Arrogant Unbelief

God is pleased with those who turn away from arrogant unbelief and trust Him even though death overtakes them still waiting.

Today’s Reading

Ezekiel 10-12; Hebrews 11:1-19

Selected Verses

 And the word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, what is this proverb that you have about the land of Israel, saying, ‘The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing’? Tell them therefore, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will put an end to this proverb, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel.’ But say to them, ‘The days are near, and the fulfillment of every vision.’” Ezekiel 12:21-23

 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Hebrews 11:13

Reflections

The people of Judah and Israel had heard the visions of the prophets but had not seen their fulfillment. They grew impatient, then dulled, and, finally, arrogant in unbelief. “Nothing is going to happen,” they told themselves as they went on with their idolatry, seeking power from pagan gods.   All kinds of evil arises when a society collectively begins to assume that there is no God or that, if there is, He is powerless or complacent towards sin.

Ezekiel warned them of the soon coming fulfillment of the visions. All those prophecies about the fall of Babylon, the rise of Persia, and the return of the Jews to Jerusalem all came to pass on God’s schedule. He showed them all up for fools who demanded that God do their bidding on their schedule.

But our waiting patiently in faith for God to act pleases Him. Hebrews 11 is a monument to those who trusted God to their dying day without seeing His promises fulfilled. They were included with all who “draw near to God [believing] that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (vs. 6)

Think about it

Not everyone lives to see the fulfillment of God’s promises. We are privileged to live in the era of the last days, following the first advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, including His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and the building of His Church throughout the nations. Yet there is more–much more–to come.

Be sure you don’t fall into the arrogant unbelief of the people of Ezekiel’s day who thought nothing would ever happen and who demanded that God perform for them. Christ will return, but, even if not in our lifetimes, God will be pleased as we draw near to Him in unwavering faith believing that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.

Contagious Confidence

Not everything contagious is bad. Here we learn how confidence in the Lord in times of trial is contagious. Spread the germs.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 53-55; Acts 27:26-44

Selected Verses

Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

“Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” And when [Paul] had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.  Acts 27:34-36

Reflections

The Psalmist describes the pain of betrayal.  His close friend has turned against him.  The person whom he trusted and ate with is out to get him.  The burden of this is enormous.  It’s as if the person you counted on to help you carry a load, quit carrying it, and jumped on your back and added to your load.  David says to cast that burden on the Lord.  The result is confidence in God’s sustaining power. Nothing can occur without His permission, and He will not permit the righteous to be moved.

Jesus, too, knew betrayal by His close friend and disciple, Judas Iscariot (Matthew 26:45-56).  This psalm sustained the Lord who was the only Righteous One who could legitimately claim the promise that He would never be moved.  Who are we to claim this promise, struggling sinners that we are?  But by His suffering all who believe in Him are made righteous. Thus, Paul and all the saints down through history can cast their burdens on God expecting to  be sustained and kept even in a time of betrayal, shipwreck, or other calamity (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Paul demonstrated his confidence in the Lord to sustain him through both his words and his actions.  He reassured the crew and passengers, and he ate a meal in front of them.  As a result, they responded to him and did as he urged them.  Soon they gained strength for the impending shipwreck and the swim for shore.  Every one of them survived the sea.

Think about it

Have you seen how the godly spread confidence to others by their trust in the Lord?  Consider how God can use your words and actions to inspire others to trust Him and to cast their burdens on Him. Yes, be contagious. Spread the germs.

No Drama; Simple Trust

Belief in God is evidenced by simple trust. No drama.  Just a readiness to believe Him and to seek His direction in His Word.

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 14-16; John 9:24-41

Selected Verses

Now the Philistines had come and made a raid in the Valley of Rephaim. And David inquired of God, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up, and I will give them into your hand.” 1 Chronicles 14:9-10

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” John 9:35-36

Reflections

David was off to a good start in his reign (except for all the wives).  When the Philistines heard that he was on the throne they wasted no time in coming against him in battle.  Perhaps their utter defeat of Saul, a few years earlier, had left them overconfident.  Maybe they thought the new king would be distracted with all the matters of the kingdom and be an easy push over.  But David was a seasoned military commander.  He could have relied on his extensive experience, but he consulted the Lord for direction about how to respond to the approaching army.  David was not presumptuous but desired to know what God wanted him to do.  David showed simple trust in the Lord.

