ has for sin atonement made'. You can be 'washed in the blood of the Lamb'. What water cannot do, Christ does for us. The water used in baptism - 'a little' or 'a lot'! - cannot wash away our sin. It can only point beyond itself to Christ's Cross, where we hear the Good News: 'There is wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb' (Redemption Hymnal, 333,615,309,288). Confess your sin - 'Unclean, unclean' (13:45). Christ will change you - beginning with your 'heart' (12:3; Romans 2:28-29).
12th August: Luke 2:21-52
Jesus 'fulfilled all righteousness' (Matthew 3:15). His circumcision and presentation to the Lord was 'according to the law of Moses' (21-24; Leviticus 12:1-8). Jesus' obedience was always more than mere conformity to 'the written code'. He was walking 'in the Spirit'. He was filled with 'the Spirit of the living God' (2 Corinthians 3:3,6). His obedience came 'from the heart' and His 'praise' came 'not from men but from God' (Romans 6:17; 2:29). What joy there was for Simeon and Anna! This was 'salvation', 'redemption' (30,38). As you journey through life, don't 'lose Jesus' (43-45). Keep close to Him! If you do 'lose Him', where will you find Him again? - 'In the temple' (46). Have you lost your way? Find your way back to 'the sanctuary of God' - and things will start to fall into place again (Psalm 73:16-17)!
13th August: Proverbs 4:20-27
'Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you' (25). Living the Christian life is like 'walking a tightrope' - We must 'not swerve to the right or to the left' (27; Deuteronomy 28:14; Joshua 1:7; 23:6). Looking straight ahead, 'let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...'(Hebrews 12:2). In the face of life's many difficulties, you may ask, "Can I 'run with perseverance the race marked out for me' (Hebrews 12:1)?". Keep your eyes on your own capacity for perseverance - and you will be filled with thoughts of your own weakness. Keep your eyes on Christ and His preserving power (1 Peter 1:5; John 10:27-29; Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:37-39). You will grow strong - strengthened by Christ's Word: 'My grace is sufficient for you' (2 Corinthians 12:9).
14th August: Leviticus 13:47-14:32
We read about skin disease. Remember: there is also the sin disease - and we're all suffering from that!. Sin is a deadly 'cancer' for which there is only one treatment: 'Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus' (Redemption Hymnal, 333). The new birth - like physical birth - is a unique, once-for-all, experience: it is the beginning of the Christian life (John 3:3-6). Many times over, we will need to be 'washed a second time' (58). Justification (Romans 5:1) happens in a moment: 'The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment a pardon receives'. Sanctification (Romans 6:13,19). lasts a lifetime: 'Take time to be holy...(Mission Praise, 708,625). God loves us: He will help us to 'be holy' (1 Peter 1:16).
15th August: Leviticus 14:33-15:33
You can get 'dry rot' in people - as well as houses (14:34; Hebrews 12:15)! Sin is like 'a wasting disease' (Psalm 106:13-15). It will only get worse - unless something is done about it! Sin spreads. and spreads, and... Can anything be done about this sad situation? Look into yourself, and you will find that the situation is hopeless (Romans 7:14-20). Look to Christ, and there is hope: 'where sin increased, grace abounded all the more' (Romans 5:20). Sin is not to be taken lightly. Don't underestimate the power of sin. Little by little, it will lure you away from Christ. Keep close to Jesus, rejoicing in this: 'He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world' (1 John 4:4). God calls for holiness: 'your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit'; 'present your bodies...to God' (1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 12:1).
16th August: Luke 3:1-38
John's message came from 'God' (2). He did not begin with love. He preached about sin and divine judgment, warning his hearers to 'flee from the wrath to come' (7). He called for 'repentance' (3,8). This was not what people wanted to hear. Before we can rejoice in the Good News concerning salvation, we must recognize our sin and our need of salvation. John prepared the way for Jesus. 'All have sinned', 'The wages of sin is death' - This is the 'bad news' which prepares us to receive, with joyful thanksgiving, 'the Good News': 'the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Like John, we are to point to Jesus, God's 'beloved Son' : Before 'Adam' was, He is. Pray that the 'Holy Spirit' will bring people to Christ (22,38; 8:58).
17th August: Leviticus 16:1-34
God is 'holy': We cannot 'draw near' and 'come' to Him without a 'sin offering' (1-3). We cannot bring 'a sin offering' to Him. We can only bring our sin: Our righteousness is 'like filthy rags' (Isaiah 64:6). There is a 'way' for sinners to 'draw near' to God: Christ is the true and living Way (John 14:6; Hebrews 10:19-22). In verses 20-22, we have a great picture of Christ bearing the sin of the world: 'Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood...Full atonement, - Yes it is! Hallelujah! What a Saviour!' (Church Hymnary, 380). Atonement has been made for us...We have been cleansed from all our sins (30): What a perfect atonement! What a perfect Saviour! - 'God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Galatians 6:14).
18th August: Leviticus 17:1-18:23
We are to be devoted 'to the Lord' (17:4-6,9): 'You are not your own; you were bought with a price' (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Underlying Christ's atoning death, there is this principle: 'the life...is in the blood...I have given it for you...to make atonement...' (17:11). Christ has shed His blood: He has given His life that we might have life. God looks upon His Son, crucified for us: He 'has commanded the blessing, life for evermore' (Psalm 133:3). We confess our sin, acknowledging that 'without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins' (Hebrews 9:22). With grateful thanksgiving, we rejoice in our Saviour, 'the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). 'Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power...' (Mission Praise, 671).
19th August: Luke 4:1-30
Jesus was 'tempted by the devil' (2). He was rejected by His enemies (28-29). When we look around us, we see nothing but temptations and rejection - What a negative way of looking at things! There is something more positive here - the presence of the Holy Spirit (1,14,18). Do not be afraid. There is no need to be discouraged. We need not be defeated. The temptations may be many. The opposition may be fierce. We can 'pass through the midst of them' (30): 'God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control' (2 Timothy 1:7). Satan is persistent - They did not rest until they had crucified Him. Faced with such opposition, we - like Jesus - must walk in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:12,17-18).
20th August: Leviticus 18:24-19:37
Holiness and love - the two belong together (1,18,34). God calls us to live a life of holiness, a life of love. Through His Spirit - the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love - , He enables us to live this life. We need His promises. We need His commands. Take them both together - not one without the other! Promises without commands - We take God for granted, we presume on His blessing. Commands without promises - Our 'obedience' becomes a legalistic thing which has nothing to do with the Gospel of grace. We are to 'be holy...before Him in love' (Ephesians 1:4). 'The holiness without which no one will see the Lord' (Hebrews 12:14) is to be accompanied by the 'love' without which we are 'nothing' (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The Lord has redeemed us: By His grace, we shall 'be holy...in love' (34,36).
21st August: Leviticus 20:1-27
The life of holiness is not an expression of our own moral virtue. It is an expression of the holy character of God being reproduced in us: 'I am the Lord who sanctify you' (8). God wants us for Himself - This is why we must not live the world's way: 'I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine' (26). God has a great purpose for us: 'You shall inherit their land...I will give it to you, a land flowing with milk and honey' (24). 'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies...my cup overflows' (Psalm 23:5). 'The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly...in Christ Jesus' (1 Timothy 1:14). This is the pathway to holiness: 'By grace you have been saved through faith...for good works' (Ephesians 2:8-10).
22nd August: Luke 4:31-5:11
'His Word was with power' (32). Where there are hindrances, obstructing the flow of God's Word, we must pray that God's Word will be heard for 'what it really is' - 'not the word of men but the Word of God' (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Our hearing of God's Word is not to be a superficial thing - Here, the people of Capernaum 'tried to keep Him from leaving them' (42). Later, Jesus said, 'You, Capernaum...shall be thrust down to hell' (10:15). We must hear the Word of God and act on it (1,3). We may feel, 'it's a waste of time'. We must be obedient to God: 'at Your Word I will let down the nets' (5). We are to be 'partners' in the Lord's work (7): 'workers together with God' (2 Corinthians 6:1). All the glory belongs to the Lord: We are 'sinful' - Through His grace, we can win others for Him (8,10).
23rd August: Leviticus 21:1-22:16
We are sanctified by the Lord (21:8,15,23; 22:9,16). It is His doing - God's call to holiness is founded in His gift of holiness: 'the Holy Spirit...has been given to us' (Romans 5:5) - 'every virtue we possess...every victory won...every thought of holiness, are His alone' (Church Hymnary, 336). When we are so conscious of our own weakness, God says, 'I am the Lord' (21:12; 22:2-3,8). He is more than sufficient for our justification, sanctification and glorification. Between our justification (the forgiveness of our sins) and our glorification (heaven) there is our sanctification ('conformed to the image of His Son'). This is God's doing. From beginning to end, it is the work of God (Romans 8:28-29). We lack faith, we lack holiness, we lack perseverance: In this we rejoice - 'Salvation is of the Lord' (Jonah 2:9).
24th August: Leviticus 22:17-23:44
God says, 'I am the Lord' (22:30-33): Let Him be 'your God' (23:14,22,28,40,43,). We are to 'worship in Spirit and in truth' - 'in the Spirit on the Lord's Day' (John 4:24; Revelation 1:10) When Christ died - This was the day of atonement. We worship Him, 'our Passover Lamb' (22:28; Exodus 12:13; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8). After 'fifty days' came the Day of Pentecost - What a day that was (Acts 2:4,16-21,41)! Bring 'the first fruits of your harvest' (9): 'What can I give Him? - my heart' (Church Hymnary, 178). Blow the trumpet (23:23; Joel 2:1,15) - It must be a 'clear call': 'Get ready for battle' (1 Corinthians 14:8). On the 'day of worship' (3), God is preparing us for the rest of the week: 'Be strong in the Lord' (Ephesians 6:12). Pray for the 'fire' of God (8,18,25,27,36-37; Acts 2:3-4).
25th August: Luke 5:12-32
'You can make me clean...I will; be clean' (12-13). Look at Christ's death for you - Can you doubt His desire to save you? Look at His resurrection - Can you doubt His power to save you? The Lord 'desires all people to be saved' (1 Timothy 2:4). We are saved through 'the Gospel' which 'is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith' (Romans 1:16). Jesus can save. Jesus will save. 'The power of the Lord' (17) is available to all: 'Whoever wishes' may 'come' and receive 'the free gift' of salvation (Revelation 22:17). To each one, Jesus says, 'Follow Me' (27). We must not think of ourselves as 'righteous'. Each one must come as a 'sinner' to Jesus, the Saviour of sinners (32). Through prayer, the Lord's saving power can be released among us (16-17; John 14:13-14; 1 John 5:14-15).
26th August: Leviticus 24:1-25:24
'Pure' worship is to be offered 'continually': This is what God is looking for (1-8). 'Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand in His holy place?': No-one else but Christ - He alone 'has clean hands and a pure heart', He alone 'will receive blessing from the Lord' (Psalm 24:3-5). Our worship is offered to God - in Christ...to the praise of His glorious grace' (Ephesians 1:3,6). This is our worship, this is our joy - We have been reconciled to God 'through our Lord Jesus Christ' (Romans 5:11). The 'jubilee' - 'fiftieth year' (25:11): Half a century is such a short time in the light of eternity (James 4:14). God has been good to us. How have we lived? How much do we love God? How much have we loved one another? Rededicate yourself to 'the Lord your God' (25:17).
27th August: Leviticus 25:25-55
Moral conduct is to be grounded in divine redemption. Throughout the detailed ethical instructions, there is the recurrent emphasis on God's salvation: 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt (Salvation) to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God (Sanctification)...For to Me the people of Israel are servants (Service) whom I have brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God' (38,55). Salvation; Sanctification; Service. We do not begin with the questions, 'How can I live a godly life? How can I serve the Lord?' We begin with the question, 'What must I do to be saved?'. God's answer is clear: 'Believe in the Lord Jesus ...` (Acts 16:31).
28th August: Luke 5:33-6:16
There is such a difference between the 'old' legalism and the 'new' life in the Spirit (36-39; Romans 8:2-4). The question, asked in verse 2, springs from the dead hardness of strict legalistic religion. Christ is Lord (5) - not the 'Pharisees'. They try to control people's lives. With their kill-joy attitude, they only succeed in making everybody miserable - like themselves! The 'old' needs to be 'crucified', so that the 'new' can be born in us (Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Some say, 'I don't need to be born again'. Jesus disagrees (John 3:3). Disciples, Apostles (13): We learn everything from Jesus - nothing from the 'Pharisees'! We are sent out by Christ for Christ - not by the Pharisees to spread Pharisaiam! God is interested in names (14-16): 'rejoice that your names are written in heaven' (10:21).
