Day 139 – May 19, 2021
Scriptures: 1 Samuel 15-16, Titus 3
“But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (Titus 3:4–8)
There is a tension between our texts today. There is Saul, who has made the mistake of turning away from the Lord, and there is Paul, who is calling us towards obedience. Paul says, “Be careful to devote yourself to doing what is good.”
Saul’s failure is our failure. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Paul says of this, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy.”
It’s not about our sacrifice, it’s about the sacrifice of Jesus pouring out generously his love for us.
The connection here is significant. Samuel taught Saul that God desires obedience over sacrifice.
Jesus teaches us that his obedience, that led to his sacrifice, is so that we may have a new birth into a new life, devoted to God.
The connection here is important. Jesus’ sacrifice ends all sacrifice. We have forgiveness and new life in Christ. The OT took seriously sin and obedience and the sacrificial system. In this account of Saul’s failures we are given a hint of things to come. It leads us to see a righteousness that is not of ourselves, but given us through the love of Christ.
Devote yourselves to what is good!
Day 137 – May 17, 2021
Scriptures: 1 Samuel 10-12, Titus 1
Bible Project: Titus
Connecting the text:
Today’s reading has us looking at the character of Samuel, as well as the character of godly leaders in the church. They are to be honest, peaceful, self-controlled people. Samuel served the Lord faithfully all the days of his life. All of Israel attests to it. Leadership in the church is held to a similar standard.
Let’s continue from yesterday’s reading and understanding the deviation from God’s plan that occurs with Israel’s request for a King. Despite their betrayal of God, he will work with a king. Samuel recounts the story of Israel, and redirects them towards faithfulness:
“Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the Lord has set a king over you. If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors.” (1 Samuel 12:13–15)
““Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.”” (1 Samuel 12:20–25)
It’s always about the hearts of people. Whether we are leaders or followers. Where the heart of the leader goes, often goes the followers.
It’s why it is so incredibly important that we appoint godly people to lead.
It’s why it is incredibly important that we turn to and trust in the one to lead us who is truly righteous, Jesus our King.
Jesus is our king, let us follow him!
Day 136 – May 16, 2021
Scriptures: 1 Samuel 7-9, Psalm 124
REMEMBER THIS: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 124:8)
“When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.” (1 Samuel 7:6)
“Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 7:15–17)
One of my favorite books is “Dream Big, Think Small,” written by Jeff Manion. He uses 1 Sam 7:15-17 to talk about the every day faithfulness we are called to in following Jesus. Samuel served the Lord, all the days of his life. He was a circuit riding judge, caring for the affairs of Israel, faithfully all of his life. May the same be said of us.
THERE IS A REALLY IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENT IN THE STORY OF ISRAEL THAT HAPPENS IN 1 SAM 8:
“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”” (1 Samuel 8:4–5)
“And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” (1 Samuel 8:7)
“But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”” (1 Samuel 8:19–20, TNIV)
REMEMBER THIS: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 124:8)
Israel seeking a King was a betrayal of loyalty. God was to be their King. Not a man.
God will restore this, when Jesus, God’s own son, becomes King over his kingdom. The story of the Gospels is how Jesus becomes King, the rightful one who calls for our allegiance and devotion.
Israel having a king does not work out well for them. They will compromise their witness, division will come, and great pain will be felt throughout the kingdom. Samuel warns them. They reject the warning. Give us a King!
This same rejection will happen at the betrayal of Jesus at his arrest and trial. "We have no King but Cesar!"
Today’s the day to make Jesus your King!
“Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 124:8)
Day 134 – May 14, 2021
Scriptures: 1 Samuel 1-2, Psalm 113
BIBLE PROJECT: 1 Samuel
“He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 113:9)
There is a lot going on in the narrative of 1 Samuel. The opening of the book gives us insight into the state of Israel and the heart of the people.
Eli is a priest, and his sons are crooks. They are corrupt and evil.
Contrasting Eli’s boys is Samuel. Samuel, as we discover, is the son of Hannah. A righteous woman who pleads with God for a child. She honors her commitment to dedicate her child to the service of God.
God blesses her with many more children.
The opening of the 1 Samuel story appears to be a continuation of the evil done in the book of Judges. Not much has changed. Judges ends with a word about the people being without a king and doing as they please. The foundation is being laid for a king to come. Samuel will play a part in the naming of a king.
But for now. We join with the Praise of Psalm 113,
“Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high,” (Psalm 113:5)
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Have a great day!
Day 133 – May 13, 2021
Scriptures: Judges 20-21, 2 Peter 3
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)
“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” (2 Peter 3:3)
The sin of Israel caused a bit of a civil war among the tribes of Israel. They’ve turned on one another, causing a terrible conflict that inflicts more death and suffering on the nation of Israel.
Many have turned their backs on God and “everyone did as they saw fit.”
Peter looks at the world in which the church is placed, and sees many who do as they see fit. People following their own evil desires and a complete disregard for God.
“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives” (2 Peter 3:11, TNIV)
There is, in Peter’s view and other NT writers, a judgment coming. Everything will be exposed, and what is evil, will be completely destroyed. In light of the truth of a new heaven and a new earth that is coming soon, Peter calls Christians to live a holy and godly life.