That simple trust paid off. David was victorious.

Jesus had a second encounter with the man who had been born blind.  The now-seeing man had held his ground in the repeated interviews with the Jewish authorities.  Now Jesus asks him if he believes in the “Son of Man.”  Of course, the man does not know what Jesus means, but he is quick to express simple trust in the Lord.  “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” he asks without hesitation.  Jesus introduces himself to the man as that One to whom He had referred.

And the man worshiped him.  That healed man got more than he bargained for that day: physical sight and spiritual sight.  His simple trust was well-placed.

Think about it

What is your attitude toward God and His Word?  Does your faith express itself in simple trust?  No drama, just a readiness to accept whatever the Lord puts in front of you today?  Seek to be a person who believes without delay and without excuses, one who trusts simply.

What Pleases God

Throughout history, God has been and is pleased with those who believe in Him, that is, who believe Him. It’s no secret. Faith pleases God.

Today’s Reading

Second Kings 18-19; John 6:22-44

Selected Verses

He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered.

2 Kings 18:5-7a

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

John 6:28-29

Reflections

Hezekiah came to the throne in Jerusalem at a most difficult time. Assyria was the dominant nation and was putting pressure on both Israel and Judah. Israel fell and Assyria prepared to finish off Judah as well. But Hezekiah trusted the Lord. Taunting came and threats of Assyrian victory, but Hezekiah prayed and sought the Lord. He turned to the prophet Isaiah for advice. God delivered them and turned sure defeat into a time of freedom and prosperity.

The Jews asked Jesus what they needed to be doing in order to do the works of God. Their question implied that they wanted to please God and that they assumed that God could be pleased by some actions, some works on their part. Jesus corrected them by saying that the work of God for them was to believe in the One whom God had sent to them. They stumbled over His plain teaching, looking for some way of getting on the right side of God, but they were missing the most basic quality of the godly person: faith.

Think about it

The writer to the Hebrews said, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

How about you? Do you trust God or, when life is unbearable, do you frantically try to be “good enough” to merit God’s favor? God looks for the believing heart and is pleased. Trust Him even if the Assyrians are at your doorstep. The same God who was with Hezekiah is able to see you through and to graciously deliver you from your worst nightmare. Faith is what pleases God.  Always was and always will be.

Something Greater

Life is filled with choices.  When we walk by faith, it changes our priorities so that we end up choosing something greater than mere earthly treasures.

Today’s reading

Ruth 1-4; Luke 11:29-54

Selected Verses

Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.  Ruth 3:13

The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.  The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. Luke 11:31-32

Reflections

Those who focus on material things and the passing values of this world are liable to miss the most important things. They choose short range benefits over eternal ones.

Jesus condemned the people of His day for demanding additional signs that would prove that He was the Messiah while ignoring the evidence which His words and life amply provided. He said that the Old Testament gave examples of Gentiles (the Queen of the South and the people of Nineveh) who believed with less evidence than the people of Capernaum. The contemporaries of Jesus’ day chose to ignore the light they had and to overlook something greater than Solomon and Jonah.  It was not politically correct or socially fashionable to believe in the Teacher from Nazareth.

In the Book of Ruth, Boaz showed himself to be faithful to God’s law. Although it cost him, he agreed to redeem Ruth, that is, to marry her and provide an heir for Ruth’s deceased husband. There was another, closer relative who should have been the kinsman-redeemer, but he declined to do so, choosing instead the material benefit of having an heir. As it turned out Boaz fathered a son by Ruth who entered into the royal lineage of David that eventually brought Jesus Christ. The unnamed shoeless relative is only remembered by his negligence while Boaz stands in the Old Testament as a type of Christ.

Think about it

Beware of choosing the things that only last in this world. By faith in God, choose something greater.  Choose that which will last for eternity: the Word of God, the glory of God, and the Church of Jesus Christ.