29th August: Leviticus 26:1-46
'Every spiritual blessing' is 'in Christ' (Ephesians 1:3). The moment you begin to feel superior - 'I am blessed because I am obedient' (There is too much of 'I' in this!) - , remember: 'in Christ'. We are blessed because God loves us and Christ died for us. It is His grace which changes us. Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Our obedience comes from Him. Our disobedience comes from ourselves. We do not deserve His blessing. We deserve His judgment. There is only one way to blessing: Humbly confess your sin, turning to the Lord in whom alone there is blessing. We must not 'be proud' of our 'obedience'. There is only one thing about which we should 'boast': 'the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Galatians 6:14). Thank God for His 'new covenant' (42,44-45; Hebrews 8:8-13; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
30th August: Leviticus 27:1-34
'Every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord' (28). We are loved by the holy God. We are precious in His eyes. In love, He has reached out to us - through the Cross of Christ (Romans 5:8). We are 'greatly beloved' (Daniel 9:23). The Lord takes great joy in every sinner who returns to Him (Luke 15:7,10). 'Most holy to the Lord' - This is how the holy God looks upon those who have 'faith in Jesus' (Romans 3:26). We are to be 'devoted' to the Lord: The Lord must come first - 'All the tithe...is the Lord's' (30). The bringing of the tithe (tenth) to God was an outward sign of an inward commitment. Do you love God? - Let it show in your living and giving. Let it be Thanksgiving (I want to) - not Grudge Giving (I have to) or Duty Giving (I ought to): 'God loves a cheerful giver' (2 Corinthians 9:7).
31st August: Psalms 11:1-13:6
'The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven': We 'take refuge' in Him (11:4,1). We are to seek His face, confident that 'when He appears...we shall see Him as He is' (11:7; 27:8; 1 John 3:2). Seeking God's face, we learn to rest in His promises, we are protected, we are kept (12:6-7). We may face difficult circumstances (13:1-4). We can still trust in the Lord's 'steadfast love'. We can still 'rejoice' in His 'salvation'. We can still say with the Psalmist, 'I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me' - 'God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (13:5-6; 2 Corinthians 9:8).
1st September: Numbers 1:1-54
'Every man able to go forth to war': This is the key phrase in verses 1-46. God is looking for 'soldiers': Soldiers of Christ! To live for Christ is to be engaged in warfare. It is spiritual warfare. We need 'the whole armour of God' (Ephesians 6:10-20). We must remember that 'the weapons of our warfare are not worldly'. They have 'divine power'. They are 'powerful weapons from God'. They are 'mighty through God' (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). The Levites were to lead worship (47-54). The battle is the Lord's (2 Chronicles 20:15). We will never be strong 'soldiers of Christ' unless we are learning to worship the Lord. Worship lies at the very heart of the life of God's people. Without worship, we are weak. Worshipping God, we will grow 'strong'. We will 'firmly resist' the enemy. We will 'take action' for God (Daniel 11:32).
2nd September: Numbers 2:1-34
'The Lord said to Moses': These words appear more than eighty times in Numbers. Let your life be centred on the Word of the Lord - Listen, Read, Study, Memorize, Meditate! God's people were 'facing the tent of meeting on every side' (2). There were to be no gaps in the ranks. We are not to pull in different directions. We are to pull together. Everyone has their place. All who are willing to serve the Lord will find a place in His service. Let us be united in worship and witness. Without this spirit of co-operation, the work of the Lord will fail. Each of us needs to be 'in position' (17) - on the Lord's Day for worship and on other occasions, when we are called upon to 'serve the Lord with gladness' (Psalm 100:2). Let our 'standard' (17,31) be the Lord - not the world: We are God's people!
3rd September: Luke 6:17-49
Four thoughts from Jesus' 'sermon': (a) Hunger for God (21; Matthew 5:6): Laziness leads to superficial Christianity. Do not hunger and you will not be 'filled with the Spirit' (Ephesians 5:18). Do not seek and you will not find (Matthew 7:7). Seek the Lord with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13). God has so much for us (1 Corinthians 2:12). Don't miss out (2 Corinthians 9:6). (b) Love for God: Love is the greatest thing in the world. Our love for God is to be seen in our love for others (27; 1 John 3:16-17). (c) Vision of God: The blind cannot lead the blind (39-42). Make sure you are not 'blind and short-sighted' (2 Peter 1:9). Run with the vision - Others will be blessed (Habakkuk 2:2). (d) Foundations in God: Make sure you are 'rooted' in Christ, our sure 'Foundation' (43-49; Ephesians 3:17; 2:19-22).
4th September: Luke 7:1-35
'When he heard of Jesus...' (3): 'Faith comes from hearing...'. Tell people of Jesus: 'How can they believe in Him if they have not heard His message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News?' (Romans 10:17,14). 'God has visited His people!' (16): 'Raised from the dead' - Pray for a real 'quickening' as the 'God, who is rich in mercy', pours out 'His great love' upon us (Ephesians 2:4-6). John was looking for the One who was 'to come' (19). What a great thing it is when Christ comes among us. Do we take His presence for granted? Do not presume on God's blessing: 'Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!...many...desired to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it' (10:23-24). Do we care about God's blessing? - If we don't, we may lose it!
5th September: Numbers 3:1-51
The Levites were to 'minister at the tabernacle' (5-8). Different people were given different responsibilities. They were not to compete with each other. There was to be no overlapping. One was not to interfere with the work of another. The call comes from God. 'Every male from a month old and upward' (15,24,28,34,39-40,43): Long before we even thought of serving God, He was calling us to be His servants. God is in control: He determines who will serve Him, and how we will serve Him. Each of us has a part to play. The important thing is the whole work of God. Let each of us be faithful so that the whole work can move forward. Never forget this: We serve the Lord as a 'redeemed' people, for whom Christ has provided 'redemption' - 'we have redemption through His blood' (44-51; Ephesians 1:7).
6th September: Numbers 4:1-49
'The sons...from thirty years old up to fifty years old' (2-3,22-23,29-30...): The service of the Lord calls for maturity. Long before we ever offered ourselves to God, He had His hand upon us. If, however, we are to prove worthy servants of the Lord, we must press on to spiritual maturity. Why is it that so many people upon whom God's hand has been laid early in life never attain their true spiritual status? - They have been distracted. 'Self' has intruded where only God should be. Choose God-centred blessing - not self-centred rebellion. God is 'holy' (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). Serving Him is a 'holy' calling (4,15,19-20). In all of our service, one thing must take priority: Worship. We can 'put on a performance'. It can be very impressive. Without real worship, it means nothing!
7th September: Luke 7:36-8:21
Jesus does not come to us because we are good. He comes to us because He forgives sins. The woman came to Jesus and received forgiveness. The Pharisee, though steeped in religion, remained unforgiven (47-50). Don't be like the Pharisee. Don't look down your nose at the ordinary people who mean so much to the Lord. 'Some women...': Much of God's work is being upheld by faithful women who, by their praying, giving and working, are 'ministering to Him' (1-3). We read Jesus' parables (4-18), and we learn. Let us read 'the book of everyday life', and learn what the Lord is saying to us concerning Himself. Let us learn from everyday life, always with this goal: Hearing the Word of God and doing it (21).
8th September: Numbers 5:1-31
'The Lord said...' (1): Let us hear and obey His Word. God is holy: His people are not to be defiled (3). Sin is not merely moral. It is spiritual. It is not only a deviation from law. It is an offence against God - 'breaking faith with the Lord' (6). God is holy: 'Atonement' is more than a provision for our need of forgiveness. It is a 'restitution...to the Lord' (8). Christ's atoning death does two things: (a) It meets the demands of God's holiness. (b) It meets our need of salvation. We must not do 'the wrong' and 'break faith with the Lord' (6-7). We are to obey the Gospel call for 'faith in our Lord Jesus Christ': This is 'repentance'. We obey God's 'command...to repent' (Acts 20:21; 17:30). No longer 'trusting in ourselves that we are righteous', we confess our sins and look to Christ for mercy (Luke 18:9,13).
9th September: Numbers 6:1-27
'Separate...to the Lord,...Separate...from wine and strong drink' (2-3): These two thoughts are closely connected in the New Testament - 'Do not get drunk with wine,...Be filled with the Spirit' (Ephesians 5:18). We are to be 'holy to the Lord' (8). 'Consecrated to the Lord', our whole life must be controlled by one thing: 'Do all to the glory of God' (1 Corinthians 10:31). Motivated by a desire for God's glory, we will enjoy God's blessing (22-27). God's blessing is not a 'cheap' thing, something that doesn't matter very much. Remember Esau (Genesis 25:29-34). He couldn't be bothered. He couldn't care less. God's blessing meant nothing to him. He didn't want God's blessing. What did God do? - He gave it to Jacob. 'The Lord bless you...': Do you want this? Or must God find somebody else?
10th September: Luke 8:22-56
'Where is your faith?' (25). The Lord is not looking for lip-service. He is looking for real faith. Some beg Jesus 'to depart from them' (37). They don't want to know!Others long to 'be with Him' (38). They don't want to go! Some have no interest in worship. They don't really want to get to know Jesus. Others love to 'worship', but they are so slow to witness. They need to hear Jesus' words - 'Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you' (39). Real faith worships. Real faith witnesses. We need both - Worship and Witness. Some - 'the multitudes' (45) - touch Jesus superficially. They are interested - when everything seems exciting! They touch Jesus religiously. They do not touch Him by faith. Where is the 'power', the resurrection power (46,54)? Without faith, there is no power!
11th September: Luke 9:1-27
It was a short mission (1-6) - short but important! They were being trained for future work. There and then, people were hearing the Gospel, believing in Christ and being saved. There was opposition (7-9): There's always plenty of that - 'We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us' (Romans 8:37). There is physical need. There is also spiritual need - 'Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life' (10-17; John 6:27). In verses 18-27, we learn (a) Who Jesus is: 'the Christ of God' (20). (b) What Jesus has done for us: His death and resurrection (22). (c) What Jesus calls us to be: His followers (23). May God give us grace to follow 'the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us' (Galatians 2:20). We follow Christ, looking for 'the Kingdom of God' (27).
12th September: Numbers 7:1-47
Why do we bring our offerings to the Lord? - 'that they may be used in doing the service of the tent of meeting' (5). We give ourselves to the Lord - 'Love so amazing, so divine, Shall have my soul, my life, my all' - and we ask Him to put our gift to good use - 'O use me, Lord, use even me, just as Thou wilt, and when, and where' (Church Hymnary, 437,485). Why is there so much repetition here? - God does not look only at the total offering. He prizes each separate offering. Each gift expresses the giver's love for Him. Let us 'lay up...treasures in heaven', bringing our offerings in faith, as an expression of our gratitude to God for His abundant grace. Which matters most to you? - 'earth' or 'heaven': 'Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also' (Matthew 6:19-21).
13th September: Numbers 7:48-89
At the end of this long chapter, we have Communion with God: 'When Moses went into the tent of the meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat...' (89). This is what it's all about: We 'draw near to the throne of grace'. We 'receive mercy and find grace...' (Hebrews 4:16). Listen for God's Word. Speak to God in prayer. So often, the most important things get crowded out. We lose sight of God - His love, His grace, His mercy. Religion becomes a burdensome, legalistic thing. There is no joy in it. God comes to us in mercy - ready to forgive. In love, He offers us a new beginning. By His grace, we can live as the people of God. God is speaking. Are you listening to Him? God is listening. Are you speaking to Him? Nothing is more important than this!
14th September: Luke 9:28-62
The 'glory' of Christ (32) - 'Before the world was made', He shared the Father's glory. Through the Cross - 'His departure...'(31) - , Christ, 'the Lamb that was slain' for sinners, has fulfilled God's eternal purpose of salvation (John 17:4-5; Revelation 13:8). We are to 'look' to the Lamb of God. We are to 'listen'' to God's beloved Son. If we do not look and listen, we will not learn. To those who refuse to look, listen and learn, God issues His Word of warning: 'See that you do not refuse Him who is speaking' (Hebrews 12:25). We must confess our spiritual poverty, our lack of power (37-42), understanding (43-45), humility (46-48), unity (49-50) and love (51-56). Looking to Christ who 'set His face to go to Jerusalem' and refusing to 'look back', we must choose to be 'good soldiers of Jesus Christ' (51,62: 2 Timothy 2:3-4).
15th September: Numbers 8: 1-26
The Levites were 'set apart' for God (14). They were 'a gift to Aaron...to do the service for the people of Israel at the tent of meeting...' (19). We are to work together as a team. 'Yield yourselves to God...' (Romans 6:13): Help each other to be better servants of Christ. The 'lampstand' (1-4): 'Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path' (Psalm 119:105). Without Christ, the living Word, we remain in darkness. With Him we 'walk in the light', in the joy of His salvation (John 8:12; 1 John 1:7). 'Service for the people of Israel' (19): As servants of Christ - He 'came not to be served but to serve' (Mark 10:45) - , we are to serve others for 'Jesus' sake' (2 Corinthians 4:5). To those whom we serve, we say, 'We are your servants but you are not our lords'. Jesus is Lord: It is 'as the Lord commands' (22).
