Monthly Archives: August 2019

August 20; Sin’s Debt

Jeremiah 52; Psalms 74, 79, 85

Today’s Scriptures continue with the Babylonian captivity, and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. God’s disobedient children were being punished. The psalmists asked God for mercy because the hand of God was heavy on them.

God will always punish disobedience. There has never been a time, nor will there be a time, when God gives His creation a free pass. Every disobedient thought or action, every sin committed comes with a death sentence. Every sin.

I think sometimes people think that when a person becomes a Christian, God cancels our sin debt, somehow erases the ledger so we stand before Him guilt-less, just as if we’d never sinned. But I don’t think that’s the case.

When I look at the cross I know my sin debt wasn’t just canceled. It was paid for by the Savior who painfully shed His blood, and died to pay the price my sins deserve.

I love Psalm 85. God forgave us and covered our sins, but He did it with Jesus’ blood. He set aside His anger toward us and directed it to His Son instead. His unfailing love granted salvation – but it cost Him a great deal.

His peace is ours, but not because we are sinless. It’s ours because we are forgiven. The sin I committed yesterday doesn’t just disappear when I ask God to forgive it. It’s a sin that nailed Jesus to the cross.

If I can tell myself God simply erases my sins when I ask for forgiveness, I don’t feel quite as bad about sinning. I mean, I use erasers all the time. No big deal.

But if I remember that sin cost Jesus great physical suffering and death, that lie or that jealousy or that dirty thought takes on a different meaning. It becomes a very big deal. It makes me ashamed to have contributed to Jesus’ suffering, and I don’t want to be a part of it any more.

Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. (Ps 85:10-11)

Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. (verse 7)

But may we never forget what that salvation cost Jesus, may we never take for granted that our sin debt was paid for us on the cruel cross of Calvary by Someone who wasn’t guilty.

I pray you know Him and have accepted what Jesus died to give you. He took the punishment you deserve for every sin you’ve ever committed. You sin debt is paid in full. Please accept it.

 

August 19; It’s Not About The Rags

Jeremiah 34:1-22, 39:1-18; 2 Kings 25:1-21; 2 Chronicles 13:15-21

The king couldn’t escape God’s wrath. The most powerful man in the country had no defense against the hand of God, even with his strong army fighting for him. Zedekiah tried to run, but he was captured, his children killed right before his eyes, then his eyes were gouged out of his head, and he was thrown in prison.

God had repeatedly warned King Zedekiah, but he continually refused to repent. He ended up paying a high price for his disobedience.

However, an employee of the king, a Cushite named Ebed-Melech was saved by God. Do you remember Ebed-Melech?

We met him in Jeremiah 38. He’s the man who rescued Jeremiah out of a cistern, where the prophet had been left to die by Zedekiah’s thugs. Ebed-Melech thoughtfully provided rags to be used as cushions under Jeremiah’s armpits so Jeremiah wouldn’t be cut to shreds as Ebed-Melech lifted him up out of the well by a rope. He not only saved Jeremiah’s life, he did so with a great deal of kindness and consideration. I like Ebed-Melech.

Now here in Jeremiah 29 we hear God promise Ebed-Melech he will be rescued himself. But not as a reward for being considerate to Jeremiah. God said:

I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declared the Lord. (29:18, emphasis mine)

I am reminded that no amount of thoughtful, kind, or sacrificial deeds can buy my salvation. No one had more to offer than King Zedekiah. No one had more resources at his disposal. Ebed-Melech, just a regular guy, was saved because he trusted God.

And, dear one, trusting God is what will save you and me, too.

August 18; The Branch Has A Name

Ezekiel 31:1-18; Jeremiah 32:1-33:26

God had made a covenant with the Jews. That convenient was so strong, God said it couldn’t be broken unless someone could take the control over day and night from Him. The covenant was this: David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne, and the Levites would never fail to have a  man burning sacrifices before God.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.” (Jeremiah 33:14)

Then God described Jesus! We who live after the cross know that the Branch has a Name. The Lord our Righteousness is Jesus Christ. One Man, both king and priest, sitting at the right hand of God interceding for us.

And He isn’t going anywhere! He is the eternal King and Priest. The fulfillment of God’s promise to His people.

One man, one sacrifice for all.

One Savior. Jesus!

August 17; Confidence

Ezekiel 25:1-17, 29:1-16, 30:20-26; Jeremiah 37:1-38:28

Where do you go for counsel? Where do you find your confidence? Who do you trust?

Israel had gone to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, for protection from the Babylonians. They had put their very lives in the hands of this great army, and felt secure in the power of the Egyptians to defeat their enemy.

God was not happy about that. In fact, He was about to show Israel how strong Egypt wasn’t. “Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 29:16)

God was going to destroy Egypt. He was going to pull the rug out from under Israel. Then where would Israel be?

I think we could learn something from this, don’t you? In this day and age of self-empowerment and positive thinking, where people are told to believe in themselves and have confidence in their own power, God might be telling us to be prepared. He just might pull the rug out from under us, too.

God wants us to put our confidence in Him. Not ourselves. Not our spouses. Not our church. Not our good works. Him. Just Him. And He won’t be ok with being our back-up.

God can, and does, make sure we know He is the Sovereign Lord by destroying our sources of confidence outside of Himself. Even if He has to bring us to our knees.