Women of Faith and Action

Two very unlikely women became role models for us of faith and action.  Find out why they were unlikely and what they did to merit such honor.

Today’s reading

Judges 3-5; Luke 7:31-50

Selected Verses

And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”  Judges 4:9

And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  Luke 7:50

Reflections

In today’s readings we meet two women of faith (not counting a third, Deborah) from whom we can learn much. Deborah as a prophetess and judge in Israel recruits Barak to lead an army against the Canaanites who have been cruelly oppressing the nation for twenty years. Barak accepts the job on the condition that Deborah accompany him to the battle. She agrees but warns him that the glory for the victory will not go to him but to a woman. At that point the first-time reader guesses that the glory will go to Deborah but not so. It is Jael, a Kenite woman, who in God’s providence takes advantage of the opportunity to murder the Canaanite commander, Sisera, while he is sleeping peacefully in her tent.

During a meal at the home of a Pharisee named Simon, a notoriously sinful woman slips in and begins to wash, kiss, and anoint Jesus’ feet showing great love and respect for Him. Simon judges Jesus for His acceptance of attention from such a woman. Simon’s reasoning is: “Either, Jesus doesn’t know who she is, in which case, He is not a true prophet, or He knows who she is and accepts a rank sinner again revealing Himself to be no prophet.”  Neither of these options is true. Jesus does know who she is and welcomes her because of her faith. She is a sinner whom God has called to Himself and whose sin is forgiven because she believes in God’s Son who would take upon Himself the punishment for sinners such as her. Jesus rebukes Simon but exonerates and reassures the woman. “Go in peace,” He says. She is saved by faith.

Think about it

Faith drives both of these women to act. God’s word honors their faith although both went against the tide of society in doing God’s will. The glory for the victory goes to Jael who is not even an Israelite. The peace and assurance of salvation goes to the sinful but believing woman who is roundly rejected by a Pharisee.

Barak and Simon, the men in these two stories, leave much to be desired, although reluctant Barak did come around (Hebrews 11:32).  We know nothing of the outcome of Simon the Pharisee’s life.  Learn from the women of faith who understood that “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).

Belief or Unbelief: that is the question

Unbelief laughs, scorns, ridicules, and trembles. But unbelief can be overcome by a clear-eyed look at God, His power, and His promises.

Today’s reading

Numbers 11-13; Mark 5:21-43

Selected Verses

So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height.  And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”  Numbers 13:32, 33

And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.  Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”  And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.  Mark 5:40-42

Reflections

Here we have two cases of overwhelming odds. Both cases involved life or death. The twelve spies entered into the land of Canaan, the Promised Land.  But ten of them only saw terrifying giants, walled cities, and invincible armies. “We cannot take this land,” they concluded. In the other case there was a twelve year old girl who had died. The friends and neighbors laughed when Jesus said she was only sleeping.

Unbelief is powerful. Unbelief looks only at what humans can or cannot do. Unbelief does not count on God’s power, loving kindness, or providence. Unbelief laughs, scorns, ridicules, and trembles.

But unbelief can be overcome by a clear-eyed look at God, His power, and His promises.

It appears that Jairus and his wife believed Jesus.  They entered with Him into their daughter’s room and in moments received her back from death. The Israelites persisted in their unbelief. Later, we shall see that they earned a sentence of death in the wilderness rather than enter the land they had been promised. It was a costly lesson.

Think about it

God doesn’t always raise the dead when we pray, but neither does He always “repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).  In God’s goodness, we often get far more than we deserve. Nevertheless, trust in Him will never be disappointed because He will make all things result in our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

What dead daughters and hostile armies do you face today? If God has promised to work, trust Him to do the impossible according to His wise will.

How to Know You’ve Learned

Like people in Bible times, we struggle to apply what we think we have learned in the past to current challenges. How can we tell we have learned?

Today’s reading

Exodus 13-15; Matthew 19:1-15

Selected verses

When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah.  And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”   Exodus 15:23-24

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people,  but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:13-14

Reflections

Not much changed in people, even God’s people, from the time of Moses to the time of Jesus Christ. Not much has changed from those times until today.  Don’t we struggle to apply what we think we have learned in the past to current problems and challenges?