16th September: Numbers 9:1-23
God's people were 'in the wilderness' (1) - No longer in the land of bondage, not yet in the land of promise. This is our situation - We look back to what the Lord has done for us, we look forward to what the Lord will yet do for us. The Passover directs our attention to the death of Christ, 'our Passover Lamb' (4; 1 Corinthians 5:7). The Cloud directs us to the return of Christ - 'He is coming with the clouds' (Revelation 1:7; Matthew 24:30). God's people are guided by the 'cloud' and 'fire' (15): Not one without the other, but both together. We need both grace and faith: Not grace without faith, not faith without grace. God is 'able to keep us from falling' (Jude 24) - This is grace. We are to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21) - This is faith. 'Kept by the power of God through faith' (1 Peter 1:5).
17th September: Luke 10:1-37
Christ's message - 'The kingdom of God has come near to you' (9) - calls for our response - hearing with faith or rejecting in unbelief (16). Where does this response of faith come from? - From God: He reveals Himself to us (21). Questions: Why do we ask them? - 'to put Jesus to the test' (25), 'to justify ourselves' (29)? You cannot come to Christ until you stop trying to justify yourself - Are you trying to test Him or learning to trust Him? (a) What shall I do to inherit eternal life?' (25): The law cannot save. It can only show us our need of the One who does save - Jesus (Romans 8:3-4). (b) 'Who is my neighbour?' (29): 'Passing by on the other side' (31-32) - This is not love. It's nothing like the love of God for 'sinners' (Romans 5:8). Jesus loves you. Let Him save you. Let His love change you.
18th September: Proverbs 5:1-14
Being married: There are many temptations - the 'loose woman' (3-6). Be positive: Through 'mutual love and respect', let's build 'strong and happy' marriages, in which 'the marriage bond is honoured'. Singles: Don't spoil everything by getting entangled with those who are 'loose' in their commitment to believing in and living for Jesus Christ! Bringing up children: There are many problems - the natural reaction of the child (11-12). Our children are to be brought up 'in the nurture and admonition of the Lord' (Ephesians 6:4). We need the tenderness - 'I don't condemn you' - and firmness - 'don't sin' - of Christ (John 8:11). Children: The natural reaction - 'I hate discipline. I will not listen' - is the sinful reaction. Pray for God's help - to 'obey your parents in the Lord' (Ephesians 6:1-3).
19th September: Numbers 10:1-36
God's Word - 'the testimony' (11) - reveals God's purpose (29) and provides God's guidance (33). The 'cloud' is like the presence of God's Spirit hovering over us. Great things are about to happen. The Spirit of God is moving over the face of the people of God gathered for worship (11; Genesis 1:2). Through the Word, the Spirit draws our attention to the Lord who has promised good to us (29). Instructed by the Word and strengthened by the Spirit, we 'journey' with God (33). We are moving on with God, looking forward to the fulfilment of His good purpose. We have heard the trumpet sound, calling us to worship the Lord, to be His soldiers and servants (1-10). We hear the divine declaration, 'I am the Lord your God' (10), and we say, 'Yes, Lord, You are our God' (Psalm 63:1; John 20:28).
20th September: Numbers 11:1-35
'The people complained in the hearing of the Lord' (1) - Remember: All our words are spoken 'in the hearing of the Lord'! There was 'a rabble among them' (4): What problems there are when such people are mingling with God's people! What are we to do when this happens? - Pray for God's help (10-15). God will not disappoint us - He gives people who will 'take their stand with us' (16), the Spirit who rests on God's people (25), the Word, 'strong meat' to sustain our spiritual strength (31-32; Hebrews 5:12-14). The lure of the world , the pull of the flesh - 'the rabble' wanted to go back to 'Egypt' (4-6): This is the attack of the devil. Standing in Christ's strength alone, we 'resist the devil'. Defeated by Christ, Satan can do nothing but 'flee from us' (Philippians 4:13; James 4:7; 1 John 3:8).
21st September: Luke 10:38-11:28
Mary was 'listening to the Lord' (39). Martha was 'distracted' (40). 'One thing is needful' (42): Don't let anything distract you from this - Getting alone with God. More than anything else, Jesus wants to 'teach us to pray' (1). The greatest gift that God gives - in answer to prayer - is the Holy Spirit (13). We are to 'pray at all times in the Spirit', relying completely on the Spirit to teach us to pray (Ephesians 6:18). Pray that you will be 'filled with the Holy Spirit' (Acts 4:31). As you pray, let the Spirit be your Helper (Romans 8:26). 'Some' are so critical: Negative thinkers, they 'point the finger' at everything (15). 'Others' are never satisfied: They've made complaining a way of life (16). Let's rise above all this: 'Blessed...are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!' (28).
22nd September: Numbers 12:1-13:33
Miriam and Aaron complained (12:1-2). Caleb and Joshua encouraged (30; 14:6-9). Thank God for encouragers! How did Moses react to criticism? He 'was very meek' (3). He was like Jesus - 'When He was reviled, He did not revile again' (1 Peter 2:23). Moses - 'a servant' - was 'entrusted with all God's House': We look beyond Moses to Christ who is 'faithful over God's House as the Son' (12:7; Hebrews 3:5-6). In times of difficulty, we draw our strength from Him. Where there is the encouragement of faith, the discouraging voice of unbelief is not far behind it. Unbelief sees nothing but problems - 'We are not able...' (30-31). 'Not able' or 'well able'? The choice is yours. Choose faith. There must be no place for unbelief.
23rd September: Numbers 14:1-45
'All the congregation raised a loud cry...', 'all the people of Israel murmured...', 'all the congregation said to stone them...' (1-2,10). Was there any 'light at the end of the tunnel'? Yes! - 'The Lord... will bring us into this land' (8). With the promise, there was also the warning: 'Do not rebel against the Lord' (9). Though angry, God remained patient: 'How long will this people despise Me? How long will they not believe in Me?' (11). He was waiting patiently for a change of heart. Moses prayed for mercy without presuming on it: 'He will by no means clear the guilty' (18-19). God announces His pardon (20). Nevertheless, there may be times when God says, 'Enough is enough - It's time for a new beginning': Only Caleb, Joshua and the 'little ones' would enter the land (30-31): No one else! Not even Moses!
24th September: Luke 11: 29-54
Christ is 'greater than Jonah' (32). Jonah was preserved alive (Jonah 1:17-2:10). Christ 'died...was buried' and 'was raised' (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Through His resurrection, He has been 'declared with power to be the Son of God' (Romans 1:4). We are not to be secret disciples (33): Believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9). Guard against 'the lust of the eyes' (34; 1 John 2:16; Genesis 3:6; 13:10-11; 19:26; Joshua 7:20-21; 2 Samuel 11:2-5). The Pharisees were 'fools' (40). Clean on the outside but not in their hearts, they 'loved the best seat in the synagogues' but they were spiritually dead - 'like graves' (39,43-44). Their true nature is seen in their reaction to Christ (53-54): Don't be a 'fool'! Don't be a 'Pharisee'!
25th September: Luke 12:1-34
'Do not fear...' (4): 'If God is for us, who can be against us?' (Romans 8:31). Acknowledge Christ or deny Him (8-9): Let your choice be clear - 'Christ means everything to me' (Philippians 1:21). Do you want to confess Christ? - Here's a great promise for you: 'the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say' (12). In our generation, there is a 'gold rush'. Many are preoccupied with 'having a lot of material possessions' (15). What does God say about this? - 'Fool!' (20). We hear it said, 'He's too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good'. You can be 'too earthly-minded to be any heavenly good'! It is better to be 'spiritually minded' than 'carnally minded' (Romans 8:6). 'Seek His Kingdom...it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom' (31-32).
26th September : Numbers 15:1-41
We read of offerings for 'atonement' (25,28). We think of Christ: He went 'outside the camp' for us (35-36; Hebrews 13:12) - to bring us forgiveness (25,28). We are to 'be holy to our God', the God of our redemption (40-41). Obedience to God is of the utmost importance:We need to be reminded of all His commandments (39). Our supreme motivation is redeeming love. This divine redemption creates a relationship. God is our God and we are His people. Out of this relationship is to come the obedience of faith (40-41). 'E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply, Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die'; 'When He comes, our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring, then anew this song we'll sing, "Hallelujah! What a Saviour!"' (Mission Praise, 671; Church Hymnary, 380).
27th September: Numbers 16:1-50
'You have gone too far!': They regarded themselves as 'holy', yet they refused to go 'too far' with God (3)! What kind of 'holiness' is this? There is a 'holiness' which is more concerned with respectability than obedience to God. Faced with 'the upward call of God in Christ Jesus', we dare not say, 'We will not come up' (12; Philippians 3:14). We are to be 'holy': 'Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity' (4; 2 Timothy 2:19). 'Separate yourselves' (20): This is not the false separation of the Pharisees - Spiritual 'pride' is 'an abomination to the Lord' (Proverbs 11:1-2). Maintain your high calling - Don't get dragged down to the level of those who 'will not come up' to where God wants them to be - and remember: 'By grace ...not your own doing...the gift of God' (Ephesians 2:8).
28th September: Luke 12:35-59
'Be ready' for Christ's Return (40): Wait on the Lord (36; Isaiah 40:31). Stay 'awake' (37), 'your loins girded with truth' (35; Ephesians 6:14) - be real; be true to the Word of God. Keep 'your lamps burning' (35). Our 'lamp' is Christ, 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (Revelation 21:23; John 1:29). Be faithful (41-48): There can be no fruitfulness without faithfulness. God's blessing is given to those who are faithful (42-43). With the promise of blessing, there is also the warning of judgment. Knowing the will of God and not doing it leads to judgment (47). Going Christ's way will not be easy (49-53): We must avoid the way of the 'hypocrites' who have no real knowledge of God (54-56), the legalists who know nothing of the Spirit of grace (57-59). Keep close to Christ: He will keep you - faithful and ready.
29th September: Numbers 17:1-18:32
The call comes from God - to Aaron, to Christ (17:5; Hebrews 5:4-6). Christ is both the Offering for sin and the Great High Priest (Hebrews 5:7-10; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 7:25). We look at ourselves, and we say, 'We perish, we are lost, we are dead' (17:12). We look to Christ, and everything changes (John 3:16; Luke 19:10; Ephesians 2:1). 'Service' and 'reward' (18:31): The Lord blesses those who serve Him faithfully each day (1 Corinthians 15:58). Building on Christ, we seek to do work of lasting value - 'gold, silver precious stones'. We dare not rest content with shallow superficiality - 'wood, hay, straw'. There is 'a reward' for those whose 'work' is 'built on the Foundation, which is Jesus Christ' (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
30th September : Psalms 14:1-15:5
Life can be testing and trying. In all of this, God makes Himself real to us. This is our assurance of faith: 'The Lord restores the fortunes of His people'. He makes us 'glad' - In Him, we 'rejoice' (7). God Himself is the Sure Foundation for our lives: Build on Him, and you 'shall never be moved' (15:5). We long for God's blessing, 'O that salvation...would come...' (7). He will not disappoint us. Do not be 'the fool' who 'says in his heart, "There is no God"' (14:1). 'Fear the Lord' - 'and give Him glory' (15:4; Revelation 14:7). We are to 'act wisely' - 'seeking after God', 'calling upon the Lord' (14:2,4). Do you want to 'dwell on God's holy hill' (15:1)? - 'There is a way for man to rise to that sublime abode...' (Church Hymnary, 357): Christ is the Way to God and Heaven (John 14:2-6).
1st October: Numbers 19:1-22
The sacrifice was to be 'without defect'. There was to be 'no blemish' (2). Here, we have a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ - 'without sin', He offered Himself 'for the sins of the people' (Hebrews 4:15; 2:17). The gathering of 'the ashes' (9-10) speaks of the completeness of Christ's work for us - 'for all time a single sacrifice for sins' (Hebrews 10:12). The danger of becoming unclean through touching a 'dead body' (11) - there is a warning for us here. 'Dead in trespasses and sins', we have been 'made alive' in Christ (Ephesians 2:1). We dare not look back (Luke 17:32; Genesis 19:26; Luke 9:62; 2 Peter 2:20-22). We have been purified 'from dead works to serve the living God' (Hebrews 9:14). Christ 'saves to the uttermost'. How dare we 'shrink back' from Him? 'Have faith. Be saved' (Hebrews 7:25; 10:39).
2nd October: Numbers 20:1-29
No man or woman is indispensable. God's work goes on, with or without us! (a) Miriam (Moses' sister) served and worshipped the Lord (Exodus 2:7-8; 15:20-21). Now, her time had come. She was not to enter the land. She 'died' (1). (b) Moses had been the leader of God's people. He sinned, and he was excluded from the promised land (12). Do not rest on your laurels. Yesterday's grace is not sufficient for today's challenges. A day-by-day walk with the Lord is called for. (c) Aaron (Moses' brother) had stood alongside Moses in leadership. He 'died' (28) without entering the promised land. In the leadership of God's people, the names and the faces change - but the Lord never changes. He remains unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable in His love. When Moses, Aaron and Miriam had gone, God was still there!