Where do you go for confidence? I hope it’s not Oprah, or Joel Osteen, or some self-help guru telling you how wonderful you are. I pray your confidence is in God alone.

If you’re trusting anyone or anything else, be prepared to watch that thing destroyed right before your eyes. God wants you to trust Him. We need to trust Him.

August 16; Umm…NO

Ezekiel 23:1-9, 24:1-27; Jeremiah 21:1-14

King Zedekiah wanted Jeremiah to ask God if He was going to help them against their enemy. God’s answer? “Umm…NO.”

That’s the thing. So often when we find ourselves in trouble, we cry out to God, “Help me! I need a miracle!” And sometimes God’s answer is “No. You want to live life on your terms, fight your enemy on your own strength.”

What I notice about Zedekiah’s request is the absence of a confession. God was using the Babylonians to punish Israel for sin, and the king didn’t seem to think it was necessary to repent of that sin. Now I’m wondering if I don’t do the same thing.

I need to remember that repentance comes before answered prayer. Repentance comes before God’s blessings. If I want to hear God say, “Yes,” I need to ask Him on His terms.

After all, He’s God.

August 15; A Broken Heart

Ezekiel 20:30-22:31

Do you know how, when you are close to someone who is grieving, you can feel their heart break? You ache because they are hurting so badly, and you know you just can’t fix it for them. Watching a loved one go through the darkest time of her life was probably the hardest thing I have ever done.

The thing about reading the Bible as God’s love letter to me, expecting Him to speak to me, and getting to know His heart through His own words, there are times I feel like I’m watching Him grieve, and my heart breaks for Him.

Today I read His words, His pronouncement of judgment on His disobedient children. I heard His anger, realized the fierce punishment that was coming their way. God is really mad.

But through the years of reading the Bible, I’ve come to understand – in part – God’s heart. Of course I don’t claim to totally get Him, but I know Him enough to know that when He is angry, when He is bringing judgment on His people, He’s doing it from a broken heart.

He says things here in Ezekiel like, “I will pour out my wrath on you…,” “I will make you an object of scorn…,” “I will surely strike my hands together at the unjust gain you have made…,” “I will gather you in my anger and my wrath…”

I read His words, but I also see His tears. The God I know takes no pleasure in punishing His children. The God I know longs to walk with us, fellowship with us, bless us. That’s His will for each of us. It’s we who prevent that by our choices to sin. It’s we who break His heart.

When you were a kid and your dad stood in front of you with that belt in his hands, both of you knowing you deserved what was coming, did you ever hear him say, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you”? I hear my Heavenly Father saying that today, and I believe it’s true.

My Heavenly Father, I don’t want to cause You pain. I don’t want to break Your heart. I don’t want to be a rebellious child you need to discipline, because today I see how much that hurts You. God, I want to bring you joy. Forgive my sins. Create in me a clean heart. And may all I do and say today put a smile on Your face. I love You. 

 

August 14; What’s Fair?

Ezekiel 17:1-19:14, 20:1-29

When bad things happen, the temptation is there to think, “That’s not fair,” “Why that person?” “Why me?” People have been known to shake their fists at God when they think they don’t deserve whatever hardship has come their way, when they think He’s not being fair.

Ezekiel will tell us things in this life aren’t fair – because WE are not fair. In reality, God is the only fair one around.

Let me ask you this: What would your requirements be for someone to be able to live a trouble-free life? Think about it. Maybe jot down the things a person would have to believe or do in order to get a free pass on problems.

Ask a friend or your spouse to make their own list. Put that challenge out to your co-workers, your Sunday School class, your HOA:

“Everybody, write down what you believe should be required for a person to be able to avoid disease, heartache, and tragedy. What are the things that ought to result in happiness?”

I would venture to say the odds of getting the exact same list from the majority are pretty slim. I’d be surprised if two people had the exact same requirements listed. How fair would it be for any one of you to determine how a person should live in order to escape hardship? We all have different ideas of what is fair.

Now, let’s ask people in a remote African village what they think about your list. Would it be fair to expect them, or a homeless person, or a Guatemalan refugee to follow your rules? How likely are they to go to church regularly, or give generously to charities, or volunteer at soup kitchens? You would be unfair to expect them to adopt a rescue puppy, or to coach their kid’s soccer team in order to escape hardship.

Here are God’s requirements for living a trouble-free life: THERE ARE NONE. He makes it clear that as long as there is sin in the world, bad things happen. So God defined sin for us so that we would know that all of us have sinned.  He set forth a plan that is the same for you as it is for me or the people in that African tribe.  He provided one way of cleansing sin, through the blood of the Savior Jesus Christ. And He promises to be with His children and help us navigate through this life until we get home. Where, by the way, we will live that trouble-free life we’re looking for.

God’s plan is fair because it has nothing to do with our middle class American values, or a world-view of tolerance and acceptance. It has nothing to do with church attendance, or cash flow. God’s plan is fair because it has everything to do with HIM.

I don’t think it’s a sin necessarily to ask God, “Why?” when bad things happen. I just think it’s a waste of time. The answer is pretty clear. If we think God owes us a good life just because we are good people, we are in for a world of hurt. Because none of us are all that good.

So, what’s fair? There is only one answer to that question. God is fair. Period.