The Israelites saw God deliver them from Egypt by a series of plagues. Then Pharaoh’s army jeopardized their exodus and pursued them. They cried to God in desperation, and God delivered them again. They rejoiced as the cadavers of their enemies washed up on the shores of the Red Sea while they watched safely. Could God deliver them from anything, repeat, anything? Yes, yes, a thousand times, YES!

But within hours they were complaining about the lack of water and then, when they found water, they complained that it was bitter. Sure enough. They had forgotten the lesson of the Red Sea.

Jesus taught the disciples that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is a child (Matthew 18:1-3), but when little children were brought to Jesus those same disciples rebuked the parents who brought them. They forgot the lesson of the little child quickly.

Think about it

God is patient with us, slow learners and thick-headed disciples. We really don’t get it, do we? Let’s face it; we are often repeating the same foolish mistakes of the Israelites and the disciples. How many times do we need to be re-taught the same lessons of faith, patience, and prayer? How quickly we forget what He has done in the past and cave in to doubt, complaining, whining, and panic.

Trust Him to act. Call upon Him with confidence to do more than you can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). Transfer what you learned before to the trials and uncertainties of today. Then you will know that you have really learned.  Oh, and praise God for His patience. He has a bigger plan than we know.

How long, Lord?

Today’s reading

Exodus 4-6; Matthew 16

Selected verses

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.  I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.  I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’”  Exodus 6:6-8

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.  Matthew 16:27

Reflections

God’s promises are clear, but from our human viewpoint the fulfillment of those promises is slow in coming. It was true for Israel in Egypt. It was good news that God sent Moses to them with assurances that the Lord was going to deliver them from slavery and take them to the land He had promised Abraham, but in the short run all they got was more oppression. Pharaoh made them find their own straw and required the same daily production of bricks.

Jesus promised that a day would come in which He, the Son of Man, would come with His angels in the glory of His Father. He would repay each person according to what he has done. That day has still not come. Meanwhile, those who follow Him are called to carry a cross. We, no less than the Israelites, must wait in faith that the Lord Jesus Christ will come on His schedule and bring just and final judgment.

For now we cry with the psalmist:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Psalm 13:1-2

Think about it

How long? The answer is “as long as God wills.” Even though we cry for His kingdom to come, we have His promises and His loving presence to sustain us till then. Are you carrying a cross? You aren’t the first.  So did Jesus. And His disciples. You are in good company. Press on.

Faith that Works

Today’s reading:

Genesis 20-22; Matthew 7

Selected verses

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”  So Abraham rose early in the morning…”   Genesis 22:1-3a

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  Matthew 7:24

Reflections

As unsteady as it was, Abraham’s faith translated into action.  Abraham did not withhold his own son, Isaac, but took steps to offer him as a sacrifice to God.  Later in our reading, we will see that Abraham did not expect the outcome that came.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abraham had been assuming that God would let him follow through with the sacrifice and, afterwards, raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

It is curious, in light of the comment in Hebrews, that Abraham told an anxious Isaac, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8).  That statement, in light of the New Testament, is loaded with meaning.  God has provided for himself a lamb for a burnt offering, His own Son, Jesus Christ. In that case, the offering was not interrupted but completed.  The resurrection that Abraham anticipated for Isaac occurred for Jesus who not only was raised from the dead but ascended to the right hand of God where He sits in glory and power (Philippians 2:1ff).

Faith Works

Abraham’s actions demonstrate that.  In Matthew, we find Jesus telling His disciples to demonstrate faith in both actions and attitudes.  Faith is not merely holding a correct theological view but of living in the light of that theological view.  This action results in knowing God and being known by Him, so that in the judgment it will be that relationship that carries us into His welcoming presence, not the works that we did.

Think about it

Works demonstrate faith but it is not works but faith that saves us.   Show your faith through works, but trust Him, not those works, for salvation. Remember, Abraham was saved by his faith, demonstrated in his works, and not lost by his failures and inconsistencies (Romans 4).  The grace of God in Christ made the difference. Isn’t that true for you as well?  Think about that.