3rd October: Luke 13:1-35
Jesus stresses the need for both repentance (1-5) and the fruits of repentance (6-9). God's Word, planted in our hearts at conversion, is to bear fruit. This requires continual repentance and faith (Colossians 2:6; Galatians 3:1-5). Don't put it off till tomorrow! Today is 'the day of salvation'. Don't 'neglect' God's 'great salvation' (15-16; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 2:3). Let there be spiritual growth, affecting the whole of your life (18-21). Jesus was 'journeying toward Jerusalem' - to 'finish His course' at the Cross (22, 32-33). He came from the Lord (35). Through Him, we come to the Lord (24; John 10:9). There is no salvation in ourselves (25-27). Apart from Him, there is 'no peace' (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). Jesus loves you (34). Make 'sure' that your trust is in Him. He will never fail you (2 Peter 1:10-11).
4th October: Numbers 21:1-35
In verses 5-9, there is an illustration of God's salvation (John 3:14-15). There is sin and death (Romans 5-6; 3:23, 6:23). Christ prays for our forgiveness (7; Luke 23:34). Lifted up on the Cross, He dies that we might have eternal life. In love, He appeals to us, 'Look to me and be saved' (John 12:32; Isaiah 45:22). Enter, Destroy Possess (21-24, 33-35): Let Christ enter your heart, destroying Satan's strongholds and taking possession of your life (2 Corinthians 10: 3-5). If we are to be victorious to the 'praise and glory and honour...of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:6-8), we must 'go by the King's Highway, not turning aside to the right hand or the left'(22; 20:17). For the Christian, 'the King's Highway is 'the Way of Holiness': 'This is the way, walk in it' (Isaiah 35:8; 30:21).
5th October: Numbers 22:1-41
Learn from the past. In 2 Peter 2:15-16, Jude 11 and Revelation 2:14, we are encouraged to learn from the events of this chapter. Each passage contains a warning. (a) 2 Peter 2:15-16 - Don't leave 'the straight way' and follow the crooked way! (b) Jude 11 - Don't let making a profit become more important than being a prophet! (c) Revelation 2:14 - Make sure you don't get drawn away from God into sin! What is God saying to us here? - 'these things happened... as a warning... they were written down for our instruction...let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall'. With the warning, there is also the promise: '...God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide a way of escape...' (1 Corinthians 10:11-13).
6th October: Luke 14:1-35:
Let God's love flow freely in your own heart. Let it flow, from there, into the lives of others. Receive Christ and share Him with others. When the Gospel says, 'Come; for all is ready', there must be no excuses (17-20). When you share Christ, let there be no barriers (1-6, 12-14, 21-24). Let God's love flow freely - Make it your firm resolve to live as Christ's 'disciple' (27,33). Some will be critical of you - preoccupied with finding fault, they will miss the love of God(1-6). This is part of the 'cost' of being a disciple - the 'cross' (27-28). Others will respond positively: Keep your 'saltiness' - Be salty enough to make others thirsty, and be ready to lead them to Christ when they are thirsty 'for the living God' (34-35; Psalm 42:2). Remember to give all the glory to God (11).
7th October: Luke 15:1-32
People were coming to Christ (1). Still, the critics were murmuring among themselves (2). What did Jesus do ? - He kept on preaching the Gospel (3-32). The lost sheep (3-7) the lost coin (8-10), the lost son (11-32) - These are the parables of the Gospel. They teach us two lessons - By ourselves we are lost; In Christ, there is salvation. Read about the prodigal son, and think of the perfect Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, we see God's perfect love. Through Him, we receive God's perfect salvation - (a) 'the best robe' - forgiveness (Revelation 7:13-14); (b) the 'ring' - membership of God's family (John 1:12); (c) the 'shoes' - empowered to bring 'the Gospel' to others (Ephesians 6:15). 'God...has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing' (Ephesians 1:3). Don't be like the 'elder son' (28-30)!
8th October: Numbers 23:1-30
Our words are to be an echo of God's Word. We are to speak only what God says (8,12). Before we can speak for God, He must speak to us. 'God's Word is truth' (John 17:17). God does not lie. He does not change His mind. What He says, He does. He fulfils His purpose (19). How does God carry forward His purpose of blessing? We receive His blessing. We share His blessing with others. We can only bring blessing to others when we ourselves seek blessing from the Lord. His blessing comes to us. His blessing reaches out through us. We speak His Word, yet - through our words - He speaks (20). This is the work of the Holy Spirit. 'God's Word is the sword of the Spirit' (Ephesians 6:17). The Spirit uses the Word to convict us of our sin and lead us to our Saviour (Hebrews 4:12-16).
9th October: Numbers 24:1-25
When 'the Spirit of God came upon him', Balaam's 'oracle' was described as 'the message of the man who sees clearly'. His 'eyes are opened'. He sees 'with far-seeing eyes'. He 'hears the words of God'. He 'sees the vision of the Almighty' (2-4,15-16). Balaam looks beyond his own time. 'With far-seeing eyes', he prophesies concerning our Lord Jesus Christ: 'I see Him, but not now' (17). Balaam catches a glimpse of Jesus Christ, the 'King of kings' (Revelation 19:16). This is what we must pray for: 'the revelation of Jesus Christ'. Pray that you will be 'in the Spirit', ready to 'hear what the Spirit says'(Revelation 1:1,10; 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). God is the unchanging God - Nothing changes Him (23:19). He is also the changing God. He changed Balaam. He will change us!
10th October: Luke 16:1-31
How do we use our money? This is an important question for all who want to live a practical Christian life. The worldly person is quick to see ways of making a profit. For the Christian, there is a higher priority. Beyond personal profit, there is eternal profit. Look for opportunities to support the work of the Gospel. By our giving, we help the Church to be Christ's prophet in to-day's world. 'Make friends': Win others for Christ so that, together with them, we may be welcomed to our eternal home (9). Jesus said, 'You cannot serve God and money'. The 'lovers of money' did not like His teaching (13-14)! Don't let money squeeze Christ out of your life. Life without Christ leads to eternity without Christ (19-31).
11th October: Numbers 25:1-26:22
Read of Israel's adultery and idolatry and remember God's Word of warning: 'Don't let the world squeeze you into its mould' (25:1-5; Romans 12:2). God is looking for people who have the 'same zeal' as He has (25:11). Those who are zealous for God may be few in number, but we must not be discouraged. Glorying in Christ our Saviour, we must continue to be zealous for Him. In Christ we have 'peace', 'atonement' and a 'perpetual' salvation (25:12-13; Romans 5:1-2,9-10). We are saved to serve - This is the thought contained in the phrase, 'all in Israel who are able to go forth to war' (26:2). The wilderness wanderings were over. God was doing a new thing. He was looking for a new people, determined, by grace, to carry His work forward into the future. He is still looking!
12th October: Numbers 26:23-65
There is real sadness in the final words of this chapter: 'There was not left a man of them, except Caleb and Joshua' (65). There is also a sense of expectation. So many had died in the wilderness. This was now a new generation. We're living in changing times. God is equipping His people for new challenges. We must not stand still. We dare not say, 'It's never been done that way before'! A new generation has to be won for Christ. Will we rise to the challenge? Or, will we 'die in the wilderness (65)? Taking possession of 'the promised land' would not be easy. Making advances for Christ will not be easy. We must lay aside those things which need to 'die in the wilderness'. We take hold of all that God has done for us - if there is to be 'Good News for the next generation'!
13th October: Luke 17:1-37
In verses 1-10, Jesus speaks about temptation, forgiveness, faith and service. (a) Temptation - 'watch yourselves', always remembering that we can only win victory through the strength of the Lord (3; 1 Corinthians 10:13). (b) Forgiveness - This is practical teaching. We not only receive forgiveness for ourselves. We are to forgive others (3-4; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 4:32). (c) Faith - There will never come a time when we no longer need to pray, 'Increase our faith'. What great things can be achieved for God, when our faith in Him is strong (5-6; 1 John 5:4-5, 14-15). (d) Service - We are always 'unworthy servants'. We never outgrow our need of 'God's mercy' (10; Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 4:1). We need 'the attitude of gratitude' (17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Jesus is coming again (24). Be ready for Him!
14th October: Proverbs 5:15-23
There is teaching here concerning faithfulness in marriage: 'may you rejoice in the wife of your youth...may you ever be captivated by her love (18-19). We may apply this teaching to our relationship with the Saviour. You loved Him so much in 'your youth'. You were 'rejoicing in Him'. You were 'captivated by His love'. 'You were doing so well', but something happened - you have gone off course (Galatians 5:7-8). Is this the story of your life? Return to 'your first love' (Revelation 2:4-5). There is also a warning against unfaithfulness (20). This can also be applied to our relationship with Christ. He 'loved us and gave Himself for us'. He calls us to be 'holy...a radiant church' (Ephesians 5:25-27). We belong to Him. Why settle for anything less than the Best, anything less than our Lord Jesus Christ.
15th October: Numbers 27:1-23
The daughters of Zelophehad were concerned about the continuation of their father's name (1-11). Our first concern must be the glory of God, our Heavenly Father. We are to honour our parents, loving them deeply. We must not allow such love to compete with our love for Christ. He must come first. We are called to a life of single-minded devotion to Jesus Christ. Joshua is chosen to succeed Moses as the leader of God's people (12-23). Soon, Moses would be gone. The Lord was preparing His people for the future. God had His man - Joshua - waiting to continue the work which Moses had begun. For each place and time, God has His 'Joshua'. The work of God will go on. His work requires more than a 'Joshua'. What part will you play in God's ongoing work? Will you take up the challenge?
16th October: Numbers 28:1-31
The sacrifices, offered to God, were to be 'a pleasing odour' to Him (2,6,8,13,24,27). These sacrifices are no longer required. A greater Sacrifice has been offered and accepted. Jesus Christ, God's Son, has offered Himself as a Sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 9:23-26). This Sacrifice is 'a pleasing odour' to God. It is 'good news' for us. This is 'good news' - the Gospel of our salvation: 'Christ died for our sins' (1 Corinthians 15:3). How do we know that Christ's Sacrifice is 'a pleasing odour' to God? - God 'raised' Him from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:4). The 'feast of weeks' (Pentecost) turns our thoughts towards the Holy Spirit (26-31; Acts 2:1-4). It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that the 'good news' of Christ becomes real in our lives. He brings us to Christ and leads us on with Him (Acts 2:37-47).
17th October: Luke 18:1-43
Here, we learn some important lessons about faith. (a) Our faith is precious. We must not lose it! The question is asked, 'When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?' (8). 'Don't lose heart' (1). (b) We are to have a humble faith (14). Pray, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner' (13). 'Receive the Kingdom of God like a child' (17). (c) We are to have a committed faith (22), always remembering that salvation comes from the Lord and not from ourselves (26-27). Our commitment can never be a way of earning God's salvation. He always gives us so much more than we could ever give to Him (29-30). (d) We are to have a Christ-centred faith, centred on His death and resurrection (31-33). (e) Our faith is to be full of worship. Our eyes opened by Christ and to Him, we are to glorify God and give praise to Him (43).
18th October: Numbers 29:1-40
Between the feast of weeks (Pentecost) and the feast of trumpets (28:26-29:6), there was the harvest. Pentecost - the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - has ushered in the time of Harvest - the saved are being gathered in as men and women are being won for Christ. During this time of harvest, we 'blow the trumpets' of worship, rejoicing in the Lord (1), and 'alarm', calling on men and women to pay attention to the Word of the Lord (Joel 2:1). By blowing the trumpets for God, we prepare the way for the final trumpet, 'the trumpet of God' (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). We must get ready, and we must encourage others to get ready, for Christ's Return. Atonement (7-11), Tabernacles (12-40): Christ has 'tabernacled' among us (John 1:14). He has made 'atonement' for us (Romans 5:11). Share the Good News!
19th October: Numbers 30:1-31:20
Vows (30:1-16): Be careful what you say - You may live to regret it (Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4-6; Matthew 12:36-37; James 3:6-11). Learn from Balaam. Full of good intentions about speaking God's Word (22:18; 23:12). He hoped to 'die the death of the righteous' (23:10). He did not live up to his good intentions. He sinned and he led others into sin (31:16). He ended up being slain among God's enemies (31:8). Why were the Midianites destroyed (31:7-8)? They opposed the Lord, exerting an evil influence on His people. We must take care that we do not cause God's people 'to act treacherously against' Him (31:16). Sin needs to be removed if we are to press on to a greater enjoyment of God's blessing. 'Put to death what is earthly in you...put off the old nature...put on the new nature' (Colossians 3:5-11). This is what we must do.