We are also told of the patience of God. He doesn’t desire that anyone should perish. God was serious about this, at the flood. It pained him to have to start over, but he had to. And when it comes to the suffering now, the evil now, there will come a time when God will have exhausted his patience.
For the time being, we are called to live a holy life, set apart from God. Knowing that God desires for all to be saved.
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Day 132 – May 12, 2021
Scriptures: Judges 18-19, 2 Peter 2
In our reading of Judges, we see again and again the struggle of the Israelites to follow the Lord. It is not too difficult to see a connection in our 2 Peter reading:
“They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” (2 Peter 2:19–21, TNIV)
Peter takes a stand against sin. He calls on the people to stay with the Lord and leave a life of sin. His argument is basically, “Ignorance is bliss" compared to knowing the Lord and turning from him.
But they can’t claim ignorance. They know of Jesus as Lord. Why continue in sin?
Peter is concerned for the heart of the people. There are those who are enticing the church to backslide back into sin. It’s been a struggle for God’s people for generations. As we see over and over again in the book of Judges.
There is a monumental difference though, between the Old and New. It’s the forgiveness of Christ.
We are wise to hear the sermon from John the Baptist, “Bear fruit, worthy of repentance.”
Have a great day!
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Day 131 – May 11, 2021
Scriptures: Judges 15-17, 2 Peter 1
2 Peter Bible Project
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“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (2 Peter 1:3–7, TNIV)
Samson’s story is one of carnage, betrayal and brutality. It is difficult to read the text and understand God’s purposes. Why would God give him strength, especially after his abuses of it? But God’s ways are higher than our own. And as much as we might question the life of Samson and ponder God’s use of Samson, we aren’t smarter than God. Besides, God in his mysterious ways does appear to use this Samson story to show himself to the Israelites as far superior to any other gods. The Philistines fancy themselves victorious and hail their gods as superior. In their gloating and pride, the whole thing literally crashes down on them.
Our 2 Peter reading offers us something else that we ought to pursue, rather than power and control. It’s an invitation to much more than brute strength of Samson. Jesus teaches us that we do not use strength to gain power in the world. Rather, we are given everything we need for a godly life.
Jesus helps us see what is most important. It isn’t power to carry out our will, rather, it’s the divine work of God in our life to live a holy life. God is at work, giving us his divine strength, so that goodness, godliness, perseverance and love would pour out of our lives and sustain us.
In this, we become eyewitnesses of His Majesty! We declare the superiority of our God, Jesus Christ our Lord!
Day 130 – May 10, 2021
Judges 12-14, Psalm 143
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” (Psalm 143:8–10)
“In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.” (Psalm 143:12)
I don’t know what to do with the Samson story. It’s problematic because there is a tension. He’s a Nazerite, so why is he pursuing a Philistine for a wife? Why is God seemingly alright with this? We get a text clue that God wanted an altercation with the Philistines.
Why an altercation?
I suppose God will use the Philistines, much like he used the Egyptians. Egyptians became a way for God to display his great power.
And the Philistines will take on this same role in relationship to the Israelites. The altercations with these people are only getting started.
Perhaps the point is what we get in Psalm 143 – “Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you.”
The difficulty of the world is great, but God is greater. God be with you.
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Day 129 – May 9, 2021
Scriptures: Judges 10, Psalm 44, Judges 11
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“If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart? Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Psalm 44:20–22, TNIV)
Judges 10-11 is a lesson on the Lord being our Shepherd, or in this case, not being looked to as the leader of Israel. There is tragedy, condemnation and death in the story of Judges 10-11.
The tragedy of Jephthah’s story is the heartache that occurs when Yahweh is not exclusively the God whom you are loyal and worship. Jephthah has other influences and it leads to the bargaining vow with Yahweh. He doesn’t appear to understand the graciousness of Yahweh. He could have simply turned his heart and devotion to God. God knows our heart!
Yet Jephthah makes a vow with God in order to get home. And in the terrible misfortune of things, it costs his daughters life.
Paul will take this Psalm 44 and reframe it within the hope of Jesus Christ, our Lord. We are encouraged to shed all outside influences that lead us to see God poorly. Paul frames Psalm 44 in light of the resurrected Lord:
“Who then can condemn? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:34–39).
Our Lord is interceding for us. We have a Shepherd, we can turn to him. It’s his sacrifice that will bring us home.
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Day 128 – May 8, 2021
Scriptures: Judges 9, Psalm 120
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Abimelech grasps for power. He consolidates power under his name so he can rule and reign with an iron fist. He proves himself to be a bloodthirsty warmonger. There is so much death under his reign, there is no peace.
Not much can be said positively about this. I suppose what comes to mind today is Jesus’ words, “those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” In the case of Abimelech, he almost dies of a stone, but instead the sword pierces him. He lived by the sword and died by the sword.
I join with the Psalmist in calling for peace, “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.”
Let’s pursue peace today in Christ. Surrounded by war, we are a people of peace.
Blessed are the peacemakers!
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Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.