20th October: Luke 19:1-48
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem (9:51; 13:22; 17:11), the place where He would be crucified for the world's salvation. 'Passing through' Jericho, He brought 'salvation' to Zacchaeus (1, 9). 'Near to Jerusalem', He spoke about service (11-27). Jesus is our Saviour - He came 'to save us' (10). He is also our Lord - He wants to 'reign over' us (27). 'Salvation has come to us (9). As 'good servants', let us be 'faithful' to our Lord (17). Jesus was 'going up to Jerusalem' (28). The Cross was the high point, the place of His triumph (Colossians 2:15). Seeing 'the city', Jesus 'wept over it' (41). He taught the Word of God in the House of God. Some were 'eager to hear Him'. Others were 'seeking to destroy Him' (47-48). What about you ? Does Jesus weep over you? He wants to rejoice over you (15:7,10).
21st October: Luke 20:1-47
Think before you speak. Jesus' critics had plenty to say for themselves. Jesus challenged them. They needed to say less and think more - about Jesus (8,17-18,41-44). Jesus' words reduced them to silence (26,40). They didn't know what to say next. Perhaps, some were beginning to ask the right questions and find the right answers (39). There were others who didn't want to know. They weren't interested in listening to Jesus. All that mattered to them was themselves: 'Beware of the scribes...' (46-47). 'The scribes' were so taken up with themselves that they failed to take the slightest notice of what the Lord was saying to them. The way of 'the scribes' ended in 'condemnation'. There is a warning for us here: Make sure you don't miss the most important thing - 'Jesus Christ is in you' (2 Corinthians 13:5).
22nd October: Numbers 31:21-54
If we are to be 'soldiers of Christ', we need to be 'purified', made 'clean'. There is purification by 'fire' and 'water'. Purification may be painful, but we have the promise of God's protective presence. He says, 'I will be with you'. He assures us, 'the waters...shall not overwhelm you...and the flame shall not shall not consume you' (22-24; Isaiah 43:2). From the Old Testament wars, we learn important spiritual principles: Enter the war, Destroy the sins, Possess the land. This is what we must do throughout life. Looking beyond Israel's triumphs to Christ's victory over Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8), we thank God for His victory and we claim this victory by faith (1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 John 5:4-5). The battle may be 'fierce'. The 'victory is secure' (Church Hymnary, 479). Praise God!
23rd October: Numbers 32:1-42
Some look for an easy life. They know that there will be conflict on the other side of the Jordan. They opt out - 'do not take us across the Jordan' (5). They think they've travelled far enough. God says, 'Let us go on to maturity' (Hebrews 6:1). 'My happiness' - This is what concerns the self-centred person. Spiritual maturity is not about happiness. It's about holiness. We find happiness when we aim at holiness. What is holiness? - 'It's the life apart from the world's excess. It's the Lord's command, not the Lord's request. It's the only life that the Lord can bless'. Pretend to be more holy than you really are, and 'be sure your sin will find you out' (23). A small minority - Caleb and Joshua - 'wholly followed the Lord' (12): Better a minority with God than a majority without Him.
24th October: Luke 21:1-38
The 'poor widow' gave her 'all' to the Lord (1-4). True giving is a response to 'the grace of God'. Learning to appreciate 'the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ', we will learn to give with 'abundance of joy' and 'wealth of liberality' (2 Corinthians 8:1-2, 9). Let us give ourselves to our Lord. True Christian living will not be easy (12; 2 Timothy 3:12). The Lord will be with us in all our difficulties (15, 18-19). Christ will return 'with power and great glory' (27). For some this will be a time of 'distress...perplexity...fear...foreboding' (25-26). For others, it will be the Day of 'redemption' (28). To all, there is the warning: 'Take heed to yourselves...watch at all times' (34-36). Let us restore Him to His rightful place in our lives - '...all the people came to Him...' (38).
25th October: Numbers 33:1-49
In the history of Israel - Set free by the power of God, failure to learn, wandering, the promised land - , there is a picture of the Christian life - conversion and growth to spiritual maturity by way of learning from our mistakes. We are not to remain in the past. That would be nostalgia. It is, however, a good thing for us to remember, with gratitude, all the way the Lord has led us. This will increase our appreciation of the goodness of God. It will deepen our sense of indebtedness to Him. Israel's redemption was a mighty work of God. Our salvation is a mighty work of God. Think back over your life - 'stage by stage' (2) - and thank God for all that He has done. 'These are the stages of' what the Lord has done (1): You may see the Lord in places where you hadn't noticed Him before!
26th October: Numbers 33: 50-34:29
'Drive out all the inhabitants of the land' (52): We must drive out the enemy (Satan) if we are to enter more fully into our salvation in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:3-14). Idolatry is to be banished (52). It has no place among God's people. God wants us to 'possess the land' (53): a fuller enjoyment of Him. Idolatry is settling for 'second best' - letting something or someone else become more important to you than the Lord. Don't let it happen! The setting of the boundaries of the land of Canaan (34:1-29) is a reminder that there are boundaries in the Christian life, boundaries set by God Himself, the boundaries of Holy Scripture. When we move beyond the boundaries of God's holy Word, we move outside the sphere of God's blessing. Live in the will of God - within the boundaries set by His Word.
27th October: Luke 22:1-38
Jesus' enemies were 'religious' men but they were not God's men (2). Behind the scenes, there was the activity of 'Satan' (3). He 'disguises himself as an angel of light' - Judas Iscariot was 'one of the twelve'! (3; 2 Corinthians 11:14). In reality, Satan is 'a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour' (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus was in complete control of the situation. He allowed Satan to carry out the plot which would lead to his own defeat - at the Cross. As the whole situation gets darker, never forget the purpose of Christ's death (19-20). Jesus was suffering - the pain inflicted by His enemies (2) and the agony brought on by his 'friends' (21,31-34). His suffering was for us: 'Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us' (7; 1 Corinthians 5:7). In His suffering is our salvation.
28th October: Luke 22: 39-71
Jesus was 'greatly distressed... troubled... very sorrowful... ' (Mark 14:33-34). 'Nevertheless, in obedience to His Father's will, He chose the way of the Cross (42; John 10:17-18). Satan - 'the power of darkness' - would have his 'hour', but Jesus was to be 'seated at the right hand of the power of God' (53,69). Jesus suffered much persecution (63-71). He endured it 'for the joy that was set before Him', the joy of 'bringing many son to glory' (Hebrews 12:2; 2:10). The way of the Cross is never easy. It involves death to self (2 Corinthians 4:10-12). Do not 'sleep'. Pray (45-46). Don't 'follow at a distance' and deny your Lord (54, 57-58, 60). Keep close to Jesus. Let the 'rivers of living water flow' (John 7:37-39; Acts 1:8). When you sin, let His 'Word' lead you to repentance (61-62; Psalm 119:11).
29th October: Numbers 35:1-36:13
Cities of refuge were provided for those who had killed someone accidentally. This is a good illustration of fleeing to Christ for refuge. He is our 'strong tower'. We 'run' to Him and we are 'safe' (Hebrews 6:18; Proverbs 18:10). God gave Israel a 'land'. They were not to 'defile the land' (34). God has given us a Saviour. We are not to dishonour Him. Christ is our 'inheritance'. Our full enjoyment of Him is still to come (36:2-4, 7-9,12; Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 3:24; 1 Peter 1:4). How can we enjoy our Saviour more fully ? - 'These are the commandments...' (36:13). The names change. The places change. The principle remains the same: Obedience to God. We have been redeemed by God. Let us live in obedience to Him. There is nothing more important than this - if we really want to enjoy His blessing
30th October: Luke 23:1-25
In Jesus' trial, we see unity in evil (12). Politically, Pilate and Herod were at odds with each other. Spiritually, they were united in their opposition to Christ. Jesus was found guilty by neither Pilate nor Herod (13-16). They were Very Important People. Jesus was a threat to them. They held positions of great power. They could not allow Jesus to 'upset the apple cart'. Three times, Pilate declared Jesus' innocence (4,14,22). 'Public opinion' said, 'Crucify Him!' (21). Pilate had a problem. He would be 'crucifying' himself - politically - if he ignored public opinion. Pilate made his choice. Jesus had to go. Jesus went - but He came back again! There is real human drama here, but there is much more than that: There is God! Crucified by men, Raised by God (Acts 2:23-24): This is divine drama, the drama of redemption!
31st October: Psalm 16:1-11
'Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore' (11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God's people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ's resurrection. David's words (8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with 'the resurrection of the Christ' (Acts 2:24-33). 'Christ has been raised from the dead...at His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable' (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). 'The Lord is my chosen portion...Therefore my heart is glad' (5,9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.
1st November: Deuteronomy 1:1-46
With the exception of Caleb and Joshua, the older generation - including Moses - was not to enter the land (34-38). For the new generation, there was a challenge. There must be no more failures. One wasted generation was enough. This was the time for real commitment to the Lord. He loved them - He had 'set the land before' them. They were to rise up in faith and ' take possession of the land' (8). We are called to go on with the Lord. 'You have stayed long enough' at a low level of Christian living. God is calling us on to maturity: 'go in and take possession of the land; (6,8; Philippians 3:13-14). Do not hesitate to move forward with God: 'do not fear...It is a good land which the Lord gives us' (21,25). Will we be the new generation, 'a new creation in Christ' (2 Corinthians 5:17)?
2nd November: Deuteronomy 2:1-37
During their wilderness years, God's people had many problems. God is greater than all the problems! Israel's journey began in the land of 'bondage' (Exodus 2:23-25). From there, He led them to the land of promise, 'the land which the Lord our God gives to us' (29). This is 'amazing grace': 'Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; 'Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home' (Mission Praise, 31). In the giving and taking of the land, we see both grace and faith: I have begun to give...this land over to you; begin to take possession...' (31). We are not saved by grace apart from faith. We are 'saved by grace through faith. We are not saved by faith without grace. We are 'saved by grace through faith'. Saved by the Lord, let us press on to a life of 'good works' (Ephesians 2:8-10).
3rd November: Luke 23:26-24:12
'God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong' (1 Corinthians 1:27). In his weakness, the thief on the cross trusted Christ for salvation (42-43). Pilate, a man of power, rejected Christ, sending Him off to be crucified (23:23-25). Jesus was 'delivered into the hands of sinful men'. Jesus was 'crucified'. This was not, for Him, the end. He rose from the dead (7). At the Cross, 'the centurion' described Jesus as 'a righteous man' (47). In the resurrection, God declared Him to be much more than a righteous man - He is 'the Son of God' (Romans 1:4). Don't be like those who do 'not believe', those who consider Christ's resurrection to be 'an idle tale' (11). Something has 'happened', something very wonderful - Jesus has risen from the dead:... 'believe...be saved' (12; Romans 10:9).
4th November: Deuteronomy 3:1-29
The promised land was near. For Moses, it was 'so near and yet so far'. He was excluded. Together with the sadness of Moses' exclusion, there was the joy of the people's entrance (27-28). When we consider Moses' sadness and the people's joy, we must remember this: Nobody deserved to go into the land! The land was God's gift. Without His strength, the people of Israel would fail. With Him, they would be victorious: 'You shall not fear them; for it is the Lord your God who fights for you' (22). There is here a basic principle of Christian living: 'not by might , nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts' (Zechariah 4:6). 'In heavenly armour we'll enter the land. The battle belongs to the Lord. No weapon that's fashioned against us will stand, The battle belongs to the Lord' (Mission Praise, 639).
5th November: Deuteronomy 4:1-43
The people of Israel were involved in the work of the Lord. The work was based on God - not Moses. Moses would not be in the promised land. God would be there. Moses would 'not go over the Jordan'. As God's man. he was to prepare the people for their task: 'you shall go over and take possession of that good land' (22). Privilege involves responsibility. Israel was a privileged people, redeemed by the Lord, delivered from bondage 'by a mighty hand and outstretched arm' (34). Israel was a responsible people, called to obey the Lord: 'Obey His laws and commands' (40). The Lord our God is 'a merciful God' (31). He has saved us. We are to serve Him. Let Him reign in your heart. Let there be 'no other besides Him' (35). Flee to Christ for refuge (42-43), and live each day with 'the attitude of gratitude'.
6th November: Luke 24:13-53
'In all the Scriptures', Jesus teaches 'the things concerning Himself' (27). Do 'our hearts burn within us...while He opens to us the Scriptures?' (32). He calls us to be His 'witnesses', to preach His message of salvation 'to all nations' (47-48). Before we can preach, we must listen to Him. Before we can proclaim His resurrection, we must consider His suffering for us: 'See my hands and my feet' (39) - even after His resurrection, they still bear 'the mark of the nails' (John 20:25). Listen to Christ. Consider His suffering for you. Be 'clothed with power from on high. Let the Lord 'bless' you, strengthening your worship and filling you 'with great joy'. With all this going on in your lives, we will consider it not only our responsibility but our joyful privilege to be His 'witnesses' (48-53)!
7th November: Deuteronomy 4: 44-5:33
Obedience is grounded in salvation. The Ten Commandments (7-21) are preceded by the divine declaration: 'I am the Lord your God' who brought you...out of the house of bondage' (6). He has redeemed us. We are to live for Him. The Word of God was spoken to Moses before it was spoken by him (27). We cannot begin to live for the Lord until we begin to listen to Him. The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Our obedience is to be offered in a spirit of gratitude to God for His gracious salvation. Never imagine it is because of our obedience that God loves us. His love for us is always prior to our love for Him. Remember what the Lord has done for you, and your love for Him will grow stronger. Forget, and you love will grow weaker. Loved by God, let us love Him - more!
8th November: Deuteronomy 6:1-25
'Hear' and 'do' (1-3; James 1:22-25). In our obedience to God, there is to be the fear of the Lord and love for the Lord (2,5). Fear and love: the two belong together. God is holy - fear Him. God is love - love Him. This is for every generation: 'you and your son and your son's son'(2). 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart' (5). Teach the children well so that the blessing of God may be 'prolonged' among us(7,2). Our promised land - heaven (John 14:1-3) - is far better than Israel's promised land. Through faith in Christ, we have received 'eternal life' (John 5:24; 6:40). Never take the Lord's blessing for granted. Always remember to thank Him for all that He has done for you (10-12). Teach the children what the Lord has done for them (20-23). Then, and only then, tell them what they must 'do' for Him (24-25).
9th November: Deuteronomy 7:1-26
Enter, Destroy, Possess (1-2). Don't try to jump straight from entering to possessing. Don't forget to destroy. We enter the Christian life through faith in Christ. We will not 'take possession of' a fuller enjoyment of His salvation if we refuse to 'destroy' the obstacles to His blessing in our lives. Sin is like a 'cancer'. It will 'kill' us if we let it (Romans 6:23). This is why we must fight it - with 'the whole armour of God' (Ephesians 6:10-17). From beginning to end, our salvation is the work of God: '...it is because the Lord loves you...that He has...redeemed you...' (6-8). The Lord's love speaks of His keeping power. He will complete the work He has begun (17-19; Philippians 1:6). Saved and kept by the power of God, we travel from Christ's Cross to our Crown (Romans 1:16; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 2:24-25; 5:4).
10th November: John 1:1-34
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the Beginning. He is also the End (1-3; Revelation 21:6). He is 'the Word...made flesh'. 'We have seen His glory' (14). This is only the beginning. When He returns, we shall see His glory - 'we shall see Him as He is' (1 John 3:2). From Him, there is creation (1-3). From Him, there is salvation (12-13). In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (29,32-34). He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God and the Son of God (1,29,34). When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God - 'the 'Word was God' (1), 'No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known' (18). Do you want to know what God is like? - Look at Jesus (14:9). What do we see when we look at Him? - 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (29).
11th November: Deuteronomy 8:1-9:21
The 'wilderness' was a place of 'testing'. God was 'disciplining' His people. He was teaching them to 'walk in His ways' (2,5-6). In the 'wilderness', we must remember this: 'man does not live by bread alone...man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord' (3). Everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord - His warnings as well as His promises! He speaks to us in warnings: 'Take heed lest you forget the Lord your God...' (11). He speaks to us in promises: 'the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land' (7). 'God forbid that I should glory...' (8:17-18; 9:4-6; Galatians 6:14). God gave Israel the land. He gives us 'the Kingdom' (Luke 12:32). As earthly kingdoms rise and fall, 'the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed' (Daniel 2:44).
12th November: Deuteronomy 9:22-10:22
'We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word' (Acts 6:4). Moses was an intercessor (25-29). The ministry of the Word needs to be grounded in prayer. Prayerfully seeking the Lord's help, we are to place His Word at the centre of the life of His people (5). God shows His mercy by providing His servants to carry His Word in a ministry of blessing to the people, a ministry which helps the people to 'go in and possess the land' (8,10-11). In gratitude to God, our Creator-Redeemer, we are to give ourselves to Him in obedience (12-15). Let your heart and life be changed by the Lord, never forgetting this: 'He is your praise; He is your God, who has done for you...great... things' (16-21). 'God...gives the growth' (22; Corinthians 3:7). Read Psalm 126:6 and pray!
13th November: John 1:35-2:25
Andrew brought his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus (40-42). 'You are...You shall be...' (42). Jesus looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become through the transforming power of His grace. The 'water' became 'wine' (9). This was the Lord's doing. In Christ, we have been 'made alive'. This is the work of God. He is 'rich in mercy'. He loves us with a 'great love' (Ephesians 2:4-5). At a wedding, Jesus rejoices with those who rejoice (1-11). In the temple, He rebukes those who are proud (13-17). There was 'death' in the temple. Those who were spiritually 'dead' acted in complete disregard for the true purpose of God's House - 'My House shall be called a house of prayer' (Matthew 21:13). 'Raised from the dead', we receive 'new life' (22; Romans 6:4). Be real with Jesus. He will bless you (23-25).
14th November: Deuteronomy 11:1-32
God is at work among His people, teaching them many lessons. Through His precious promises and strong warnings, He leads us in the way of obedience and blessing (31-32). If we are to enjoy the Lord's blessing, we need the whole Word of God - the warnings as well as the promises. Obedience to God - This is the most important thing in the life of faith. Obedience demonstrates the reality of faith. By our obedience, we show our 'love' for the Lord. We rejoice in 'all the great work of the Lord'. By 'His mighty hand', He has provided for us a great salvation. Our enjoyment of His salvation increases as we live in obedience to Him (8-15). Without obedience, there can be no blessing (16-17). Teach others to obey God - especially the 'children' (18-21). God is good. He loves us (22-25). Obey Him. Choose blessing (26-28).
15th November: Deuteronomy 12: 1-32
In our hearts, nothing else must compete with the Lord. There is no room for idolatry. 'Destroy' everything that threatens to take the place of God in your life. (2-3). We are not to 'do what is right in our own eyes'. We are to worship as the Lord 'chooses' (5,8,13-14). Remove every distraction. Get rid of those things which keep you from crowning Christ as Lord of your life. When you are tempted to put other things before the Lord, 'be careful not to be ensnared' in the ways of the world (29-31). When we are tempted, we must take our stand on God's Word. 'Everything' He has given to us - This means more than our favourite passages! Don't 'add to it', making 'the traditions of men' more important than the Word of God. Don't 'take from it', ignoring the parts you don't like (32; Mark 7:8; Acts 20:27).
16th November: John 3:1-16
We say, 'I'll turn over a new leaf'. Christ says, 'You must be born again' (3,7). Our way of thinking begins with 'I'. Christ's way of salvation begins with 'God': 'God so loved the world...' (16). Begin with 'I' and you have sin, guilt and condemnation (Romans 3:10-11). Begin with God and you have Good News for sinners: 'God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us' (Romans 5:8). Through faith in Christ, we are 'born of the Spirit' (6-8; 1:12). The Spirit of God is the Spirit of holiness, love and truth. Those who are 'born of the Spirit' are to live a life of holiness, love and truth (1 John 4:2-3,6-7,12-13; 5:2-3). 'Come to the light'. 'Do what is true'. 'Obey the Son'. Let Christ increase. This is the work of the Spirit in us (20-21,36,29,34).
17th November: Proverbs 6:1-15
'Save yourself ...like a bird from the hand of the fowler' (5). 'He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler'(Psalm 91:3). In scripture, we have both the promise of grace and the call to faith: 'By grace you have been saved' (Ephesians 2:5), 'Your faith has saved you' (Luke 7:50), 'Keep yourselves in the love of God', 'To Him who is able to keep you from falling (Jude 21,24). Laugh at 'the sluggard' (6-11), but do not laugh too quickly or too long: You may be laughing at yourself! Looking at the sluggard is like looking into a mirror. We see so much of ourselves in him! 'A worthless man, a wicked man' - He 'fancies himself' - He's 'a chancer'. He better watch out: God doesn't share this man's opinion of himself - 'calamity will come...he will be broken beyond healing' (15).
18th November: Deuteronomy 13:1-14:21
Obedience to God involves an uncompromising attitude toward those who would lead people away from God. Those who say 'Let us go and serve other gods' (13:2,6,13) must not be permitted to exert their evil influence on God's people. God says, 'You must not listen to them (13:3,8). Temptations to 'idolatry' can come under the guise of 'spirituality' - 'a prophet...a dreamer of dreams...a sign or a wonder' (13:1; 1 John 4:1). 'Idolatry' can come from within one's own family. The Lord must come first (13:6-11; Luke 14:26). God's judgment is upon 'idolaters' so that others may see their folly, turn from 'idolatry' and receive God's mercy (13:12-18). Remember God's purpose of love (John 3:17). In our worship and in the whole of life, we are to be 'a people holy to the Lord our God' (14:2,21).
19th November: John 4:1-42
Here, we see Jesus' ministry of love. He brings the Samaritan woman out of her bondage to sin and into the joy of His salvation. Jesus comes to the woman in love. His love overcomes cultural divisions. His love breaks down cultural barriers (9). This is not simply the story of one woman. It is the story of 'many Samaritans' coming to faith in Christ (39). There are two 'stages' in their coming to faith. First, they 'believed in Him because of the woman's testimony' (39). Second, 'they believed because of His Word' (41). The Samaritans came to trust Jesus as 'the Saviour of the world' (42). The woman said that 'salvation is of the Jews' (22). It is also 'to the Greek' (Romans 1:16). The Gospel is for all. Pray that the human word will be empowered by the divine Word (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:13).
20th November: John 4:43-5:29
In Jesus' healings, we see the love of God. He 'went about doing good'. In His healings, we see the Source of His spiritual strength: 'God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power' (Acts 10:38). We look beyond Jesus to God the Father: 'mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through Him' (Acts 2:22). Jesus speaks of His unique relationship with the Father (19,26). Jesus is no mere servant. He is 'the Son'. We are to 'honour the Son' as well as the Father (23). Through Christ, we receive 'eternal life' (24). The gift of eternal life is the gift of God's love. In love, God 'gave His only Son'. 'In His Son', there is eternal life. 'This life' is given to everyone who 'believes in the Son of God' (3:16; 1 John 5:10-12). Listen to 'the voice of the Son of God', believe and 'live' (25).
21st November: Deuteronomy 14:22-15:23
'Tithing' (Giving the tenth to God) emerges out of holiness: 'You are a people holy to the Lord your God...You shall tithe' (14:21-22). It is more than giving things to God. It is giving ourselves to Him. It also involves caring for others (7-11; Isaiah 58:6-7). We have been 'earmarked' as servants of the Lord (17). Being 'earmarked' for God involves listening to God (Isaiah 55:2-3). Bring 'the firstling' to God (19). 'We are here to bring You the best that we can bring. And it is our love rising from our hearts' (Mission Praise, 717). 'Just as I am...to be the best that I can be for truth, and righteousness, and Thee, Lord of my life, I come' (Church Hymnary, 448). No second bests - Only the best will do for God.
22nd November: John 5:30-6:21
'Search the Scriptures' - and make sure you 'come to Christ and receive life' (39-40). From Jesus' miracles - the feeding of the five thousand (1-13) and His walking on water (16-21) - we learn about faith in Christ. Jesus is more than a 'prophet'. He is 'the Bread of God...which comes down from heaven' (14,33). He is not merely a human 'king'. He is the divine King - 'Lord of lords and King of kings' (15; Revelation 17:14). When the storms of life are raging, Jesus says, 'It is I; do not be afraid' (20). He assures us of His final victory - 'they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them' (Revelation 17:14). 'Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?...We have an anchor that keeps the soul...Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love' (Church Hymnary, 412).
23rd November: John 6: 22-59
Jesus said, 'I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst' (35). Jesus had enemies - 'The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, 'I am the bread which comes down from heaven' (41). Christ's enemies are still with us. They 'murmur among themselves' (43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, 'the Living Bread' (51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: 'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies' (Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: 'O taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: 'We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still' (Church Hymnary, 571).
24th November: Deuteronomy 16:1-17:13
Blessed by God, the people of Israel had much to celebrate. They had been brought out of the land of bondage. They were about to enter the land of promise. The keeping of the feasts (16:1-17) was a response to God's love, a way of celebrating His love. Why did God bring Israel to the promised land? It was because He 'loved them' (Psalm 44:3). The Passover was a continuing reminder of God's mighty work of redemption. The Lord's Supper is a memorial of what God has done for us in Christ. In remembering His dying love for us, we remember what we were without Him and we give thanks for all that He has done for us. As well as 'joy' (45), there is to be justice (16:18-17:13; Micah 6:8). Note the effect of justice: 'And all the people shall hear, and fear, and not act presumptuously again' (17:13).
25th November: John 6:60-7:36
Jesus' words are 'spirit and life'. They are 'the words of eternal life' (63,68). While others - including Judas Iscariot - were drawing back from following Jesus, Peter confessed his faith in Jesus: 'You are the Holy One of God' (66-71). It was only a matter of time before Judas Iscariot (71) and 'the Jews'(1) formed an unholy alliance. The 'time' was 'not yet' (6,8). Even the plans of evil men could only be fully developed in the Lord's time. When God permitted their evil plans to proceed, then it would be His time for Jesus' crucifixion and our salvation (Acts 2:23). 'The Jews' were amazed at Jesus' teaching - 'How is it that this man has learning when he has never studied? (15). They did not understand that God's wisdom is different from man's wisdom. Obey God. Receive wisdom (17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
26th November: John 7:37-8:20
'Rivers of living water' were flowing out of Jesus' heart. 'No man ever spoke like this man'! 'The Spirit' was speaking through Him with power. Still, there were those who 'wanted to arrest Him' (37-39,44,46). Stop 'throwing stones' (1-11)! Only Jesus had the right to point the finger at this woman. He refused to do so. He bore her sins and our sins on the Cross (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus spoke to the woman of both forgiveness and holiness (11). Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world' (12). This brought an immediate reaction from the 'Pharisees': 'Your testimony is not true' (13). They were 'disguised as angels of light' (2 Corinthians 11:14). They 'loved darkness rather than light' (3:19). Their 'darkness' was exposed by 'the Light of the world'. These evil men could do nothing until God's time (19-20).
27th November: Deuteronomy 17:14-18:22
Even the king is subject to God's 'law'. His supreme responsibility is this: Pay careful attention to God's Word (17:18-20). Politically, he may be in an elevated position - a 'king over' others (17:14-15). Spiritually, he must not allow 'his heart' to be 'lifted up above his brethren' (17:20). There must be humble obedience to God's Word. Priests speak to God for us. Prophets speak to us for God. We need both - 'prayer and the ministry of the Word' (Acts 6:4). In our worship, we must keep the Lord at the very centre. Anything or anyone who distracts our attention from the Lord is no help to true worship (9-14). 'A prophet like Moses' (18:15): Jesus is the ultimate prophet - to see and hear Him is to see and hear God (John 5:19; 12:49; 14:9). He preaches God's Word. He is 'the Word of God' (John 1:1).
28th November: John 8:21-58
In the face of evil unbelief and persistent opposition, Jesus spoke with tremendous assurance: 'You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world...you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He' (23-24). 'As He spoke thus, many believed in Him (30) - Jesus spoke with power and love. Responding to Him in faith, we are set 'free' (32,36; Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:1). To receive His freedom, we must recognize our need: 'everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin' (34). To grow in His freedom, we must 'continue in His Word' (31). To religion without Christ (39,41), Jesus' answer is emphatic: 'You are of your father the devil...you do not hear God's words because you are not of God' (44,47). 'I am' (58; Exodus 3:14). God is in control - not men (59,20).
29th November: John 9:1-41
Empowered by God, Jesus gives sight to the blind man (3,6-7). 'The Pharisees' hear the man's testimony (15). 'Some of' them reject the Lord (16,24). There will always be those who refuse to believe in the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. They will pour scorn on those who have come to know the Lord. The man gives his testimony: 'One thing I know...I was blind, now I see' (25). The Pharisees continue to fire questions at him (26). He puts the most challenging question to them: 'Do you too want to become His disciples?' (27). They hurl insults at him (28). Fools attack what they don't understand. The more they rage, the more they show their folly. We say, 'Lord, I believe', and our spiritual 'eyes' are opened (38; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Don't be 'blind', despising the believer and the Saviour (39-40; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
30th November: Psalm 17:1-15
Here is the prayer of a man whose earnest desire is to walk with God, to have a close walk with God in the centre of His will (5). His prayer is sincere. It 'does not rise from deceitful lips' (1). He is painfully aware of 'the onslaughts of the wicked'. His 'enemies cluster round him, breathing hostility' (9). Whatever troubles we may encounter, we must learn to pray with the Psalmist: 'Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer' (1). As we call upon the Lord, He gives the assurance of His protection. Through His Word and Spirit, He assures us that He will 'keep us as the apple of His eye' (8). We are precious in His sight. He looks upon us in love. He does not see our sin. He sees us 'in Christ' - 'accepted in the Beloved', 'no condemnation' (Psalm 32:1; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 8:1).
1st December: John 10:1-42
The Christian life is not easy. The devil 'comes only to steal and kill and destroy' (10). Satan was working through the religious leaders. They were trying 'to stone' Jesus (31). 'Again', they failed (39). They could not take Jesus' life. 'His hour had not yet come' (18; 7:30; 8:20). When Satan attacks us, we must remember this: God is in control. God has given us great promises (28-29). Jesus saves. Jesus keeps. His salvation is eternal: 'He didn't bring us this far to leave us. He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn't build His home in us to move away. He didn't lift us up to let us down'. Satan will cause us plenty of trouble. Be on the alert (1 Peter 5:8). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Looking to Jesus, we are assured of this: Satan will be defeated (Revelation 12:9).
2nd December: Deuteronomy 19:1-20:9
Justice is concerned with (a) the protection of the innocent - 'innocent blood will not be shed in your land' (10); (b) the punishment of the guilty - 'you must purge the evil from among you' (19). Through justice, God is to be glorified among His people. We are to fight for the Lord without fear, confident of His glorious presence (20:1-4). In the service of the Lord, we must not be 'fearful and fainthearted' (20:8). We are to be 'good soldiers of Jesus Christ' (2 Timothy 2:3). We need to give careful attention to the Word of God: 'When you draw near to the battle, the priest will come forward and speak to the people, and say to them, 'Hear, O Israel...' (20:2-3). God's Word is not concerned only with 'Church work'. It sends us 'back to our house' - 'dedicated' to the Lord (20:5-9).
3rd December: Deuteronomy 20:10-21:23
The offer of 'peace' is made (20:10; Romans 5:1). Some refuse to 'make peace'.They choose to 'make war' (20:12). When the enemies of Christ and the Gospel are raging, we must be resolute in our commitment to living 'as the Lord our God has commanded' (20:16-18). We are to 'do what is right in the sight of the Lord'. This will involve 'going forth to war against our enemies'. It will involve 'purging the evil from our midst' (21:9-10,21; Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Hebrews 12:1-2,11). Our life of holiness is grounded in the death of Christ who, on the Cross, was 'accursed by God' so that we might be saved by God (21:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24). Through faith in Him, we have been declared holy (Romans 5:1,3-5,9-10).
4th December: John 11:1-44
Everything is moving on towards Christ's death and resurrection. On His way to the Cross, Jesus performs a mighty miracle - the raising of Lazarus (43-44) - which points unmistakably to an even greater miracle - His own resurrection (Acts 2:24). Accompanying this miracle - the raising of Lazarus - , we have Jesus' great declaration concerning Himself: 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die' (25). His words are immediately followed by the question: 'Do you believe this?' (26). This question is put to each of us. Jesus waits for the answer of faith: 'Yes, Lord I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God...'(27). This is 'for the glory of God' - receiving new life from 'the Son of God...' (4).
5th December: Deuteronomy 22:1-30
Care for 'your brother' (1-4). Our caring is not to be selective - 'If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is' (2). When Jesus says, 'Love your neighbour as yourself' (Luke 10:27), He means much more than loving the people who live near us, the people that we know. The 'Samaritan' didn't know 'the man who fell into the hands of robbers' (Luke 10:30,33). 'Jews did not associate with Samaritans (John 4:9). Jesus says, 'Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). Love your enemies with the love of the Lord - 'when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son' (Romans 5:8,10). Don't love the ways of those who 'live as enemies of the Cross of Christ' (Philippians 3:18). 'Purge the evil from the midst of you' (21-22,24).
6th December: Deuteronomy 23:1-25
God sees us as we really are. He 'looks on the heart' as well as 'the outward appearance'. We must live to please Him, praying, 'Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!' (14; 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 139: 23-24). God calls us to be holy: 'you shall keep yourself from every evil thing' (9). This 'holiness' is not to be a proud, arrogant thing. It is to be filled with compassionate caring. Don't write anyone off, saying, 'They're not our kind of people' (7). Don't be all out for all you can get for yourself without any thought of how your actions affect other people (24-25). Let your holiness be real. Don't say one thing and do another. Don't pretend to be more 'holy' than you really are. Choose to be holy - every day (21-23).
7th December: John 11:45-12:36
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (49-53). The voice of 'common sense' is not always the voice of the Lord (4-6). There is a higher wisdom than 'common sense'. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives. Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasising that we must not lose sight of Him. If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (8). The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, 'The world has gone after Him' (19). They are going after Him too - in a different way! The crucifixion draws near. God is to be 'glorified' in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (28,31-32). Jesus had 'come' for this 'hour' (27).
8th December: Deuteronomy 24:1-25:29
Justice for the vulnerable is grounded in God's redemption (24:17-18). This is an important principle for us. God loves us. He has done great things for us. He cares. We are to care. Let His love be the guiding light in every part of your life. Scripture speaks of both salvation and judgment. Israel was given 'the land' as 'an inheritance to possess'. The Amalekites were blotted out (25:19). The Christian life is a spiritual warfare. When we are 'faint and weary', we will be 'attacked on the way'. If we 'lag behind' in our walk with God, those who 'do not fear God' will try to 'cut us off' from the Lord and His people. This is the work of Satan. We must not be 'ignorant of his devices'. God is with us in the battle. He is leading us on to our eternal 'inheritance' (25:17-19; 2 Corinthians 2:11).
9th December: Deuteronomy 26:1-27:10
The people of Israel had a testimony. They had been redeemed by the God of love. Thankful for His love and salvation, they brought their offerings to the Lord (26:5-9). The call to obedience is grounded in the gift of salvation. Redeemed by the Lord, we are called to be 'a people holy to the Lord our God' (26:16-19). There is no privilege without responsibility. Israel was privileged: God was giving them 'a land flowing with milk and honey'. Israel was responsible: God was saying to them, 'Keep all the commandments which I command you this day' (27:1-3). God blesses us. We obey Him. We enjoy more of His blessing. This leads us to obey Him more. Break the 'vicious circle'. Get on to God's 'victorious circle': He shows us His love. We love Him. He shows us more of His love. We love Him more... (John 14:21).
10th December: John 12:37-13:20
The Pharisees continue to exert their evil influence. 'For fear of the Pharisees', many remained silent, 'loving the praise of men more than the praise of God' (42-43). Whatever the opposition, Jesus calls us to believe in Him and confess Him (Romans 10:9). He calls us out of darkness into light (46). If you are a believer, come out into the open. Make it known that you belong to Christ. Do not only read God's Word for yourself. Speak His Word to others (50). he 'hour' of Jesus' suffering draws near. Satan is busy. Jesus is in control (1-3). It is the 'hour' of His love. We are 'washed' in His precious blood (8; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 7:14). What God has done for us comes before what we 'ought to 'do for others. Jesus is our Saviour before He is our 'Example' (14-15). Knowing Him, let us do His will (17).
11th December: Deuteronomy 27:11-28:24
Through His strongly worded warnings, God calls us back from the way of disobedience (27:15-26;28:15-24). Through His promises of blessing, He calls us to the way of obedience, the only way to true happiness (28:1-14). God's blessing cannot be taken for granted. Where there is disobedience, there is no blessing. Our 'enemies' will triumph over us (28:25). We need not be defeated. God has shown us His way of blessing. It is the way of obedience (1-2). We are not blessed because we deserve to be blessed. We can never earn the Lord's blessing. The blessing comes from Him (8). He blesses us because He loves us - not because we are worthy of His blessing. You can be in 'the promised land' without enjoying the promised blessing. Don't 'suffer loss' - 'saved, but only as through fire' (1 Corinthians 3:15).
12th December: Deuteronomy 28:25-68
There is nothing inevitable about the chain of events described in these verses. These are the consequences of disobedience. God is warning His people: 'If you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God...' (28:15). Why does God warn His people of the consequences of disobedience? He wants them to draw back from the way of disobedience and follow the pathway of obedience and blessing. These 'curses' were avoidable. They would only happen if Israel persisted in rebelling against the Lord. We can bring 'curses' upon ourselves. Don't imagine that God doesn't care how you live. He does. That is why He calls us back from the pathway of disobedience. That is why He exhorts us to choose holiness. Read Hebrews 10:26-31; 12:25-29. Pray for God's mercy (Luke 18:13). Ask Him to make you more holy (Hebrews 12:14).
13th December: John 13:21-14:14
Difficult times lay ahead for Jesus. He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (21-30). He would be denied by Peter (36-38). For Jesus, there was His departure (31-33). It would be a difficult time for His followers. He tells them to 'love one another': 'By this all men shall know that they are His disciples' (34-35). Jesus points them beyond the difficult times. He speaks of His glorious future. He assures them that the best is yet to be. He is preparing a place in His 'Father's House' for us. He will come again to take us to Himself (1-3). He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (6). Now, He reveals the Father to us (9). Now, He is working in and through us (12-14). He is preparing us for His place: 'Lord Jesus...fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there' (Church Hymnary, 195).
14th December: Deuteronomy 29:1-29
God has done great things for His people - 'in the land of Egypt...in the wilderness' (2,5). Acknowledging Him to be the Lord their God, they were to live in obedience to Him (6,9). The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of obedience (16-28). Turning away from the Lord leads to judgment - 'anger and fury and great wrath' (24-28). There are 'secret things'. There are 'things that are revealed'. Some 'things' we will never understand. These 'things belong to the Lord our God'. There are many 'things' we have learned and have firmly believed. 'The things that are revealed' are found in 'the Holy Scriptures'. Through God's written Word, we are brought to 'salvation' and we are 'thoroughly equipped' for Christian living (29; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).
15th December: Deuteronomy 30:1-31;13
For Israel, a real turning to the Lord with 'all the heart and soul' involved obedience to 'His commandments...written in this book of the law' (30:10). We are not left wondering what God wants us to do - '...the Word is very near you...'(11-14). Through His Word, God 'sets before' us a choice. He calls us to 'choose life' (15-20). Joshua was to succeed Moses (31:1-2,7-8). Conflict lay ahead. God's people needed His Word of encouragement: 'Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them'. Beyond the conflict, there would be triumph. God gave His Word of promise: 'It is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you' (31:6). Turning from the people to Joshua, Moses spoke the same words (31:7-8). Hear; Learn to fear the Lord; Be careful to obey His Word (31:12-13).
16th December: John 14:15-15:17
Those who love the Lord are called to a life of obedience - keeping His 'commandments', keeping His 'Word' (21,23). We cannot live this life in our own strength. Christ must make His home in us (23). Once He has come to live in us, we are to abide in Him (4). Jesus says to us, 'Apart from me you can do nothing' (5). You cannot live the Christian life until Christ comes to live in you. 'The Holy Spirit teaches us all things' (26). Christ's 'words' abide in us (7). We are called to a life of fruitfulness (15:5,15) - 'the fruit of the Spirit': 'love, joy, peace...' (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus loves us (21). He gives us His peace (27). He gives us His joy (11). Love, Joy, Peace: Let this 'fruit' be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. 'Love one another...Go and bear fruit...love one another' (15:12,16-17).
17th December: Proverbs 6:16-35
God's Word is our 'lamp' and 'light' (23; Psalm 119:105). It leads us in the way we are to go (22). It exposes the darkness of the ways we are to avoid. It shows us the 'things that the Lord hates', the things which are 'an abomination to Him' (16). Why does God list the 'things' which are not pleasing to Him? He wants us to watch how we live. He wants us to keep on choosing His way. We must not allow things to drift. Keep God's Word in 'your heart always' (21). Let 'the reproofs of discipline' keep you from straying (23). The world tells us, 'Anything goes. Do what you like. It doesn't matter how you live'. God's Word speaks about sin: There is 'no sense' in it. It is the way of self destruction. It will not 'go unpunished' (32,29). Be careful to obey God in everything.
18th December: John 15:18-16:33
Jesus was 'persecuted'. We will be 'persecuted' - 'all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted' (15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). We have no guarantee that life will be easy. In all our difficulties, 'the Spirit of truth' directs our attention to Jesus our Saviour (15:26; 16:13-15). Whatever our problems, we draw encouragement from Jesus' words: 'In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world' (16:33). Here, we have realism and faith. The world is trying to squeeze us into its own mould (Romans 12:2). Sometimes, we feel like faith is slipping away. Sometimes, we feel like giving up. What are we to say to all this? 'Who is it that overcomes the world buy he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?' - This is our faith' (1 John 5:4-5).
19th December: John 17:1-26
Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays for me. We have come to faith in Him through the written Word of His apostles (20). The story of the Cross (1-5), the story of the first disciples (6-19) is an ongoing story. It continues in us. The saving effects of Christ's death are still being felt today. The written Word of His apostles is still exerting its powerful influence on today's world. Jesus is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). He prayed for His first disciples - 'that they may be one' (11). He prays the same prayer for us (20-23). Among His first disciples, there was Judas Iscariot, 'the one who chose to be lost' (12). If we are to 'maintain the unity of the Spirit', we must take account of 'the Judas factor' - 'take notice of those who create dissensions...avoid them' (Ephesians 4:3; Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18).
20th December: Deuteronomy 31:14-32:18
'Write this song, and teach it to the people of Israel' (19,22). Moses did not delay his obedience to God. 'Write...Teach...': God is speaking to us about the renewal of our worship. Don't say, 'It's never been done that way before' - 'the seven last words of the church'! Moses' song was 'a witness for God against the people of Israel' (19). It can still help us, in this generation, to confess our sin - We 'have dealt corruptly with Him' (5) - and glorify our God - 'I will proclaim the Name of the Lord' (3). Modern music can help us to hear afresh the ancient message: 'Ascribe greatness to our God...' (3-4; Mission Praise, 40). Let us praise God 'in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' (Ephesians 5:18-20).
21st December: Deuteronomy 32:19-33:17
Here, we have both the warning of judgment and the promise of salvation. Rebuking 'a perverse generation' - 'They are devious people, children who can't be trusted' - God says, 'I will hide My face from them' (20). When, in our need, we look to Him for mercy, we have His promise: 'The Lord will...have compassion on His servants, when He sees their power is gone' (36). 'This is the blessing...'(1). For each tribe - Reuben (6), Judah (7), Levi (8-11), Benjamin (12), Joseph (13-17) - , there is a different Word from the Lord. Each of us is different. Our circumstances are different. God knows what we need to hear. He speaks the Word which is just right for each one. He 'loves' every one of us. We are 'in His hands'. Let us 'follow in His steps, receiving direction from Him' (3).
22nd December: John 18:1-27
The story continues. Jesus is betrayed. Jesus is arrested (1-11). He stands before the Jewish authorities (12-14,19-24). Jesus is 'drinking from the cup which the Father has given Him' - He drinks from the cup of our condemnation that we might drink from the cup of His salvation (11; Matthew 26:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Jesus' death was not only 'expedient'. It was 'necessary' - for our salvation (14; Luke 24:26). Alongside the story of Jesus was the story of Peter (15-18,25-27). Jesus' death was not the end of His story - He rose from the dead (Luke 24:5-6; Acts 2:23-24). Peter denied the Lord three times. This was not the end of his story. For each denial, there was a new commitment (21:15-17). For each denial, there were, on the Day of Pentecost, 1,000 people brought to Christ (Acts 2:38,41).
23rd December: John 18:28-19:16
'Barabbas was a robber'. He was released (39-40). There was 'no crime' in Jesus. He was 'crucified' (38,4,6,16). Was Jesus not more than the innocent victim of a shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice? No! Jesus, the King of kings, chose to die. Looking ahead to the Cross, He said, 'For this I was born...' (36-37). In love, He chose death on the Cross. As truly as Barabbas, each of us can say, 'He took my place and died for me'. In His death, Jesus did not only take the place of one sinner, Barabbas - 'He took the place of many sinners'. He did not simply bear the punishment deserved by one sinner, Barabbas - 'The Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved' (Isaiah 53:12,6).
24th December: Matthew 1:18-25
'Immanuel...God with us' (23). Think of what this means! Here are some words to help you. 'He walked where I walked, He stood where I stand, He felt what I feel, He understands. He know my frailty, shared my humanity, tempted in every way ,yet without sin. God with us, so close to us. God with us, 'Immanuel!'. Let your thoughts move on to the Cross - 'He died in my place that I might live'. Let your heart be filled with worship: 'Immanuel, O Immanuel, Bowed in awe I worship at your feet, and sing Immanuel, God is with us; Sharing my humanness, my shame, feeling my weakness, my pain, taking my punishment, my blame, Immanuel. And now my words cannot explain, all that my heart cannot contain, how great are the glories of Your Name, Immanuel' (Mission Praise, 221,326).
25th December: Luke 2:1-20
'A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord' (11). The Name, 'Jesus', means 'Saviour' (Matthew 1:21). Focus your thoughts on Him: The Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a prayer to help you make your response to Him: 'Lord Jesus Christ, You have come to us, You are one with us, Mary's Son. Cleansing our souls from all their sin, pouring your love and goodness in; Jesus, our love for You we sing, Living Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, You have come to us, born as one of us, Mary's Son. Led out to die on Calvary, risen from death to set us free, Living Lord Jesus, help us see You are Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, we would come to You, live our lives for You, Son of God. All Your commands we know are true, Your many gifts will make us new, into our lives Your power breaks through, Living Lord' (Mission Praise, 435).
26th December: Matthew 2:1-12
'King of the Jews' (2). Jesus came from the Jews. He came for 'all nations' (28:19). He is the 'King of kings' (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Here on earth, we are learning 'to worship Him' (2). We are being prepared for heavenly worship (Revelation 7:9-12): 'Kings and queens and beggarmen, presidents and servants, the people of all nations, will gather on that day. We will kneel before the King. None will be observers. We will lift our voices. Together, we will say, "He is the King and He will reign forever. He is the King and we will sing His praise. The King of kings and Lord of lords forever, Jesus, He is the King. Hallelujah to the King, He is our salvation. Master of the universe, King of all creation"!' Let 'Jesus...take the highest honour'. Let us 'glorify the King of kings' (Songs of Fellowship, 302, 590).
27th December: John 19:17-20:10
'It is finished' (30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph. At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work' (4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption. In one sense, 'it is finished' - on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father. The Cross is followed by the resurrection - 'God raised Him from the dead' (Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9). To come to the words, 'It is finished' is not to reach the end of the story. Jesus was laid in the tomb (42). Still, this was not the end of the story. Something else had to happen - 'Jesus had to rise from the dead' (11). For our salvation, Jesus died 'and was raised to life' (Romans 4:25).
28th December: John 20:11-31
Christ is 'the Lord' (2,18,20,25). Christ is 'my Lord' (13,28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us. Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas - changed by the power of the risen Christ. In love, He comes to them, and they are changed. (a) Mary was 'weeping' (13,15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer - 'I have seen the Lord!' (18). (b) The disciples were filled with 'fear'. Jesus came to them. He gave them His 'peace' and 'joy' (19-20). (c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (25). Jesus came to him, and he believed - 'My Lord and my God!' (28). Through the Gospel, we find faith: 'These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name' (31).
29th December: Deuteronomy 33:18-34:12
'The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms' (27): This is no guarantee of peaceful tranquillity. For Israel, there was conflict. 'Saved by the Lord', Israel had found true happiness. Still, there were 'enemies' to be 'thrust out' and 'trampled down' (27,29). Knowing the blessing of God's salvation is no guarantee that life will be easy. When the enemies of the Gospel see a believer intent on glorifying the Lord, they do all they can to create problems. We have 'enemies' in 'high places' (29; Ephesians 6:12). Their argument is not with us. It is with God. If God's work is to do well, there needs to be spiritual leadership. Moses had led God's people in his day. Joshua was to take his place (9). Moses was important. Joshua was important. The Lord is more important - 'If God is for us, who can be against us?' (Romans 8:31).
30th December: John 21:1-25
'Fishers of men' (Matthew 4:19) - Set your goals lower than this, and you will take others with you. Together, you will discover the emptiness of life without Christ at its centre - 'they caught nothing' (3). Note the contrast between the self-centered life (5) and the Christ centered life (6,8,11). Loving, serving and following Jesus - These are the most important things in life (15-17,22). Don't look over your shoulder at someone else - 'Lord, what about this man?' (21). Let it be personal - Jesus says, 'Do you love Me?' (15-17). He asked Peter, 'Do you love me more than these?' (15) - more than you love these other disciples, more than these other disciples love Me, more than your boats, nets and fishes? Look back and ask yourself, 'Do I love Jesus more than I did a year ago?'.
31st December: Psalm 18:1-24
The first three verses set the tone: Worship. What a great start to this Psalm. Our attention is directed away from ourselves to the Lord: 'my strength...my rock, my fortress and my deliverer...my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold' (1-2). The great testimony of verse 3 - 'I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies' - did not come easily (4-5). The enemies of the Lord will be brought to judgment (13-14). 'The cord of death encompassed me...He delivered me from my strong enemy...' (4-5,17-19) - Rejoice in the risen Christ through whom we have the 'victory' over 'the last enemy...death' (1 Corinthians 15:20,26,54). God is leading us into 'a broad place' (19). Step into the future with Him. Don't hold back! 'Let go and let God have His wonderful way'.
The first three verses set the tone: Worship. What a great start to this Psalm. Our attention is directed away from ourselves to the Lord: 'my strength...my rock, my fortress and my deliverer...my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold' (1-2). The great testimony of verse 3 - 'I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies' - did not come easily (4-5). The enemies of the Lord will be brought to judgment (13-14). 'The cord of death encompassed me...He delivered me from my strong enemy...' (4-5,17-19) - Rejoice in the risen Christ through whom we have the 'victory' over 'the last enemy...death' (1 Corinthians 15:20,26,54). God is leading us into 'a broad place' (19). Step into the future with Him. Don't hold back! 'Let go and let God have His wonderful way'.